Kimmeridge Bay to Dancing Ledge, 18 April 2022

What a super trip to have as my inaugural outing with Chelsea Kayak Club!

After a thorough zoom briefing from trip leader Liza on the Wednesday evening, when she took us through the plan for the trip and the logistics of getting us and boats to the start, we then kept our fingers crossed that the weather would improve. Anything above Force 4 would be too much to be within the club’s extended remit guidance.  Wonderfully the winds calmed down and we got the “green light” to go! Unfortunately one of the planned paddlers (Jan) broke his foot the day before the trip and wasn’t able to make it, even though the boats were already on his car!

After a hasty re-planning of transport, we assembled at the slipway of Kimmeridge Bay, in gorgeous sunshine and light winds. Suncream on and we set off as planned by 9.45am to head out of the Bay and then turn east along the coast. At the base of the cliffs of Kimmeridge shale are rocky ledges that jut out into the sea and form shallow reefs which can easily be churned up by the swell. Given that there was an onshore SW Force 2-3 wind and swell of 0.7m arriving every 10-12 secs, Liza wisely led us well out to sea to avoid risking any mishaps!

Soon we could see St Albans Head about 6km away from Kimmeridge Bay, and headed straight there paddling as a pod and looking out for each other. With the tide assisting us, we reached a small rocky beach just west of the headland in an hour. We rested just offshore as no one needed to get off for a stretch (and there was some wave action on the beach!).

So then we headed around St Albans Head, an imposing rocky cliff, with a coastguard lookout on the top and some impressive rocks hanging off it. There are some renowned tide races off this head, but Liza had chosen the day and timed our trip to avoid them by being there just before slack water, and keeping well inshore.

Once round the head, the water got a bit confused as there is a bit of a back eddy bringing some flow towards us, and the wind and swell combined to create a bit of a following sea.

Fun to play in! But not many photos as hands needed to be kept on the paddle!

There are some amazing caves and ledges in the cliffs here as they were quarried in the nineteenth century. We were surprised by the large number of guillemots flying off the cliffs and back again. They may be nesting soon so we kept well offshore so as not to disturb them. But getting closer would have also been “interesting” as the onshore wind and swell meant there was quite a lot of wave action over the many lower rocky ledges jutting out to sea.

We reached Dancing Ledge at 12 noon, just before the turn of the tide. There were a few climbers bravely on the ledge but quite a lot of waves churned over them at intervals. We had planned to land on the ledges for lunch and so gathered at the easternmost section where the ledges are lower to watch the waves and sets, and see if that was feasible.

Dancing Ledge for lunch? Shall we?
Maybe not!

We decided the risk of a rocky landing in those conditions wasn’t worth it! So we rafted up for a snack, waiting 15mins or so for the tide to turn, before heading back past the cliffs to go around St Albans Head aiming to have lunch at the small rocky beach we had seen on the way out.

Landing on that beach was interesting enough! Rich went first and skillfully landed successfully and then helped the rest of us in. It’s one thing to know the theory of rocky landings – get your legs out and sit on the back deck, then time the paddle in to be between wave sets, backpaddling to let a wave go under you and then following it in, keeping the kayak straight, jumping out as the bow lands and running the boat up the beach preventing it from smashing into your legs – and another to do it! But we all did! Lunch on the sunny shingle beach was well deserved!

We helped each other launch, timing the waves and set off home, first taking a turn around Chapmans Pool – an inlet with a much more friendly looking shingle beach, but also people!

We again kept offshore on the run back to Kimmeridge Bay. After Rich had an exciting ride over one particularly large wave that seemed to come out of nowhere, I think we all kept a bit more of a lookout in case there was another one!

After 24.5km, 5 tired but very happy paddlers got back into the Bay at 4pm.

Boats loaded back onto roof racks, biscuits devoured and off we set, with lovely memories of a happy day on the sea in great company. Thanks to Liza for organising it, and the whole team for making it such an enjoyable day!

And of course we wish Jan a speedy recovery – just in time for the next adventure!

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