Bad forecast sea conditions forces change of plan

After much lost sleep and soul searching I’ve decided to postpone and shorten next week’s expedition due to some pretty sever sea conditions. There is some very big surf and strong winds forecast for Monday and pretty rough conditions on Sunday and Tuesday making the trip too dangerous for my level of ability. To be honest I’m gutted not to be doing the whole hog, but I’ve definitely made the right decision cutting it short.

I now plan to start on Wednesday, sticking pretty much to my original plan, starting this time in Boscastle. I’ll still be paddling on average 45km a day, wild camping for 3 nights and hopefully paddling back into Watchet on Saturday early evening for a bash at Pebbles Tavern. It’s still going to be pretty tough, with 3-4ft swell, 15 mph wind, some serious stretches of coastline and some tricky tides but I think it’s doable now.

The alternative would be to set off in rough conditions and then get stranded (or worse) somewhere, which is not viable being solo! Anyway, Sennen camp site is cancelled, lift is arranged for Wednesday morning – bring on the new plan!

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After some time off, getting ready for the next challenge – Lands End to Watchet, in 10 days time!

After a good summer break, am just putting the last things in place before my next fund raising challenge, to paddle unsupported and (mostly solo) from Lands End to Watchet (my home port). The plan is to complete this long difficult trip in 7 long days, covering 40-50km a day and wild camping in all but one stop.

This will be my longest and most exposed paddle yet, with some very wild stretches of coastline, so hear’s hoping for some fine weather and settled seas. I know this may not be a massive undertaking as compared to some of the sea kayaking endeavors being undertaken at the moment by some (far better) kayakers than me, but I hope you’ll agree that considering I’ve only been sea kayaking for a year that’s its a considerable undertaking and one worth supporting with your kind donations!

The plan is to leave from Sennen Cove on Sunday 11th September and paddle northeast to Morte Point and then due east to Watchet, arriving in Watchet late afternoon on Saturday 17th September. I’ll be paddling self-supported, wild camping (apart from a stop at Boscastle YHA) and mostly solo (although I’ll be happy for anyone come join me on any of the stretches if they like). I’m exited and just a bit nervous of some of the stretches in Cornwall and North Devon, but I guess that’s only natural and as long as the weather is kind to me it’ll be fine and it’ll be a great experience and a hopefully raise plenty of cash for the pot at Kings College London, to support Prof Herman-Taylor’s work

So as before, please visit my JustGiving page and give as generously as you can.

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Isle of Wight circumnavigation, in 18hours

What a fantastic trip a day of firsts and extremes, but I got round in one piece with no major dramas. The plan was to paddle solo around the Isle of Wight in about 13-14 hours, using the tide stream as assistance and not stopping too much. The weather forecast running up to the day was changing on an almost hourly basis, but on the day before was OK, with only a little ground swell and a 7-10 knot wind (lightest in the morning, when I would be in the worst area). I drove down to Milford On Sea and parked up next to Keyhaven Marshes ready for the early morning start.

Woke up early on Friday morning to the sound of the van being buffeted  by the wind, got up and ran up on to Hurst Spit to check out the sea condition and although it was a lot rougher than the day before didn’t look too bad, a fair amount of white horses, but the ‘Trap’ looked OK. So decided to head off and make a decision when I got to Freshwater, where I could potentially turn back if I needed to.


Radio-ed the Southern Coastguard with the time of leaving and got going, a little later than planned due to sleeping in a little, at 05:25 and headed out through Keyhaven Marshes. Followed the deep-water channel through the Marshes, to the opening to the Solent, then followed the shingle bank round to Hurst Castle and started out across the channel towards the Needles.


The narrow gap between Hurst Spit and the IOW is separated by a tide race known as ‘The Trap’, the guidebook described it as ‘Treacherous’ in a strong southwesterly. The wind got up a bit and crossing the trap I had 1-2 foot waves and messy water, a bit ‘shaky’ at first but after a while I got into a rhythm and crossed to Totland Bay reaching the Needles on-schedule at 07:00.

There was only a small wave breaking through the gap in the Needles as so I rock-hopped through to meet the Channel coast and headed east towards Freshwater Bay. The Channel coast was significantly rougher, with 2 foot of ground swell and a stronger southwesterly, causing the tops to break off the waves and 2 foot rollers to crash in to the cliffs of Scratchells Bay. However this eased off by the time I got to Freshwater and the landing on the beach was relatively easy, timing the run in during a lull in the waves. Had a welcome hot tea and scotch egg break at Freshwater and sent a text to my wife, Sarah to check-in.


Now came what I knew to be probably the hardest technical section, I had been advised that there were ledges at Compton and Atherfield Bay that with ground swell produce decent surf for 10-15 km. Soon after leaving Freshwater the surf picked up, with 2-3 foot waves rolling into the bays, for the majority of the 20km to St. Catherines Point. I stayed out in the channel to avoid the worst of it, still picking up ground swell and a following wind requiring a regular bracing. All was good though as I was able to maintain a pretty good pace and the tide was pulling me along a little. No photos on this section though as taking one hand off the paddles just wasn’t an option and staying upright was the major priority!

After a long 2.5 hours finally made it to St Catherine’s. I remembered the guide had said that you can sneak round the inside to avoid the worst of the rough sea of the race, however that wasn’t an option today. There were large waves, well overhead, rolling in to the shore and breaking on boulders , with a short time interval between them and extending for as far as I could sea, the only way was to head out to sea into the worst of it, but at least I was facing the waves. I turned and paddled hard into the waves, climbing up one after another, breaking through the top and crashing back down to meet the next, to climb up and over the 5-6 foot walls of water. I don’t mean to be too dramatic, but it was the biggest stuff I’d been in in any boat, let alone a a solo sea kayak trip! When I was away from the breaking waves I turned east again and paddled and surfed the following sea, focusing solely on survival for the next 30 minutes. As I left St Catherine’s behind me the waves started to get smaller and I was very happy to see civilization of St Lawrence and Ventnor and my next landing point and check-in with Sarah coming up.

I was pretty much on schedule still, possibly 30 minutes to an hour behind, but doing OK. I set out across Shanklin and Sandown bay towards Bembridge, expecting to find a nice sheltered crossing, but still had short-period swell and a cross-wind meaning I was struggling to get an effective forward stroke and lots of bracing slowing me down. I finally rounded the corner towards Bembridge, to meet another little patch of messy tide race at Culver Down. When I was over the worst of it I tried to take a photo or two with degrees of success, as I still couldn’t take my hand off the paddle for long! It was around here that I managed to strain my wrist, with a series of heavy impact low braces and probably a bit of tiredness. As the water calmed running towards Bembridge, I felt the jabbing pain in my wrist from the probably strain, this was a disappointment, knowing I was only just over half-way! Another welcome rest break at Bembridge and the wrist felt better and the wind had died off, for a while.

Leaving Bembridge behind I picked up the southwesterly again, this time in my face, although at least the swell was pretty much gone. With my painful wrist I made the decision to stay in close to the shore and get as much shelter from the wind, although this would mean I would loose any assistance from the tide. The Solent coast took a lot longer than expected, however another thing I had been warned about – water traffic – wasn’t a problem staying in close to shore. Time continued to slip slightly, as I wasn’t quite able to push on as much as I predicted and I got more tired, however I was feeling relatively good and the weather was being kind.

By the time I got to Ryde, I was about 1.5 hours (10km) behind schedule, which was OK, the Solent was still running eastwards, however the wind was getting stronger in my face and this and my painful wrist was slowing me more.

Passed the port of Fishbourne without drama and reached the mouth of the Medina at Cowes at 17:50  – the time I thought I’d have been arriving back at Hurst! From here I had 1 hour of ebb tide left to do the 20km back to Hurst – oh well, I pushed on as best I could, hugging the shore reduce the impact of the turning flood tide, reaching Yarmouth just after sunset at 21.50. After a little fight with a night fisherman’s line I headed on round the coast, as far as I could against the growing flood tide of the Solent towards the point where I could cross the Trap back to Hurst.

DSCN2869 I headed towards Fort Albert, by moonlight, then headed out across the channel. I met the messy sea of the Trap pretty quickly, but compared to the others I’d been through earlier that day it was pretty tame and I was able to maintain a good stroke rate. From Fort Albert it was 2 km to the entrance to the Keyhaven Marshes and so I should have across and in the shelter in 20 minutes – 1 hour later I was still crossing and loosing moonlight rapidly! Obviously my angle of attack was too shallow and the tide stream was pushing me back into the Solent. Eventually I got some shelter from Hurst Spit and was amongst the moored yachts in the lea of the wind. By this time the moon had completely disappeared and I was running on night vision, but the sea was thankfully pretty flat and the wind had died off. Once in the Marshes, it was difficult to identify the right channel and after a few wrong moves followed the line of moored boats through the marshes towards Milford and the van.

So after a long, somewhat stressful (in places), exhilarating and soulful solo paddle round the island, just shy of 18 hours later I very gratefully reached dry land to be received by a cup of  hot tea and help loading the boast by Wendy and Chris (Sarah’s parents). Really glad I accomplished this mega-paddle without the need of any help or major dramas – and as I said at the start – even though it was tough, I don’t feel it was half as rough as what my son Alex and all the other Crohn’s sufferers have to go through on a regular basis.

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Just about ready for tomorrow’s marathon trip

Am just about all set for tomorrow’s marathon trip – weather forecast is good (if a little blowy in the afternoon), kit’s all sorted, radio and mobiles are charged, maps marked with hazards and stops. I head down to Milford tonight and plan to set off for the solo trip early tomorrow at dawn from Milford On Sea. The plan is: breakfast on the beach after 18 km, lunch after 31 km and 32 km to the tea stop before the last 20 km slog against the wind back to Milford – well that’s the plan anyway!

Most take 2-3 days to do this trip and a few nutters do it in 9-17 hours, I plan to complete it in 13hrs, not looking to break records just make it home in one piece! To help encourage me on this marathon of a trip please visit my JustGiving page and donate what you can.IOW - 1-day distance

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All set for the challenge day on the 8th, hoping for better weather than at the moment!

Finally got all of my equipment together for the big challenge day on the 8th July. Got a shiny new VHF radio, a little strobe light for my BA and a new dry bag to go on the deck to hold all the Scotch eggs and mars bars I’ll need for the long day’s paddling. Have also printed and laminated all the OS maps and tide charts I’ll need to keep me on route. Have calculated I should be able to do it in 13 hours, if I can maintain a good speed and have a little help with the tides.

This will be a way longer distance and way longer time I have sat in the kayak up to now, so hoping every thing will go OK and I’ll still be able to get out of the boat back on shore and drive the 3 hours back home!

Please visit my JustGiving page and donate what you can – it’ll help to motivate me on my way roundAlum_Bay - June 29

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First sea kayak challenge planned for 8th July – Isle of Wight in one day

My first sea kayaking challenge is planned for 3-weeks time, on the 8th July. The plan is to kayak around the Isle of Wight, from Hurst Castle in 12-15 hours. This will be weather permitting, as I don’t plan an epic and low winds would be good!
The tides work and I should hopefully be able to arrange cover for Sarah’s on-call. If all goes well, I’ll set off from Hurst Spit at 5.30am, getting back there above 6-7pm in the evening. Wish me luck and please visit my JustGiving page.
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Beautiful training trip – Budleigh Salterton to Beer and back, 40km

Longest strength training trip to date, just shy of 40km, had to cut short due to a slightly late start! Beautiful trip, stunning scenery, crystal clear sea and no wind on the way out. Trying to increase my distance to prove I go do a 40km day and still have some strength left, in prep for the sponsored challenges (IOW and Cornwall-Devon exped) to come.

Set off from Budleigh with a tide going east, had planned to make it to Seaton by lunch but tide assistance wasn’t quite as good as hoped so stopped just 3km short, at Beer. From my reading of the tide stream charts the tide was supposed to be against me for the 1st hour then with me for the next 2, but on the return leg I had the tide and an increasing wind against me for the whole long 3hr leg. For the last hour the wind got up, picking up a 1-2ft wave chop. Was blooming knackered by the end, but still managed to leg the boat over slimey rocks, wade a river and run the 1/2 mile to the car park so can’t be too bad I suppose.

Looking forward to the IOW circumnav now (I think!) – see the Trackpod route

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Pre-breakfast solo training paddle – 30km, Minehead to St. Audries and back

Another nice training paddle, this time increasing the distance to 30km, in preparation for my challenges of Lundy or Isle of Wight. Got an early start, on the water at 5.45 to get 2+ hours before high water forced a stop. Just a light wind in the bay and a small swell (0.5m) made an interesting run past Dunster and a careful landing at St Audries. On the way back had wind against tide, with a little chop, but a strong tide to help with the pace.

Had planned to get on the water by 5am, but just couldn’t get out of bed at 4am, not bad though – 4 hours paddling, 30km traveled all before breakfast – love those early windless starts! – see the Trackpod route


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A little blast on my birthday – 18km to the pub!

11th May – Blue Anchor to Porlock Weir

A little solo pace training paddle from Blue Anchor to Porlock Weir. 18km chase to a pint of cider. Great peaceful solo paddle along my stretch of the Bristol Channel. Started at High Water, so only picked up a little tide assistance towards the end of the paddle at Selworthy, before slogging across Porlock bay to a well earned pint at the Ship Inn with Sarah. Good to meet Bob and George Mullis there too, by chance!

Managed an average of 8.3km, with a peak of 13.0km – see the map and data at Movescount

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A club paddle from Combe Martin, rock-hopping and playing in the tide race

24th April – Combe Martin to Ilfracombe and back, with Exmoor Canoe Club

A good little paddle with members of ECC, a beautiful day and lovely to get out with good friends. Got in some more Rock-hopping, had a first play in some messy water of a tide race and some more rescue practice. Still not got that self-rescue sorted out quite, more practice me thinks, will get it sorted soon enough am confident about that.

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