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Home Blog Camping Trips Messing about in boats

Messing about in boats

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Phil with CoracleWritten by Phil Keelan

So yesterday I found myself in need of a night in the hammock and I fancied taking the coracle for a spin too. I put the idea to Matt and Ash to meet at a quiet spot and, well, make it up as we go. I'd already had a great morning with my kids Corey and Erin, foraging the coastline for wildfood. Then the day just got better. I got all my gear packed and ready, attached the coracle and my foraging bag to my rucsack and tried it on for size. I felt a little over balanced, but not too uncomfortable. The goal was this - Walk 2.5-3km to the site, paddle across the lake to a place almost inaccessable by land, stay the night and have fun. Without further hesitation, I set off on my way.

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Not 10 minutes into my journey, I bumped into Matt. Times have been busy for us both and I hadn't seen he since the Cornwall RV. Was good to have a natter and know that he was gonna pop along later as well. 

It seemed the whole of my small rural town was out celebrating the Jubilee. The looks, and indeed comments I recieved were comical :D

Once out of town it was nice and quiet and what a day too! Barely any wind and the sun was blazing. I stopped once on the bridge of a small river to have a drink break afore pressing on.

When I reached the lake I felt a sense of achievement akin to my first bow-drill ember a coupla weeks ago. I know it may sound a simple thing, but having built this craft myself, I wanted to be able to rely on my own two legs for transporting her around between paddles. For me, this was the first experiment of many trips to be done, whereby I can refine the load, make it more comfortable and improve my paddling technique.

So I took it all off, went and sat lakeside with my boots off and chilled for half an hour listening to the birds and watching the fish in the crystal clear water. The clarity was unreal! A combination of bright sun at the right height in the sky, no wind and good water condition meant that it was like looking down on a glass bottom boat.

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I could have sat there all day watching and listening, letting nature get close. However, a certain maiden needed taking out on the water and was nagging for my attention. I'd named the coracle Jeannie, after the Kelda of the Chalk Clan of Nac Mac Feegles. It was reading about the Feegles that inspired my to make the coracle in the first place :)

IMG 2823I sorted my gear out and got her loaded up. I was a little fearful of leaks! Last time I took her out there were a few scrapes on the hull from rocks and branches underwater. When I finished playing there was a small amount of water in the bottom and I inspected the scrapes to see that some of the tar paint needed touching up... Mebbe it would have been a good idea to do that before this expedition!! Hey ho... on the water we go :)

She looks a little heavy at the stern (nautical terminolgy now see!) but my weight would soon fix that. I paddled out of the sheltered shallows into the glorius sunshine and smiled :) I'd missed this. More than I'd realised, until getting her on the water again. I had a bit of a paddle around and enjoyed the sun. The fish didn't seem too bothered by me and when I stopped paddling they would come quite close. Up high on a rockface was a jackdaw nest making a lot of racket. Also the unmistakeable croak of ravens too. The water was still, the air was still. What a peaceful place.


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I paddled over to the other side and landed my gear on the bank. Got Jeannie all moored up proper and went looking for a place to hang my gear. After pushing up over a high bank, there was a great little spot, perfect for the three of us to set up and with a view of the lake through the branches of the trees.

No sooner had I hung my gear up did I hear a deep boom from across the lake "Yo-Bear". Ash had arrived. I Called back and got back down to the coracle. By the time I'd paddled out from under the trees, Ash had his kayak on the water and was scooting over to me.

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After having a mess about and not even bothering with the challenge of a race, no contest really (I would've totally smoked the kayak!!), we had a good nosy around taking in all the sights, sounds and smells. We parked up back over the nearside and decided to take the evening slowly, no rush to get setup and cooking tea, so what better way to chill than  get a small fire going and haive a brew on. Once we had flames a-going, Matt turned up and we sat with the brew and chattered. Ash cracked out the saffron cake, Cheers me ansum, and we thought about heading over the lake. 

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Back on the water again it was funny with us all in our different crafts, talking about unimportant stuff and melting into the relaxed mood of the place. The sun had been covered by cloud and the water seemed less clear, but the place still had a curious quiet about it and when we chattered there was a strange resonance off the rockfaces around us.

Once over the other side we all got set up and got some dinner on the go. I was experimenting with making my own lentil dahl mix that would be lightweight n tasty. I was pretty happy with the result and I'll definitely use that recipe again. As the light was starting to fade we went back out on the water for one last paddle around afore settling by the fire. By the time I got back it was actually dark, lucky I remembered my headtorch :)

We had a pleasant evening fireside, with several Cornish delicacies to be passed around, but by 1am I was falling asleep in my chair :D Time to turn in. I think it was safe to say we all slept like babies and I even slept through dawn breaking. Unusual for me, normally the dawn chorus wakes me. Maybe the sussurration of the gentle rain that set in shortly before climbing in my hammock had kept me lulled. However I got rudely awakened at about 07:30 by one of the tripods from War of the Worlds screaming into the morning mizzle!! Actually it was an electrical transformer blowing nearby that caused the racket, but it sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie to me! Hell of a bang! :)

IMG 2829I laid in my hammock for a bit watching the rain on the lake and, well, just lazing about really. I couldn't think of anything right at that moment that was so pressing as to peel me out of my hammock :) 

Once up I started my next experiment... dehydrated Veggie sausage mix. I learnt a lot from this experiment :) I'd made it such a faff it was unreal! I'd almost abandoned the idea of doing this again, but with some helpful input from Matt and Ash I reckon I'll give it another go next time I'm camping.

Matt shot off early while Ash and I packed up slowly. It rained continuously all morning, but it didn't dampen our spirits and Matt had kindly rigged up a communal tarp. Once packed we headed off back over the lake. Even in the light rain it was nice to be out on the coracle. I didn't feel sad that we were going as I had more than fulfilled the goals I'd set. This is going to be the first of many coracle camps and mebbe in the future I'll finally start my skin on frame canoe project. but for now I'm just going to enjoy my Jeannie, patch her up and paddle about. I've even got a special little paint job in mind for her ;)

Thankyou for reading.




"Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

Water Rat, The Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame


Interested in Phil's Coracle? He built it himself learning along the way, checkout the video of Phil showing how he built and uses his Coracle, click here.

Comments (15)
15 Saturday, 25 August 2012 12:11
Phil Keelan
Thanks again for the comments folks :) Dan, I use three tubs. One has a tbsp of brown rice and a tbsp of dried herbs of your choice. The next tub has one tbsp each of bulgar wheat and couscous. The last tub contains one tbsp each of split red lentils, whole green lentils, moong bean and a tbsp of powdered curry spices and also a crumbled veggie oxo cube. I boil some water and put some in the second tub to soak the couscous and bulgar wheat. then add the rice n herbs to the pot and boil for 20 min. Then add everything else to the pot and simmer for 10-15 min. I don't measure the water, I just guess it. Hope this helps Bud :)
14 Thursday, 28 June 2012 08:51
i wish i were there
13 Saturday, 16 June 2012 09:13
Michael Edwards
These kind of stories make us all want to get out there in the wilds. Shame there's not more places like this around. Top job on the photos. :-)
12 Saturday, 16 June 2012 08:24
Dan XF
Great write up. A tip for veggie sausages, if you're coooking them over a fire then shape the mix around a skewer rather than make them sausage shaped and then try to push a skewer through them. I'd be interested in your recipe for dal though. Haven't managed to make a dried one yet.
11 Thursday, 14 June 2012 05:32
Realearner (Damon Clark)
Lovely adventure, and so well written you are a man of many talents. Waiting for the next installment.
10 Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:28
Phil Keelan
Thanks all for your comments. @ Paul Raybould, yes, all my gear was stashed in the bottom rear (Stern!) :) of the coracle. I think I would've tipped straight over if I'd worn it :)
9 Thursday, 07 June 2012 15:01
Andrew Winfrow
Great live story Phil. Thanks for the time to write it up.
8 Thursday, 07 June 2012 09:25
Paul Raybould
Nice one Phil, good to see you getting some use out of the old girl after building from scratch. Personally I'd prefer an open canoe though, at least you have a bow and stern ? to aid navigation.

I'm guessing your rucksack was in the bottom of the craft (whilst paddling) to keep the centre of gravity low ?

7 Wednesday, 06 June 2012 17:38
Brian Walker
Oh how I wish I were there - but I haven't got a boat, n I can't swim - would a rubber ring do!!!!
6 Wednesday, 06 June 2012 16:26
paul draddy
Lovely stuff Phil,made me feal like I was there,cheers, Paul
5 Tuesday, 05 June 2012 23:23
Sapper4083 (wayne)
Thanks for sharing Phil, enjoyed it
4 Tuesday, 05 June 2012 22:06
Justin Young
Your a natural story teller Phil. You should keep 'em all together and get 'em published mate ;)
3 Tuesday, 05 June 2012 21:55
Rune Bjørnsen
Enjoyed reading that :-)
2 Tuesday, 05 June 2012 21:46
Ade Rose
Excellent write up, you have painted a wonderful picture with your words. It sounds like you have had a wonderful time, one that time will never easily erase.
1 Tuesday, 05 June 2012 21:22
Brilliant write-up, thanks for sharing your experience.

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