West Solent, March 2024: My First Time Kayaking on the Sea

“Avoid travelling completely or find something to do at home: decorate the bathroom or something,” so said National Highways as they shut the M25 over a weekend for the first time in its history. Unluckily for them, I decorated my bathroom last year, and I had signed up for Liza’s planned trip on the Solent, one of the first CKC sea trips of 2024.

The plan was to paddle about 10km along the south coast from Lymington to Lepe and back again, about 20km in total. But first, we had to get there. After meeting at the Arches to pick up the boats and kit (shout out to hero Phil for driving down to the New Forest and back with two boats on his car despite having no plans to get on the water himself), Liza and Mike’s military-precision route planning was put to the test. But despite fears of a five-hour gridlock nightmare, we sailed past the offending area and on to the New Forest with barely a second thought.

I hoped this would be a good omen, since the trip would be my first ever sea kayaking experience.

Safety First
Let’s go!

The launch point was an easy-to-access beach near Lymington, and after a quick kit change and some surreptitious nature pees (out of sight of beach walkers, of course), our group of seven launched one by one into the water, which was calm with little surf. With overcast skies and a light wind, we paddled eastwards reasonably close to the shore and with the flow, which, mercifully for the sea debutantes on the trip, was strong enough to give us a welcome boost.

Despite my initial apprehension about quite how wavy the Solent’s waters would be (fearing multiple capsizes, my dry bag was stuffed with several changes of clothes), I soon settled into the swing of things, and while a pesky side wind occasionally upset my attempts to paddle in a straight line, the group leaders Liza and Mike were on hand with guidance and encouragement and capably kept us all on course.

Quick pitstop

We made it to Lepe in time for lunch and a restorative coffee while we waited for the flow to change direction. The hardy seafarer reputations we had built among the families visiting Lepe Country Park during our lunch break were soon dispelled by a somewhat chaotic return to the water, mostly on the part of my husband Ben, which included a bit more splashing and a bit more water in his boat than intended.

But we were soon on our return leg – the wind had died down so the group enjoyed a smooth and speedy paddle back, and we paddled a bit further out into the Solent as were not planning to stop. We sadly didn’t spot any beach dwelling cows, which I’m told is something of a right of passage on CKC sea trips, but the role was ably understudied by a couple of New Forest ponies.

Return journey, in calm conditions

The whole paddle took about 4 1/2 hours. We were lucky that the flow helped us along in both directions and the water wasn’t too choppy. Having initially been a little apprehensive about how I would fare on the sea, with limited kayaking experience, I was reassured by how manageable the trip was. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn and a chance to improve my technique and stamina in relatively forgiving conditions. Huge thanks to the group for such a fun day and to Liza and Mike for their expert planning and leadership.

(You can view the CKC Cows on Beaches video (0:24s) here: Cows on beaches (youtube.com) )

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