Totally Thames Tasters – 7 & 8 Sep

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Hayling Island 2014

There is a a CKC blog somewhere else on this site about a trip around Hayling Island in February. Brrrrr…..

Six CKC members descended on The Ship Inn at Langstone on 19 July 2014 with a view to paddling around the island at a more sensible time of year ie summer!

Quite possibly we are experiencing a vintage summer, to be referred to in wistful tones in Julys to come as THE summer of 2014. For all of use gathered in the car park this day will provide an enduring memory of that summer.

First however we had to negotiate the mud. We had arrived at low tide. There was lots of mud to be seen and very little water. The public slip by Hayling Bridge was a step in the right direction. Out there was water. But first we had to get to it.

Some of us negotiated the mud more successfully than others. OK, let me rephrase that. Everyone managed to get down the creek and reach navigable water in short order except for me.

My trusty Crocs, generally so perfect for all types of boating activities, revealed a hitherto undiscovered characteristic: a strong propensity to suck themselves deep into the black Chichester ooze, from which they had to be dug out by hand.

Once on the water we scraped ourselves across the shallows, past Northney Marina, into the Emsworth Channel. Which way do we go, we thought, as we approached a bifurcation in the creek? To the right.

As far as the navigation goes, right is the mantra. Right, right and right. Right around the island.

The Emsworth Channel led us south down the eastern side of the island. Easy paddling against a weak incoming tide in a gentle crosswind.

During the week the forecast had varied widely. High pressure was breaking up with the chance of some quite nasty showers ie the possibility of squalls, lightening and golfball-sized hail.

Thankfully, whilst there was some serious shower activity in the UK that day, it all stayed a long way north of Hayling Island.

By the time we pulled out for lunch on a beautiful white sand beach at Hayling Island Sailing Club the sun was shining and it was hot.

The sensible, intelligent, experienced members of CKC ie everyone but me, had brought packed lunches. However HISC is very welcoming to anyone arriving by water and I was saved by their cornish pasty, chips and beans at a very reasonable cost.

We took the opportunity to visit loos, top up water bottles etc and then we were off into the briny blue. The sea. Not the estuary from where we had come. The element for which these boats are designed. When in the right hands.

A line of breakers stretched out to the west of the harbour entrance. Our next destination. Closer inspection revealed a relatively quiet patch and here we crossed one by one after our brave leader, Rob, had checked it out first.

There were some breaking waves which did not look particularly intimidating but I am sure that they would have been sufficient to tip me in. It was a relief to get past that bit and to set off west, along the seafront towards Langstone Harbour entrance.

The conditions were clearly a piece of cake for all the old hands in the party but I was having to concentrate on balancing the boat and even having to perform the occasional brace. This certainly was not the Thames.

The low point for me came when Philippa casually reached around to unscrew the lid off her day hatch and retrieve some kit. Without even using her paddle for balance! How could she do that, I thought. Clearly my sense of balance is so poor that I may as well give up all hope of sea kayaking on the sea. In other words pack it in altogether.

Fortunately it was at this point that Neil shared a few words of wisdom. Let your hips go with the waves, he said, like a pendulum. At first this sound a bit too zen for me. I was thinking through gritted teeth and relaxing was not high on the priority list. But after giving these pearls due consideration I tried to do what I thought he was suggesting. It was a revelation. Suddenly the stress disappeared; I could concentrate on paddling technique rather than survival; it became fun.

The Hayling Island seafront is comprised of a shingle beach with numerous groynes, beach huts, a fun fair, fishermen and families. It is quite charmingly old fashioned.

Out in the bay there was a fleet of small, high speed, foiling sailing dinghies with dark sails. The International Moth world championships were taking place. It was  was quite a spectacle but we were not stopping to watch.

The water got a little more lumpy as we approached Langstone Harbour and I laughed contemptuously as waves thwacked the kayak from the side.

Pride comes before the fall but in this case I was saved from probable humiliation by another right hand turn into the tranquil waters of the Harbour

Close inside the entrance is a relic of World War II. A concrete Mulberry Harbour. Constructed in order to be sunk off the Normandy beaches. To provide protection and to allow the troops to be resupplied. Apparently this one broke its back when it was launched.

The tide was just right for a bit of rock hopping. Initiated by Rob. Closely followed by Neil and Philippe. If you don’t have a cave or reef at hand to practice your skills a convenient Mulberry Harbour offers a usable alternative.

The sea breeze must have kicked in because the wind was from behind as we made our way northwards, up the harbour towards the bridge, and mudageddon where we had begun the day.

Sometimes in boats you experience an almost trance like state and for me this was one of those moments. A gentle breeze and tiny waves from behind. The kayak and paddles getting into a rhythm that was quite mesmerizing. A wonderful last leg to enjoy and savor.

Back to a waterfront that had been transformed by the tide. Not a patch of mud to be seen. No need to carry them – we could paddle our kayaks almost to the cars.

Anyone for wet exercises asked Neil? And soon there were rescues, rolls, towing, braces and all sorts being practiced on a perfect summer afternoon.

What more could make it perfect?

How about a drink at The Ship Inn to finish off the day.



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