Sanna Bay & Ardamurchan Point, Scotland, June 2022

On the final day, a return sea crossing from Portuick to Muck was planned. After heading out and rafting up with the larger group for the final briefing just outside of Sanna Bay, a ‘b team’ of three (Philippe, Kenneth & Jo) was formed, who opted for an easier day sticking to close to the mainland around Sanna Bay and  Ardamurchan Point.

After the group split, Philippe as the leader gave a mini briefing and we discussed what would happen if a rescue was required now the group was smaller.   

We agreed to head back to Portuick and as we paddled back into the wind from the south, we were surprised by how far we had drifted out of Sanna bay.  By the time we reached the start point, we had been paddling already for 1 hr 15 mins.    

After a short break to stretch legs and have a snack in the sheltered area in the rocks amongst the seals, we ventured out again. Philippe suggested we stay close to the mainland where we would be most protected from the wind and head towards Ardamurchan Point, which we had passed in the opposite direction a couple of days before. We paddled into the next bay keeping clear of the waves at the base of the headland.  

We crossed the next bay heading into the waves and found another brief respite  behind some  rocks.  We continued towards the lighthouse and began to turn the corner at Armamurchan Point, at which point the waves were a bit larger and slightly more confused and Philippe did a risk assessment based on group size and experience and suggested we turn back.

On the return, we stuck closer to the shoreline and Philippe led, with Kenneth at the back of the group. This time, the waves were behind us and pushed us along, as we paddled back past the headland. Before too long we were back where we had started buoyed by our trip.    

Although a short trip, there was plenty of scope for informal learning, both for me as the least experienced and for others, it gave the opportunity to lead a small group on the sea rather than the Thames. We discussed spotting potential hazards in the sea, such as rocks not visible beneath the surface of the water which may only cause a breaking wave only infrequently, and how to improve skills, such as turning more efficiently in waves by edging. We also considered trip preparation, such as taking maps of adjoining areas in case plans change and how the radio works when groups are spread out. 

When packing up the boats, we were passed by a foursome who asked if we were the kayakers they had seen from the lighthouse. It turned out the group had been staying in a holiday cottage overlooking the bay and been observing CKCs kayaking exploits from afar all week and had many questions! Once the boats were packed up, I stayed on the beach for a swim and then an hour or so later watched as the rest of the group appeared in the distance from Muck.

Isle of Muck, June 2022

Kilchoan blog – Friday 24 June 2022 – Isle of Muck

What is sea kayaking all about? Maybe it’s the wind in your face, saltwater spray, and the sound of breaking waves. Or perhaps it’s the camaraderie of being on the sea together and landing on a distant shore.

We had all these on our trip from the mainland at Portuairk, then 11km across the sea to the Isle of Muck and back.

Muck is the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles, part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

At our planning meeting the previous night, Geoff proposed the trip which was generally welcomed. Some felt that energy levels might be a little depleted and reserved their decision until the next day. The weather forecast was dry and sunny with winds of F3/F4. Crucially, the wind would be behind us on the way over but against us on the way back. 11km paddling into the wind, hmmm, what would that be like?

Friday came and 12 of us felt up to doing the trip. 10 from CKC plus Martin and Nicky from the local kayaking group. A final check of the weather forecast – no change – and the trip got the green light. There was a long portage from the cars at Portuairk to the water’s edge but at least it would be shorter on the way back as the tide would have risen. We would end up being very grateful for such small mercies.

A couple of kilometres from launching but still near the coast, Geoff halted the group and gave everyone a last chance to opt out of the crossing to Muck. Emphasis was placed on the wind being against us for the 11km trip back. Three decided to defer the crossing to another time, leaving nine of us, with Geoff’s words describing the trip “not dangerous but challenging” ringing in our ears.

The F3 wind behind us gave us a push across so that we got to Muck in about 2 hours. No breaking waves, just an easy following sea. Even when we stopped on the sea for a snack and stopped paddling, we drifted towards Muck. Easy peasy.

After landing at Muck, we repaired to the Isle of Muck tea room. What an oasis of culinary delight! Some high streets don’t have cafes this good, and yet we were on an island just a few kilometres long with a population of 27 (thank you Wikipedia).

We spent an hour chilling, eating and rehydrating before setting off for the return to the mainland. There had been talk of circumnavigating the island before heading back but as that would have added two hours to the paddling, we decided against it.

The wind against us was fun at first. Pointing a sea kayak into the waves and the bow crashing down the other side is exhilarating and doesn’t require the same skill as a big following sea. After about an hour’s paddling, I felt I had put in a lot of effort. So surely we must be half way back to Portuairk? We stopped for a breather and looked back at Muck. It still looked close! This would be hard.

We paddled for 3.5 hours into the wind. Whenever we stopped for a breather, unless we kept paddling the wind would push us back to Muck. It was salutary to think what towing would be like in these conditions – stop to put on the tow and all the time you’d be going backwards – then start towing when even paddling just your own boat was hard work.

The waves were starting to break a little, the wind had picked up since our crossing to Muck. About 2/3rds of the way back, the wind eased greatly, “ahh” we thought, “the hard bit’s over, what a relief.” A little while later the wind came back stronger than ever, making progress so slow that it was difficult to believe we weren’t at a standstill.

Eventually we got to Portuairk and the welcome shorter carry back to the cars now the tide was in. Sea kayakers must be a strange, somewhat masochistic lot – we all agreed it was a great day!

Circumnavigation of Oronsay, June 2022

Thursday 23 June 2022 – Seals galore: Circumnavigation of Oronsay, Scotland

The CKC Kilchoan group split into two groups today. After checking with Geoff we didn’t launch from the private jetty at Laga which was quite steep down to the water, but started from a much better launch point where the road goes close to the Camas Fearna beach, west of Glenborrodale, where there was good parking for 2 cars behind a passing place.

Mary, Philippe, Rich, Jo, Kenneth and Fiona got our kayaks via a peaty path onto the rocky beach and promptly had lunch since it was 2pm! Fiona enjoyed standing in the water (cleaning boots & dry trousers of the mud) whilst eating looking through the clear waters watching fish and crabs scuttle about.

We took a bearing and set off for the North westerly point of Oronsay, and then proceeded clockwise around the island. We saw loads of seals 😊 Many of them were in mum and pup pairs. Some were curious and followed us. Rich used the gentle nature of the paddle as an opportunity to practice his newly learnt Greenland rolling skills.

We went passed the passage at the southern side of Oronsay, and over shot to go clockwise around Eilean nan Eildean. At the southern end we realised we didn’t have enough time to go further up Loch Teacuis if we were not to have a late evening. Plus we had a tidal window for paddling through SE corner of Oronsay if we were to complete the circumnavigation!

So we returned to the passage south of Oronsay which is only paddle-able at high water, and went through the floating seaweed ~3.30pm before stopping for a snack on the island.

We continued clockwise around the island, with Fiona practicing using her new contact tow on Jo. Philippe found a rock to practice his hip flicks!

The island provided some rock hopping 😊

On the last section around the island we saw some wonderful (non stinging) purple jelly fish.

Once we returned to the NW headland of the island, we then practiced taking bearings to work out which way to point to return to the cars (wonderfully they were hidden which made the exercise valid!).

As we paddled across Loch Sunart it was fun to hear on the radio what was initially French and then German as a sailing boat was trying to guide their friend on a different sailing boat to a nearby sheltered mooring.

As we approached the beach, Philippe’s red van came into view, Jo’s compass bearing was accurate. Nearer the beach Rich managed to find the section of beach which had been cleared of rocks making it easier to take the kayaks up the beach.

All in all a happy gentle paddle with lots of seal spotting, rolling for Rich, hip flicking for Philippe, practicing compass bearings for Jo, and shuussssssh Kenneth enjoyed being in a plastic sea kayak after his Trak!

Trip detail estimates: We paddled in a more sheltered part of Loch Sunart, to avoid the full force of the wind. We only had ~F2 and very little swell during our paddle. HW was at 3pm. We started ~2.45pm & landed ~5.15pm. The route was ~13km and took us ~2.5hr including stops.

Ardnamurchan Peninsula, June 2022

Kilchoan to Sanna Bay, round Ardnamurchan Peninsula.

  • Tuesday, 21 June 2022 14:35 BST
  • Distance: 16.0 km
  • Duration: 5 hours, 0 minutes and 36 seconds
  • Average Speed: 3.2 km/h

We Launched at 12:35pm from the Kilchoan Slipway, and began paddling West along the coast towards the point. 

The landscape along the coast is immediately interesting with lots of rock hopping to be had.  As a result, the average speed was fairly slow due to the number of distractions.  One of the inlets on the south of the peninsula had a nice little waterfall:

Continuing West round towards the point about halfway we stopped in a nice sheltered bay for a snack and fluid adjustment break.

Moving on towards the West most point the geology of the cliffs gets interesting.  Due to the ancient volcanic activity of the area, there are some very striking seams of basalt in the cliff faces.

Approaching the West most point there was some more fun gaps to go through with some good swell surges.

After rounding the West most point, we had to stop for a selfie in front of the lighthouse, which loses out on being the west most point by just over 100m.  After some cat herding we got rafted up for the selfie.

With a view back towards the west most point that we had just paddled past and the Isle of Mull in the distance.

Just as we were rounding the point with the lighthouse, someone spotted a dolphin in the distance heading towards us.  It casually swam right through the middle of our fleet without paying us any attention.  It was pretty big, so we think it was a Bottlenose Dolphin.  The kayak behind in the photo is 5.4m long.

With everyone happy from the visitor, we continued past the lighthouse. Towards the bay that we were going to camp overnight.

We landed in a nice sandy beach and stretched our legs.

Then with some teamwork carried kayaks which were heavy with camping kit, above the high water mark.

After pitching the tents with a nice view:

We said hello to the neighbors:

Then after cooking dinner we gathered round the camp fire for a few glasses of “Chateau Kayak”, a very exclusive wine distinguished by being cut out of it’s box and stuffed in a kayak hatch for the journey.

Wine boxes are perfect for kayaking.  Packaging weighs less than a bottle, it packs into strange corners and doubles as a flotation device once consumed.

Marseille, France: 30 April-2 May 2022

Lured by the prospect of a long weekend on the Mediterranean Sea, three intrepid CKC members set out to explore Marseille and its environs. Fiona, Rich and Nick received a very warm welcome from the Sideral Times Club at Pointe Rouge, where Corinne – a former CKC member – kindly facilitated an impeccably planned programme.

On Saturday, we ventured north from Sideral, accompanied by the club’s kayaking guru Gilbert and a few other devoted members. After crossing the Pointe Rouge harbour, we passed the Prado beach and followed the Corniche coastal road northwards, where Fiona revelled in the rock hopping opportunities. At the end of the Corniche we passed the Maregraphe that sets the zero sea level worldwide (…according to our hosts!).

The Maregraphe

Corinne then led us across Marseille bay to the magnificent Frioul archipelago. Our circuit of the islands started with the 16th century Château d’If – the setting of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. We then navigated Ratonneau island, paddling past Caroline hospital where sailors were forced to quarantine following the 1720 Marseille plague. Protected from the wind by the islands and a two-hundred-year-old breakwater, Rich spent time testing his new GoPro camera and accessories, with impressive results.

Photo of the group in front of Château d’If

Corinne led us to a secluded bay where we found an inlet to land for a blissful lunch break. However, the windy return leg proved a challenge for Nick, who struggled in oversized footwear. The team gathered for a delicious tagine supper at a Tunisian restaurant in town and retired for an early night.

On Sunday, we awoke feeling fresh and headed south towards the famous Calanques national park. On the way we popped into a couple of lovely old harbours. L’Escalette harbour had a quarantine sign, fortunately it was not for us!

L’Escalette harbour

The Calanques are a series of wonderfully picturesque inlets between high cliffs. Although understandably popular with hikers early in the summer season, the area remains difficult to penetrate by road, which ensures a degree of tranquillity, occasionally punctuated by noisy sunseekers and pleasure cruises.

In the Calanques

After appreciating the remarkable scenery, we broke for lunch in Marseilleveyre and contemplated the weather forecast. The prospect of an extended paddle into a headwind forced us to reconsider plans to head onto Sormiou, instead opting to take shelter in Baie des Singes where a playful dog took a liking to Corinne’s kayak.

Returning from the Calanques

However, this shorter excursion gave us the energy to venture out for a delicious seafood supper at Au bord de l’eau in Montredon, where Corinne had secured a prime table overlooking the harbour. After dinner and digestifs we strolled to a nearby viewpoint, where we took in a view over the city, overlooked by the impressive Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica.


We took advantage of the fact that Monday was a bank holiday in the UK but not France to paddle into the historic centre of Marseille: the Vieux-Port. This area has been substantially renovated in recent years and now constitutes a vibrant cultural hub, replete with museums and attractions. Although it was not possible to land, and Fiona failed to secure an ice cream from the boat, the group benefited from expert coaching by Gilbert, who helped us to navigate the busy port.

Port of Marseille

Back at the club, we congregated for a late lunch and slices of Corinne’s almond cake, with Rich taking the lucky slice which made him “king” complete with a paper crown. We enjoyed an afternoon of tall tales courtesy of club chair Denis and of Breton cider, thanks to Corinne.

The three-day weekend went by in a flash and left the whole gang feeling energised and excited for future iterations — notably with Marseille due to host the 2024 sailing Olympics. Huge thanks to Sideral Times Club – particularly Corinne, Denis and Gilbert – for hosting us!

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!

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.

Winter Sunshine, Herne Bay 26th February 2022

Liza, Lorna, Tim, Rich, Mike & Andrew with David on land support with Liza’s dog, Lola.

Six paddlers met in the Kent seaside town of Herne Bay for a winter paddle. There was frost on the ground as we left London, but at Herne Bay we were greeted with sunshine and a calm sea. 

After refuelling at the seafront café, we prepared our boats and Liza gave a final briefing before we launched about 10:30am from the beach just East of the Neptune car park.  In the excellent visibility, our itinerary was clearly visible – first the headland of Reculver with its striking church towers in silhouette, and beyond them the blocks of flats at Minnis Bay, 12km away. 

The southerly wind picked up a little as we paddled East along the shore, paralleling the beaches exposed by the falling tide, with some assist from the Eastward current. We made good time and landed on the pebbly beach around the point at Reculver.

After a stretch on the beach we made our way up the eroded concrete steps to visit the ruined church. Reculver was the site of a Roman Fort Regulbium and in 669 a monastery was founded here. A plaque records how in 1819 Trinity House rebuilt the ruined towers of the abandoned church to make them “sufficiently conspicuous to be useful for navigation”, which they certainly are.

From Reculver it was a straight paddle to Minnis Bay. Towards the end we had to keep offshore to avoid very shallow water and to cross over a couple of groynes. David and Lola met us on the beach at Minnis Bay and we had lunch by the beach huts as the tide turned. We got back in our boats and paddled back to the West, with a following sea. We stopped for a quick rest at Reculver and were back on the beach at Herne Bay by 4pm, well ahead of schedule. 

After packing our gear up,  a group of us went back to the Makcaris café for food and drinks before heading back to London by car and train.

Despite our fears in the Zoom briefing on the Wednesday before, of the wind being too great for a club trip under “extended remit”, we had excellent conditions with a swell under 20cm, wind up to force 4 but mostly force 3, plus sun all day. Thanks to Liza for putting together a great trip, and getting us out on the water in the winter.  

Bangers! Fireworks paddle, Sunday 7 Nov 2021

There certainly were fireworks at Sundays paddle led by the fabulous Fiona!  We set off with starting pistol bangs as the sky lit up behind us with a welcoming display of fireworks captured on video so well by Elsa. You can download the 14 seconds/30Mb video here –

We arrived at the perfect spot mid paddle alongside The Old Deer Park/rugby ground at Richmond to catch the best of the high fliers exploding in glorious blooms up above the tree line and mirrored in the water…paddle-ishiously! Fortunately there where no damp squibs in our crew!

Mary brought some bangers of our own and we had fireworks of the edible kind to fuel us for the paddle back to The Arches. Fiona guided us expertly around the tomato sauce laden napkin cunningly nabbed from The London Apprentice,  my lips are sealed as to the culprit. 🤣 

And the crew proved their mastery by eating sausages with chop sticks alongside their good paddle skills (not at the same time may I add)! Wai had cold feet and was wrapped up expertly in our one plastic bag yet still managed to hop in and bag a sausage!

This brought back memories of frenzied pogo antics in the mosh pit wearing bin bags! Those of a certain age will get it – and those that don’t, see below!

A fun nights paddle, I think I can safely say, was had by all!

White Cliffs and Sea Shanties – Dorset, September 2021

Ten paddlers huddled on Ringstead Beach for a safety briefing as the rain fell and cloud thickened; day one of CKC’s Jurassic Coast trip was underway. The weekend was designed for newer members to gain sea experience alongside seasoned kayakers, supported by Alex, our sea leader.

Dave’s route plan took us past dramatic cliffs, including the 60-metre arch at Durdle Door. Striking scenery, rock hopping opportunities, wave action near cliffs, and a weak tidal stream promised a mix of interesting features in relatively safe conditions.

We planned to launch by 10am to benefit from the tide eastward to Lulworth Cove and arrive as it turned. We made it, though some drivers spent an anxious hour hunting for diesel, foraging as anxiously as any fossilized plesiosaur buried in the Jurassic cliffs ever had.

We launched eastwards towards White Nothe headland in moderate winds. Our three newbies (including me) soon settled, with many helpful tips from more experienced kayakers – Fiona, Liza, Dave, Olwen, and Alex. Fortunately, the rain subsided as we passed vertically folded chalk headlands and geometrically-weathered rock platforms.

Rock-hopping was the highlight of the day. “I’m so glad you made me do that!” yelled Nick, displaying the marine equivalent of summit fever as he shot through two linked arches joined by a rocky channel. My favourite was a rock reef with a single gap-toothed opening that forced the surge high, making for a great ride.

Our first arch was Bat’s Hole, then the mighty Durdle Door. There, the main hazard was other people. A powerful Rib loaded with sightseers stood off to one side, while paddle boarders, divers and swimmers crowded the archway. We went through cautiously, in single file. Between Durdle Door and our lunch stop at Lulworth Cove, we found many rocky spots to swish through gaps and practice catching the swell.

Entering Lulworth Cove, we gave the rock ledge a wide berth. Divers were another hazard, visible as orange floats dotting the water but liable to surface anywhere.

During our quick lunch break, the tide turned. Alex shot out into the bay blasting sea shanties from a cockpit-mounted stereo. As Dave had named the WhatsApp group “Say no to sea shanties,” grudge-match banter over these songs was a feature of the trip. I became a mild convert.

The wind dropped, giving us a placid return run with misty light and muted colours. Back at Ringstead, we tried capsize and rescue drills, before carrying the boats back up the steep track to the carpark.

Over a robust pub meal on Saturday night, Fiona and Dave checked on the newer paddlers’ energy levels and appetite for risk (both high). Several Plan Bs were mooted as the wind was due to rise through Sunday. The most cautious option was a river paddle, up the Wareham River “and down the Piddle” (definitely Plan D-minus). In the end, we stuck to our route into Poole Harbour from Swanage, but as a one-way trip with a car shuttle rather than doubling the distance. 

We pushed off from Swanage in a light chop; the forecast was for a maximum swell of 0.4 metres. More of a hazard was a sailing race and pleasure boats. Soon we reached the leeward side of the towering chalk cliffs, where the wind dropped. Fiona led us into a series of wide-mouthed caves.

We approached Old Harry rocks, the impressive chalk stacks at the headland, in calm, sunlit water, able to relax and enjoy the view.

The tide was just a bit too low to play in many of the tempting arches and gaps at the headland – rocks were sticking up on the far side. Finally, we found one that looked promising, and everyone shot through into Studland Bay, a dramatically different view of a wide, low-lying inlet stretching past Poole.

For the next ten minutes, we did gleeful circuits of Old Harry’s Wife, who has been crumbling lately and may not be around much longer. 

We made for Studland beach, passing a Border Force vessel seemingly close to shore. Thirty minutes later, when we beached on blond sand, it was a misty shadow behind us. After quick snack break to stretch our legs and wee in the gorse, we got back on the water. Jan, our Greenland stick paddler, loaned me his paddle at this point, and it was a revelation – light, easy and natural as well as pleasingly atavistic.

Timings were critical, as we needed to get into Poole Harbour around 1pm, an hour before slack water, to benefit from incoming tide, while avoiding strong tidal flows that could throw up rough water in the narrow channel. Additional hazards included ferries and the chain link shuttle.

As we turned towards the harbour mouth, a new tune, quieter, sober, more reflective, poured from Alex’s stereo, singing of crossing the bar.  

It’s about death, he yelled into the wind. 

Are you OK to carry on for a bit, Fiona asked? 

Yes, I said, ignorantly bemused. If I had known about the hard pull across Poole Harbour that lay ahead, I might have been more cautious. But we were in, across the bar, and turned hard left into the toughest paddling of the trip. The wind blasted our faces, I tried wash riding and found it didn’t work in such heavy chop. Suddenly, it was fun – bracing and brilliant.

We rested on a small sand bar, sheltered by low gorse then set out again for the next peninsular where our cars were parked. Poole Harbour was bigger than expected and had seemed a tame option, but it was a thrilling ride straight into the wind.

Next morning, a gale came up the channel and Swanage was battered by rain and high winds.

As Tudor said, “We got lucky with the weather and the more planning we did, the luckier we got.”

Many thanks to Dave for trip planning, to Jan, who was our overall organiser, to sea leader Alex for shepherding us on the water, and to everyone who made it so enjoyable.