June 29, 2020

Undertaking Advanced Sea Leader (or Five-Star as we once referred to it) can be a daunting decision to make; it certainly was for me!  If you’d asked me five years ago whether I’d be happy to lead in advanced conditions (meaning the ability to lead any journey on the sea where tidal races, overfalls or open crossings may be encountered or cannot be avoided; sections of coastline where landings may not be possible or are difficult; sea state four and winds above Beaufort force four; launching and landing through surf of up to 1.5 metres trough to crest height), I would have definitely said ‘no way!’.  Quite honestly, I could never have seen myself doing it back then, I remember the thought of it caused me serious anxiety.  Why?  Well firstly, it’s the highest leadership award offered by British Canoeing, you are in the biggest conditions dealing with all the elements, and the sea can be unforgiving and unpredictable if you’re not extremely careful.  Added to this, you are leading a grou...

December 3, 2017

For the past 6 months I’ve been using the Celtic Pro 600 Kinetik Touring, 4 Piece straight narrow shaft, paddle.  Before this I was using the Werner Shuna, cranked shaft. 

First noticeable features of the Celtic 600 is the narrow shaft, this has made my hands life so much easier.  It is nice to grip especially in rougher seas for a person with smaller hands.  Before my Around Ireland trip I did a lot of paddle training and received some blisters and skin hardening.  However, no training will ever get your hands or body ready for a 2 month expedition. I was surprised to find I got NO serious blistering on my hands, I put this down to having a paddle that suited my hands.

The paddle is light, something I worried about when first trying the paddle as the Werner is so light.  However, they are around the same weight, possibly the Celtic 600 is lighter.  I have not missed the cranked paddle either.  Its nice being able to grip the paddle anywhere along the shaft to help in f...

August 6, 2017

I sit here tonight, thinking about my young people who are on their final expedition in North Wales, unaccompanied.  I have spent 12 days with them on their 19 day expedition, training them in the hills, majority of the time walking, a few days of sea kayaking and a day of scrambling up the North face of Tryfan and a day in the Afon Ddu gorge.  It is now the second day of their expedition, and the weather is complete shite – rain, wind, poor viability, they have got it all.  I’ve had numerous calls from my team, who are suffering on the hill due to the wild Welsh mountains and weather. 

The Ultimate team on Expedition coming off Carnedds into Ogwen Valley

The difficulty here is that I only feel pure empathy for them.  Just last month I went through the same cycle on countless days paddling around Ireland.  I begged my family to come and get me some days – fortunately they were never available to help when I was in this state of mind.  So... eventually Id pick myself up and...

June 11, 2017

I've turned 30... made it around another corner... got through a whole month and I've had terrible weather on and off in June... currently gales blowing through - typical Irish summer one might say!

I got to Crookhaven, at the end of May. I had this complete mental head block about getting around the corner, onto the West coast. I cannot explain the feeling but I physically couldn't get myself to pack my boat one day, I'd check the weather again and again, thinking of all the things that might go wrong - a shoulder that hasn't been great for 3 weeks, swell, tides, over tiredness, my planning being all wrong. I didn't want to speak to anyone embarrassed about my nervousness. So I sat in my tent. My Auntie Caroline eventually rang, understanding my feelings even though she has no experience with the sea or water, she reassured me that I'd get there and was so understanding of my lack of confidence. My Dad then phoned me and said he'd be up to see me for a day or two. He knew I was avoid...

May 21, 2017

Apologies for no updates - I was taking some time away from social media, pressures and all that jazz. Just giving myself time to reflect on why I decided to do this journey! Something I pine on about all the time to kids I work with, how important it is... I should have really took my own advice a week ago ha!

For a few days I was just feeling completely lonely... my dad visited will I was stuck in Hook head waiting for winds to calm and we had a great time visiting wee spots and then I had to go paddle again - camp - meet new people - be taken in by generous people! But ultimately I felt alone... 

(Finally seeing hook head from the sea, after 3 days of seeing it on land)

I made it to Tramore on Wednesday, which was a tough enough paddle, conditions getting bigger the further I got away from Dunmore East. I stayed the night with 3 lovely girls and was looked after so well by Eamon and his wife Cathy, getting a home for my boat and sending me off in the morning! This was all thanks to...

May 16, 2017

My last blog I was me stuck at Clogher Head, with high winds and having the craic with Sean and Michael. Since that 10 days have almost passed of highs and lows that I've shared on Facebook and Instagram, but only getting the chance to blog now.

Where am I?
Well on Saturday I paddled to Fethard, co. Wexford, in some interesting conditions with strong winds building from South West. I landed at Fethard just before Hook Head, as the smaller headlands were kicking up quite a bit. It's probably the meatiest conditions I've been in by myself. With some cracking waves coming side on, I constantly having to angle the boat into the waves and brace of some breaking ones. The only thing I could think about was staying upright and concentrating on what was coming. 

Overall, it was a short wee paddle from Kilmore beach, about 5km from St Patricks Bridge at the Saltee Islands (a crest shape path-like rock formation that heads out East from Kilmore Quay out to th Saltees). I thought it was going to...

May 5, 2017

On Tuesday 2nd May 2017, I started the morning by heading to Tollymore Outdoor Centre, the place that got me into sea kayaking and got me some amazing experiences in the outdoors and great friends - My first adrenaline rush in Sea kayaking was on a Scottish trip with Mike McClure in 2012, where he had me paddling through the Grey Dogs and around the Garvellachs in spring tides with some interesting weather. Mike had sold me on sea paddling and he gave me a good old 3 star sea assessment by the end of the trip (a touch out of remit)!!

So, I seen the lads Stevie, Kieran and Oisin. Stevie spent a bit of time chatting me through my planning and then we set off to get the boats ready and drive to the harbour.

Stevie and I set off from Newcastle Harbour at around 12:30!! It was glorious weather. 

We got an hour into the paddle and I felt so warm I felt sick. We took a break, and I took off my BA and stuck on the deck, drank some water and off we paddled again to Cranfield Beach where we dec...

April 29, 2017

Firstly, I must apologise for this post and future posts as I will be sending them out as I write them.  I will not have the great wisdom of my grammar and spelling fairies, who check that my dyslexic posts make sense.  They

have all been amazing at encouraging me to write and also not changing my style of writing when correcting my mistakes. 

I’m not really sure were to begin but the final countdown has began….

I’ve been paddling in Pembrokeshire and around Anglesey quite a bit getting some extra mileage under my belt before the trip.  I’ve been stressing – lots of that.  Buying last minute kit I forgot to get.  Getting last minute support from MSR, Themarest and Alpkit, moving house and renewing my first aid.

On Monday I went to Ogwen Cottage (Aberdfyi’s satellite centre) for my last week of work at Outward Bound, were I had lots of hopes to get route planning finished and update people on my progress in the evenings.  Unfortunately, one of the delights of working at Ogwen...

April 3, 2017

It’s has been a busy few weeks, between paddling, training and working. This weekend I have been doing some administration for the trip and have been struggling with the difficult decision of choosing a charity to paddle around Ireland for. Back in June I decided that I was going to raise money for a mental health charity, a cause that is close to my heart, as I have worked first hand with people in the grips of mental illness as a youth development worker in Belfast.

Photos - A solo paddle to Twywn to meet my friend Becca (Photo credit to her) for tea | Expedition with an amazing group of young adults, its not every week in Wales you get sunshine!!  

Over the past 10 years, I have worked with young people facing massive challenges in their lives and wanting striving to make positive changes to their situation and build their confidence. Research shows 1 in 5 people experience mental health problems (a massive and surprising statistic in my opinion), and I feel that poor mental...

February 16, 2017

Some time ago on a course, I overheard a coach describe me as a ‘donkey’ to another coach.  I never mentioned that I had overheard the coach in our debrief, instead I held onto that phrase in my mind.  I was completely gutted and discouraged for some time.  In Caoimhe fashion I beat myself up for a while.  Weeks down the line, my good old stubbornness kicked in and decided I would improve and progress regardless of what others thought and keep pushing forwards.

On further reflection, while away sea kayaking in Scotland.  I was crossing one of the bays on Skye, this memory came back to me.  Possibly because the wind was in my face all day, my paddling was getting sloppier and slower as the day went on.  At first I was annoyed, coaxing myself into sitting up straighter, reaching further and rotating more from my core – ‘I’ll show them’ I thought.  But I was tired! So that boost of energy was short lived, and I went back to my thoughts.  ‘I’m a bloody donkey, a useless donke...

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