Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Keeping critters out of the cockpit.

When I started sea kayaking I got fitted out by the late Mike Thomson of Scottish Paddler supplies. He advised me to invest in a cockpit cover because: 

"All that wet, sandy, salty gear we inevitably accumulate on a trip. Don't chuck it all in the boot where it immediately sets about rotting your car away. Heave it all in the cockpit and bang on one of these covers.

They also keep the lovely British climate out of your cockpit in transit or on the beach. The Americans add that they "keep dirt and CRITTERS out of the cockpit". Come to think of it, finding a critter crawling up your leg while out at sea would not be the happiest of experiences!!

Until recently I had used the cockpit cover only when the kayak was on the car roof rack to keep fuel consumption down, my kayaks were always well protected from weather and critters in my garage. Unfortunately my knees have not been so good recently and I have been having trouble getting a kayak on and off the car roof. So I have started leaving a kayak down at our weekend retreat on the Solway.

I leave it just above the springs high watermark, under the shade of a sessile oak that hangs down over a little beach in Smugglers' Cove. You can see the oak at the right of this photo.

Winter storms had undermined the bank of earth at the back of the beach. I was just pulling my kayak out onto this beach when I spotted this critter among the roots of the tree.

 It is an adder. They have a venomous bite but are usually very retiring in the heat of the day.

This one was trying to warm itself so it wasn't going anywhere fast. I left it well alone, they are a protected species.

We often see adders sunning themselves on the rocks around the Solway shore. Even more common are slow worms, which are not snakes but legless lizards. Slow worms are non venomous and can be distinguished from adders as they are a uniform brown colour with no obvious neck.

In contrast, the adder has an unmistakable diamond pattern and a distinct narrowing at the neck. Adders are widely distributed on the British mainland, and the Inner Hebrides (especially Jura but not Colonsay). They are not found on the Isle of Man, Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney or Shetland.

I was really pleased my cockpit cover was firmly in place, I shudder to think what might happened if it was sitting in the cockpit when I set off.