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By Erik Rasmussen
  • M55 of 2017
    Upper Pool - The Tower of London - Gun Salute
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    Kings Reach - Watermark Place - Soil Investigation Works

Hayling Island March 2017

A grey day was forecast with force 2-3 winds but it turned out to be slightly worse than expected with fog blanketing everything south of Guildford resulting in fairly poor visibility. Liza, Jonathon, Rob and I met at The Inn on the Beach shortly after 9.30 – it was chilly and getting on the water was not particularly appealing! We decided to ‘keep an eye on the conditions’, pay the ridiculous parking fee (£6 per car) and drink tea whilst waiting for Fiona to arrive. The combination of driving a ‘new’ (hire) car with a kayak fixed to it via inflatable roof bars in a gusting wind led to a conservative speed of 50mph but she still reached us by 10am.

Before launching we discussed our varying levels of experience, who could roll/rescue, fitness and injuries etc. Jonathon confessed to hurting his wrist the previous evening loading the boats but thought he’d be OK to paddle. We agreed to attempt a circumnavigation of Hayling Island – going anticlockwise to complete the open sea part early on in the day.

An exciting surf launch was followed by a morning of paddling in poor visibility with smooth/slight sea conditions. We battled into a force 3 head wind but fortunately had the tide with us. Progress was slow for some of us – reflecting injuries and not being ‘paddle-fit’ after several months off the water. The sights were limited to a few gulls, stripy beach huts, shingle beach and a desolate fun-fair until – on the approach to Chichester harbour – we spotted some sinister looking white caps and breaking waves. Our fearless leader went to check the surf and indicated a path of safe passage – we went through one by one – Liza taking the lead and Rob the rear.

The tide turned as we headed up the East coast of the island. We made slow progress and decided to stop for lunch at Hayling Island Sailing Club. We enjoyed a good break watching the sailors in a range of boats – including oppies and toppers. By far the most interesting were the ones that pivoted on a tiny blade and flew along on the surface of the water.

We had a chat after lunch and decided that given our slow progress, Jonathon’s wrist, the risk of a muddy passage at the top of the island and the poor weather our best option would be to go back the way that we had come. Prior to that though, we thought we’d explore a little further up the coast. Upon launching we realised the deceptively fast speed of the current and were immediately carried off in a southerly direction. Turning 180 degrees to go North as intended proved to be a pointless exercise so we quickly abandoned that and were happy being carried back with minimal effort! By this time, the wind had dropped a little and was mostly behind us.

We crossed a small eddy line then snuck through a narrow, shallow channel between the island and the sandbanks created by the receding tide. We popped out by some rocks well away from the booming surf breaking on the sandbars further off shore.

On our return journey we saw a shag and several black headed gulls; Fiona squeezed between the groyne posts and other markers just off-shore and we heard numerous fog horns but saw no ships.

Back safely at our launch site we decided to do some rolling practice and surf landings followed by tea and triple-chocolate-sparkle cake to warm up. Finally, the fog lifted and we were able to see along the coast where we had paddled!

Thanks to Rob for organising and leading the trip.

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Sally Horton

Chelsea Kayak Club Western Highlands 2016

Lismore Lighthouse

Lismore Lighthouse

Day 1 Friday 22/07/16

Falls of Lora

CKC started the 2016 Western Highlands “Mulvonachoan” expedition at Connel Bridge, just outside Oban, where Alex and Geoff were pitting themselves against the rapids at the Falls of Lora, on Springs, for a Friday evening pre-expedition warmup paddle. Miranda, Loz and John wended their ways from Oban, through the lovely late afternoon scenery, to join them post-paddle for dinner at Connel Bridge. Then we all headed to the lovely Backpackers Plus hostel, in a converted church in Oban, and settled in for the night, ready for setting off for Mull the next day. In the meantime, Olwen and Philippa made it to the Backpackers’ hostel around 2 am, (after an interesting journey up from Wimbledon, via the wrong Backpackers’ Hostel), and grabbed a few hours’ kip.

Day 2 Saturday 23/07/16

Fionnphort

We all headed off on the early morning ferry from Oban to Mull. It was nippy out on deck, with greyish skies, but we were warmed by cups of coffee and enjoyed lovely views going past Lismore and its lighthouse, across to Craignure. We passed the “Women’s Stone,” and Philippa pointed out that it was a memorial replica of the stake to which two errant women were tied by highland clan chiefs, left to drown in the incoming tide for their devotional loyalties. Alex, as he read to us from his map, was mistaken for a tour guide by a couple of American tourists out on deck.

At Craignure, we piled into the two cars and with John navigating headed down the South Road towards the South West coast of Mull, stopping several times on the way, mainly hunting for gas cylinders. We found plenty, plus shortbread, friendly chats with shopkeepers, herring lines, (at Fingal’s), smidge, macaroni pie and other essentials… At the campsite in Fionnphort (pronounced “Finnyfort” as we found out later on when Kenneth arrived), we settled on a cosy camping spot by the sea, with perfect trailer access and a kitchen spot in the middle.

An evening paddle got us in the kayaking mood for the coming week. As we glided along in the golden evening sun of South West Mull, we encountered wildlife – a mink running along the shoreline, and seals, following our kayaks from a safe but friendly distance. Conditions became a bit bouncy for the first day, and dinner was within reach. So we returned – and were greeted by the sight of Kenneth on the shore, hailing us from a large sun-drenched rock. From which Loz and Miranda went for a swim excursion exploring the bay in the evening sun. The water was clear and we watched crabs scuttle across the sand beneath us as we swam.

Day 3 Sunday 24/07/16

Iona Circumnavigation: 10.2 Nm

We woke up early and made breakfast, and were on the water at the Fionnphort campsite for 0845, heading out for our first paddle all together – across to Iona for the Sunday service. The misty grey skies cleared as we started across the Sound of Iona, and the sun stayed with us for the trip across. After a calm morning’s paddle, we drew up alongside the slipway on a welcoming local beach, and headed up the road to the Abbey, mostly in kayaking kit, holding our valuables in dry bags.

Crossing to Iona

Crossing to Iona

The service was quite an experience. The sun came out again just before communion, beaming down through the high windows above the altar table. We had an affable welcome from the Abbey volunteers, no-one noticed us turning up in kayaking gear (or they were too polite to say anything). The service was illuminating – there was a sense of collectiveness, in singing the hymns, in the chanting during the prayers, in  but also in the spiritual approach of Iona, which we read about in their prayer book – an inclusive ethos, with a collective concern for the environment, and for human rights. After the service oatcakes we ate the offered oatcakes, each one to be broken in half and shared with a stranger, and mingled. Philippa chatted to a fellow Londoner about the Abbey’s history and how a group from Clapham had rebuilt the Iona community in the 1960s. A few of the congregation trickled out into the grounds of the Abbey and pottered about or sat on the grass outside. We paused at the water’s edge in the bright, warm Hebridean sun and took photos by the MacLean cross.

Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

Eventually we left the Abbey and headed back to our boats at the beach to get back on the water, and completed our circumnavigation of the island. The sun stayed out and the rest of the trip back was uneventful, peaceful and companionable. Alex managed to locate the spouting cave on the west coast, we lingered for a while, but concluded it was switched off. We just made it through Stac an Aoineidh, the “washing machine” rocks on the south-west corner of Iona, as the tide had turned and was starting to build against us. Any later and we would have missed the gate.

Heading back to Laggan Bay

Heading back to Laggan Bay

We returned to the campsite in a slight drizzle, for a swim, dinner, hot showers. The sun was low and silver in the sky, and the gentle rain which had greeted us stopped just in time for our dinner. Loz and Miranda made lemon and coriander cous cous, topped with tinned mackerel and squeezed lemon, with carrot and raw mushroom on the side.

Day 4 Monday 25/07/16

Laggan Bay to Ulva: 5.5 Nm

The forecast was Force 4-5, increasing to Force 6. The plan was to break camp and head back from the south west coast in the cars, to the middle of Mull, and find a get-in where we could park up and paddle across to Ulva for a few days’ wild camping. We took our time packing up, cooking a camp breakfast of sausage and mushroom, filling up with water (5L each ready for the expedition), and loading the club boats on to the trailer. We drove East and after a couple of hours, the Isle of Inch Kenneth came into view, along with enchanting glimpses of beautiful Ulva’s little islands and bright greenery. Alex played us country tunes and a spot of Hebridean folk as the scenes of the bay and the islands flashed past the car window.

We parked and launched from Laggan Bay after an appropriate amount of kit faff. Eventually on the water, we paddled southeast, back past the ferry, and towards Loch na Keal. We rounded the tip of Ulva, and headed round to its SE coast, passing and playing in lovely rock formations with hexagonal pillars set bright against the setting sun.

Just before the rainbow, checking out possible campsites

Just before the rainbow, checking out possible campsites

We finally stopped at a couple of bays Alex had identified during the circumnavigation of Mull he’d undertaken with Geoff the year before. The first bay was sheltered and pretty but the second had a better camping area with a 270 degree panoramic view. We set up camp at around 9pm, which meant Alex had to mend his broken tent poles in the dark, helped by generous offers of food, drink and spare pegs to create splints.

Campsite on Ulva

Campsite on Ulva

Day 5 Tuesday 26/07/16

Ulva to Staffa to Ulva: 10.8 Nm

We had a lazy morning drinking tea, watching the wind and the world go by, and contemplating our planned trip to Staffa. Philippa explored the local area, finding lovely bays, plastic boxes and bird life – wrens in the rocks and an eagle overhead.

We crossed to Staffa, which didn’t take too long, and despite the weather conditions weren’t challenging. We took a route that dotted around via Little Colonsay in order to keep sheltered as long as possible. After a while clouds of puffins came into view, along with guillemots, shell ducks and several gannets, plunging from the sky to fish. We had reached Staffa. Threading our way between the rocks and crashing waves, as the Atlantic swell broke over the Staffa skerries, we explored the caves. Loz headed into Boatmans’s Cave, the entrance surrounded by crashing surf, and enjoyed an inadvertent but rewarding surf right into the cave entrance. When she returned, she reported the inside was square and box like.

Then the pièce de résistance – Fingals’ cave. Paddling into Fingals’ cave was a treat for all of us, but had been a life-long ambition for Olwen. We appraised the entry point. There was some chop at the immediate entrance to the caves but a straightforward passage in. Philippa and Miranda backed in first, waving at the tourists picking their way over the wet rock to the cave. We lay back on our decks, bobbing and staring at the blocky rock formations on the cave ceiling until Alex’s shout heralded a wave, which we paddled into and out of the cave. The group went in, two by two, closely followed by a tourist boat.

Ulva Seals

Ulva Seals

We paddled out and round the corner to have lunch then returned to the Ulva side of the island to make our way back, with Olwen returning via our exact starting spot to ensure a legitimate claim to circumnavigation. The paddle back was calm and lovely, Alex caught a whopping mackerel. He made a fire and cooked his mackerel in foil in the embers, just so. Then he added basmati rice, egg and lemon. A perfect tonic after a freezing swim with the curious seals.

Day 6 Wednesday 27/07/16

Ulva to Inch Kenneth to Laggan Bay: 7.88Nm Max Speed 8.5Kn (following sea)

Wednesday was the last day of our Ulva expedition, and the last day we would be seven, as Loz was returning to Oban. Our schedule involved kayaking the eight or so nautical miles back to the parked cars at Laggan Bay, on Mull, via a lunch stop on Inch Kenneth, and driving over to Tobermory on the north coast of Mull in order to catch the last ferry to Kilchoan, on the mainland.

We woke as early as we could, and as we emerged one by one from our tents into the dreich morning, a welcoming sizzling from Olwen’s tranjia indicated that breakfast was nearly ready. We shared a roll of fresh(ish) local black pudding, sourced by Alex and Olwen on the drive from Craignure to Fionnphort, sliced into disc-shaped chunks and served fresh from the pan with a baked bean accompaniment.

Warmed, we packed our kit ready to leave lovely Ulva, just as it started raining. All week it had been squally, both on and off the water, but the rain never seemed to affect group morale, as the showers were invariably interspersed with sunny spells, which would cast a bright warmth and set the damp landscape sparkling.

The paddle was calm initially as we set out, then, as we crossed the more exposed part of the bay towards Inch Kenneth we became aware that we had a following sea. Waves approaching behind us lifted the tails of our kayaks, rocking us with a regular up-and-forward-then-down-and-back motion. They were rollers – large, but uniform, and we soon got used to the rhythm, and all travelled well, and pretty speedily, with their assistance, hitting 8.5 knots at the fastest. After not very long, our destination, mile-long Inch Kenneth, came into view, and we parked up on its golden sheltered sands for an early lunch. Inch Kenneth is known for being the home of both Sir Harold Bolton, who wrote the lyrics to the ‘Skye Boat Song’, and members of the Mitford family who bought the island in the 1930’s. We explored the immediate area, with its ruins of the monastery (named after St Kenneth) and burial sites of past kings of Scotland.

Puffins on Inch Kenneth

Puffins on Inch Kenneth

After pottering round the island, we lunched at about 1130 on our last-day expedition rations. Alex foraged some seaweed and made up miso soup which he shared with Kenneth. Back on the water, crossing the mouth of Loch na Keal to head back to Ulva was our second challenge of the day – as we set out, the flow seemed fast from West to East along the coast. Up close, however, it wasn’t that fast and the crossing was straightforward. Progressing towards Mull, we headed rounded the south east corner of Ulva and up the narrow channel between Ulva and Mull where the ferry crosses. Paddling north up the channel, a strong headwind put us through our paces, but we hugged the shore and crawled steadily up until we hit the harbour. At the Boathouse pub, Alex and Kenneth magicked up hot chocolate, cappuccinos and a selection of cakes, which we shared sitting outside on picnic benches in the bright sun, overlooking the water. It was a short hop then to Laggan bay, where we were reunited with the cars and our warm, dry kit. We were pretty tired and damp after our 3 day expedition, and warm dry clothes were a relief after loading the boats and kit in the rain. However, the day’s journey was nowhere near complete – we still needed to push on to make the last Kilchoan ferry from Tobermory, and then to find somewhere to settle for the night on reaching the mainland.

We said goodbye to Loz, at the side of the road in the nearly rain, and she headed off back to Craignure with Olwen and Philippa. Alex wended us via the North part of the Island, passing Calgary, Dervaig and beautiful Glengorm, en route to Tobermory, where we joined the ferry queue just behind Olwen and Philippa who’d returned from Craignure in good time to secure their place on the last sailing. We managed to squeeze last into the queue, making it on with time to spare for the fish and chip van. Upstairs on the ferry we watched as the lighthouse went past, and Kilchoan came into view. We landed in the evening sun, and after a quick recce of local alternatives, and some discussion, opted for a wild campsite.

Kilchoan from our wild campsite

Kilchoan from our wild campsite

Heading across to the campsite involved re-packing the kit into the kayaks and donning waterproofs (some conventional, some less so) – as the campsite, it transpired, was only accessible by boat. By now it was late, and looking up, as we paddled across the bay, the sky over Kilchoan was dark, vast, and illumined with stars. The spot was good and flat, and right by the water, but it had its challenges. The ground was rocky and hard to pitch in, and the whole area liberally strewn with cowpats. It had been a pretty epic day, and a long journey, meaning morale was slightly lower than on previous pitches. We pitched camp, chatted and nibbled and finally hit the hay. We bedded down just before the rain started, which, happily, seemed to be the sequence most nights.

Day 7 Thursday 28/07/16

Kilchoan Regatta Day 1

We woke to clear skies and bright sunshine for the first day of Kilchoan regatta, devoted to sailing. While Alex got off to an early start to sail in the first race, Olwen, Philippa, Kenneth and Miranda had a leisurely start. Kenneth and Miranda paddled past Alex, sitting in the calm, virtually windless waters, and joined Philippa and Olwen at the marina then before setting out across Kilchoan Bay for a picnic on a shingle beach. Stopping at the castle, Kenneth established from friendly folk working there that it was being hired out as a B+B. We were pretty tempted after the previous night’s wild camping… But after a long lunch we headed back, leaving Philippa to head off for a slightly longer pootle around the bay where she found a standing stone before weaving her way back via a fish farm. We stopped at the quayside and greeted Geoff, who had flown in from South Africa just in time for the second sailing race, and then we all went up to Geoff and Sandra’s for a lovely shower and a curry. Sandra’s curries were  numerous and (of course) phenomenal – Keema Matar, an amazing chicken and pepper concoction, black dhal, and chickpea curry. The boys (somehow) headed back to the campsite on foot, while Olwen, Philippa and Miranda plumped for the nautical route, heading gently out into the bay, under the cool indigo sky, making the most of the  night time paddle. On arrival, Alex kindly strobed a guiding beam from the shore as we reached the campsite to hit the hay.

Geoff and Alex round the leeward mark, ahead of the rest of the fleet

Geoff and Alex round the leeward mark, ahead of the rest of the fleet

 

Day 8 Friday 29/07/16

Kilchoan Regatta Day 2

Regatta Day

Regatta Day

The second day of the regatta heralded CKC’s barnstorming performance in the kayak races. Olwen won the women’s single kayak race and the rest of us were not too far behind in claiming a few of the other kayaking and sailing titles, plus a whisky-based raffle win for John. We all had a fantastic time at the regatta, in particular because of the warmth and friendliness of everyone in Kilchoan in welcoming us and offering excellent company and sportsmanship. Not to mention the beautifully hewn rocky road rice crispy cakes which pretty much made the day for more than one of us.

The pub was fully booked for the evening, so we were treated to a second night of Chef Sandra’s beautiful cooking – this time we lucked out with not one but two excellent paellas washed down with red wine. Then down to the community centre for an evening of Ceilidh-ing. Another warm welcome from all, not least in the form of some very welcome dance step guidance, and a whirlwind of dance tunes – the Canadian barn dance, an Oh Susannah medley, Ye cannae throw yer granny off the bus, yankee doodle, St Bernard’s waltz, dancing in a circle to the left for eight to the right, then in pairs then forward stamp, back clap and through the arch to form the next six. A break for a seemingly endless raffle, a couple more dances and then we gave in to exhaustion. And a moonlit tramp across the fields which started well, strayed slightly into a bog in the middle, and ended in the right place. Just as the rain started, of course.

Ladies K2

Ladies K2

Day 9 Saturday 30/07/16

Falls of Lora (Neaps)

All packed up early and headed back to Connel Bridge for our last day’s paddle at the Falls of Lora. All except Miranda headed out into the rapids (this time on neaps) under the excellent guidance of coach Tony Hammock. The crew successfully navigated overfalls, eddylines, spinning in whirlpools, a few moments upside-down in a whirlpool, breaking in and out of the flow with closed eyes, and rolling training.

We got off the water, packed the boats up and returned to Oban, to the Backpackers Hostel and its comfy bunk beds. The combination of soft dry bedding, hot showers, tea and chocolate digestives was extremely welcome. We sat for a few quiet moments, and Kenneth plugged his iphone in to charge and played us Ossian’s beautiful “I will set my ship in order” as we drank our tea on our bunk beds in the dorm. Then the inevitable mega faff as we sorted gear and switched cars ready for the morning’s trip home to London. Finally we all headed out for dinner on the quay at Oban. Crab, squid, scallops, crisp white wine, local ale and lovely company made for an excellent last meal.

Day 10 Sunday 31/07/16

We all got up early enough (despite predictions) to sit down together for our complimentary breakfast. It was a long drive back, re-imagining ourselves into city life. We chatted all the way, putting the world to rights and listening to some lovely tunes (thanks Olwen and DJ Kenny). And we reminisced – the curious seals enjoying the spectacle of us camping on the beach at Ulva; being outside all week; lovely evening paddles with the sun low on the water; the rainbow as we paddled alongside Inch Kenneth on the way to Ulva; drams of Auchentoshan as we got off the water at the end of each day; the warm satisfaction of drying kit on the beach when we arrived in sunny Kilchoan; swimming in the rain and early evening sun; the friendly buzz of the regatta (and excellent burgers); the taste of fresh mackerel cooked over a beach campfire; first sight of the puffins over the cliffs of Staffa; the whirlpools of the Falls of Lora;  Fingal’s cave; cheese and oatcakes; the vast views across Kilchoan bay and beyond; paddling under the stars…

Back at Kew, drivers Olwen and Alex both arrived at exactly the same time despite drop-offs on the way and unloaded kit, boats and people, thus completing CKC’s excellent 2016 Western Highlands “Mulvonachoan” expedition.

Kilchoan at Sunset with mast light and houses

Kilchoan at Sunset with mast light and houses

South Dorset trip September 10th-11th 2016

We started as a group of 8 for this trip and numbers dwindled as the adventure drew near leaving us with a core 4 who made it down the M3 through the wind and the rain to meet at the ‘High Street café’ in Swanage on the Saturday morning. As we set off west along the coast from the sandbanks toll against the strong headwinds and in heavy rain we questioned why on earth we would use our weekend after busy weeks to drive up to 6 hours to do this! We aimed to go to the Old Harry Rocks, yet fell short by a good 3km and landed on studland beach to rest from the treadmill we were on.  Rob’s boat became covered in sand from the wind just from our 20 minute stop.  A slice of chocolate biscuit cake gave us the energy to go a little further and play in some surf before heading back to Poole Harbour.  I would happily have gone home at this point but Jonathan suggested a lap round Brownsea island which saved the day.  It was gorgeous.  We got out of the wind, saw some great birds and I also expected to see dinasours at any point the island felt so wild and interesting.

Rob was very grateful for a cup of tea and shelter in the Bongo after this paddle. Generally, he finds the bongo ‘amusing’ especially when I am climbing up a step ladder and needing 3 people to haul kayaks on the roof, or when he sees them broken down on the side of the road. (Incidentally, it was Janices’ flash sports car that broke down and needed the AA on this trip, not the Bongo ). An excellent meal in the Scott’s Arms also boosted spirits even more. 

Sunday the weather was spectacular for kayaking. We launched our boats in front of rather a big crowd as we followed the performance of Morris dancers on the beach, part of the Swanage folk festival. For a moment I felt I was seeing a tribe in Papua New Guinea, their costumes were so strange!

We had a great paddle down the coast from Swanage to dancing ledge passing many rock climbers on route.  Rock climbing and sea kayaking would be a great combination for an expedition I thought to myself. Landing on dancing ledge was fun and done with little elegance, and again an audience of tourists. A great lunch spot and opportunity to swim in the natural pool there. Another 7 nautical mile round paddle and my shoulders were feeling it. This is my excuse for not nailing the practice roll at the end of the day.  I managed 1 roll, as did Jonathan and Rob showed off the re-entry roll and hand roll!resize_IMG_1782 Version 2 resize_IMG_1783 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As is custom on Dorset trips, we ended with cake/ ice cream/ tea before heading homeward.  Thanks Rob, Jonathan and Janice for another fantastic trip

 

Geors

Kew to Battersea, via The Grapes

Summer’s here. It’s a brilliant bright sunny day and the kayaks are out on the Thames. Six boats departed Kew on the ebbing tide. A short stop in Battersea and Fiona joined the gang, then off again. We headed through Westminster as the tide was almost out. The absence of much flow meant we could enjoy the sites, avoid the clippers and sneak right under the London Eye. It’s amazing how different town looks from the river.

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Onwards, with a few short stops to rescue stray balloons, and we were almost at Greenwich – when we got distracted. A pub was in sight. After a successful landing on an uninhabited beach, with numerous ladders to the pub, we were thwarted. They wouldn’t unlock the gates and let us in. Oh well, a picnic on the beach instead, before heading back upriver on the flood tide. On route we stopped in Westminster and raided the beer supplies of a (far more accommodating) boat on the Thames – climbing up over the side causing much confusion to the ‘normal’ folk who’d approached from the side-walk!

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30-ish miles, 8-hrs of sunshine, 7-kayaks, 6-stops, 5-ladders we couldn’t get up, 4-balloons chaired, 3-sun-burnt paddlers, 2-pubs and 1-person spotted sitting on a balcony overlooking the river.

Huge thanks go to Alex for a great day

Philippa, Fiona, Liza, Philippe, Dan and Tudor13161736_1099739103382788_3672276050411856077_o

 

 

Forthcoming trips 2016

I’m working on the trip list for 2016. I have had a few requests including Norway Fiordland, Marseilles and Greece as well as beginner trips. Is there anything in particular you would like the club to do? If so, please let me know and I’ll see what we can do. I’m aiming to have a range of trips with a variety of length, location and ability. If you would like help organising a trip, please let me know.

Flotilla with a flourish

You might have seen Sarah Outen in the papers – the “British adventurer” and “explorer from Rutland” who spent the past four and a half years travelling over 25,000 miles around the world by rowing boat, cycle and kayak.

During that time she cycled across the Gobi desert, paddled along the Aleutian Island chain and was forced to abandon her rowing boat in the Atlantic because of the threat of Hurricane Joaquin. On the final leg of her journey, Sarah cycled and kayaked from Falmouth to London, paddling under Tower Bridge on 3 November to complete her journey.

The press were out in force to photograph the conclusion of her epic journey, and a photo of Sarah popping a bottle of champagne graced the cover of several newspapers. You might also have seen a collection of tiny red kayaks in the background – what the Telegraph  called a “small flotilla”. That was, of course, the serried ranks of Chelsea Kayak Club out to accompany Sarah on her last leg.

Leaving Kew

Leaving Kew

Twelve of us met at seven in the morning in Kew, along with members of Rutland Canoe Club where Sarah learned to kayak as a teenager. Kit was prepared and our boats emblazoned with large flapping union jacks which meant we would be impossible to miss. The explorer herself was already out on the Thames and met us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, along with her friend and kayaking partner Justine Curgenven.

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We were accompanied along the whole final stretch by a tag-team of RNLI crews, who looked as though they wanted someone to fall in to liven up their morning. And along the way Sarah was greeted by friends cheering from bridges and gaggles of schoolchildren with motivational posters. You could feel the love.

At some points Sarah was left alone, paddling at the head of our slightly messy arrowhead formation. But it felt wrong to intrude on what must have been for her a deeply private moment as well as a public one.

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At the same time, it felt pretty good to be cheered over the finish line, even though we knew that our paltry four hours of paddling was just the full stop to Sarah’s four-year sentence. After a final lap around HMS Belfast, we paddled out under Tower Bridge to much applause and firemen on an emergency boat spraying their hoses 20 feet into the air.

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Sarah had kind words for us afterwards – “What a special end to a mad and wonderful few years of journeying”. But it was special for us too, and a real privilege to be a small part of someone else’s big adventure.

Thanks to Alex for his organisation and for the logistics of boats and kit. Now does the club have any idea what we can do with a dozen union jacks?

Izzy Kaminski

Dorset – October 2015

Friday 23 October

The start of October half-term holidays and for most of us (Rob, Tudor, Izzy, Goers, Corinne and I) the evening was filled with roadworks and slow moving traffic down to Swanage. Fiona escaped that excitement by catching the train earlier in the afternoon. The highlights were watching the fish whilst crossing from Sandbanks to Studland, admiring the wood panelling in the lounge of the YHA and taking on bets on when Geors and Corrinne would arrive…

Saturday 24 October

We met at 9am for a planning meeting. The forecast was not promising (rain and wind up to force 5) so the options were limited. Having discussed our varying levels of experience, fitness and what we wanted to get out of the weekend as well as what the wind and tide would be doing we agreed that the best plan would be to spend the day exploring the relatively sheltered waters of Poole harbour.

We drove in convoy towards Shell Bay and parked up in a convenient layby. It was raining but we donned waterproofs and carried out a quick recci of our chosen launch spot before unloading the boats and kit and getting changed. A note on boat unloading/loading – for Geors (and more specifically for the Mazda Bongo) – this was no mean feat. Each load/unload required a stepladder, someone to go up the ladder, at least one other person to hold the ladder, two/three tall people to assist with manoeuvring the kayaks and a few others to offer ‘helpful’ advice.

Once everyone was happy we departed for our first destination – ‘that sticking out bit of land over there’. The rest of the morning was spent crossing from point to point along the SW shore of the harbour – taking in numerous sightings of grebes, oyster catchers and an egret or two. Fiona squeezed under a wooden pier; Corinne played chicken with a ferry and we abided by the polite notices on private islands (‘KEEP OFF. NO LANDING’). It was grey and overcast with fairly strong winds but pleasant enough. I was dry and warm for once – thanks to my new dry suit – so I wasn’t complaining!

After negotiating some shallow sections of water just before Round Island, we stopped for lunch at Arne Bay. A curious seal took a shine to Rob and followed him towards the shore– prompting shouts of ‘he’s behind you’ – inevitably as soon as he turned the seal promptly vanished. Our lunch spot contained some amazing trees with exposed roots, providing convenient seats.

After lunch we spent time extracting ourselves and the boats from the black, sticky mud before successfully re-launching into the harbour. We contemplated heading for the north side of Brownsea Island but changed course given the increasing wind, the ominously dark clouds and the need to retain some energy for Sunday’s trip. Instead we headed back through the channel between two islands; crossed eddy lines; played in the waves from passing ferries and observed the oil well and more bird-life. On our return to our launch site, we were relieved that the tide had not left us with half a mile of mud to contend with.

We spent the evening sampling some traditional Dorset delights in the Red Lion pub – including local cider, ales, sausages, ham hock and apple cake!

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Sunday 25 October

Daylight saving gave us an extra hour overnight. We could have spent this time sleeping but Rob had other ideas…and we left the YHA at 8.05 to drive to Kimmeridge Bay. The plan was for a 22km trip to Durdle Door and back with the additional option of rock-hopping along the way.

After parting with a hefty £10 per car* we dropped the kayaks off at the slipway then got organised (a.k.a faffed). The weather was amazing. Clear blue skies, warm sunshine and NO WIND. As a result the sea in the bay was completely flat – like a mill pond. Further out – on the rock ledge to the right of the Bay – there was some impressive looking surf but we skirted round that with ease and were on our way.

The morning’s paddle was so lovely. We were spoilt with brilliant weather, calm seas and amazing cliffs and strata lines courtesy of the Jurassic coastline. The wind (what little there was) was behind us and we were going with the current / tide. We spotted some enormous jelly fish and Rob and Corinne had fun rock-hopping. We arrived at Lulworth cove and were tempted to stop for lunch and a rest but we pushed on so that we could take advantage of the tide.

Between Lulworth cove and Durdle Door we met a group of kayakers from the New Forest. Sharing stories, it transpired that they had paid £5 to park at Ringstead and were heading for Lulworth cove before heading back. We found a rock arch to duck under and admired the huge strata lines in the cliff in the bay behind then it was onto the main attraction. We were at Durdle Door surprisingly quickly and it really is an impressive arch! A bunch of people were coasteering in the area and jumping off the far side of the arch, which looked like fun!

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The return section back to Lulworth cove for lunch was slightly harder – some wind against tide and kayakers hungry for lunch but we made it in good time and lined up our kayaks alongside those from the New Forest club – it was pretty impressive seeing all 15 in a row.

The longer return trip back to Kimmeridge was hard work. We were paddling into a head wind but fortunately the tide/current had turned, which helped enormously. Izzy discovered what happens if you don’t pull your kayak far enough up the beach when you have a toilet-stop but aside from that it was uneventful!

We were all relieved to see Clavell tower appear in more detail as we got closer and closer to Kimmeridge. What was less pleasing was the surf forming on the rock ledge once more; fortunately we realised that if we skirted far enough round to the right we could avoid the breakers although it was a little lumpy for a short time.

We ended the trip with well-deserved cups of tea and slabs of cake in the Clavell café before heading back to London.

It was a brilliant weekend! Huge thanks go to Rob for leading; Goers for organising; Alex H for YHA membership and Corinne / Rob for the photos.

*Fee is £10 for a car with a boat/kayak on the roof; £5 for cars without boats… unclear what the fee is if the kayak is in the car.

Sally Widdop

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Kilchoan 2015: Planes, trains and automobiles. And a Frenchman in a van.

30 May – 6 June 2015: Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan

Not the title of a crappy sequel to the classic John Candy movie, but how a dozen CKC members got to this remote part of Scotland.

SATURDAY, 30 MAY 2015

Kilchoan is the most westerly village on the British mainland. It is so remote that you have to travel 26 miles down a single track road to get there. England is at least 5 hours away by car. A few of us (Dan, Kenneth and me) got the train to Edinburgh and were then lucky enough to get a lift in Alex’s car the rest of the way. Dave flew to Glasgow and got a lift from there. Others drove from various parts of the UK. And Philippe came in his van.

Lorna (coming from the Norn Iron branch of CKC), Geors, Richard, Phil & Jacqui (and 6 month old Ollie) and Sue completed the group. Geoff and Alex were the official leaders on the water.

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Geoff was the driving force behind the trip and with his wife Sandra gave all of the CKC group tremendous hospitality on arrival. A dozen people turning up at odd times through the afternoon and evening, but all got a good feed and a glass or three of wine at their house in Kilchoan. Sandra’s pavlova was the subject of much comment, most of it suitable for mixed company.

At the last minute, Alex took the executive decision to rent a third holiday cottage to add to the other two. This had the benefit of less people having to share rooms. With a week long trip, this was well worth doing.

SUNDAY, 31 MAY 2015

Windy, from the west. F6 out in the main channel between Kilchoan and the Isle of Mull. However, we were keen to at least wet the kayaks, and so we hugged the coast just for a mile or so west of Kilchoan. Even well inshore, progress against the wind was hard work.

Eventually we reached a small bay in the lee of a headland and had a rest. Geoff gave us the option of heading out into the channel for some surfing. Three of us declined this “opportunity” but most of the group ventured out. Even the more experienced paddlers said that turning in the wind made the boat feel a bit “wobbly” but no-one capsized. Until …

What do a dancer called Kenneth and a Frenchman called Philippe have in common? They both re-defined “rock-hopping”. Both of them had finished out in the big stuff and were coming into the little bay side by side.

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My recollection is that they were alongside each other parallel to the rocks when a wave caused Kenneth’s boat to hit Philippe’s causing him to capsize. Philippe got out of the sea and onto the rocks but in the confusion a wave then took Kenneth’s boat onto the rocks. More wave action ensued until for a split second Kenneth was sitting in his boat perched on a rock completely proud of the water. Anyway, the waves kept on coming, Kenneth managed to stay upright, and eventually he was back on the water.

MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2015

Very very very windy. No kayaking. Not even Katie and Lee (see Katie-and-Lee-at-sea on Facebook) who were circumnavigating Britain went out in it today.

So we had a 6 mile walk to Ardnamurchan lighthouse for a brew and a piece of cake.

In the evening, we all repaired to the local pub for a few drinks at the Kilchoan Hotel. This was a pattern to be repeated throughout the week.

TUESDAY to THURSDAY, 2-4 JUNE 2015

A weather window appeared for a few days, so the decision was taken to do a 3 day/2 night wild camping trip to Loch Sunart, a sea loch.

On Tuesday, the wind still had a bit of bite in it, so the first 2 mile crossing from headland to headland as we headed east in a following sea was testing for some of us. But no capsizes!

My experience is that each time I go out in conditions that test me, I get just a little bit better at dealing with them. Some titbit of advice on a course from way back or from a more knowledgeable paddler pops into my head and I try to apply it.

The sea conditions are unpredictable even as you get further up the sea lochs. In the space of 10 minutes or so the sea can go from benign to very choppy. Waves close together and a bit confused, rather than long regular swells, seemed to be the norm.

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Tuesday evening we arrived at the spot Geoff had earmarked as our campsite for the night. Problem: it was boggy after so much rain and the spring tide meant that we had to be a good distance above the high water mark. Strike one. Dave then paddled off to scout around the corner but that location was too boggy also. Strike two. Then we got lucky and found a bit of level dry ground just across from the SE corner of Oronsay.

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The feeling of remoteness, wild scenery and yet being with a lot of good company was priceless.

Throughout the week, there were so little signs of human activity. We may have seen just one sailing craft each day. The coastline was usually devoid of people.

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After a night’s camping we left our gear there and headed further east up Loch Sunart, reaching Salen.

After a second night’s camping, we struck camp and headed west. We had to be on the water by 9.30am to catch the high tide in the creek so we could go directly west. Any delay and we would have had to go the long way around Oronsay. We made it.

We eventually headed around the point opposite Tobermory. We edged up the coast and then made the crossing to the south of the small island just south of Tobermory harbour. Just outside the harbour there was a waterfall which some more hardy paddlers went through. The reward for our efforts over the last few days was fish and chips in Tobermory.

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After lunch there was a choice of an open crossing to Kilchoan or getting the ferry. A few of us opted out of the crossing as the inshore forecast was eventually for F5 to arrive. As it turned out, most of the crossing was in benign conditions with just a bit of lumpiness at the end. Oh well, there’s always next time.

FRIDAY, 5 JUNE 2015

The group split between those opting for a short paddle on the north side of Ardnamurchan, or a walk tracking the kayakers route. We all met up at Sanna beach where Kenneth led an impromptu dance class. Yes, really!

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In the evening it was a farewell dinner at the local pub. The manager arranged what was in effect a private dining room for all of us, but at budget prices.

SATURDAY, 6 JUNE 2015

A long slog back to London for many of us. Some took the opportunity to see more of Scotland.

The Thames just doesn’t seem as awesome after experiencing Kilchoan. Ah well, next year!

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Tudor Grashoff, June 2015

(Photo Credits: Richard Gooderick and Alex Hester)

Margate to Broadstairs and back

05.40 Alarm goes.

05.41 Alarm stops.

05.47 Finally accept that paddling requires body in kayak not in bed and get up.

07.00 Arrive at BBA.

And so started Saturday 25 April 2015 as four of us planned a trip from Margate. The group consisted of me, Miranda and Sally led by Rob Horton.

Miranda and I drove down to meet up with Rob and Sally in the centre of Margate. Where’s the centre of a town? The High Street, of course! So the satnav was duly programmed with “High Street, Margate” and off we went.

About 5 miles outside Margate on the main road in, the satnav decided to take us down a country side road. Interesting, we thought. It obviously knows a short cut. After much perambulation through back roads, the satnav proudly announced “you have arrived at your destination”. We were in a distinctly non-urban street, surrounded by fields. Turns out there is a “High Street” in the Margate area, it’s just not in Margate!

Luckily the satnav mishap caused very little delay and we met up with Rob and Sally at Angela’s Cafe. The postcode is CT9 1EX. I mention this as if you just Google “Angela’s cafe” you could end up in the one in Boston USA. Bacon rolls, tea and nautical maps followed.

Point of trivia (or maybe not after the general election): we were in the constituency that Nigel Farage is/was standing for. This is an apolitical blog and no further comment will be offered on this subject …

The tidal flows do interesting things around that north-east corner of Kent. There’s a split in the westerly flow as some goes up the Thames estuary and some heads south down the English Channel. So at the same state of the tide, if you are paddling along the coast and cross the split, the flow can reverse even though the tide hasn’t changed. If you see what I mean. It really needs a diagram. Anyway, Rob was on top of the options and the timings, ably assisted by Miranda’s big yellow book of UK tide maps.

We parked for free on the front just east past the Turner Contemporary gallery. The tide was out. Even by dropping off the kayaks at the top of the ramp down to the beach, there was still a bit of a hike to get to the water. The tide being out does that.

As we moved the kayaks down to the beach, a large group in fancy dress appeared. We don’t know for sure who they were but my guess was Rotary or Round Table. They proceeded to pick up rubbish on the beach for 15 minutes or so, and then partake in beer and games. No more eccentric than sea kayaking, I suppose.

A very shallow entry. No surf. Unbroken high cloud, dry. We headed east. The wind was offshore or parallel to the shore, probably F4.

Throughout the day, although the wind was strong, the sea was fairly flat. We had gentle following seas to start with and a following wind. At low tide a lot of rocky ledges were exposed. Despite our efforts, they weren’t suitable for rock hopping. Too much of a ledge formation rather than broken rock.

During the day our paths crossed with a larger group of sea kayakers. Turns out they were from Tower Hamlets and appeared to be mainly beginners.

We headed for Joss Bay but in the end paddled past and pressed on to a beach near Broadstairs. The beach had a long row of beach huts and we perched ourselves in front of them and had our lunch. This beach like all the others was very quiet, maybe one or two groups of people or none at all.

On the return trip, the rocky ledges had been almost covered by the incoming tide. There was a very slight bit of turbulence offshore as the tide moved around the point and over the ledges, but it was easy to skirt around it. The wind was against us on the way back, maybe gusting to F5 at times but still the sea was fairly gentle.

We returned to our start point to find that the rocks and sand had all disappeared. The sea now went up to the sea wall. The water was lapping up the ramp with some clapotic wave action as the waves bounced off the wall. Technically, this was probably the most challenging part of the day. Group score: 75%.

The clouds cleared up in the afternoon to the extent that when we had a final repast in another caff on the front, we were in danger of overheating.

Overall, it was a great trip along a coastline I hadn’t experienced before, not too far from London and with plenty of easy exits onto quiet beaches. A big thanks to Rob for organising it and to Miranda for doing the driving.

Tudor Grashoff

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Anglesey – September 2014

The Paddler’s Return on Anglesey is my kind of pub – the kind where you arrive knowing nobody, and leave feeling like a regular who knows everyone. So no one seemed surprised as I worked my way round the bar asking locals if they were from Chelsea.

Not that I had much choice. It was my first outing as a club member. All I knew about my fellow weekend paddlers was that there were six of us, and Rob was organiser. It wasn’t long, however, before I was at a table with Alex and Fiona who had already been paddling. We were joined by Geors looking fresh from a day clambering up mountains. Finally, Rob and Sally turned up, looking rather wearier after the drive from London.

Introductions over, the weekend began to take shape. We agreed on a 10.30am start. What a civilised hour! And what a relief! I was not going to be outshone by a bunch of seriously hardcore paddlers. And so it proved. Fiona set the tone when she suggested we all say what we wanted from the weekend. Good company, enjoyable birdlife, and a general potter topped her agenda. Nobody disagreed.

We launched at noon to catch the tide flooding east, and left with the vast Wylfa nuclear power station behind us. Stay together, Rob advised. The advice hardly seemed necessary. The sea was placid.

It wasn’t long, however, before paddling got tougher; the current to our surprise was against us. We would not reach the derelict brickworks where we hoped to have lunch. Over our shoulders a pair of porpoises arcing among the waves failed to generate much interest. As we plunged up and down, we bunched closer and concentrated on staying upright in a sea that had become bigger, bouncier and more difficult.

By the time we found a spot for lunch – eked out by blackberries foraged by Fiona and Geors – the breather felt long overdue. A look at the map showed we had come all of two miles. Just as well we hadn’t been racing.

The paddle back was gentler, and we had time to poke into caves and mess about on the waves that surged between the rocks. But again the sea threw up a surprise, and we found ourselves battling to pass an overfall that stretched well out from the corner of the bay where we had left the cars. Hugging the cliff would have been the easy option, but fishermen perched on the rocks had got their first; we had to stay off-shore and fight the current.

And suddenly it was over. The waves flattened and we were back in our bay with time to relax and look around. Playtime! A kingfisher shimmered by and I heard the oohs and ahhs. With the water warmer than I’ve known it all summer, practicing rolls and getting in the water for rescues was a pleasure. The 200 yards back to the shore were the slowest part of the day.

That evening back in the Paddler’s Return Alex, happy owner of two Rockpool boats, was deep in conversation over the shape of the perfectly designed kayak with Rockpool boss Mike Webb, out for an evening in his local.

Later we were joined by Jim Krawiecki, author of the Welsh Sea Kayaking guidebook (known to its fans, he cheerfully told me, as Jimski’s Book of Lies). We had all puzzled over the vagaries of the tides but Jim assured us there was no puzzle; we had been struggling against a huge eddy. If only we had read his book, he said, we could have stayed offshore. The tide really would have been with us, and our day would have been much less strenuous. Valuable information. But somehow it didn’t seem to matter.

Sunday was spent on Anglesey’s south coast. I wondered if we might head for the tiderace at Penrhyn Mawr which would have meant an even tougher and more difficult day. But Rob lead us the other way along the coast. The day was to be short. London was calling

Rockhopping proved lively enough for helmets to emerge from hatches, and we had a return crossing of a mile or so. And that was the weekend done – my baptism as a Chelsea kayak club member.

I’ve now got Jim’s book and am looking forward to the next chapter.

 

Jonathan

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