Wootton Creek, Feb 2023

Winter paddling is not for everyone, so it was great to have a group of enthusiastic CKC paddlers getting out on the sea today!

We were all relatively experienced paddlers who were familiar with each other on the water from a few trips together last year.  However a Solent crossing is a paddling route not to be sniffed at. So the leaders had put a lot of effort into planning a detailed route ensuring the timings and hazards were well signposted and well considered.

Launching at Lepe Country Park is an expensive but easy place for a launch as well as having great facilities for breakfast bacon butties, as well as toilets.

It was flat calm looking from Lepe to West of Cowes on an overcast grey and quiet Solent. We set off on the bearing of 150 degrees in order to counteract the tidal flow pushing us Eastwards. Keeping as a tight group, so we could be seen easily by other crafts, we reached the first destination at Egypt Point/Gunard buoy after about 30 minutes.

Gurnard Buoy

The next potential hazard was to cross Eastwards the Cowes harbour entrance on the north side of the breakwater. Just after deciding to cross the entrance a large ferry suddenly appeared coming out of Cowes so we duly had to increase our paddle power to get out of it’s way.

Crossing Cowes Harbour, avoiding the fast cat
Crossing Cowes Harbour

The next 1 ½ hours were calm active paddling to Old Castle Point and across Osbourne Bay (with a view of Queen Victoria’s residence, Osbourne House) ensuring we kept out of the bay itself to gain as much of the dropping flow as possible. It was very empty of the usual chaos of numerous yachties mooring there for their boozy lunches, and we only saw the occasional ship passing.

Osbourne House

The entrance to Wootton Creek is not at all easy to identify in the bay especially on a grey winters day. However having the fantastic resource of the ferry that goes in and out from Wootton Creek, it helpfully pinpointed the entrance for us. We landed at the small beach next to the ferry terminal and hauled our boats onto the grass for lunch.

Wootton Creek

A most lovely Sunday pub lunch was had at The Fishbourne pub, a short walk up from the slipway and beach. We also had a good rest while waiting for the flow to pick up for our return trip. It was pretty hard to re-don our dry suits and get back in our boats after the cosy atmosphere of the pub though.

The trip back was again well executed with the Wootton Creek ferry the first thing to be negotiated.

Wootton Creek Ferry

The wind was more behind us and the flow helping us along fantastically. The essential part was to cross back over the Solent missing the hazard zone of the container ship turning area and paddling at an angle which ensured that we would not overshoot our destination at Lepe. The flow had picked up a bit more than the plan had been set for so we set the new route degrees to 360/0 from Egypt Point. For paddlers who have never experienced tidal flow like this, it is quite a surprise when you turn into it and realise the importance on keeping on the course you have been set to get across the channel correctly! For those without compasses on board clear markers ahead were given to aim for. It is essential that the lead communicates these markers / identifiers correctly and if they are changed that this is communicated to everyone.

On the way back

We were quite tired by now so it was a bit of surprise when nearly fully across that we had to navigate an area of overfall while crossing Lepe Spit leading to quite turbulent water, but made it an exciting end to our trip.

Tired but happy paddlers

Well done everyone for getting on the sea today! Achy bones and muscles for unfit desk-bound paddlers were very evident in the following days!

Mike also had a new voice activated Go Pro he was trying out and made the following video of the trip:

Lepe to Wootton Creek, Feb 2023
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