Sunday 5 November 2023

End of Summer Time

 Sunday October 29th. and I reached Playa del Freila, at Embalse de Negratin, at 8:30 am. It would have been 9:30 am if Summer Time hadn't come to an end much earlier that morning. The water level in the reservoir is still going steadily down, so Playa del Freila is the only place where access to the water is still reasonably easy. Now the water doesn't reach the other two places towards the top end of the reservoir, where the Castril and Guardal rivers flow in (when they aren't dry). On 25/10/23 it was recorded that the reservoir was down to 19.26% of capacity. Fortunately, even at that capacity, there is still a more than adequate area of water a good morning of quiet paddling.

This time I thought I'd meander down the Freila side of the reservoir to the dam. Hadn't been as far as that since May 2017. Hardly a breath of wind when I got on the water but a fresh wind, from the direction of the dam, was forecast for later in the morning: a wind which would be behind me on my return journey.

Approaching the dam.

Near enough for me. Getting too close to a dam makes me nervous!

A few facts about the Embalse del Negratin. The dam was constructed in 1984 and opened by the previous king of Spain (King Juan Carlos) in 1985. The max. surface area of the reservoir behind the dam is 2170 hectares and the maximum capacity is 567 cubic hectometres (which, if converted to litres or gallons gives a mind boggling figure). It is the fourth largest reservoir in Andalucia and the largest in the province of Granada. According to tourist information the length of the reservoir is 22 km, but on our maps it scales 16 km. Maybe the 22 km. includes the length of a very long, large inlet at the upper end of the reservoir. Since late 2016 I've paddled the entire perimeter of Negratin – some stretches of shoreline several times.

And about turn – my starting point is several kilometres past that headland on the right hand side.

Nearly back to Playa del Freila. Autumn colours are starting to appear among the vegetation. That's the Jabalcón mountain in the background – and reflected in the water. The fresher wind that was forecast never did amount to anything, so it was a good morning for reflections, and a nice morning for another quiet paddle.

Time on the water was 2¼ hours and distance paddled was 9.0 kilometres. Mornings are much cooler now. In fact it was quite chilly when I first got on the water – after such a long hot summer, and a warm start to autumn, I'd nearly forgotten what 'chilly' felt like!

Sunday 24 September 2023

Another Equinox Paddle

I couldn't let the Autumn Equinox pass without doing a bit of kayaking somewhere. The weather forecasts for any coastal kayaking looked a bit iffy, so I opted for the Embalse de Negratin, which I still haven't tired of. Even for there the forecast wasn't perfect – light easterly breeze in the early part of the morning but getting much stronger towards mid-day. So I took The Smart One, a better kayak for windy conditions, and planned to start early from Playa del Freila, follow the east shore into any wind at that time, then return with the wind behind me if it did get a bit strong.

New for today was this piece of wood decking I've made. Somewhere to keep a map case within easy reach, with a small waterproof bag on the back edge to keep snacks and bits & bobs in. It will also keep the sun off my ankles. One of the drawbacks of kayaking in a hot climate is getting sunburnt legs if you don't keep them covered. So I've taken to wearing very lightweight trousers, but I've sometimes ended the day with sunburn on exposed ankles. I've been looking forward to trying this deck out.

Water in the reservoir has got quite low during this unusually hot summer. It's currently at about quite 20%. At this level, particularly close to the shore, the tops of many small trees and woody shrubs are exposed, and sometimes extending quite a way out from the edge. Sometimes it is possible to pick a way through them.

And sometimes you can't!

The exposed bits are pretty harmless, generally quite soft (waterlogged) and bendy. Thinnest bits break off easily. It's the thicker bits hidden below the surface you have to watch out for.

The next hazard, a couple of hours into the trip, was mud! I'd reached a little bay, with what looked (from a distance) like a gently shelving sandy beach. A good place to stop and get out for a leg stretch, I thought. When I reached shallow enough water, I swung my legs over the side of the kayak, and started to stand up – only to discover I was about to step out into deep, sticky, soft mud! Retracted feet very quickly before my Crocs could get left behind in this gooey stuff. Didn't want feet, very heavy with mud, in the kayak so I backed away with both legs dangling over the side. It took a lot of rubbing and rinsing before feet and Crocs were clean enough to come aboard again.

But there was a good side to this mishap. I discovered that sitting sideways in this kayak, with both legs dangling in the water, doesn't make it  heel much nor feel unstable, even when reaching over to wash feet. Wouldn't like to try it in choppy water, but in calm water it is just fine – and surprisingly comfortable. And the new bit of deck was an ideal place to dry those Crocs.

My turning back point was this pylon, which was also my turning back point when I came this way on the Autumn Equinox last year. More of it was sticking out of the water that time, so this must have been a slightly better year for the capacity of this reservoir.

The reservoir might only be at about 20% of capacity – but there's still plenty of water for kayaking! My starting point, at 9:30 am yesterday morning, was way, way down there on the left hand side.

Rocks can be quite sculptural.

1:30 pm and I'm back at Playa del Freila. That easterly wind never did get anywhere near as strong as the weather forecast suggested, so my return to here, with just a gentle easterly breeze behind me, was a lot quicker and easier than the outward leg. Here I had another little mishap – a dip into the water as I landed! Swung my legs out when reaching very shallow water, was very unsteady on my feet after 4 hours sat down, tripped on a rock and fell over. Floundered around in the water until I could stand up! Fortunately I fell backwards into deeper water, the water was quite warm – and the only two people on the shore were too far away to see a very wet kayaker dragging his craft up the shore.

Kayak back on the trolley ready for the last lap.

Pushing it, still very wet, back up that slipway! Some people do bring vehicles down to the shore (as you can see), despite prohibited notices, but I wouldn't like to risk getting bogged down on it myself!

It turned out to be a very nice day, apart from the involuntary swim, for a paddle. Got a bit hot just after mid-day but was pleasantly cool to start with. Time on the water was 4 hours and distance paddled was 11.0 kilometres. Another Equinox suitably celebrated – and the deck worked perfectly. No more very red feet or ankles.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Mad Dogs and Englishmen ..............

 I don't often go kayaking in August.  Partly because, even with a dawn start, it's too hot here to stay out on the water for very long and partly because of the heat induced lethargy of mid-summer.  However, yesterday morning, enticed out by a couple of cooler days than normal, I took my Neris Smart -1 to the Negratin reservoir for a quiet paddle.  Hoping to rid myself of a bit of that lethargy!

Didn't manage to get there at dawn, but did get afloat at Playa de Freila before the sun got too high in the sky.  Water was ruffled by a gentle breeze which made it quite a pleasant start.  No great plan for the day – just some gentle paddling along the shoreline.  Water level has dropped by at least 1½ metres since I was here in June, so it all looked a bit different.  Some bays have disappeared and new little islands have emerged.

Back at my starting point as mid-day approached.

The earlier breeze had long gone and the day was rapidly heating up.  It was a relief to get back to the shade of the trees in the car park and pack everything away again.  But I'm glad I made the effort.  Lethargy defeated – if only for a few days!

This was the first time I had used The Smart One on fresh water.  Being lighter and narrower than my Gumotex Halibut, which I usually use on Negratin, it takes less effort to keep it moving.  The Halibut is a bit of a barge – but a very comfortable one!  Time on the water was 2¼ hours and distance paddled was 7 kilometres.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Welcoming the Summer Solstice

It was the summer solstice yesterday, I marked the occasion with an excursion to the Embalse de Negratin with my Gumotex Halibut kayak.  The plan for the day was to re-trace the route of a paddle on the 'badlands' side of the reservoir, which I did with my Neris Valkure folding kayak in June 2017, blog post June 6th. 2017.  I affectionately refer to the side of the reservoir, opposite to Playa de Freila, as the 'badlands', because it's a remote, wilderness-like area with scenery reminding me of old western films.  Got into a nice steady paddling rhythm and covered 11 kilometres in 3¼ hours.  It's getting pretty hot here now, but the weather was on my side yesterday - overcast, threatening rain (which never came) and very light winds to start with.  Sun kept trying to break through the clouds - and I kept willing it not to!  Didn't feel like a Summer Solstice day, but it suited me just fine.

Didn't take any photos this time but I've attached a couple from the 2017 trip – the sort of scenery where, with a little imagination, you might expect to see eagles soaring, coyotes skulking around, smoke signals in the sky, Apaches on horseback silhouetted on the skyline and Clint Eastwood (or John Wayne) riding through the canyons – but, of course, I didn't see any of that!  In fact I didn't see or hear any movement, wildlife or otherwise, at all.

Most strenuous part of the trip was the crossing of open water back to Playa de Freila.  A wind, stronger than forecast, started gusting up from the dam end of the reservoir, creating uncomfortably choppy water.  My nice steady paddling rhythm increased in tempo!  Open water crossings of Negratin need to be treated with respect in fresh winds from either end of the reservoir.  The very same thing happened on that June 2017 trip, but on that occasion the wind was short lived and I sheltered in an inlet until it passed, before attempting the crossing.

Landing back at the beach was a bit ungainly.  With waves sweeping diagonally along the shore a nimble exit from the kayak, to pull it clear of the water, was needed – but my old legs, after being redundant for more than 3 hours, didn't feel like co-operating quickly enough!  Fortunately, it being such a grey morning, there were no witnesses – and I didn't actually fall over.

Sunday 11 June 2023

Negratin Again

 I was back at Embalse de Negratin again yesterday. Despite all the rain we've had these past couple of weeks, the water level hadn't changed much since I was here last month. Evidently water has been going out as fast as it was coming in.  A lot of water is now needed for agricultural irrigation after such a dry winter.

9:30 am at the bottom of the slipway at Playa de Freila, ready for a morning on the water. Only a gentle breeze to contend with this trip.

Nice new piece of kit for this outing: a heavy duty, tapered, zipped waterproof bag for all those bits and pieces normally in an assortment of bags. It's made by Grabner (Austria) to fit their own range of excellent, but expensive, inflatable kayaks – and it fits perfectly in the bow of my Gumotex Halibut and also just as well in the stern of my Neris Smart 1. Purchase was part assisted by the sale of a welding set, which I regret I never mastered using, to a neighbour with welding experience.

I followed the shore to the north-east. Within an hour the breeze had died away completely, leaving the water mirror-like near the edges. But it didn't last – when I turned back after 2 hours of quiet paddling, in and out of side inlets, I was surprised by a bit of a headwind to contend with when I was expecting (from the weather forecast) a gentle tailwind. However that didn't last long either, These gentle breezes were all over the place this morning.

On the way back I had to stop in this inlet for a leg-stretch. Even an inflatable seat pad feels pretty hard after a couple of hours of paddling, however gentle.

Time on the water was 3½ hrs. and total distance paddled was 9.5 kilometres.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Fresh Water Paddling, for a change.

Yesterday me and my Gumotex Halibut kayak went to the Negratin reservoir in Granada province. Hadn't been there since September 2022 (blog post 24/9/22), when the reservoir had got down to 19.75% of full capacity and the water no longer even reached the bottom of the slipway at Playa de Freila. According to the website of Spanish reservoirs, the capacity had crept back up during the winter to 25.22%. Hopefully launching and recovery was going to be easier than last time.

From a distance Negratin doesn't look much different at 25.22% to 19.75%. However, it was very different at the bottom of the slipway. Oh joy! - the water did now cover the bottom of the concrete slipway. The difficult bit this time was paddling into a stiff breeze, creating very choppy water, blowing up from the dam end of the reservoir. Had to paddle hard to make any headway until I could duck into the first of the many sheltered side inlets. Spent the morning dodging in and out of those inlets. Straight line return journey later, with wind and waves behind me, was a lot quicker.

Nice and calm in this first inlet. It was a lot different further out past that headland on the right. A low sun (it was about 10:00 am) accentuates the features of the 'badlands' side beautifully.

Even calmer in this inlet. The beauty of paddling Negratin is that nothing ever looks the same as the last time. Inlets appear, change size and shape, even disappear entirely with the change in water level. Even little islands come and go. Every trip here is a new little adventure.

The hazards of navigation on Negratin – you just never know what is lurking below the water! I've passed this way several times over the past few years and never seen the top of this tree exposed – and the water is quite deep here.

And there's worse in those side inlets. Like this:

Or like this beauty. Sometimes covered, sometimes fully exposed. But it's the ones lurking just below the surface you have to watch out for.

When I could see the dam from around this headland I turned back. From here to the dam, on this side of the reservoir,  there's nowhere to shelter from the wind. Fortunately the wind had eased considerably by this time.

Back at the car at Playa de Freila. That water looks placid from here.

Despite the wind it was an enjoyable paddle and good to find that The Halibut can handle such choppy water with ease. It was nice to get back to Negratin again. Launched at 9:30 am. Time on the water was 4 hrs. and I paddled a total of 10.5 kilometres.

Sunday 7 May 2023

Just a Play Day

 Thurs. 4th. May was a bit of a 'play day', play morning really, at Punta Parda with The Smart One.

Pushed off laden down with a selection of paddles, the Ecklar-Rolly trolley (see blog post 24/09/22) and all the bits of kit that I feel a lone, and elderly, paddler ought to have available when on the sea. I wanted to satisfy myself that I was using the right length paddle for this kayak, find out what the kayak felt like with the trolley secured on the back and check everything else was easy to reach if ever needed.

Most of my time on the water was spent in the calm water of the bay. Only after I had played around with different paddles and other stuff did I venture out into open water. I had confirmed that the main paddle I had been using, and the spare paddle I had been carrying, were definitely the best choice, and I was fine with the stowage of all that other stuff.

Bit of a long, lazy swell outside of the bay with a gentle southerly breeze adding a chop to the surface. The weight of the trolley on the back made no difference to the feel of the kayak. Forgot it was even there after a while.

All good now for further little adventures with the Neris Smart 1 kayak.

Time on the water was 2 hrs. and total distance paddled was 5.0 kilometres.