Totally Thames Tasters – 7 & 8 Sep

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Bracklesham to Selsey Bill, 3 April 2022

Bracklesham Beach, towards Selsey Bill

We arrived in Bracklesham to bright sun and clear blue skies, just before 9am. Fortified with a quick coffee from Billy’s on the Beach, we kitted up and moved the boats down the steep shingle beach to the edge of the incoming tide.

After a briefing from Liza, we launched through gentle surf and turned southeast to follow the coast toward Selsey Bill. With a calm sea and following current, progress was quick and easy, with the Windmill at Medmerry visible on the shore and the cardinal marks off Selsey Bill clear up ahead.

As Liza had warned in her briefing, as we started to round Selsey Bill the sea state changed, in a matter of meters, the almost flat water was replaced by short steep waves, formed as the current drove the sea over the shallow bar. Feet were pushed more firmly into foot pegs and concentration levels increased exponentially as the bows of our boats slapped down into troughs or pierced the breaking waves.

Around Selsey Bill

But as quickly as it had come, the chop subsided, and the calm seas returned. We’d all remained the right way up and turned northeast towards Pagham. We pulled in for lunch at the end of Park Copse, below a row of bungalows, which were originally disused railway carriages and used to billet Canadian and American soldiers in readiness for D-Day.  The sun was still shinning so after lunch and while the current reversed its direction, we stretched out like seals on the shingle to absorb its rays.

Like someone had really planned the trip, as we moved out through the surf to head back around Selsey, the current was again in our favor and seemed even faster than it had been on the outbound leg. Its strength was evident as we passed the small fishing boats straining at their moorings before the Bill and again the waves jacked up from nowhere as we started to round the point. The chat stopped and the focus increased. Rich complained it was over too quickly. I felt no such regrets.

Like passengers on a travelator, keen to reach passport control ahead of the masses, the current had us speeding along, and a fierce debate ensued as to exactly which pin prick on the coast was Billy’s. With eyesight that would embarrass a mole, I left it to the others and enjoyed the still shining sun.

The current has us back ahead of schedule, so Liza offered to demonstrate a self-rescue before remembering she’d only just had COVID. Rich bravely stepped in, first demonstrating how not to do it, before successfully getting back in his boat. Jan clearly wouldn’t be happy until he got wet too so he practiced a series of sculling strokes with increasing amounts of edge until he crossed the invisible line and was reminded that he really must fix that hole in his dry suit sock.

A great trip, brilliantly planned, with just the right mix of relaxed paddling along the coast and buttock clenching action around the Bill.

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