Sunday, 18 March 2012

Beware of an 'iding in March

Thanks to Richard Berry for the photo
I recently received a kind invitation to go along to a surf development day held at Aberavon Beach.

So I dug out and dusted off the old surf kayak and brought it out to show it the light of day. Seems ages since we last danced on the waves.

Nice to catch up with a few people I haven't seen for a while.

Sure was a good work out. (I think).

Friday, 9 March 2012

Big Spring Paddle around the Isle of Wight

The Vernal Equinox is just over a week away so as a welcome to the near beginning of Spring I'm meeting up with Mark, Richard and Graham, for the second year on the run, to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight as some emerging spring pagan paddling ritual.

The forecast is set for low winds all weekend on the south coast of England, perfect paddling conditions are promised. It all starts with a three and a half hour car journey after work from Wales down to Keyhaven on the southern coast of Hampshire opposite the Isle of Wight, it's going to be a tiring weekend but well worth the effort I hope. Last year I had such a great paddle, (all be it battling into head winds and withstanding freezing conditions),  and was up for another test of endurance this time round. The general idea was that this big spring tide was going to help us get around this chalk mound a little on the quick side if the timings were right.

Kayak packing in the dark

Looking over the salt marshes to the Isle of Wight

Arriving at the get in at dusk, the mudflats and salt marsh of Keyhaven, I have to laugh with utter amusement as I pack the Cetus HV with a weekends worth of food, water and camping kit - it just disappears inside with no effort or puzzle packing.

The moon has not risen yet as we wait for the incoming tide to creep in over the mud flats. There are examples here of medieval salt workings, not that we can see any of them in the pitch black. We paddle out into the dark towards the spit and out through our first small tide race to cross over the Solant to The Needles. It takes about an hour to cross over and pass through them and then to head east along the south coast towards Freshwater.

Our progress is slowed right down now as we are paddling against the tide and there is a little bit of a swell running creating quite a bit of excited water caused by the waves reflecting off the vertical chalk cliffs meeting the on coming wave - clapotis. We bounce between the nodes and antinodes like bobbing corks. Eventually after 2hrs of slogging through and against this we arrive at Freshwater. Unloading and hauling the boats off the steep shelving pebbly beach we all trudge up with our gear to camp on top of the cliffs that over looks Freshwater Bay.

Quietly, except for that familiar metallic clink and chink of poles and pegs, we each put up our tents and crawl in. I'm really tired now, it's been non stop since 9am (yesterday) when I dropped the kids off for school, it's about two in the morning and I've just realised after getting into dry clothes and my sleeping bag that I've left my water in the kayak down at the foot of the cliff on the beach - I REALLY can't be bothered, and make do with a bag of crisps and finish off the hot soup in my flask before flaking out.

It's mid morning by the time I come around - and what a great day it promises to be!

Chill time - we wait for the tide to turn

Amazing what you can pack away in a sea kayak if you are careful!
After suitable refueling and some more snoozing it's time to get the kayaking kit on and load up for the day's/night's paddle. Time and tide waits for no man and all that.

Leaving Freshwater Bay

The last of the sun
The sun slips over the horizon as we approach the tide race off St Katherine's Lighthouse and we continue in darkness stopping off at Ventnor to stretch legs. The moon has not yet risen as we push on across Sandown Bay and rises as we approach Bembridge Harbour.

Newly risen moon looking back across the entrance to Bembridge Harbour

Nice little camp spot

After a fairly misty dawn and a lazy morning, we pack up and get ready to ride the tide home along the northern part of the coast.

We make good time with the tidal stream and about four and a half hours later we are turning in past the spit back to Keyhaven and close the circumnavigation circle. The final half hour is a slog against the rapidly draining marsh land to arrive back at our start point.

Total satisfaction.

Now all I need to do is load up and sit on my behind for a further 3 hrs or so and drive home!

Hurst Castle and lighthouse as we approach the gravel spit before entering Keyhaven
 Another great weekend paddling. Good company and a cracking challenge.
100km in 13.5 hrs of actual paddling of which 8 hrs were at night