• M52 of 2022
    Putney Bridge Arch Closures and Local Traffic Control
  • M51 of 2022
    Greenwich Reach to Cross Deep - The Great River Race - Local Traffic Control, Pier and River Closures
  • M50 of 2022
    Lambeth Reach - Lambeth Fire Pier Works & Obstruction
  • M49 of 2022
    Charing Cross Rail No.1 Arch - Smart Signal Lights
  • M48 of 2022
    Nine Elms Reach - Vauxhall Bridge Combined Sewer Overflows

Dartmouth, July 2022

My first sea kayaking trip with CKC to Dartmouth… and it couldn’t have been more perfect! Arriving Friday night to the best camp site – Sea View – in Slapton, run by a lovely family. This is a regular campsite for CKC when paddling here with great amenities making it very comfortable and it was beautifully spacious and quiet. Giving the space and peace for a good night’s sleep to recoup between paddles.

The first paddle along Dartmouth’s estuary to the sea was a delight, and very interesting maneuvering around a busy harbour that happened to be full with a vintage boat regatta, and the ferries to avoid.  All great skill practice!

There were views from the sea that can’t be seen from land – castles and mermaids (really!), deserted coves, caves to explore and rock hopping galore.

Castle and Mermaid (and seagull)!

We enjoyed a good mix of sea conditions: calm, slightly choppy, calm, windy. All great experience, we took our time and stopped in coves for lunch, swimming, sunbathing and practicing self rescue and assisted rescues and lots of practice with paddling skills around the rocks.

My favourite day was paddling out of the estuary to The Mew Stone where we spent lots of time with the Atlantic grey seals who where very mischievous sniffng our boats and playing with the stern toggles and swimming under our boats, an experience I will never forget!

I got lots of encouragement and skill sharing from Fiona and built up my confidence moving around through and across the rocks using the swell to help me across. I had lots of advice to help me get more out of my next trip so I can be even better prepared, develop my skills and knowledge to be able to support our peer paddles in the future. Great company with the CKC crew and some good meals and drinks together in beautiful Slapton village with a pleasant walk there and back to help rebalance the sea legs! Can’t wait for next visit!!!! In fact I’m still in Slapton at the camp site a week later as don’t want to leave!

Saturday we went from Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands and back. Winds F2 and sea calm except for boat wash.

Sunday we went from Dartmouth to Mew Stone and round Pudcombe Cove for lunch, rest and self rescue practices.  

Sanna Bay, Scotland, 22 June 2022

On this morning of our West highland adventure we were to wake up in our tents on a headland known as Sanna Point on the North coast of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. We were in thick mist and cloud which was very atmospheric and part of the Scottish experience.

Looking back on this day it is good to reflect that not all days will be about moving forward on day trips, having a beach lunch and getting from A to B as planned, but can also be about gaining learning from the different potential and real incidents that occur. On this day the day did not go as planned and we had four main learning points.

Towing an empty boat. Firstly unfortunately one of the group was not feeling very well and did not feel able to get into his kayak and paddle. Deciding to walk back to the basecamp meant we had to tow his empty kayak back to Portuairk before we headed East for the day. Towing an empty kayak is not always straight forward if the weather conditions are a bit challenging – which they were starting to be. Anyway it was achieved by Jan taking the main tow and Rich holding the boat steady with a tow line at the back with Liza supporting them and acting as the communication link between them. We’d not done this for real in windy conditions before, so was a very useful learning experience. It was also very positive that the communication, planning and execution all worked effectively.

We met with some others of our group at Portuairk, then headed off together on our trip for the day.

TRAK kayak in choppy swell and windy conditions. The swell and wind were building a bit, F3 as we moved out of Sanna Bay. One of the group with his own foldable kayak that fits in a large bag, a TRAK (TRAK®: Ocean Sea Kayaks – Portable Performance Kayaks For Sale (trakkayaks.com), was struggling to keep straight in his kayak.

He had used the hydraulics system to ‘improve‘ his rocker in a way that looked like he was sitting in the middle of an extremely U-shaped banana! No wonder he could not steer the boat easily. Once he had shifted the rocker hydraulics to be flatter he was able to make some better headway. These kayaks do not have a skeg so will always be challenging to handle in bouncy sea conditions with strong wind.

Rescue of capsized paddler. The group was just about to pass through some rocky islets with waves breaking onto the rocks, when one of our group capsized. We immediately split the group with one person taking the majority of the paddlers to a calm inlet. Meanwhile the paddler in the water and their boat was towed out of the rocky islet so that an assisted rescue could be performed, without the risk of being pushed onto the rocks.

While the rescue was successful and neatly executed, we could see that an excess amount of rope in the water that had been used for towing could have made this rescue a lot more difficult. Once the paddler was back in the boat they needed time to recuperate and also get changed.

After this, the situation was reassessed and the decision made with the current weather and sea conditions that the rescued kayaker would struggle to continue with the day’s trip plan and we headed back to Portuairk.

VHF radio communication. The main group had also re-assessed the weather and sea conditions and decided to abandon the day’s trip also. This was effectively communicated on the radio so that all the group understood the situation and were all able to land safely at Portuairk, without re-grouping first.

‘The Sea’s the Key’ – Monday 20th June 2022 – Kilchoan to Tobermory and back

We set off eastwards along the same route as our leisurely paddle on the first day, but this time without loitering. Although Kilchoan is almost opposite Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, a southwest wind made a direct crossing impractical. Instead, our plan was to hug the coast with the wind behind us and cross in two stages; first from Ardnamurchan peninsular to the mainland at the narrowest point, then across the Sound of Mull into Tobermory’s postcard-pretty harbour.

To get home, we intended to paddle northwest along the tip of Mull then cross back to Kilchoan with the wind sending us in the right direction. Or, as Tudor said to dismissive chuckles, we could put our boats on the ferry. His suggestion seemed less ridiculous as the day wore on.

Most of the group turned out of Kilchoan bay smoothly, unflustered by wind and waves hitting from the side, but some (me) found it trickier. Wind was F3 all day with waves 0.5m, not breaking.

Skills gained in Spring training sessions were put to the test, with humbling and wobbly results. Progress was a slog, despite having the wind behind us, as less experienced paddlers struggled to anticipate waves from unpredictable directions.

We pulled up on an isolated shingle beach to refuel with sandwiches before the crossing. A mountain blocked access from the land – unfortunately, as Kenneth’s phone went missing here.

Bright sun and breezes were giving way to grey cloud, and drizzle as we set off. We aimed for a rock in mid-channel – in fact we aimed behind the rock – but as some passing in front anyway we soon abandoned the finer manoeuvres and headed instead for a red buoy and Auliston Point beyond it.

We had turned into wind. More effort, yet easier as there’s only one thing to do, and that’s dig in. David reminded me to dig my blade into the face of the oncoming wave. Timely advice.

At Auliston Point, we tucked into a rocky inlet so everyone could get their legs out of the boats and waggle them to dispel any pins and needles. What had looked like a building turned out to be a huge pile of lumber.

We expected conditions would be gentler in the Sound of Mull, as the island gave shelter from the SW wind. It wasn’t. Some lumpy water lay ahead, so we split into two groups – double ‘hamburger’ formation – divided into stronger paddlers with David and Tudor, and less experienced kayakers shepherded by Liza, Fiona and Phillipe. As the experienced group disappeared into the wind and rain, Fiona stuck close to my boat all the way.

The first half was choppy, with unpredictable waves were the waters of the Sound mingled with the main channel, and it was hard to see Tobermory through the drizzle. But eventually, things calmed down. We spotted the others again, and the jetty ahead. Liza decided we should make straight for the jetty.

We carried our boats up to the top as fast as possible, as a ferry sped in. Fortunately, it was a tour boat back from tiny Staffa island that went past to dock elsewhere. Tudor’s suggestion that we take the ferry back had majority support from us weaklings by this point.

We set off to look for the others and admire Tobermory, whose brightly painted houses in ice-cream colours look more Neapolitan than Hebridean. The Pier Café fish and chip shop’s kitchen was closing but they kindly stayed open a few more minutes. There’s nothing that doesn’t seem better after a bag of chips, and we waited eagerly for what turned out to be irresistibly chunky, skin-on fries.

Kenneth, Joanne, Rich and I opted to take the ferry back with Fiona leading our group, while the majority disappeared into the murk to paddle back from Mull’s north shore. They made it, and so did we. The ferry docked a few kilometres from Kilchoan, and we made our way back. It was a varied and enjoyable trip that tested my skills and proved there’s no substitute for time spent on the sea.

Distance: 31.8 km, about 25km for the slightly shorter trip with the ferry
Duration: 8 hours, 30 minutes
Average Speed: 3.7 km/h

Greenland Rolling Practice, Scotland, June 2022

Kilchoan is home to a small and active kayaking community which includes Geoff, one of the founding members of Chelsea Kayak Club, as well as Martin and Nicky who recently set up a small business in Kilchoan to produce Greenland paddles. Learning that we had a small group of Greenland paddlers and interested kayakers within CKC, we were therefore invited to join the weekly rolling and rescue session in Kilchoan harbour. The session was scheduled on a Wednesday evening, which happened to be upon the return from our overnight paddle and camping and meant that we were still tired, wet and cold from the day. Participants in the rolling and rescue session were Liza, Rich, Matt and myself, Jan.

The session was very effective, breaking down the movements of the standard Greenland roll into four simple steps which had to be followed in order to successfully put the boat upright. We started rolling in the grass with our respective sticks, before rolling in the grass with boats, and finally proceeding with rolling exercises in the water in pairs.

Liza who already was able to role proficiently prior to participating in the session, was able to replicate the basic Greenland roll  in the water with ease. Rich was new to Greenland paddles and had not been able to routinely roll before; he learned quickly and soon managed to roll without assistance. Matt comes from white-water kayaking, an environment where rolling skills are crucial. Being used to flipping short white-water kayaks, Matt succeeded to flip his sea kayak forcefully, to the extent that he initially hip-flipped his boat into the upright and immediately back under water on the other side.

For my part, I’m excited about having learned and practiced the basic steps of the basic Greenland roll, hoping to not forget everything until the next time when we are on the water! In the meanwhile, I shall keep practicing on the grass.

A great thanks to Martin and Nicky for introducing us into the technique of rolling and their patience with us, and to the Kilchoan kayak club!

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.

Montredon

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!