Sunday, 7 October 2018

And Now Something Different!

This may well look like an ordinary Citroën C15 van, which it was for the past 14 years, but it's had a quick, cheap, makeover and now it can be (tongue-in-cheek) a one person, plus one folding (or inflatable) kayak, camper van!  For day trips and the occasional overnight stay.

Porta-kitchen and bedding are stowed in the space behind the front seats.  Kayaking stuff has been removed for clarity.

Mmm - sleeping platform wouldn't suit a tall person!  It is extra wide, and by laying diagonally it is just adequate for someone like myself.

Centre panel of sleeping platform lifts out.  Underneath are four shallow storage bays for the curtains and other light items.

Storage boxes on both sides.

Handy, folding stool/table.  A bargain from Ikea.

An awning for that extra bit of shade, or some protection from rain.

O.K.  Not a thing of beauty!  But the fabric, PVC oilcloth table protection material, was an end-of-roll bargain.  No other design was available at the price I paid.  And there's enough left over to make another two or three of these, if the fabric doesn't wear well.

Porta-kitchen - or, Kitchen-in-a-Box.  A little gas stove is suspended inside, inverted, attached to the lid.

Lid flipped over.  'Panniers' were another bargain from Ikea.

That cushion was a bag for diving equipment.  A folded up redundant exercise mat provided the padding.

Incorporated in the edge rail of the awning is a drying line.  I do occasionally get a bit wet when kayaking.

And so to bed.  The mattress is made from pillows that were surplus to requirements and pillowcases that were past their best.  The pillow cases were sewn edge to edge.  A lot of stuff got recycled in this makeover. The black cotton for the curtains came from Ikea.  And that's not a pepper grinder on the sleeping platform - it's a wind-up torch from Ikea.

Ikea helped a lot with this project!

No harm came to the C15 for this project.  No parts were removed, nothing was drilled or welded, and no alterations were made to the vehicle.  The van can be returned to its normal state in not much more than 15 minutes.

It's been a fun project.

Monday, 24 September 2018

A Trio of Little Trips in The Twist

Since my last blog post, 'The Maiden Voyage of The Halibut', I've had a trio of little trips with The Twist.  All were early starts, to beat the heat, launching soon after the sun came up and getting home again by mid morning.  Just short excursions, to shake the dust off the paddles (so to speak), to places I was familiar with from last year's paddling trips.

Wednesday Aug. 22nd.  Garrucha seafront.  Was last here Aug. 23rd. 2017.  Was lucky to find a parking space by the promenade. Very little wind but a bit of a swell from the S.E. Paddled the length of Garrucha seafront (both ways) and then had a little sortie into the harbour and marina.  Always interesting to see what boats are moored at the jetty for visiting craft, and where they come from.  On this day they were French, German and Spanish.  One ship was loading in the harbour and I watched another dock with the help of two tugs.  By the time I got back to the beach, where I had launched, there were quite a few people having an early morning swim - from the sound of the voices they were mainly Spanish.  Evidently Spanish women like a sunhat when bathing - heads with hats were bobbing around all over the place!  Had a swim myself before leaving the beach.  Time on the water 1½ hrs. but that was a bit too long - it was getting uncomfortably warm when I landed and started packing up.

Wednesday Aug. 29th.  Extreme southern end of Mojácar seafront.  Was last here Sept. 22nd. 2017.  Quite a swell form the S.E. and a bit of surf on the beach.  Had to carry the kayak to a calm corner in the shelter of the rock and concrete mole to launch - and returned to the same spot later to land.  Stayed well out in deep water behind the surf line - riding the swells was lovely.  Was on the water for about an hour.  Had a swim afterwards.

Too much surf, here in front of the car park, to launch comfortably.

Developers have ruined these mountainsides.  Little boxes of apartments stacked on top of each other.  Reminded me of the hit song "Little Boxes" from the early 1960s about developments in the USA.    The main road passes at the back of this development so I guess you can only see it like this from out on the sea.

Tuesday Sept. 18th.  Villaricos - the little harbour/marina at the northern end of the seafront.  Was last here Oct. 11th. 2017.  Tried to launch from the patch of sand just outside the harbour entrance (as last time) but waves were breaking rather too heavily on the beach, and not long enough gaps between the big ones, to launch without getting very wet.  'Plan B' was a short walk, and carry the kayak, to a concrete slipway within the harbour - only hazard there, was very slippery seaweed on the underwater surface of it.  Pootled around the harbour a few times with the occasional sortie out of the entrance into deep water - no problems with the bit of swell but an unexpected fresh wind off the land was a slight concern.  A capsize there, or a broken paddle, could have been a problem - next stop could have been North Africa!  Inflatable kayaks are a bit susceptible to wind.

That slipway saved the day.  The harbormaster's office is to the left, and behind those palm trees is a bar and restaurant.

 A view from just outside the harbour entrance.  The tops of those palm trees on the seafront show the direction of the wind.  A stiff offshore wind in a small inflatable kayak is not a welcome thing.


Autumn is here now.  Days and nights are gradually getting cooler.  Thoughts are now turning to getting the folding kayak out again and returning to much longer paddles on Embalse de Negratin.  There are still bits of it I haven't seen.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Maiden Voyage of The Halibut.

   I just couldn't wait for cooler days in order to try out my recently purchased Gumotex Halibut kayak.  So I left home very early yesterday morning so as to be on the shore of Embalse de Negratin soon after sunrise, when it was still nice and cool.  I used the same launching place, at the foot of Jabalcón, as my last kayaking trip.  Unloading, inflating the kayak and preparing it for the water took less than 45 minutes.

Loaded up ready to go.  Bear in mind that the Gumotex Halibut is designed for anglers - so it has plenty of easily accessible stowage space.

Spare paddles and my 'what if' bag stow nicely behind the seat.

 Jabalcón, the Los Banos restaurant and the Banos de Züjar (Züjar Baths) adjacent to the restaurant.  I have paddled this route before, but this side of the mountain was in deep shade on that occasion.  The Baths is a public swimming pool through which natural thermal waters flow - in which to relax and benefit from the water's therapeutic properties - so it is said.  The restaurant is also said to be pretty good.

Feet up, anchored in a shallow bay for a coffee break.  This, of course, is a 'staged' picture - it was really far too early in the day to have lunch laid out!  It's just to demonstrate how useful that 'thwart', which is intended for mounting fishing rod holders and perhaps a fish finder, is going to be for a picnic.  Those plastic sandals (Crocs) are also new.

The view ahead of my 'picnic table'.

At anchor.  The Halibut has an anchoring system favoured by anglers on their sit-on-top fishing kayaks, it's called an 'anchor trolley'.  The anchor warp is attached to a loop in an endless rope that runs through rings at the bow and the stern - thus allowing the kayak to be anchored by the bow or stern, or all points in between, at will.  I didn't think I would ever need such a thing, and considered doing away with it, but had to try it out first.  When I anchored in the bay, by the bow, a gentle breeze blew me round until the sun, still low in the sky, was shining in my eyes - but a few tugs on that endless rope soon had me anchored by the stern and more comfortable.  I'm converted, the 'anchor trolley' stays.  Not that I'll be anchoring very often on this reservoir, most of it is far too deep for that.

My anchor.  Because Embalse de Negratin is a flooded valley, and who knows what debris and snags lie on the bottom,  I decided against a conventional anchor, which was liable to get irretrievably entangled, and settled for a heavy weight.  If I ever fail to retrieve this one, and have to cut it loose, I'll only loose a 3 euro, heavy duty plastic, wide necked, screw top container, a bit of sand and cement, a bit of old rope and an hour or so of work.

 My 'turn back it's getting uncomfortably warm' point.  I passed these rocks on a kayaking trip on June 7th. this year, but on that occasion I didn't look back and notice how sculptural those great big rocks are.
 Back at the start.  Distance covered on this trial paddle was 3 km. and time on the water was 2 hrs. - but quite a bit of that time was spent experimenting with anchoring.

Verdict:  The Halibut is quick and easy to assemble, it's very stable, very comfortable and paddles a lot better than I expected.  However, I don't think I would like to paddle it against a fresh headwind for very long.  For a bit of quiet, lazy pootling around on sheltered water it is going to be ideal.  I now have a kayak for every occasion.


Friday, 6 July 2018

A New Kid on the Block

   Today I took delivery of another inflatable kayak - a Gumotex Halibut.  I'd always thought that when the day came that I found it difficult getting in and out of my folding kayak, then the Halibut, with its raised seat and good stability would be the answer.  Well, I'm glad to say, that day hasn't come yet - but when I spotted the Halibut on special offer on the Francobordo (Madrid) website, I couldn't resist!  The discounted price was too good to miss.

   The Gumotex Halibut is really designed as a fishing kayak - but I think it will be excellent, and very versatile, for pottering around on quiet waters.  It's not going to replace either of my other kayaks.  My Neris Valkure - 1 folding kayak will still be used for longer distance paddling, and my Gumotex Twist has proved its worth for snatched opportunities, and a bit of fun, on the sea.

Anyway, here it is:-

   Won't even have to find somewhere to go ashore for a leg-stretch and to eat lunch with this one - the plywood flooring in front of the seat makes it possible to stand up - and there's even a handy little picnic table!

   If you go to there is a nice photo gallery of pictures of this kayak in use - for fishing, of course, but they do demonstrate the versatility of this particular Gumotex model.

   I have also put details of my Halibut on the My Kayaks page of this blog site.

Can't wait to try it out!


Sunday, 17 June 2018

An Early Start, at a New Location

   An early start from home saw me standing on the shore of Embalse de Negratín, at a new launching place (for me) at the foot of Jabalcón, at just before 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning.  It was nice to find that is was possible to drive right down to the water here - and even nicer to find it was still cool in the shade of the mountain.  The summer heat is now building up steadily in southern Spain.

   By 8:40 a.m. I was afloat and paddling into a gentle headwind towards the top end of the reservoir.  This was all new territory for me, and I could have gone in any direction - but that wind was the deciding factor.  It was forecast to freshen  in the afternoon, so, if that forecast was inaccurate and it freshened early, I would have the wind behind me coming back.

About an hour later I was at the head of the reservoir and following a winding channel through thick vegetation - sort of swamp land.  It's possible this channel was created by the The Rio Castril which flows into the reservoir at this end.  I paddled up this channel through very silty water until it became barely wide enough to turn my kayak around, and it wasn't until I had turned round that the strength of the flow into the reservoir became apparent.  Getting back to open water took no time at all.

Fish were busy feeding on flies on the surface of the silty water in the channel.  Some were so intent on feeding that they didn't notice me quietly drifting down on them - and more than once they only took evasive action at the last possible moment.  At times I was sure I was going to run some fish over.

Nearly back to open water.

Open water and the wind has died away now.  Calm enough to decide to head back down the reservoir on the opposite side to where I had launched.

This end of the reservoir is less barren than the dam end.  The slopes of Jabalcón are cloaked with pine forests, there is a larger variety of wild flowers along the shore and much more bird song.

That building on the opposite side caught my attention.  I'm sure it's the same building I've seen in photos of Embalse de Negratín on the web - with just it's roof sticking out of the water.

A break here for coffee and cake at around 10:00 a.m.  Shoals of tiny, tiny fish passed along the waters edge as I sat there, always heading in the same direction - towards the head of the reservoir.    Even crumbs of home-made carrot cake didn't distract them from their journey.  Perhaps these small fry are programmed to get to the head of the reservoir where all that vegetation will offer them shelter to grow large in.

Later, somewhere along here, I saw a fox out in the open.  I assume it had been down to the water for a drink and was heading back to the cover of trees.  I stopped paddling as soon as I saw it, but the fox must have already sensed my presence - it peered at me over its shoulder before disappearing into undergrowth.

My launching place earlier this morning is on the opposite shore, just left of centre of photograph.

Up there is the other arm of Embalse de Negratín, where another river feeds the reservoir.  That will be a trip of its own - some other day.

No comment - just another photograph with nice reflections on glassy calm water.

Packed up and ready to leave.

Up there, at the top of a concrete ramp, is a landscaped picnic area and some amenity buildings - which I've never seen open.  The gangway at the bottom of the ramp leads to a floating jetty/pontoon - or it would be floating if the reservoir was full.  I've yet to find out if this place has a name - at the moment it is just a red cross at the foot of Jabalcón on my map of Embalse de Negratín - shown on the previous blog post.

That opening on the other side of the water is the other arm of the reservoir - but that will be a trip for the autumn, it's getting too hot to spend much time on the water now.  Today's paddle was a three hour one which was plenty long enough - nice and cool when I started early but roasting hot by the time I was ashore, packed up and ready to leave.

   My gps thingy recorded only 4.9 kilometres paddled, but it must have been more like 9 kilometres.  About an hour into my trip the gps unit showed a low battery warning and after that it kept turning itself off.  I hadn't found anything in the manual about what happens if you ignore the low battery level, but now I know - it goes into battery saving mode, by turning itself off!

Friday, 8 June 2018

A Change is a-comin'

   Thick cloud hid the top of Jabalcón as I approached Embalse de Negratín yesterday morning and a light wind ruffled the surface of the water as I assembled my kayak at Playa de Freila.  A weather forecast of 0% chance of rain, with the light wind of the morning freshening in the afternoon, made Thursday the best looking day this week for a bit of a paddle.  This was to be my last paddle, for now, on this part of the reservoir.

   I launched at 9:50 am and set off along the Playa de Freila side of the reservoir towards the headland nearly opposite Playa Nudista.  I was extending a previous trip along this side to the limits of what is comfortably possible from this launching site.  Inlets for the first few kilometres were ignored as I'd already been into them.

A grey and hazy start, and Jablcón had its head in the clouds.

Further on a splash of colour, among the green vegetation and the various dull hues of rocks and stones, caught my attention.  The poppies have been magnificent in this area but it is unusual to see them so near the water.

Well on the way towards that headland - and the badlands on the opposite shore are getting greener .............

............ and greener.

Now getting near the headland which is my destination - but I spy an inlet that requires investigation before I finally reach it.

Coming out of the inlet again.  It was quite a large one, well worth a look.

Just past the headland and looking back down the reservoir.  The dam and Playa de Freila are way down there somewhere.  I've now paddled all round the edge of that area - and crossed it a few times.

Looking the opposite way is uncharted waters for me and my kayak.  Which means trying a different place to launch on my next visit.  Change is a-comin'.

Around midday, after crossing over to the Playa Nudista side for a while, I stopped here for refreshments.  I would have paddled for a while down the opposite shore but the wind freshened (as forecast) and, if it freshened much more, a return crossing might have been tricky later.

This lop-sided face watched me while I snacked!  Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'rock face'.

And this creature looked on!

Heading back and the clouds have now lifted from Jabalcón.

The wind did freshen considerably as I made my way back to Playa de Freila - and the clouds started to look threatening.  It was a head wind, so a bit of care and effort was needed to make good progress.  My plywood fore-deck came into its own - it's not a thing of beauty but it does effectively keep the sun, and on this occasion dollops of spray, off my lunch bag.

   All in all not a bad day for a last paddle on this part of the reservoir before moving to pastures new.  The weather behaved much as forecast (it never did rain), in fact the Spanish met office forecasts have always been pretty reliable for this area.

Time on the water 4 hrs. 10 mins.  Distance paddled 13½ kilometres.