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By Erik Rasmussen
  • M69 of 2019
    Upper Pool - The Tower of London - Gun Salute
  • M67 of 2019
    Wandsworth Reach - Fulham Rail Bridge - Arch Width Restrictions

Industrial Beauty on the East Coast. Isle of Sheppey, Aug 2019

On Saturday 31st August a group of six (Rachel, Fiona, Charlie, Ronan, Liza and Tudor) headed to the Isle of Sheppey. I must confess to never having heard of the Isle of Sheppey, so this added an air of mystery to the trip!

We set out from a slipway at Queenborough in Kent heading down the River Swale. The Swale is a tidal channel of the Thames estuary that separates the Isle of Sheppey from the rest of Kent and forms both a National Nature Reserve and a Special Protection Area.

It was a very enjoyable paddle despite the flat scenery and plyons, as there were lots of birds and reasonably good conditions. And any time spent in a kayak is always good, as we all know.

There was the option of exploring Sittingbourne but this was quickly vetoed by a reliable Irish source….that didn’t encourage us any further!

The weather was sunny and warm and so the lunch stop ended up being sitting outside a lovely pub in a hamlet called Conyer which is at the head of Conyer creek. There was at the start of the trip scope for, to coin a phrase, someone to be paddling up a creek without a paddle….Liza had forgotten her own paddle (preferred) but luckily we had paddles for everyone.

The paddle into Conyer was a highlight with its lovely riverside houses. A nifty little shortcut was taken paddling through some reeds which we renamed as paddling through broccoli!. We pulled in at a slipway to be met by a local who seemed hesitant for us to leave our kayaks there as some previous kayakers I believe had left a negative impression on him! This was quickly dispelled by our friendly faces.

With the tides moving in a favourable direction after lunch we sped on! At times the water became a bit choppy (where the Swale meets the Thames Estuary) and Fiona did an excellent job of instructing those less experienced. The trip ended at a slipway near the Ferry House pub. The weather was beginning to turn at this point so it was a timely finish.

It was an excellent trip enjoyed by all.

Jurassic Gathering, Sep 2019

Sometimes sea kayaking can give important life lessons, unrelated to skill, ability or aptitude. One of these lessons was exposed on last weekend’s CKC trip to the Jurassic Coast: if you don’t wear underpants while paddling 14 nautical miles, the chaffing will stop you paddling the next day.

And so it was that part of the CKC group went Greenland Fishing instead of paddling on the Sunday. Although giving it a different name to normal fishing didn’t seem to make the fish any more catchable. So the Jurassic Coast fish stocks remained safe, with a grand total of no fish caught. At least one sizable fish got away, although estimates of its actual size varied:

 

But we are getting ahead of ourselves and need to start at the beginning: some of the CKC members joined the first “Jurassic Gathering” paddling weekend, based out of Carey Camp in Wareham. Jurassic Gathering was a long weekend of paddling and training with top level coaches and leaders from all over the UK and Europe. About 80 people paid to attend the event, which had the primary purpose of raising money for the Air Ambulance and was organised by Steve Jones. Steve had suffered a heart attack while out paddling and without the emergency services wouldn’t be paddling today.

Although the charity aspect was significant, CKC love paddling in this world heritage area and have been quite active in this area this year: in March this year, CKC had an entertaining weekend at Poole Harbour (see the post ‘Snowy the Dog Takes up Sea Kayaking – Poole March 2019’) and in May this year, CKC had an enjoyable weekend paddling from Kimmeridge to Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast (see the post ‘Exploring the Jurassic Coast by Sea, May 2019’) in fantastic weather. Once again, the Jurassic Coast showed its best side with three days of perfect English September weather: blue skies, warm temperatures and light winds.

Friday

The Jurassic Gathering weekend started early for some members of CKC at least: with an on-the-water time of 10:30am, after the drive down only half the CKC team were awake for the first paddle. The first trip was from Swanage Harbour to Old Harry’s Rock, led by Rich Holt and Mirco Stefan. We took a direct line from Monkey Beach at Swanage, across Swanage Bay to Ballard Point, passed the Pinnacle and then on to Handfast Point. Winds were F3 throughout the day.

Whereas in March we were able to pass through the arches in the point, the state of the tide prevented that this time. However to make up for that, the tide race off Old Harry’s Rock was zipping along nicely. Although the CKC team had limited experience of tide races, with Rich and Mirco’s help we quickly gained confidence. Tide races are usually formed when fast flowing water encounters some kind of restriction, such as a narrow gap or an underwater ledge. This forces the water to behave in some odd ways, including forming standing waves while the water flows ‘backwards’. At Old Harry’s tide race we experienced the strange sensation of paddling forward while surfing waves, then stopping paddling and getting pulled back through the race by the tidal flow. It was a bit like a ski chair lift taking you back to the top of the mountain without any effort.

At lunch on Studland Bay side of Handfast Point we met up with the remaining CKC members, who had opted for a longer lie in with a noon start time along with an easier paddle from Studland Bay to Swanage Bay.

After another play in Old Harry’s Rock tide race we took a wide route out to sea back towards Swanage Bay to catch the tidal stream in that direction. Having got a taste of tide races our next destination was Peveril Point. Somewhat alarmingly, first we landed next to the lifeboat station and climbed the stairs to the National Coastwatch Institution Lookout to look out over the race. From this raised vantage point, the tide race looked quite benign.

After reviewing the features of the tidal race, including the inshore eddy and safety procedures, out we went. At sea level, the waves looked a bit more intimidating. Even with some understanding of the tide race, it still messed with your head – going backwards through waves with no effort – totally bonkers!

Saturday

Many trips and training options were available and CKC choose to paddle from Ringstead to Lulworth Cove on the Saturday. In May, the CKC trip had put in at Kimmeridge and paddled West. This time we would put in at the top of Weymouth Bay and travel East. Using trolleys we moved the kayaks from the café car park down to the pebble beach. We paddled out across Ringstead Bay, passed Burning Cliff, so called because it caught on fire in 1826 and burnt for several years due to the shale oil in the rock. In reality the site of the original fire has been eroded away, but it seems that the coastline around Ringstead and Kimmeridge had multiple similar fires, including one in 2000. Luckily we had an expert on geology leading us on this trip: Allen Westerby, supported by Rich Holt.

Heading out to the point at White Nothe in F3 winds, the cliffs changed from the darker mud stone and shale to the stunning white limestone cliffs.

The change in rock also gave us an opportunity to rock hop. Splitting into small five people groups, separated by a few minutes, we were able to weave between rocks in the swell and between waves. For this activity it was really necessary to be wearing underpants and the performance of those without significantly declined quickly. So after a quick lunch and ice cream break at Lulworth Cove, we returned to the start point through Durdle Door and Bat Hole.

Sunday

Some of the CKC members chose to paddle from Kimmeridge to Dancing Ledge. Those suffering from chaffing chose not to paddle and went Greenland Fishing instead.

As in May, we launched underneath the folly Clavell Tower at the slipway on Kimmeridge Bay. While waiting to launch, part of the cliff on the edge of the bay collapsed into the sea.

This trip was led by two very experienced coaches Simon Waller and Natalie Maderova. Natalie had just completed a circumnavigation of Ireland and had previously completed a circumnavigation of Britain in 2012. That was really some high powered company for a Sunday paddle.

We set off in very light winds once again, turning East out of Kimmeridge Bay and across the Kimmeridge Ledges, with only 30cm of water to paddle in, then onto St Alban’s Head. St Alban’s Head can have a huge tide race, but by keeping close to the shore in both directions it was easily avoided. The main issue was to make sure the water was moving in the direction you were aiming for as the tidal stream is quite strong around the point. Again this was easily countered by either being in the main flow or the eddy, depending which way were going.

The coast between St Alban’s Head and Dancing Ledge had numerous caves and ledges, created by quarrying for the limestone. It’s also a ship grave yard with numerous shipwrecks being recorded along this coastline.

As we started to approach Dancing Ledge, it turned out that no-one had actually got that far on any previous trip, and no-one knew quite where it was. Luckily Dancing Ledge is popular with people who walk places rather than kayak, and they were able to confirm that we had indeed reached the Dancing Ledge. We were able to land on the huge ledge next to a large rock pool heated by the sun to an indoor swimming pool temperature.

After lunch, we took the opportunity to get some skills coaching from Natalie.

Then we headed back the way we came with a slight detour to Chapman’s Pool. In Mark Rainsley’s South West Sea Kayaking book, it is described as ‘a lovely secluded cove’, but disappointingly looked more like a quarry to the CKC team.

After that we paddled back to the launch point, packed up, said good-bye to new and old friends and started the drive back in the late afternoon sunshine, pretty tired but also pretty happy with having spent three days on this beautiful and dramatic coastline.

 

This was the first Jurassic Gathering, and there is already talk of repeating the event next year. To get the most out of this event you would need to have the British Canoeing Sea Kayak Award (3* equivalent).

If you would like to be able to undertake trips like these please contact the Training Officer about how you progress your skills. But please bring your own underpants.

 

Summer of Fun: Rock Hopping and Paddling, Dartmouth July 2019

A weekend of rock hopping and paddling in the summer sun, around the beautiful south coast of Devon near Salcombe and Dartmouth.

Arriving on Thursday evening, we were the first campers to setup at the Slapton Sands camp site. Although the evening was warm and mild, some CKC members had taken the easier option and rented the mobile home on the campsite and that was to become CKC HQ for the weekend.

CKC HQ

So after some fortifying fish and chips and, gin and tonics inside CKC HQ, our attention turned to planning for the next day.

The next morning in brilliant sunshine, we met David Jones from Dartmouth Yacht Club who had kindly offered to accompany us and offer some local advice. We arrived at North Sands car park after traversing an incredibly windy road down to the beach that felt more like the Italian Riviera than Britain. We launched from North Sands as the beach goers started to arrive, and crossed the Kingsbridge Estuary boating channel in a group over to Hipples. Following the coast south easterly with light winds (F2), full sun (23C), waves less that 0.3m and no clouds, we immediately started to rock hop. The coastline here is amazingly intricate with big and small rocks to manoeuvre around; small arches, holes and corridors to squeeze through; blind passages to investigate and reverse out of backwards (or attempt to turnaround).

David Jones leads the way.

Rock hopping heaven

Sometimes the gaps were a tight squeeze.

Other times not so much of a squeeze.  

Described as rock-hopping heaven by one of our group, it was a great way to build up those technical skills required for quick decision making and agile manoeuvring.

As we approached Prawl Point, on land we could see the bright orange rusting carcass of MV Demetrios which was wrecked in December 1992. It was caught in hurricane winds (F10) while being towed to a breakers yard in the Mediterranean. It was washed up onto the rocks and then abandoned by the company towing it. As we moved closer to get a better look at the remains, the ‘rock’ in the sea turned out also to be part of the superstructure of the ship. However, as we were joined by an inquisitive seal at the same time so we had to divide our attention between taking pictures of the wreckage and watching the seal.

Remains of MV Demtrios

We passed around the arch of Prawle Point, although without enough water it wasn’t possible to pass under it this time.

Prawle Point

After a short lunch break at Horseley Cove, we returned the same way. Through the pristine clear water we were able to follow the ropes threaded through lobster and crab pots lying on the bottom of the sea bed and saw a huge spider crab sitting on top of one.

Looking for (and finding) spider crabs

Unbelievably we had spent the whole day rock hopping, covering 23km – the longest distance and time that any of us had spent playing in rocks in the sunshine.

After all that excitement the only thing to do was to retire to the Start Bay Inn at Torcross for a further dose of fish and chips while standing outside overlooking the pebbled beach.

Somewhat surprisingly, outside the pub was an original Sherman Tank. It was recovered from the bay and now used as a memorial to the more than 1000 people who died when a practice for the D-Day landings went badly wrong.

Sherman tank memorial at Torcross Bay

Another beautiful sunny day with calm winds (F2) on Saturday saw us meet up with Tim (who wasn’t able to paddle with us due to eye surgery, unfortunately) and Phil H. both from Dartmouth Yacht Club. Phil had kindly offered to guide us out of Dartmouth Harbour and over to Mew Stone to spot some seals. When we paddled through the chaos that is Dartmouth Harbour, we were pretty happy that Phil knew what was going on! As although very pretty in the summer sun, Dartmouth Harbour has multiple ferries crossing and the truly bizarre Lower Ferry (two platforms pushed by tugs in circular direction from each side of the harbour simultaneously) boggles the mind as to where they were going.

The mind boggling Lower Ferry

Dartmouth Harbour

Phil led the paddle through the harbour passed Dartmouth Castle then North along the coast, where we are able to get a rare picture of all paddlers on the sea by Alex on land, who had set off walking while we were unloading the boats and getting ready.

Dartmouth Castle

Official team photo

Then we crossed over to Mew Stone to look for seals. We had seen a few on the way, but only one at Mew Stone. As it was high water, most of the seals had gone fishing. After Mew Stone we paddled back across harbour entrance, where Phil left us, then headed south to a small sunny cove for lunch.

Mew Stone

After lunch we continued on to Blackpool Sands, picking up a surprising amount of swell (0.3m) as we approached the pebble beach, making timing of the landing and departing between waves a bit tricky, but managed without any dramas.

On the way back we encountered an enormous seal sunning itself, with its tail and head curled up, quite oblivious to us. It seems to be floating on top of the water!

After negotiating the Dartmouth Harbour ferries one more time, we packed up and met Phil and David Jones along with their partners (and David’s dog, Dougal) for dinner at The Dartmouth Inn. We realise that we have a “three Phil” dinner, with Phillippe, Philippa and Phil all together at the same time:

After dinner a short walk back to he cars along the now quiet Dartmouth Harbour, provided an outstandingly pretty end to a day’s paddling.

Dartmouth Harbour at night

Sunday was cloudy but warm (22C), with light winds again.

We paddled up river leaving Dartmouth from next to the Higher Ferry boat ramp and followed Old Mill Creek passed the boat yard, until we reach a very low hump back bridge (1m), but then were not able to get further. We returned back along the creek and headed north to Dittisham. Stopping for coffee on tiny beach with pub on the corner, we found the pub landlord getting ready to put up a tent on the shoreline for their regular first Sunday in the month paella and music event.

Fuelled by coffee some of the group made a quick dash up river to Pighole Bay for lunch. After that we paddled back to Dartmouth riding on the tidal flow passed Agatha Christie’s house and boat house.

After packing up we departed, once again negotiating the impossibly narrow lanes and high hedges of Devon, to the motorway. Then back to London and the end of a pretty much perfect weekend of paddling and rock hopping in the summer sun.

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.