The wind and the sound of the sea woke me up by 6, although I had to wait 5 hours for the tide to be at the Low Water starting point. Once I’d packed the bags and hauled down to the water’s edge, I radioed the coast guard of my intentions, answered their questions and set off into the bay. The wind was strong and the sea was messy, with a 2-3 foot chop in the bay and a 2-3 metre chop further out where I was heading. The going was difficult, with constant bracing strokes needed, I made my way out through the rocks to deep water and sat there for a while trying to work out what to do. While I did so, I watched a small fishing boat bobbing up and down in the swell, one moment you could see the keel, next moment all you could see was its radio aerials. After a few minutes watching the boat, looking at the way ahead, looking at the weather behind me and thinking of the difficult day ahead of me (40 km past Ilfracombe, Combe Martin, Headons Mouth, Lynmouth and Foreland Point) I decided the only safe option for me, solo, was to go back to land and either wait it out of get a lift to the next stop.
It was a strange feeling paddling back to land, knowing I wouldn’t be going on that day. Part of me hated it for giving in to the elements, the other part of me was very relieved. This would have been a difficult section on the best of days, with 40km ending going past Foreland Point, might have been OK on either a less windy day or shorter day. So I waited for the lift and drove to Porlock to make the third camp. On the way past I looked down at the sea, which got progressively rougher all the way to Lynmouth. I heard later the sea was gale force 4-6, rough, certainly at the limit of my comfort.
Day – 4
The storm kept up through the night, putting strain on my little tarp and I had to tie down the boat with large rocks, but my the morning it had dropped off quite a lot, with a lot smaller chop in the bay. Another long haul down to the water’s edge over rocks and sand and then off towards Hurlstone Point and Selworthy. There was some chop and wind in the bay, with white-tops but nothing I couldn’t handle. I got past Hurlstone at about slack and kept off shore past Selworth to avoid the waves. It was looking rougher in the channel, so I generally kept fairly close to the shore for a little shelter, although as time went on the tide picked up pace to be racing along, turning every little reef and headland into messy water with waves. The water was warm though and I was happy to be heading towards home on the last leg.
I stopped just before Minehead for a short lunch break and to get back on schedule, Sarah didn’t want me arriving too early as we had people turning up to greet me in Watchet. I got back out in the Channel, which was getting progressively rougher, and headed towards Blue Anchor. I stopped again just after Blue Anchor, not because I was tired but mainly to slow down as the tide was pulling me faster than I needed to! Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long there as I was sat on rocks and the tides was coming in fast, threatening to knock me about on the rocks. So I headed off again and tried to go as slow as possible, unfortunately the tide had other ideas and I needed to paddle to stay upright. Watchet Harbour came into view, and with a landing not easy on the beach I pushed on round to the Harbour entrance. I was met by my friend Deb and Brillo hollering from the harbour, I lined up for the entrance and as I shot past, sideways, I road the clapotis and pushed into the harbour. I was expecting it to be a bit shallow, but unfortunately it was half empty, and full of mud – luckily I moored against a ladder and climbed up and out to the top of the wall. Brillo handed me a much wanted cup of hot tea and I was met by the Free Press photographer. 20 minutes later Sarah, my mother and the rest of the gang turned up and after more photos I finally got into Pebbles for a well earned Cider.
A great evening was had in Pebbles, more money was raised by friends and locals and the story retold a few times.