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By Erik Rasmussen

Hayling Island Circumnavigation

I should start by saying that this trip report is being written by a complete sea kayaking novice who has paddled only once before upon The Salty Vastness. A 12Nm trip around a small island in the sheltered waters of the Solent sounded to me like an ideal introduction to sea paddling. (Richard B has already supplied all the technical data about the trip via group email.) 

The omens weren’t particularly promising. Six or so hours before we were due to set off, the wind speed readout from the Chimet live weather buoy in the Solent was hitting F6+. Also, at eight in the morning going over a traffic-free Battersea Bridge the sky was grey and dreary. 

But miraculously the sun was shining over Hayling Island. Also, according to our leader the wind had dropped to a manageable F4 and the plan A of a circumnavigation of the island was on. 

After the helpful and reassuring briefing (what was that about meter high waves at the SE corner?) the eight members of CKC and three from Portsmouth Club set off from the beach near the Ferryboat Inn. Pete led off and we crept around close to the shore before turning East to proceed parallel with the South-facing sea front. 

 

Pete was using a Greenland paddle that looked like a bed slat and yet with it he cruised calmly and majestically around the island with barely perceptible movements of just his forearms. The wind was from the North and as a result there was no swell and the conditions were calm(ish). There was a bit of skeg-adjusting to do to compensate for the wind blowing us gently out to sea all the time. 

We progressed along this first side of a triangle around the island. Richard B had several times mentioned that at the end of this first leg, at the SE corner of the island, there might be some rough water and that some of us might need to walk around along the beach. You could see where the currents met and the approaching white crested waves. Richard shouted to us to go for it in twos and also suggested that the best way of getting through was to keep paddling firmly. Well, it worked for me! This little stretch of ‘bumpy’ water was easily the roughest stuff I had ever been in! (yes, it’s true) and it was great to get through to the calm at the other side and feel a sense of achievement and camaraderie at having conquered the mighty ocean together….well, ok, that’s how it felt to me! Richard (and maybe others, I don’t know) seemed a bit miffed that the conditions were just a little too benign and not challenging enough. But for someone at my level it was perfectly exhilarating. 

We headed North against the wind up to the top of our triangular route and to our lunch stop. Lunch -including high end brownies from Jacqui- was quite a lengthy affair for various reasons (none havinganything remotely to do with the cosy fireside and foaming nut brown ales of The Royal Oak ). We waited for the turn of the tide and some of us it has to be said were looking forward to the easy ride back down the final side of the triangle…but what’s this? The 12 Nm triangle had somehow been stretched into a 13.4 Nm rectangle and we were led off around a bird sanctuary in Langstone Harbour. We finally joined the main channel a couple of miles North of our destination and the tide was speeding us along. We passed, amongst other things, the hulking ruins of a Mulberry Harbour that apparently never made it over the Channel. 

This last leg with the out going tide was also a new experience for novice me. Feeling the tide and the waves churning underneath the boat was a bit unsettling at first. In fact most of the paddling I found a bit unsettling at first because the sea is always moving and you are constantly being shifted about. But one of the  many things I learned on this trip was that these boats like being on the sea. 

 

So it all turned out great! The planning and design of the trip seemed to me to have been really well thought through, and the preparations and general friendliness and support from everyone made it a really enjoyable and confidence-building trip. Was there a downside? Well maybe the burger at the Ferryboat Inn wasn’t quite up to Lots Road standards, but then again you could buy yourself a meal for two on Hayling Island for the price of a packet of them Chelsea crisps.

Jonathan W

        

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