Wave alerts – one for the surfers and sea kayakers

You might be interested to know that you can sign up (free) with the Channel Coastal Observatory to have email alerts when the waves exceed certain conditions.

There are a number of buoys on the network with one at  Gwynt y Mor in Liverpool Bay. Go to the link below and click on the “Alerts system – receive custom alerts from the observatory” option. You can then set a wave height and/or wave period to trigger an email when the sea state reaches that level.

he system is real-time so only alerts you to the current conditions rather than a forecast.

UK wave forecasts

For those that like surfing or want to know the sea state for sea kayaking this might be of interest.

CEFAS have a map of UK wave buoy data (WaveNet), which also provides forecast information at some locations. See http://wavenet.cefas.co.uk/Map

If you select the basic map and click on the arrow in Liverpool Bay, then select the graph tab you’ll get the local 24hr wave forecast for wave height and period.

Tidal Predictions – anyTide app

If you’re interested in having access to tidal predictions between UK tide gauge locations the National Oceanography Centre have released a tidal predictions app anyTide. This provides tidal elevation and current information at 1.8 km intervals around the UK coastline, http://noc.ac.uk/business/marine-data-products/anytide

For those of you who use the UK Hydrographic Office EasyTide predictions, these are based on software developed by the National Oceanography Centre. So the data at tide gauge locations should be the same.

Tide & Time – Exhibition in Liverpool

Tide & Time is an exhibition at the National Oceanography Centre Liverpool. It’s free to visit and you’ll find out about how tides are and were predicted around the UK,  http://www.tide-and-time.uk/


Come discover the role Tidal Science had in turning Liverpool into a major port and the city it is today. Tide Predicting Machines are analogue computers designed to simulate the rise and fall of the ocean tide. The two Tide Predicting Machines in this exhibition – the Doodson-Légé machine and the Roberts-Légé machine – can be viewed by the public once a month. Both machines spent their working lives at predecessors of the National Oceanography Centre: the Liverpool Tidal Institute and at Bidston Observatory. The Roberts-Légé was one of two Tide Predicting Machines used during planning of the Normandy invasion in WWII.

Crosby to Ainsdale via Q2, by Robin Emley


Over the VHF, I have often heard marine traffic talking about Q1 and Q2, these being the outermost buoys of the Liverpool Approach.  But where exactly are these places, and what are they like?

Given the huge amount of water that enters and leaves the Mersey Estuary,  it makes sense for any return trip into Liverpool Bay to be based around low tide.  Some degree of tidal assistance could then be expected in each direction.   In these parts, low water only occurs around the middle of the day at neap tides.  A calm summer’s day with a neap tide and a gentle onshore wind would seem ideal for such a trip.


On Thursday 17/8/17, these conditions came together nicely.  A gentle Westerly wind was forecast to pick up during the afternoon and swing around to the Southwest.  Paddling to Q1 from the Wirral would require being a long way from land for most of the time.  An alternative option starting from Crosby looked to be more feasible.  This trip would take in most of the port (red) buoys of the Crosby Channel, then lead around the corner into the Queens Channel and eventually to Q2.   With this option, I would always be upwind of the coast which would never be too far away.  Continuing northwards towards Ainsdale was my preference for the return trip.

I launched from Crosby shortly after 10am and paused at the first port buoy (C14) to inform Mersey VTS of my intentions.  Aided by the ebbing tide, I then enjoyed a rapid tour of the buoys out towards Formby Point.  Formby Buoy is a red & white affair in the centre of the channel, mid-way between the outer lines of port and starboard markers.

Close to C6 is some prominent wreckage.  It’s hard to imagine a large metal ship meeting its fate on a sandbank.  Looking at the Liverpool Approach chart at www.visitmyharbour.com, it is possible that this unfortunate vessel has encountered the Taylor’s Bank Revetment.

Interspersed with the lower numbered Crosby Channel markers are Gamma, Beta and Alpha. On arriving at Alpha, an outgoing tanker was approaching so I paused for a photo.  As it drew level, I heard the skipper calling up Mersey VTS about his concern for a kayak that was nearby.  He thought the bow wave from other vessels may cause me a problem.  In the distance, I could see the fast-approaching Sea Cat and had no intention of venturing close to it on this occasion.

Mersey VTS then asked the Sea Cat whether s(he) had visual contact with me, the reply being negative.  At that point, I again called in as “Kayak Robin” to confirm my location and said that I would remain well outside the channel and that no traffic needs to slow down for me.  That input was immediately acknowledged by the VTS operator and was presumably welcomed by all concerned.

Arriving at Q12 – the first marker in the Queens Channel – was a special moment for me.  By that time, it was 11:50, a little over two hours before low water.  With pleasant conditions, it made no sense to turn back against the ebbing tidal flow so I pressed on.  By this time, the Sea Cat had reported leaving the Queens Channel and was away, due back around 7pm.


Many of the Queens Channel buoys appear to be older than in the Crosby Channel, but they are prominent and easy to follow.  Most were adorned with cormorants and gulls but they invariably flew off before coming into photo range.  It was interesting to watch the tangle of mainly stationary wind turbines morph into distinct lines as I progressed.

Q2 is a smart tall affair as befits its status as the final port marker of the Shipping Channel.  When I arrived, the sea state was slight and there was still some outgoing tidal drift.  While enjoying a leisurely lunch, my boat drifted around 250 metres further out into the bay.  It felt as if I had  left the Solar System and was drifting around in interstellar space.  Once back near Q2, with a friendly line of red buoys stretching shoreward, I felt more secure again.

During my return trip, the wind and swell increased markedly.  At times, I found myself surfing and the boat’s direction was difficult to control.  But with transits everywhere, there was no doubt that I was making progress in the right general direction.   All of the wind turbines were by then in motion.

On arriving at Q12, I briefly turned downwind (NE) and found the conditions to be much easier.  I therefore decided to continue to Ainsdale rather than returning to Crosby.  With the water level being lower than on my outward trip, several pieces of marine wreckage could be seen around Formby sands.  A hot drink on Formby beach was most welcome.  The continuous expanse of beach and dunes past Freshfield and Woodvale Airfield is a lovely stretch of coast, with just a handful of people dotted around the place.

Toiling up the beach at Ainsdale was hard work.   While taking a short train ride to retrieve the car, my kayak was hidden from view behind the Lifeguard’s hut.  Thankfully, it remained undisturbed during my absence.  For peace of mind, my VHF radio, PLB, GPS, phone, camera and compass all went with me in a rucksac.  I even remembered to take the car key 🙂

View from Q2:  https://youtu.be/Hh0ue2ZsrAE


Sea kayaking – round the Great Orme by Sarah Horton

Ian Bell put out a suggestion for ‘sea Sunday’ for Sunday 13 August 2017, asking if any sea kayakers would like to find a sea trip. This was much welcomed by me and I was delighted to meet up with a group of eight paddlers on West Shore.
We got on the water by 11am, the tide was coming in and we had a short sandy carry to find water.
Off we went in a buoyant mood happy to be out in the sun and sea.

The shore along the Orme from West Shore is rocky with houses along the cliff, but once we got round the first headland it’s a different landscape completely.
The cliffs here are Clwyd limestone, which runs from the east coast of Anglesey to Llangollen. Plenty of seals and birdlife here for us to observe as we gently made our way round the cliffs.
Arriving at East Shore, the pier visible now, we decide not to land on East Shore itself, but a small beach just before the pier, where we have our lunch. Strange to be sat here with our sea kayaks, as the sea comes in, and hearing the noise of the pier and hundreds of day trippers having a completely different sort of Llandudno day experience.
After lunch we head back the way we came, peacefully retracing our route, enjoying the sea, clouds, occasional sun, seals and birdlife, and gentle conversation.

Returning back to West Shore, just as we approach high tide.
And thanks to Ian for planning our return, with perfect timing, as we only have a short carry back to the cars, and ice cream or tea and coffee is readily available.
A lovely, gently day, thanks to my fellow kayakers – Ian, Nigel, Anthony, Dave, Fi, Di and Pete.

Alpine paddling – Middle & Lower Durance, 04/08/2017

The last day of paddling so we made it a long one at 39km-ish. The shuttle left the camp early (thanks Keith & Mark) and we walked our kayaks over to the Durance to get on just below Les Ecrins Campsite slalom course to set off for Embrun. We paddled as 1 large group led by Helen, playing in the little waves between the camp and St Clement slalom course. We all were a little lethargic on the Middle Durance as we were a tied from 12 days of activity. The waves at St Clement woke us up as we stopped there to play before taking a break for lunch on the beach.

We then continued down the lower river to the Rabioux wave. We all did as Sarah told us and asked Mrs Rab to please let us through. Dom and Hannah were keen to turn their 1:1 swim:no swim into 1:2 – they both did it. Nice one guys you beat Mrs Rab! On we went through the increasingly bouncy rapids to the Embrun wave for the last play of the trip. It was then off to the supermarket for BBQ food to finish off the holiday back at camp. There definitely wasn’t any ‘Guinep juice’ left after a second night of sitting round the BBQ.

Alpine paddling – Ubaye Racecourse, 03/08/2017

3 clubs (Liverpool, St Helen’s and Colwyn) joined forces for the day. Forming 2 groups of 7 we set off for our second run of the Ubaye race course. There were a lot less swims this time round even though the water levels were a little lower making the run a slightly more technical. Our group led by Ian and Little Stu would have had a dry run if Dom hadn’t of suddenly become camera-shy and flipped himself over to avoid Keith waiting in an eddy at the bottom of a rapid. Feeling braver this week we were all trying our skills out on the small waves along the way. Once again we had a hello from the raft guide in the pink bikini bottoms on the outside of his wetsuit. We weren’t expecting to see that again.

We stopped for lunch in the sun on the beach after shark fin rapid. Hannah had found a tooth in the shallows of an eddy earlier in the river, but we don’t think it belonged to a shark although it was quite big. In the second half of the river we found a frog hanging about chilling on a rock in the final eddy of a challenging rapid. It didn’t seem to bothered to be joined by a group of kayakers. We finished the day with a final sighting of a pink panted raft guide and set off for camp after Keith managed to manoeuvre his way into a parking place between the nonstop bustle of rafting vans and trailers. Due to a road closure we didn’t make it back to the cafe next to the lake, so the pear sorbet will have to wait for another Alps holiday. I can’t grumble as the creme Brulee ice cream the week before was rather good.

Alpine paddling – Upper & Middle Guisane, 02/08/2017

1st river of Ciaron’s last day. The water levels were a little higher than last week with the warmer weather providing some extra melt water. Team bra (Ian + his team of girls – Helen, Hannah, Wendy & Jenny) set off in the fast ferocious flow. Today there seemed to be less eddies and the few we found required positive paddling strokes to catch them. By S-Benders team suspenders only had one set of wet bra straps. The full group reformed before styling the rapid in a forward direction this time. We continued down the river back in our groups. Hannah leading the way we made our way through the villages to the bridge covered in Petunias at the get out. Ian geting a surprise as he rounded a tree lined bend to get an eye full of the local ladies sunbathing topless in an opening. The river will now be known as Booby River, renamed by Helen. We enjoyed some lunch in the sun and had a look at the bio pool still chuckling about the big knocker sighting – a rare experience for us Brits – while Keith peddled off for the van.