Friday, February 6, 2009

New Video from Bryan Smith

Check this out. The trailler is very cool. The whirlpool is amazing.

Eastern Horizons Trailer from Bryan Smith on Vimeo.

Welsh Pub Crawl - Pub Reviews

The Royal Oak Hotel Betws-Y-Coed
Holyhead Road Betws-Y-Coed Gwynedd LL24 0AY
More of a restaurant/pub then the traditional pub, warm fireplace, lots of tourists, some walkers, hikers and outdoors types. Has a good selection of commercial ales, but the food is sub par. Mostly that trucked in stuff that's reheated in a microwave.

George & Dragon Hotel Beaumaris Church Street Beaumaris
This is an excellent pub, good ale, in a tiny pub. You've got to be social because, "ya gona b sitn wid da naybrrs." Fantastic food in the dining room which 200 years ago use to be the stables. They've been mucked out. This would be a great place to bring your partner and plan a sleep over upstairs. Lots of history; Swift, Dickens and the like all have stayed here. I even picked up a genuine Dickens autograph in the pub. This local, down on his luck, sold it to me for a pint. Apparently it's the only autograph Dickens signed with a ball point pen - worth a fortune!

Black Boy InnCaernarfon Northgate Street
Named after a black publican, this is the home of Welsh nationalism where the drive to revitalize the language started; good breakfast, really warm and welcoming staff, ask to see the wad of funny money collected from travellers over the years. Look for the $50,000 bank note from Zimbabwe with the best before date. Caernarfon is the seat of the Prince of Wales, the castle dominates the town and the pub is a good place to start and end your tour. The food here is very good. I had a great breakfast. There's nothing like starting your day in a pub except maybe ending the day in the same pub. I came close as I was waiting for my family to come up from London. They were six hours late. The staff are warm and welcoming especially if you're carrying a kayak paddle and can spin a tale or two.

Ye Old Mail Coach Conwy High Street
This was a hard place to like, warm ale is ok, hot is something else, only pub in Wales that I didn’t feel welcome in.

Albion Conwy 6 Uppergate Street
Run by Kerry Cresswell, her three sons and someone named Baz. There are no local ales but they serve good commercial pints. Check out the fireplace that burns real coal. - Very warm on a wet and cold day.

The Bluebell Inn Conwy Castle Street
Ah the Bluebell, it’s now run by a former SAS Non Commissioned Officer. There's a nice outdoor courtyard out back. Unfortunately the Bluebell has given in to the demand for video slots, and loud electric bands that feature some wanna be DJ scratching out noise with a record player, take a pass.

The Liverpool Arms Conwy Lower Gate Street
Best in Conwy for people watching, it’s right on the quay so you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists. It’s small, unpretentious and lovely, good mix of ales. If you take your pint outside you’ll get it in a plastic cup, outside can be cool as the wind comes straight off the Irish Sea and the estuary which really dries out on the ebb. Watch the current as the Conwy River outflow makes for some interesting boating. This is a great place to enjoy a drink. Conwy castle is just to your right, the library is back through the lower gate through the wall and some hovel called the smallest home in Wales is to your left. Check out the historic photo the the undefeated Lions Rugby Team. These are hard men with hearts of oak, or was that heads of oak.

The Kings Head Llandudno Old Road Llandudno
Great old fashioned pub, just like they should be, warm & friendly with an open fire. Best in Llandudno. Food was good, may have been great, but was totally distracted by the two women sitting next to us. What a pair! Good selection of draught bitters, the sort of pub one could happily spend all day in, in fact I did. The pub is located at the bottom terminal of the tram up the Great Orme; never got around to making the trip.

London Hotel Llandudno 131 Mostyn Street
Busy, very busy, but has good service and lots of ales, kind of funky, I wouldn’t call this a traditional pub, it serves latte’s for god’s sake, but for some reason I liked it.

The Groes Inn Conwy Nr. Conwy
Oldest licensed pub in Wales 1573, lots of older pubs but this one was licensed which seems odd. An Irishman, a Welshman and a Canadian are well into their cups, someone calls the Canadian a Yank. Things get out of hand. The evening ends with the trio singing folk songs to the sheep in a pasture. Oh, the food was good too.

Plough and Harrow Monknash, Nr Cowbridge
You're going to have to work to find this place but it's worth the trip. All the ales are from small cottage breweries at this freehold. Some of the best ales I sampled in Wales where right here. Major disappoint was the beer festival which was scheduled for the following week - we had to miss it. tears were shed. However the food was great, try the "Faggots with Spotted Dick" for desert. Go ahead the publican will really warm up to you. Small pub, large fire, tiny bar, but lots of real Welsh locals. Really liked this place. I had a great photo of myself surrounded by empty kegs piled three and four high in a sheep pen but the bloody computer ate it.

The Edinburgh CastleHolyhead Black Bridge
Local hangout for kayakers serves a good breakfast, expect beans with your eggs, and if you ask for poached eggs you’ll get something like “Air now, d’r fr’m da market ain’t da.” Poached; wont ya take us fer”!

The Boston Arms Hollyhead 1 London Road
Not very remarkable, had some interesting nautical paintings or photos, and a limited selection of ales. Centuries ago Johathan Swift, wrote a devastating review of the town of Hollyhead while waiting for the tide to turn and the captain to clear out of a pub. Things have improved. Slightly. Two best things to do in town are: Get a kayak from Nigel Denis and paddle away or catch a ferry to Dublin.

Red Lion Inn Llansannan High Street
If you’ve stumbled in here you are well and truly lost as this pub is well off the beaten track, never the less it’s a fine rural pub with a horse motif and a legendary chair, ask the publican to explain. There's a pub across the road called something like Saladin's Head. Park in front of this place and walk back to the Red Lion.

Notes: You don’t have to order a pint. You can always order a glass, which is of course much smaller. If you find you like it then you can follow up with a pint or move on to something else. If you've just come in from hiking in Snowdonia or from deconstructing a Welsh cottage start off with a glass of lime and water. It'll rehydrate you and you'll enjoy the subsequent pints more.

Green King is a stunning IPA, highly recommended. Brains sponsors the Welsh Rugby team. The brewery is located right across the street from the regional prison in Cardiff. They can be cruel. Brains apparently has been proven to have no affect what so ever on intellect, refinement or good taste. Enough said.

Freeholds are pubs that are not associated with any brewery, consequently they serve ales, bitters and stouts from a variety of sources, usually small local cottage breweries. The reality is that in GB more and more pubs are owned by the major breweries and managed by an employee of the brewery. This is better then the alternative of shutting the pub down. Support your local Freehold. Another development is the advent of pubs linked to motels along the major motorways. If you need a place to sleep and eat these places are fine but almost totally devoid of character. Kind of like a Holiday Inn in Pittsburgh.
List of Welsh breweries
This list is incomplete Artisan Brewery, Cardiff
• Black Mountain, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire
• Breconshire Brewery, Brecon, Powys
• Bryncelyn Brewery, Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot
• Bullmastiff Brewery, Leckwith, Cardiff
• Carter's Brewery, Machen, Caerphilly
• The Celt Experience, Caerphilly
• Bragdy Ceredigion Brewery, New Quay, Ceredigion
• Coles Family Brewery, Llandarog
• Conwy Brewery Ltd, Conwy
• Cwmbran Brewery, Upper Cwmbran
• Wm Evan Evans Brewery, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
• Facer's Flintshire Brewery, Flint, Flintshire
• Felinfoel Brewery Company, Ltd., Felinfoel, Llanelli oldest regional brewery in Wales
• Ffos y Ffin Brewery, Capel Dewi, Carmarthen
• The Flock Inn Brewery, Brechfa, Carmarthen
• The Great Orme Brewery Ltd/Bragdy'r Gogarth, Colwyn Bay
• Bragdy Gwynant, Capel Bangor, Aberystwyth
• The Jacobi Brewery of Caio, Penlanwen, Pumsaint, Llanwrda
• Jolly Brewer, Wrexham
• Kingstone Brewery, Whitebrook, Monmouth
• Lord Raglan brewery, Merthyr Tydfil

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trail Island Feb. 4, 2009

Headed south out of Oak Bay down to Trail Island to catch a ride on the tide race south of the island on Wednesday. Bright blue sky, temperatures in the plus double digits, nice and warm.

Only one problem - no wind meant no tide race. Oh well it was a good paddle with good friends. We got off to a fast start, too fast actually as most stopped to strip off a layer of winter clothing. I sculled and rolled for golf balls just off the beach next to the Oak Bay Golf course.

There simply are not enough duffers at this course as there were few golf balls to roll and retrieve. In fact the one I went for was just too deep and I couldn't reach it.

We played in the channel that splits Trial Island practicing breakins and breakouts along the eddy line, but with out much current it was hard to get the boat to spin in and then back out. More work needs to be done on this skill set.

We made the south end of Trial around noon, had lunch and headed back to the put in. Total distance 7.23nm, Moving time 2hr 57 min, Max spd 5.2kt overall average spd 2 kt. Total distance for the year 24.3Nm.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rough Water

Baynes Channel Feb 01, 2009

Jesus, Mary Mother of God! What a day to be on the water. The tide race at Baynes Channel was a monster. Something took possession of the tide race today and created conditions that from shore were totally deceptive.

The winds were blowing a steady 15 to 20 knots out of the South-east and were stacking up what appeared to be 4 and 5 foot wind waves against a 3.75 knot ebbing currant about 150 metres off shore.

As the waves were breaking much further out it appeared things were not as chaotic as the trip out to Baynes a few weeks back. Appearances can be deceptive. From shore Mike G., Dorothea, and myself decided to paddle North east and surf off the edge of the tide race. From that point I wanted, after catching, a few rides to swing about and ride the current straight through the race and come out the bottom.

Simple plan. I hung back setting up the camera to take a series of automatic shots here's the link" Just as we were about to enter the race we were joined by my old friend Craig Lylack. He'd been out for a half hour and thought conditions were about the same as when he'd started.

I followed Mike into the race and came about and tried to catch some of waves back toward shore. But these beast were bigger then the 4 and 5 foot I'd estimated most were 8 footers with some larger monsters. Mostly I found myself going up and down and making little head way back against the 3.75 knot current.

On one up ride I caught a glimpse of Mike, but saw no sign of Dorothea. It was a struggle to look around and stay up right. Try as I might I could not see any sign of her and was growing worried.

My position was also becoming more and more tentative as I was slowly being pushed south-west towards the rocks. I decided to move offshore by again by heading north-east away from the fixed light on the rocks. As I was doing so Craig came within hailing distance and asked what Dorothea was paddling.

He then told me she was on the rocks. I took this to mean she'd come out of her boat and had been washed into the shore. Turning south-west I smashed my way through to the bottom of the race where I could see two-thirds of a kayak on the rocks but no paddler.

As I drew nearer I finally saw Dorothea high up on the rocks and eventually could see the stern of her boat. It had been obscured by a rock. My heart slowed down a beat or two.

From below the tide race Mike, Craig and myself compared notes. Wow, loose hips but very tight sphincter muscles.

Nevertheless we decided to paddle out and back up through the race. Off we headed, Mike was soon being pushed back in toward the buoy light on the rock. Craig quickly put a lot of distance on both of us. I tried to head out further then up into the tidal stream but also found myself being shoved back towards the rock. Both Mike and I bailed. Craig carried on and got roughly into the top of the tide race and stalled there for the next 20 minutes.

I shouted to Mike to stand by as we might be making a rescue at any moment.
Mike paddled up inside the rocks to keep and eye out for Craig at the top while I stayed on station at the bottom of the tide race where he'd be flushed out if he was to come out of his boat.

For the longest while I watched as Craig's paddle wind milled through the air, he was going up and down but against San Juan Island in the background I could see little forward progress.

I know this man to be tough and strong and I was beginning to think he might be stupid as it seemed inevitable that he'd tire and be overwhelmed. For a time he'd make 15 to 20 feet then be swept back. Then I saw him get knocked over and sink behind a swell. I thought that's it; but he rolled or sculled back up.

Then when all appeared lost he caught a lull and was able to surf out of the north-west end of the tide race. He made straight for his put in site too tired to come down to us.

While he was fighting to get out I kept saying, "come on just turn the boat and let the current flush you back down here to the bottom". It's what I would have done. But he hung in and eventually made it through. A determined bit of paddling.

I swung back to the rock where Dorothea had come ashore. She'd repositioned her boat to the lee side of the rock and pulled it completely clear of the water. But while watching the struggle out in the race the wind had blown her kayak right off the rock. Luckily it had been blown straight into the gravel beach in front of the famous Williams glass house.

We got Dorothea reconnected with her steed and called it a day. Total time on the water maybe two hours.

As an aside I recently read a review of the new Delta Double where it was claimed to be a good rough water handling boat. This was concluded after it was taken to Skookumchuck and surfed. I don't know how it was paddled at the "Chuck", however surfing the front wave is not a true rough water test. Successfully paddling the tide race behind the front wave that's a test.