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

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