Kentish Sea Paddling

Sunday 25th July 2010

10 of us headed down to the Kent coast for the Club’s first local sea trip today.  We were all pretty surprised to discover just how accessible a one-day, low hassle, low cost sea kayaking trip really is – on the actual sea!!!

It is indeed entirely possible to:

  • Not have to get up at the crack of dawn and bomb down to the South coast (Folkestone) using your preferred means of transport
  • Be on the water for 11am
  • Have a fulfilling, relaxed, yet challenging day out
  • Squeeze in some skills practice
  • Get back in time for the pool session (almost…)

We all arrived at Seapoint Centre in Sandgate at 10am via road and rail and after a quick chat with Rob Davis to glean some local knowledge we were on our own paddling east in a leisurely way towards Dover with the tide and a slight westerly wind.  The plan: to paddle into East Wear Bay, stop for lunch and paddle back for some skills stuff.

For a couple of folks this was their first decent experience of salt water and they were all smiles.

We were soon upon Folkestone Harbour, past Copt Point and into East Wear Bay and a fantastic stretch of chalk cliff coastline known as The Warren was in sight.  I was so caught up in enjoying the paddle after a quick check of the map I realised that we’d over shot the planned lunch stop (by about 3 km – a-hem…!).  Meanwhile up at the front Andy had caught sight of a Union Jack flag and a boat pulled up on the beach.  Being the naturally inquisitive Irish bloke he is he headed towards it bringing the rest of the group with him.  The group pulled up their boats (after a bit of a hilarious failed attempt at a beach landing by Olwen – amazingly she kept her bum dry!) at Abbot’s Cliff for a spot of food and to enjoy the sun.

Meanwhile Andy disappears and heads over to the boat he spotted and amazingly there is also a cabin, a BBQ and a resident – Jeremy Francis (known locally as Mungo).  Turns out some years ago Mungo was on a return journey in his 25 foot cruiser from a summer cruise to the Isle of Wight and encountered steering trouble and headed towards familiar ground (The Warren).  On mooring up on the concrete apron, the boat promptly sank in 7 foot of water.  The boat had to be moved at short notice and on a very under powered outboard moved it 1.7 miles east and bought it up on the beach.   A shelter called “Lavender Cottage” was constructed to provide Mungo with a more comfortable existence whilst undertaking repairs. The cottage has now become a popular tourist attraction and has been photographed many times and even has its own Facebook page – Boat @ Folkestone warren.

The wind seemed to have picked up more than was predicted and after a quick chat we were back on the water with the knowledge that the paddle back to Seapoint may be a bit of a slog – and we were right.  Getting past Folkestone Harbour against the wind, in the recirculating currents was a little tough, and the group unfortunately got a bit strung out at this point.  It also became immediately apparent we were not going to make our agreed time to be off the water.  I headed for the beach at Folkestone and phoned ahead to delay and reunited as a group we paddled on.

We all arrived back safe and sound pulled the boats up to the centre to rinse the kit out with fresh water and headed to the pub for a well earned drink and chat – albeit there was a bit of a collision between Theresa and Jo getting off the water (Note: we need to do a session on safe launchings and landings!).  Amazingly although the paddle back was hard going most people found it an amazing experience and fun.  Some even commented that the outward paddle was a bit boring – just goes to show what regular paddling against strong tides on the Thames can do!

Lot’s of learnings from the day – not least I will not be taking a 1:25,000 map out with me on the boat again!   The group also felt that it could have been tighter in terms of group management and there was a need to modify the Club’s trip procedures a little.   However, there was a great sense of group self-improvement following the post-trip discussion, and hope it happens after all our trips, over a pint or a coffee, even if there’s not much to say or much time to say it – everyone’s opinion is welcome, and sometimes just the fact of having a debrief means people are comfortable to make suggestions, without having to bring things up in conversation and feel that they sound narky.

All in all a great trip and a fantastic start to what will be many local trips!  Many thanks to Dave Barker and Rob Davis for allowing us the use of their kit!

Total trip length: 11 nautical miles or 20.4 km


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