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By Erik Rasmussen
  • M37 of 2019
    Lambeth Reach - Charing Cross Rail Bridge - Arch Closures
  • M36 of 2019
    Kings Reach - Illuminated River Foundation - Arch Closures at Cannon Street & Southwark Bridge

Exploring the Jurassic Coast by Sea, May 2019

There was one thing on everyone’s mind as we set off from the Chelsea Kayaking Club on the May Bank Holiday weekend: Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. The weather was looking a bit uncertain, but we weren’t!

When we arrived at the Primrose Fields Campsite near Wareham, we were welcomed by a Welsh flag and a sea of kayaks on roofs. Some members had camper-vans with fridge freezers and fine wine, others, like myself, had just enough room for a sleeping and a toothbrush (perhaps I should have checked my tent size before setting off).

We got settled and erected our tents. Fortunately, due to its size, mine only took a few minutes to assemble (with the help of another camper and a g&t in hand). Next stop was the campsite pub to discuss the logistics of the weekend ahead.

We deliberated on the weather scenarios, areas to launch from, and most importantly, the paddle time to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. We already knew the sea would be choppier on the last day, so we planned to go to Poole Harbour where it’s usually calmer.

The following morning, we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was a twenty minute drive to Kimmeridge Bay, where we launched from. I understood this was the nearest point to Lulworth Cove as it’s too steep elsewhere. There were a few ribs and paddle-boarders also taking to the water – and I was fortunate enough to get offered a friendly push into the sea. We were off!

The sun was out and it was a glorious day. We were all buzzing to be away from our day jobs and taking to the water in such a beautiful part of the world; I couldn’t believe we were only two hours south west of London.

The sea was calm and the landmarks we’d travelled to see were now within reach via our favourite method of transport.

Wherever you go by water, the view is so different from land. On kayaks you see everyone peering down from the cliffs while you’re nipping in and out of the coves exploring areas they’ll never be able to see.

When it was time for a break, we stopped off at a pebble beach with crystal clear water before paddling to Lulworth Cove for lunch.

As it was such a beautiful spot, the beach at Lulworth Cove was quite busy, so I shot off to the nearby café for a cup of tea and water refill – leaving the others to tuck into their packed lunches.

Next stop: a 20-minute paddle to Durdle Door.

There’s a footpath from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, so it’s no surprise to see a few risky tourists on the edge of the cliff taking once in a lifetime photos. We paddled past rocks that jutted out of the sea which then led us to the entrance to Durdle Door.

As we paddled round the arch a few men in wetsuits emerged, they were climbing the side of the arch. It wasn’t until they leapt into the sea that I realised what they were doing! I was glad for the “safety” of my kayak. We passed a few swimmers towards the entrance of Durdle Door and through to the sea beyond.

The final stretch back was hard work as the wind had picked up. So, we decided to abandon the idea to have a break and an ice-cream at Lulworth Cove before heading back to our launch pad.

It was a tough paddle back, but we pushed through. A few of us had only kayaked for a few hours at a time prior to this trip so it felt great to achieve such a big journey. We were welcomed by macaroons and a rest before reloading our kayaks and heading back to the campsite.

After a warm shower, a change of clothes and a nice meal, we crowded round the campfire with some marshmallows (and maybe 1 or 2 g&ts). Then it was lights out to refuel for Poole Harbour.

After a good sleep and hearty fry up from the local pub, we set off to Poole Harbour – one of the largest natural harbours in the world. There were quite heavy winds so we paddled fast over to Brownsea island (where the scouts originated) and hugged the coast to avoid large ferries, sailing boats and jet skis.

The sea changed dramatically as we paddled around Brownsea island, which was great for developing our skills. The route was well planned, we tackled the tougher sea first with a gentle paddle at the end.

We stopped off at a lovely beach for a snack, which we had all to ourselves.

 

The water was quite shallow but beautifully clear as we completed the final stretch back. Once we’d dried off and packed up the kayaks, we drove towards the ferry (not before fitting in one last snack in the sun) – what a trip!

Now, my arms are toned, I’ve colour in my cheeks and I’m ready for the next adventure as an experienced sea kayaker.

A Tale of Two Harbours: Circumnavigation of Portsmouth Harbour, May 2019

A clockwise circumnavigation of the Portsmouth Harbour, followed by a paddle through a creek to Langstone Harbour, then out to the open sea, covering a total of 32 km.

The date is Saturday 18 May 2019 – FA Cup final day. If you don’t follow football, you might not remember that a team from the bottom half of the premier league were to play the league winners. It looked like a thrashing even before a ball was kicked. So, what to do if you’re from Watford and want to avoid embarrassment? Go sea kayaking around Portsmouth Harbour, obviously!

And so it came to be, that the Chelsea Kayak Club Watford contingent joined a footballing agnostic bunch of kayakers to paddle around Portsmouth Harbour and through to Langstone Harbour to reach the open sea: a route that was shaped like a figure ‘9’. Meeting up at Port Solent Marina on Saturday morning, we were quickly on the harbour water with light winds (F1) and cloudy, but warm (15C) conditions.

From the top of Portsmouth Harbour we headed south, along Horsea Island, then over to Whale Island, following the Eastern channel around the island. Whale Island, originally just a mudbank, has been built into the permanent Royal Navy training base of HMS Excellent and, even though land based, it is still given the name ‘HMS’ by the Royal Navy.

HMS Excellent is now primarily a training centre and at the south of the island we were able to paddle passed the training ship HMS Bristol (D23), which saw action in the Falkland War in 1982.

With the heritage of Portsmouth and the Royal Navy, it came as no surprise that there are specific rules that we needed to follow to kayak within Portsmouth Harbour. Primarily these involved being 100m away from submarines and 50m from warships at any time. The harbour is regularly patrolled by the Police and Queens Harbour Master Portsmouth Volunteer Harbour Patrol to check, and the Police launch came to investigate our movements, although didn’t interfere with our trip. You can see the Police launch in some of the pictures below.

 

From the bottom of Whale Island we crossed to Shell Pier, rafting up to congratulate ourselves on successfully crossing the main harbour and managing to dodge the ships.

Shell Pier currently houses a radar installation and seems innocuous enough, but originally was used for loading of ammunition onto ships. The word ‘shell’ has a very different meaning for kayakers and the Royal Navy!

From Shell Pier we followed the coast North, alongside the Royal Navy Armaments Depot (RNAD), towards Fareham, crossing to Cams Bay at Wicor Hard and managed to find a pebble lined beach and lush vegetation to sit on, for lunch.

After lunch we crossed the low lying water Eastwards to Porchester Castle. We had expected that the low water might cause an issue (grounding) but completed the 3km quickly and without issue. Arriving at the medieval Porchester Castle, the solid stone walls look impregnable even today at this commanding position at the North end of the harbour.

As the water drained from the harbour as low water started to approach, our minds turned to making the navigation through Ports Creek around the top of Portsea Island. Paddling under the M275 bridge, the flow of the water was strongly against us and although we were able to paddle against it passed the underwhelming ‘Jackstar’ sculpture by Richard Farrington, the main issue quickly became mud.

With the water draining the harbour and the creek, the water level fell to about 20cm in places revealing a sticky kind of mud. To avoid being grounded, we sought the narrow but deeper channel on the East side of Horsea Island. Once around to the North of Portsea Island, the water was deeper and more free-flowing, allowing us easy access under the railway bridge (a particular hazard at high water) and into the tranquillity of Langstone Harbour.

Meanwhile at Wembley Stadium the FA Cup final kicked-off, with some of the Chelsea Kayak Club members still unrealistically positive about the chances of Watford winning:

Pushing onwards through Langstone Harbour, passed the Mulberry Caisson – a relic from the D-Day landing – and onwards to the entrance, we triumphantly reached the Solent and turned westward, back towards Portsmouth. Although the trip through the two harbours has been enjoyable and enlightening, it is the open sea that really energises the team: the grey clouds clear, the sun shines and the water sparkles. Even though the muscles are weary, we land at Eastney Beach happy that, although we didn’t complete a circumnavigation of Portsea Island, we did complete a figure ‘9’ of Portsea Island. And a ‘9’ is just an upside down ‘6’. Ask any Watford fan.

Editor’s Note: You don’t have to be a Watford resident to join Chelsea Kayak Club. Chelsea Kayak Club is open to non-Watford residents also.

If your preferred sport is football, we won’t even hold that against you if you can do an assisted rescue 🙂

Powered by Easter Eggs: Isle of Wight circumnavigation, Easter 2019

An anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight over the Easter holiday weekend covering 97.5km in 2.5 days, including crossing The Solent twice, some wild camping and a few Easter eggs.

Leaving the Good Friday traffic behind, the CKC expedition slipped into the harbour at Keyhaven mid afternoon under blue skies and gentle winds (F2).

Following the winding course through the Keyhaven Lake tidal marshes to the harbour entrance, we came alongside Henry VIII’s massively long Hurst Castle. Where the harbour water and the Solent met, the well-known tidal race (called the Trap) had formed, jostling us for a few minutes as we crossed it into the smoother main flow of The Solent’s west channel. In the distance we could see the iconic The Needles and with a relatively strong tidal flow assisting us, headed south westerly to Hatherwood Point at the top of Alum Bay. In Alum Bay the wind dropped to F1 and the sea took on a glassy look:

 

After examining the famous marmotino multi-coloured cliffs and chair lift of Alum Bay we continued south west along the White Cliffs and saw some strange holes in the cliff face:

 

It wasn’t long before we reached The Needles and as the winds were light, we were able to go around the lighthouse, get some fabulous pictures and take a closer look at the white rock face:

The rock face here is made from the same material as at South Purbeck, which the CKC team had visited a few weeks earlier, including Old Harry’s Rock, The Little Pinnacle and Pinnacle. It was amazing to think that all these cliffs were made up from the shells (coccoliths) of small sea organisms called coccolithophores, millions of years ago in the Jurassic period. Somewhat fittingly, these organisms look like tiny Easter eggs under the microscope! The next expedition planned by CKC is to the Jurassic Coast to investigate the composition and erosion of these cliffs further (and to do some paddling in world class scenery).

At Sun Rock we also saw the bedding plane lines folded upwards to form a monocline ridge, although it really looked like someone had just drawn parallel lines on the rock:

After we turned the corner at Sun Rock it was time to put in some serious paddling. So far we had had a tidal stream assist of about 3 knots to cover the 9km to The Needles, now we would have less than 1 knot and still needed to cover 14km before sunset to get to our campsite at Grange Farm, near Brighstone.

Although we were able to do that in plenty of time, we hadn’t counted on the walk up the 30m cliff with all our kit to get to the campsite. However, once there and set up in our tents, we had fantastic views of the coastline we had just paddled, as well as the coastline we would paddle tomorrow.
We ate fish and chips in front of our tents (from the mobile van that visits the camp site every Friday) and when we thought an excellent day’s paddling couldn’t get better, watched a huge red full moon appear on the horizon and slowly rise.

On Easter Saturday, we set off with some trepidation to round St Catherine’s Point due to the tide races that form here, and can be very large on springs. Initially with NE F3 winds we were protected by the island and made good progress, covering the 10km to the point quickly. At the point we experienced some limited tidal race conditions as well as some clapotis from the reflected waves, but everything well within the group’s abilities.

Harder work was the paddle to Ventnor against both the tide and wind. At Ventnor, we took a break spending the afternoon with the holidaymakers on the beach, while waiting for the tide to turn in our favour:

On departure from Ventnor, we found the winds had dropped to F2 and with the tidal stream now in our favour were able to round Dunnose to Shanklin, then head directly across Sandown Bay to Culver Cliff. The winds dropped further to F1 and tracking across Whitecliff Bay we came across rock ledges and breaking water close to the shoreline. Rounding the headland at Bembridge we started to search for locations to wild camp for the night. Putting in at Bembridge Beach through a gap in the ledges, we were treated to a magnificent sunset (see below) and shortly after putting up tents and cooking, to another unbelievably massive red moonrise.

Easter Sunday started, as all good Easter Sundays do, with Easter eggs. Both from our own collection and from some given to use by locals on the beach early in the morning. Leaving Bembridge in light winds (F1) and sunshine, we made good time to Ryde and with the high water, were able to cross the Ryde Sands without difficulty. Arriving at Ryde, the main hazard was to dodge the hovercraft zipping in and out of the port, sometimes moving sideways:

Heading under the pier and on towards Osbourne House in the distance, meant that we were able to stop on a small beach for lunch before rounding the corner to Cowes. At Cowes, dodging more shipping traffic to cross the harbour entrance, we started to cross to the north side of The Solent to Lymington with the strong tidal flow. Once more dodging the shipping traffic, we crossed the harbour entrance to see Hurst Castle on the horizon in the hazy sunshine. A final push got us back to Keyhaven, just in time for an evening meal in the sunshine of the beer garden at the local pub, The Gun Inn.

We had really needed those Easter eggs to help us cover 39km on the last day (along with some tidal assistance)!

Snowy the Dog Takes Up Kayaking – Poole March 2019

Snowy the Dog Takes Up Kayaking

Well, we say kayaking but he was doing more navigating than paddling, and still enjoying himself nonetheless.

While Snowy was channelling his inner Montmorency from Three Men in a Boat, the rest of the CKC team were on a weekend trip to Poole Harbour in late March 2019. The team was neatly divided into two groups: those with limited experience on the sea and those with some experience, plus two dogs: Snowy and Lola (of varying abilities).

Using the CKC kayaks, paddles and equipment brought down from Kew Bridge, the ‘novice group’ spent two days practicing basic paddle strokes and techniques as well as performing their first assisted and self rescues.

Based on the south side of Poole Harbour for the weekend, it really was the perfect calm and safe environment for taking the first steps beyond beginner paddles on the Thames. Initially, beach based coaching was conducted by CKC sea leader Paul, assisted by William from the Cardiff Whitewater Centre. Before moving on to the sea to practice paddle strokes and manoeuvring.

Meanwhile the more experienced group headed through the Poole Harbour entrance and then South across Studland Bay over to Old Harry’s Rock. Although the sky was grey the temperature was 11C with a north easterly wind of F2. With the tide high we were able to paddle through arches in the Handfast headland:

Although sometimes it looked a bit too narrow to be possible, we were still able to get through without difficulty:

Further South we visit the Little Pinnacle and Pinnacle (chalk stacks), although the Little Pinnacle might just have been far away, as they were certainly big enough when we got close:

We backed our boats into several sea caves to hear the loud reverberations of the pebbles being rattled by the waves.

We head further south towards Ballard Point at the north end of Swanage Bay, before turning back to visit Old Harry’s Rock before the ebb gains full momentum which causes tidal races off Handfast Point. As expected, the water level had dropped so it was not possible to go back through arches, so we pass between the mainland with Old Harry and Old Harry’s Wife on our right, with waves pushing us through the gap.

Back in the cottage for the evening, we see the enormous Brittany Ferries ship pass silently out of the harbour, lit up. We plan the next day’s trip, and cap off the day with a shot of Jura whisky in front of fire.

On Sunday, the grey skies were gone leaving a total blue sky. Which just seemed the right time to across Poole Harbour to the River Frome estuary and follow the river to Wareham for lunch, which got everyone excited:

Initially there was a head wind (F2-3) for the first hour which meant some focused paddling was needed to get us around the Arne Peninsular. After that the estuary closed in and slowed down, with long brown reeds lining the river all the way to Wareham.

An enjoyable weekend was had by all, but the main thing was that Snowy agreed.

CKC off to see Flamingos at Palavas 15/16 Sept 2018

CKC off to see Flamingos hosted by Palavas kayak club on 15/16 Sept 2018

After a conversation about whether or not there were flamingos in Europe, Corinne, a CKC member based in France, organised for CKC members to join Palavas kayak club along with paddlers from Marseille for the weekend.

We had two fabulous days of kayaking exploring the inland water ways, including the huge saline ponds where the flamingos live, and canalised navigable channels, and the sea. 

Palavas is on the south coast of France, just west of the Camargue. After a short portage on Saturday we reached a sandy beach for lunch.

After lunch about 50% of the group did a simultaneous roll!

As we returned on the first day we happened to pass by a traditional boat Jousting match!

On the second day we were able to try out Palavas’ 6 person Pirouge and a surf ski. Both were great fun to try.

Huge thanks are due to Fabian and others at the Palavas club for organising a wonderful weekend and welcoming us so warmly.

And yes – there are flamingos in Europe!

 

Pegwell Bay – 23 February 2019

Pegwell Bay – 23 February 2019

In association with Rob from South East Kayaking (SEK), members of CKC joined his trip across Pegwell Bay, South of Ramsgate in late February 2019. It turned out to be an absolutely stunning winter’s day with clear blue skies and warm temperatures (for winter at least) and very little wind.

After arriving through an improbably long tunnel to Ramsgate Harbour, we met up with people from SEK. Rob was keen to show off his collection of Rockpool sea kayaks (5 out of the 11 boats that day were Rockpools). Rockpools are surely stunning to look at, but at least one hatch has to be filled with cotton wool that is put out before landing, so the fibreglass doesn’t get scratched.

At about 12.30pm we were off crossing Pegwell Bay. Wind was Force 2 maximum and often a lot less. With bright sunshine and 14C it was definitely a day for hats and sunglasses.

After about one hour we were across Pegwell Bay and started up the River Stour estuary. We saw a colony of seals and the younger ones were very curious. We floated quietly and they came very close to take a look at us, with one trying to nibble at the toggle on the back of one of the kayaks:

We followed the River Stour up for about a kilometre and then headed back across Pegwell Bay via a replica Viking ship, doing a bit of exploring of the caves in the chalk cliffs on the way. A very simple, enjoyable trip with fabulous weather – a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

New Year’s Day Paddle – 1 January 2019

New Year’s Day Paddle – 1 January 2019

Meeting up at 10am on New Year’s Day may have seemed a foolish idea to some, but turned out to be a perfect way to start the New Year – with a paddle from Kew to Twickenham and back with a pub lunch in between.

With an amazing temperature of 8C we set off at a steady pace. With the water levels relatively high we were able to paddle over the Richmond Bridge barrier and continue along to meet the non-paddling CKC members who still wanted a pub lunch. So we had an odd combination of normally dressed people and those in dry suits:

After lunch the skies started to threaten over Petersham, so we made our way back down to Richmond. A large group of people had collected on the Surrey side of the river before Twickenham Bridge. On closer inspection, they were all looking at a seal eating a fish that flashed in the sunlight. Contentedly eating her fish, she paid no attention to us as we floated passed on the slight tidal flow. You can just see her in the centre in the picture below:

As we approached Kew Bridge at twilight, the skies cleared and the Thames was absolutely calm with a beautiful silvery glow; just like the people who had successfully completed their first paddle of the year.

Wishing all the members of the Chelsea Kayak Club a year that is as peaceful and calm as the Thames was on the first day of the year.

Guildford to Kew – an epic paddle – Sat 8 Sept 2018

Dave, Tudor and Fiona convened at Kew at 8.30am on Sat 8th September. We loaded up and then launched from Burpham (near Guildford) ~10.30am along river Wey & Wey navigation and then joined the river Thames at Shepperton. In total we did 12 portages before landing at Kew, and got very efficient at doing them!

As Dave had mentioned in his briefing email there was nothing difficult on any part of the trip, just that it would be several hours of paddling with the benefits of river flow, wind and tide  assisting  us along the way. Four years ago when Dave previously ran the trip there was stronger river flow to assist the journey, but due to the lack of rain this year, we received little if any fluvial flow. So we landed thoroughly exhausted & pleased with our 30mile paddling achievement at Kew at 8.30pm.

The trip goes past beautiful countryside, including a ruined priory, private gardens, narrow boats with their beautiful paintwork, moored boats, mansions, various club buildings for watersports. The river Wey has some narrow sections which feel very rural and remote, before widening and reducing again. In comparison the Thames feels bigger and “grander” with a constant stream of walkers enjoying the Thames path.

Chichester habour – 19/8/2018

Lovely Chichester harbour paddle on Sun 19 August. We selected the extensive harbour area as a safe option, given the forecast was for F5 winds from the west.

We launched from Bosham, and discovered that there are both Chichester harbour conservancy fees, and also Bosham slipway fee. Because Bosham has an all-state-of-tide slip way, they also operate a levy. So we set off ~£7 lighter! At some points we could just catch a bit of wind using our paddles! We reached the estuary finger, where is was possible, as though by magic to see through a gap in the trees to the Chichester Cathedral spire.

Then back past Dell Quay, against flow and headwind we landed in West Itchenor to have a break & enjoy an icecream from a brilliantly placed icecream van. 

We saw loads of birds – including oyster catchers, egret (see below), swans, Terns, Curlew, Redshank and Shelducks, amongst others.

Thanks to Olwen for her good company.

Beachy Head – 5 Aug 2018

An email went out to the club on the Sunday 29 July when it poured with rain to see who was around a week later & interested to paddle. Wonderfully – Sunday 5th August turned out to be a lovely sunny day. Liza, Tudor & Fiona met to load up boats at Kew at 8am to head down to Eastbourne and join Paul. We set off at low tide (approx. 11am) after luckily securing car parking places in the carpark next to the Wish Tower slip way. We were lucky with the weather – sunny, and force 2-3 winds.

At low tide it was good to see a fair amount of the ledges which run away from Beachy Head cliffs and to the east of the headland underneath the sea. These ledges create a bit of chop, and then once we were over them the sea completely flattened.

The scenery is magnificent as the Beachy head lighthouse, then the extent of the soaring white cliffs come into view, then the lighthouse on the cliffs, and finally Birling Gap. We were surprised to see no body on the beach at Birling Gap, save for two walkers on the beach. It turned out that there had been a major slump of the rocks and so the access to the beach had been closed.

We therefore had a blissfully quiet lunch where some of us chose the shade from the steps & others continued enjoying the lovely sunshine. On our way back, the land access to Beachy Head lighthouse was covered over, and we were able to see that the lighthouse door was closed.

We paddled back over the ledges and noticed they were not generating the amount of chop expected given it was now wind against tide. The gold dome on Eastbourne’s pier gleamed as we rounded the corner, and soon the Wish Tower became distinguishable, amongst the much taller buildings which look over the sea front.

We got back before our car parking tickets ran out (!), loaded up boats & then enjoyed an ice-cream, from one of several kiosks on the sea front.

During the day we had F2 winds from the east, a flat sea state, and the maximum flow we were going to have was ~1 knot. The flow started to flow to the east at 12 noon.

All in all, a happy paddle.