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Hayling Island Circumnavigation, Jan 2020

Hayling Island Circumnavigation, Jan 2020. F3, N; HW Portsmouth 0624, LW 1154

Travelling down to the launch point at Langstone Bridge on a frosty Sunday morning in January, as the sun rose into a cloudless blue sky, it seemed a paddle around Hayling Island would be great way to banish those January blues. Although the temperature was -2C when we arrived, after we’d dressed, got our kit ready and moved the boats along the quay, we were all surprisingly hot. Partly that was because we knew we had a deadline: we were launching 4 hours after high water and this meant the water levels were dropping visibly each minute. As the water dropped greater expanses of mud were being exposed. The mud here is a special type that oozes, sucks and sticks to everything, so best avoided at all costs. As a result we carried our boats about 100m along the quay, to launch at the point of minimum mud, and then quickly we were under Langstone Bridge and through the disused railway bridge.


With calm winds, sunny and bright conditions we were able to practice our navigation identifying buoys on the marine charts and matching those on the water, and identifying land based features and identifying those on the OS map too. After ticking off the buoys at Stoke, Sinah and NW Sinah we arrived at the feature unromantically called ‘Concrete Structure’ on the marine chart. In reality it is a Mulberry Caisson, a relic from the second world war.

After a quick snack on the ramp at the east side of the mouth of Langstone Harbour we set off for the next leg. It was now low tide which meant that the East Winner sand bank was exposed and a 2km detour was required to go south and then east round the sand. It looked possible to drag the boats a short way to reach a small channel at the top of East Winner and take advantage of a short cut but we are a kayaking club not a dragging club so we stuck to the sea. East Winner must be a local attraction at low water as there were dozens of walkers on it, lots of dogs and a few horse riders.


Along the south coast of the island there was a gentle following sea from the beginnings of the flood tide. Approaching Chichester Harbour entrance we saw breaking waves ahead and it wasn’t obvious from our position on the water what the best route would be. However, Liza knew that if we stayed out to sea until the red channel marker, and turned left into the harbour only after we had passed the marker, then we could avoid a sand bank and the white horses it was creating. This plan worked perfectly and we had a smooth paddle into the harbour and to the beach near Hayling Island Sailing Club which was the designated lunch spot. A time check showed that David’s prediction of when we would get to the sailing club for lunch was absolutely spot on. The strict schedule was disrupted, however, by a couple of the group searching for the loo after lunch, and we set off for Langstone a full 19 minutes late (as David noted), although it did give us time to check the route on the map.

Checking the route

Paddling up the east side we saw a solitary Solent seal, plenty of oyster catchers and a flock of unidentified birds (a murmuration of dunlin perhaps?). We stayed just out of the channel to avoid the boats, and previous experiences from group members meant we concentrated on not being sucked into deviating up dead end channels to the west, or heading into Emsworth by mistake.

We arrived back at Langstone at about 3.45pm, and landed at the ramp rather than up the small channel to Langstone to avoid the dreaded mud. It was a bit of walk back to the Ship Inn car park and David’s trolley came in useful. After loading up the boats we had a drink in The Ship. At 5pm sharp Tudor and David took themselves to one side in the pub to hold a sub-CKC committee meeting where lots of important decisions were no doubt made. For the record, the meeting closed at 5.13pm. Shortly afterwards we headed off back to London.


A great trip to start 2020 with, which was expertly organised by Liza. It was also Rachel’s first sea trip ever, and Robert’s first sea trip with the club.

New Year Paddle, Jan 2020

A new year, a new decade, and what better way to start it than with a paddle on the Thames. Seven CKC paddlers set off from Kew Bridge on 4th January, led by Fiona, with the objective of paddling down the river until the tide changed, and then returning with the flow. Conditions were good, no rain or wind to speak of, but for some reason the tide never really changed so the paddle back was harder work than expected. Anyway, 17 miles paddled between setting off at noonish and returning before 6pm with a few stops on the way, was a good effort.

We had a lunch stop at Putney but more memorable was the coffee break at Battersea Reach which was at the end of our downstream paddle. Firstly we had some delicious Palestinian bread (cake), then Fiona took (most of) us to a very friendly Italian family run bar/ restaurant/ coffee shop in Battersea Square that found us a table they didn’t mind us dripping on. A trip to the toilets was rewarded with an opportunity to look at their AstroTurf covered wall dotted with plastic flowers. A home décor style several of us will now be copying. Thanks go to David who selflessly stood on the beach guarding the kayaks while the rest of us warmed up with coffees in the restaurant.

The return journey burnt off more Christmas calories than the downstream leg due to the unexpectedly weak incoming tide, but there were fewer rowers to look out for. One highlight was passing Fulham FC’s ground just as the crowd erupted into applause as the home team went one up against Aston Villa in the FA Cup. We then spent a few minutes trying to guess what was happening on the pitch from the noises coming from the stands. Final score was 2-1 to Fulham, if you’re interested. But I guess if you are interested you already know that! There was also a colourful sunset to keep spirits up on the homeward leg.

Those who didn’t need to rush off after returning to base celebrated the first CKC trip of the year with a swift drink at the Express Tavern . If you ever see raspberry ripple stout on offer at your local I recommend giving it a go. Sounds weird but somehow it works.

Looking forward to more enjoyable trips during 2020.

Good Times, Bad Times: we had them all in Seaford, Dec 2019

The weather looked reasonably good over the Christmas holiday period, so it was suggested that a paddle from Newhaven to Brighton on the Sunday after Christmas might be possible. Unfortunately Newhaven beach access was closed, and the tides didn’t really work that well for that trip. Instead it was decided to go to Seaford to launch then to paddle to Birling Gap for lunch, wait for the tide to turn and return to Seaford.

Although I was a bit sleepy still, I was able to drag my bones out of bed and head down to the south coast to meet up with my fellow experienced paddlers. We met up at the Seaford Martello Tower, with its rooftop cannon, next to a small café. This is one of numerous similar towers built along the south-eastern and eastern counties coastline to protect against a Napoleonic invasion. This one, the most westerly one in England, is now used as a museum. Wherever you paddle along the British coastline there are coastal defences to see. This year we’d already visited other Martello Towers at Sandgate and Hythe; the Maunsell army forts in the Thames Estuary (Red Sands Fort) and in the Medway, Darnet Fort, all with Rob Davis at South East Kayaking. We’d also seen numerous Palmerston Forts in our circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight at Easter this year.

The Seaford Martello Tower overlooks a pebble beach, with a steep bank down to the seashore. Waves breaking close to the shore meant that the launch might be interesting. As it turned out we were all able to launch quickly and without incident, only losing a water bottle in the process. As we set off the weather was cloudy but fine with F3 winds and 0.75m waves, with the occasional, and occasionally startling, 1m wave. We paddled around Seaford Head – part of which had collapsed into the sea two days earlier – passed the entrance to Cuckmere River with its complicated moving sand bars across the entrance, then along the stunning white cliffs of the Seven Sisters with the sun now shining and on to Birling Gap.

At Birling Gap, we all successfully landed through the surf only for some of us to get trashed by the surf while trying to get out of the kayaks. As you may know Birling Gap is a bit of a tourist venue, so we were able to provide quite some entertainment for the large group of Chinese tourists on the beach. I’m sure we got onto a lot of WeChat updates as a result too. Here’s how to do it properly:

And here’s how to do it improperly:

Having successfully got our boats ashore we were able to enjoy some lunch in the sunshine, before attempting the return trip. Seal launching from Birling Gap was easy and I’d like to think we got some respect back for that as it looked like we knew what we were doing, as opposed to (some of) our earlier landings.

On arrival back at the Martello Tower at Seaford, the waves looked entirely flat except right at the shoreline, where the waves suddenly rose up to 1m and broke immediately (see photo below). Although we didn’t realise that until we were ashore. So like lambs to the slaughter we all paddled in, carefully looking behind for the bigger sets, only to get dumped big time right on the shore. We all had the same experience: spray deck off and feet out for a quick exit, controlled paddling to close to the shoreline, then very quickly picked up by a huge wave and surfed in so rapidly to the beach that it caused a capsize. Ordinarily that wouldn’t have been an issue with boat and paddler on the shore, but here the back flow of the waves into the sea was immense and all of us lost our boats and we had to really fight to recover them and pull up the beach. Even after doing that some bigger waves caught the back end of the boats and sucked them back out. I don’t think I’ve landed in such a strong back flow as that. It was so strong it dislodged one of my splits and I had to go into the waves to recover that – another pretty hairy experience! Luckily this time the 25+ people at the café couldn’t see any of this as the pebble beach is so steep, so we didn’t get on any more social media feeds fortunately.

With an improbably large amount of pebbles and stones inside our kayaks and water shoes, we retreated to the café, exhausted from the physical effort of getting ourselves and the boats out of the surf. Reflecting on the experience, I realised that having your face dragged along a pebble beach under cold seawater was certainly one way to stop feeling sleepy, and actually to feel hugely energised: good times from bad times, as they say.

Although a challenging trip, it was a perfect safe learning environment for practicing surf landings, but we did lose some kit in the process: towline, sponge, hat, water bottle (nearly: split paddle). Please return these if you find them!

Christmassy paddle 2019

I arrived at Kew on a bright crisp afternoon to a very warm glass-of-mulled-wine welcome and the buzz of activity which always suggests impending fun. As everyone “decked the decks” with festive flair and I met new and familiar faces alike, the vanguard group made ready to push off.

Both wind and tide were against us so I tired out pretty fast (sorry guys!) and we stopped at a suitable beach for mince pie round one.

Under the watchful lookout of Liza, who spotted the next group gaining on us, we pushed on once more.

As we basked in the haze of the gloaming we passed Syon House and beached once again for picnic round two. Amazingly Fiona & Sean had managed to maintain warm mince-pies stowed away in their boats!

When the kayakers and the mince pies had cooled off sufficiently, we headed back downstream to Kew. Now in the dark the fairy lights on a few of the boats looked magnificent – I spotted a photographer on the bridge who thought so too! We shot back at double speed with the tide and the wind helping us home and I learned a bit more about the rules of the road from Liza (port coloured buoys – keep to port side of them!) A lovely view of the almost-full moon later we arrived back at the Arches. We all got the boats away smartly and headed to the ‘Over the Ait’ for a debrief. A couple of pints later, around a roaring fire, I think we all felt merry and bright!  

Here’s to another paddling year!

Kate B

Remembrance Sunday, Teddington Lock, Nov 2019

On Remembrance Sunday the CKC team were joined by members of the Meridian Canoe Club (MCC) for a leisurely paddle from Kew Bridge to Teddington Lock, and back. With our new-found friends from Bexleyheath (home of Delia Smith, Roger Moore, Shelia Hancock, Jo Malone and Kate Bush, among others), the upper Thames put on a startling display of autumnal gorgeousness to give us an almost picture-perfect paddle, worthy of some of the JMW Turner best paintings of the area.

Starting out at 10:30am the joint CKC and MCC teams met and introduced themselves after a short safety briefing, and then we were on the water. Tim, David, Sandie, Sandrine, Phil from MCC were joined by John, Mike, Rachel, Paul, Jacquie, Lorna, Liza (stand-in for Olwen), David and Tudor for the 20km paddle.

Assembling after Kew Bridge we headed up to Brentford in winds of F1-2, and without a cloud in the sky. Liza was trying out her new NDK Explorer boat and looking very much the part, as was Phil.


Passing the pink house (a key landmark for rowers), we stopped for a two minutes silence at 11:00am outside The London Apprentice at Isleworth. After we had de-layered some clothes due to the unexpected warmth of the day, we paddled around the back of Isleworth Eyot. Although David seemed pretty happy to wait for the London Apprentice to open.




Unfortunately, there was no time to hang about and we pushed onto towards Teddington, passing some bizarre boats on the way, one that looked more like a UFO:

On the way Lorna was able to rescue a coconut from drowning and paddled the rest of the day with it on her deck – claiming it as her own ‘Wilson’, or was that Tom Hanks?

With a relatively strong flow against us for the last 20 minutes, due to the amount of rainfall, we arrived at Teddington at 12:30, tied our boats together then proceeded to lunch at the Tide End Cottage pub in Ferry Road. As the tidal river ends at Teddington, the pub is well named. However, the sign outside also celebrates the involvement of boats from Teddington in the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation in World War 2, where a huge flotilla of 700 ‘small boats’ rescued British soldiers from Dunkirk over 10 days.



As well as the history, they do a smashing sausage and mash at the Tide End.

Once fed and rested we prepared to leave Teddington slipway, avoiding the weir and travelling back passed the Lydon School. There were also unsubstantiated rumours that the Teddington Obelisk was sighted, which marks the official limit of the PLA authority, but there was no conclusive proof of that sighting.



Passing the Teddington War Memorial and Radnor School, Lorna looks good:

The herons nesting at Richmond kept an eye on us as we went under Richmond Bridge too.

And although not quite to the standard of JMW Turner’s painting , Richmond Bridge still looked the part as we paddle under it:

On the way back the tidal stream was quite strong (HW was 13:35 at Richmond) and we were able to make it back 40 minutes quicker than the outgoing trip. That made this a very enjoyable Sunday paddle in pretty much perfect conditions, as well as a pretty good pub lunch. I’m sure that Turner would have approved of that too.

Many thanks to Tim for suggesting and planning this trip (as well as taking extensive photos) and bringing the MCC team to enjoy the paddling along the upper Thames tideway.

Industrial Beauty on the East Coast. Isle of Sheppey, Aug 2019

On Saturday 31st August a group of six (Rachel, Fiona, Charlie, Ronan, Liza and Tudor) headed to the Isle of Sheppey. I must confess to never having heard of the Isle of Sheppey, so this added an air of mystery to the trip!

We set out from a slipway at Queenborough in Kent heading down the River Swale. The Swale is a tidal channel of the Thames estuary that separates the Isle of Sheppey from the rest of Kent and forms both a National Nature Reserve and a Special Protection Area.

It was a very enjoyable paddle despite the flat scenery and plyons, as there were lots of birds and reasonably good conditions. And any time spent in a kayak is always good, as we all know.

There was the option of exploring Sittingbourne but this was quickly vetoed by a reliable Irish source….that didn’t encourage us any further!

The weather was sunny and warm and so the lunch stop ended up being sitting outside a lovely pub in a hamlet called Conyer which is at the head of Conyer creek. There was at the start of the trip scope for, to coin a phrase, someone to be paddling up a creek without a paddle….Liza had forgotten her own paddle (preferred) but luckily we had paddles for everyone.

The paddle into Conyer was a highlight with its lovely riverside houses. A nifty little shortcut was taken paddling through some reeds which we renamed as paddling through broccoli!. We pulled in at a slipway to be met by a local who seemed hesitant for us to leave our kayaks there as some previous kayakers I believe had left a negative impression on him! This was quickly dispelled by our friendly faces.

With the tides moving in a favourable direction after lunch we sped on! At times the water became a bit choppy (where the Swale meets the Thames Estuary) and Fiona did an excellent job of instructing those less experienced. The trip ended at a slipway near the Ferry House pub. The weather was beginning to turn at this point so it was a timely finish.

It was an excellent trip enjoyed by all.

Jurassic Gathering, Sep 2019

Sometimes sea kayaking can give important life lessons, unrelated to skill, ability or aptitude. One of these lessons was exposed on last weekend’s CKC trip to the Jurassic Coast: if you don’t wear underpants while paddling 14 nautical miles, the chaffing will stop you paddling the next day.

And so it was that part of the CKC group went Greenland Fishing instead of paddling on the Sunday. Although giving it a different name to normal fishing didn’t seem to make the fish any more catchable. So the Jurassic Coast fish stocks remained safe, with a grand total of no fish caught. At least one sizable fish got away, although estimates of its actual size varied:


But we are getting ahead of ourselves and need to start at the beginning: some of the CKC members joined the first “Jurassic Gathering” paddling weekend, based out of Carey Camp in Wareham. Jurassic Gathering was a long weekend of paddling and training with top level coaches and leaders from all over the UK and Europe. About 80 people paid to attend the event, which had the primary purpose of raising money for the Air Ambulance and was organised by Steve Jones. Steve had suffered a heart attack while out paddling and without the emergency services wouldn’t be paddling today.

Although the charity aspect was significant, CKC love paddling in this world heritage area and have been quite active in this area this year: in March this year, CKC had an entertaining weekend at Poole Harbour (see the post ‘Snowy the Dog Takes up Sea Kayaking – Poole March 2019’) and in May this year, CKC had an enjoyable weekend paddling from Kimmeridge to Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast (see the post ‘Exploring the Jurassic Coast by Sea, May 2019’) in fantastic weather. Once again, the Jurassic Coast showed its best side with three days of perfect English September weather: blue skies, warm temperatures and light winds.


The Jurassic Gathering weekend started early for some members of CKC at least: with an on-the-water time of 10:30am, after the drive down only half the CKC team were awake for the first paddle. The first trip was from Swanage Harbour to Old Harry’s Rock, led by Rich Holt and Mirco Stefan. We took a direct line from Monkey Beach at Swanage, across Swanage Bay to Ballard Point, passed the Pinnacle and then on to Handfast Point. Winds were F3 throughout the day.

Whereas in March we were able to pass through the arches in the point, the state of the tide prevented that this time. However to make up for that, the tide race off Old Harry’s Rock was zipping along nicely. Although the CKC team had limited experience of tide races, with Rich and Mirco’s help we quickly gained confidence. Tide races are usually formed when fast flowing water encounters some kind of restriction, such as a narrow gap or an underwater ledge. This forces the water to behave in some odd ways, including forming standing waves while the water flows ‘backwards’. At Old Harry’s tide race we experienced the strange sensation of paddling forward while surfing waves, then stopping paddling and getting pulled back through the race by the tidal flow. It was a bit like a ski chair lift taking you back to the top of the mountain without any effort.

At lunch on Studland Bay side of Handfast Point we met up with the remaining CKC members, who had opted for a longer lie in with a noon start time along with an easier paddle from Studland Bay to Swanage Bay.

After another play in Old Harry’s Rock tide race we took a wide route out to sea back towards Swanage Bay to catch the tidal stream in that direction. Having got a taste of tide races our next destination was Peveril Point. Somewhat alarmingly, first we landed next to the lifeboat station and climbed the stairs to the National Coastwatch Institution Lookout to look out over the race. From this raised vantage point, the tide race looked quite benign.

After reviewing the features of the tidal race, including the inshore eddy and safety procedures, out we went. At sea level, the waves looked a bit more intimidating. Even with some understanding of the tide race, it still messed with your head – going backwards through waves with no effort – totally bonkers!


Many trips and training options were available and CKC choose to paddle from Ringstead to Lulworth Cove on the Saturday. In May, the CKC trip had put in at Kimmeridge and paddled West. This time we would put in at the top of Weymouth Bay and travel East. Using trolleys we moved the kayaks from the café car park down to the pebble beach. We paddled out across Ringstead Bay, passed Burning Cliff, so called because it caught on fire in 1826 and burnt for several years due to the shale oil in the rock. In reality the site of the original fire has been eroded away, but it seems that the coastline around Ringstead and Kimmeridge had multiple similar fires, including one in 2000. Luckily we had an expert on geology leading us on this trip: Allen Westerby, supported by Rich Holt.

Heading out to the point at White Nothe in F3 winds, the cliffs changed from the darker mud stone and shale to the stunning white limestone cliffs.

The change in rock also gave us an opportunity to rock hop. Splitting into small five people groups, separated by a few minutes, we were able to weave between rocks in the swell and between waves. For this activity it was really necessary to be wearing underpants and the performance of those without significantly declined quickly. So after a quick lunch and ice cream break at Lulworth Cove, we returned to the start point through Durdle Door and Bat Hole.


Some of the CKC members chose to paddle from Kimmeridge to Dancing Ledge. Those suffering from chaffing chose not to paddle and went Greenland Fishing instead.

As in May, we launched underneath the folly Clavell Tower at the slipway on Kimmeridge Bay. While waiting to launch, part of the cliff on the edge of the bay collapsed into the sea.

This trip was led by two very experienced coaches Simon Waller and Natalie Maderova. Natalie had just completed a circumnavigation of Ireland and had previously completed a circumnavigation of Britain in 2012. That was really some high powered company for a Sunday paddle.

We set off in very light winds once again, turning East out of Kimmeridge Bay and across the Kimmeridge Ledges, with only 30cm of water to paddle in, then onto St Alban’s Head. St Alban’s Head can have a huge tide race, but by keeping close to the shore in both directions it was easily avoided. The main issue was to make sure the water was moving in the direction you were aiming for as the tidal stream is quite strong around the point. Again this was easily countered by either being in the main flow or the eddy, depending which way were going.

The coast between St Alban’s Head and Dancing Ledge had numerous caves and ledges, created by quarrying for the limestone. It’s also a ship grave yard with numerous shipwrecks being recorded along this coastline.

As we started to approach Dancing Ledge, it turned out that no-one had actually got that far on any previous trip, and no-one knew quite where it was. Luckily Dancing Ledge is popular with people who walk places rather than kayak, and they were able to confirm that we had indeed reached the Dancing Ledge. We were able to land on the huge ledge next to a large rock pool heated by the sun to an indoor swimming pool temperature.

After lunch, we took the opportunity to get some skills coaching from Natalie.

Then we headed back the way we came with a slight detour to Chapman’s Pool. In Mark Rainsley’s South West Sea Kayaking book, it is described as ‘a lovely secluded cove’, but disappointingly looked more like a quarry to the CKC team.

After that we paddled back to the launch point, packed up, said good-bye to new and old friends and started the drive back in the late afternoon sunshine, pretty tired but also pretty happy with having spent three days on this beautiful and dramatic coastline.


This was the first Jurassic Gathering, and there is already talk of repeating the event next year. To get the most out of this event you would need to have the British Canoeing Sea Kayak Award (3* equivalent).

If you would like to be able to undertake trips like these please contact the Training Officer about how you progress your skills. But please bring your own underpants.


Summer of Fun: Rock Hopping and Paddling, Dartmouth July 2019

A weekend of rock hopping and paddling in the summer sun, around the beautiful south coast of Devon near Salcombe and Dartmouth.

Arriving on Thursday evening, we were the first campers to setup at the Slapton Sands camp site. Although the evening was warm and mild, some CKC members had taken the easier option and rented the mobile home on the campsite and that was to become CKC HQ for the weekend.


So after some fortifying fish and chips and, gin and tonics inside CKC HQ, our attention turned to planning for the next day.

The next morning in brilliant sunshine, we met David Jones from Dartmouth Yacht Club who had kindly offered to accompany us and offer some local advice. We arrived at North Sands car park after traversing an incredibly windy road down to the beach that felt more like the Italian Riviera than Britain. We launched from North Sands as the beach goers started to arrive, and crossed the Kingsbridge Estuary boating channel in a group over to Hipples. Following the coast south easterly with light winds (F2), full sun (23C), waves less that 0.3m and no clouds, we immediately started to rock hop. The coastline here is amazingly intricate with big and small rocks to manoeuvre around; small arches, holes and corridors to squeeze through; blind passages to investigate and reverse out of backwards (or attempt to turnaround).

David Jones leads the way.

Rock hopping heaven

Sometimes the gaps were a tight squeeze.

Other times not so much of a squeeze.  

Described as rock-hopping heaven by one of our group, it was a great way to build up those technical skills required for quick decision making and agile manoeuvring.

As we approached Prawl Point, on land we could see the bright orange rusting carcass of MV Demetrios which was wrecked in December 1992. It was caught in hurricane winds (F10) while being towed to a breakers yard in the Mediterranean. It was washed up onto the rocks and then abandoned by the company towing it. As we moved closer to get a better look at the remains, the ‘rock’ in the sea turned out also to be part of the superstructure of the ship. However, as we were joined by an inquisitive seal at the same time so we had to divide our attention between taking pictures of the wreckage and watching the seal.

Remains of MV Demtrios

We passed around the arch of Prawle Point, although without enough water it wasn’t possible to pass under it this time.

Prawle Point

After a short lunch break at Horseley Cove, we returned the same way. Through the pristine clear water we were able to follow the ropes threaded through lobster and crab pots lying on the bottom of the sea bed and saw a huge spider crab sitting on top of one.

Looking for (and finding) spider crabs

Unbelievably we had spent the whole day rock hopping, covering 23km – the longest distance and time that any of us had spent playing in rocks in the sunshine.

After all that excitement the only thing to do was to retire to the Start Bay Inn at Torcross for a further dose of fish and chips while standing outside overlooking the pebbled beach.

Somewhat surprisingly, outside the pub was an original Sherman Tank. It was recovered from the bay and now used as a memorial to the more than 1000 people who died when a practice for the D-Day landings went badly wrong.

Sherman tank memorial at Torcross Bay

Another beautiful sunny day with calm winds (F2) on Saturday saw us meet up with Tim (who wasn’t able to paddle with us due to eye surgery, unfortunately) and Phil H. both from Dartmouth Yacht Club. Phil had kindly offered to guide us out of Dartmouth Harbour and over to Mew Stone to spot some seals. When we paddled through the chaos that is Dartmouth Harbour, we were pretty happy that Phil knew what was going on! As although very pretty in the summer sun, Dartmouth Harbour has multiple ferries crossing and the truly bizarre Lower Ferry (two platforms pushed by tugs in circular direction from each side of the harbour simultaneously) boggles the mind as to where they were going.

The mind boggling Lower Ferry

Dartmouth Harbour

Phil led the paddle through the harbour passed Dartmouth Castle then North along the coast, where we are able to get a rare picture of all paddlers on the sea by Alex on land, who had set off walking while we were unloading the boats and getting ready.

Dartmouth Castle

Official team photo

Then we crossed over to Mew Stone to look for seals. We had seen a few on the way, but only one at Mew Stone. As it was high water, most of the seals had gone fishing. After Mew Stone we paddled back across harbour entrance, where Phil left us, then headed south to a small sunny cove for lunch.

Mew Stone

After lunch we continued on to Blackpool Sands, picking up a surprising amount of swell (0.3m) as we approached the pebble beach, making timing of the landing and departing between waves a bit tricky, but managed without any dramas.

On the way back we encountered an enormous seal sunning itself, with its tail and head curled up, quite oblivious to us. It seems to be floating on top of the water!

After negotiating the Dartmouth Harbour ferries one more time, we packed up and met Phil and David Jones along with their partners (and David’s dog, Dougal) for dinner at The Dartmouth Inn. We realise that we have a “three Phil” dinner, with Phillippe, Philippa and Phil all together at the same time:

After dinner a short walk back to he cars along the now quiet Dartmouth Harbour, provided an outstandingly pretty end to a day’s paddling.

Dartmouth Harbour at night

Sunday was cloudy but warm (22C), with light winds again.

We paddled up river leaving Dartmouth from next to the Higher Ferry boat ramp and followed Old Mill Creek passed the boat yard, until we reach a very low hump back bridge (1m), but then were not able to get further. We returned back along the creek and headed north to Dittisham. Stopping for coffee on tiny beach with pub on the corner, we found the pub landlord getting ready to put up a tent on the shoreline for their regular first Sunday in the month paella and music event.

Fuelled by coffee some of the group made a quick dash up river to Pighole Bay for lunch. After that we paddled back to Dartmouth riding on the tidal flow passed Agatha Christie’s house and boat house.

After packing up we departed, once again negotiating the impossibly narrow lanes and high hedges of Devon, to the motorway. Then back to London and the end of a pretty much perfect weekend of paddling and rock hopping in the summer sun.

Exploring the Jurassic Coast by Sea, May 2019

There was one thing on everyone’s mind as we set off from the Chelsea Kayaking Club on the May Bank Holiday weekend: Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. The weather was looking a bit uncertain, but we weren’t!

When we arrived at the Primrose Fields Campsite near Wareham, we were welcomed by a Welsh flag and a sea of kayaks on roofs. Some members had camper-vans with fridge freezers and fine wine, others, like myself, had just enough room for a sleeping and a toothbrush (perhaps I should have checked my tent size before setting off).

We got settled and erected our tents. Fortunately, due to its size, mine only took a few minutes to assemble (with the help of another camper and a g&t in hand). Next stop was the campsite pub to discuss the logistics of the weekend ahead.

We deliberated on the weather scenarios, areas to launch from, and most importantly, the paddle time to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. We already knew the sea would be choppier on the last day, so we planned to go to Poole Harbour where it’s usually calmer.

The following morning, we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was a twenty minute drive to Kimmeridge Bay, where we launched from. I understood this was the nearest point to Lulworth Cove as it’s too steep elsewhere. There were a few ribs and paddle-boarders also taking to the water – and I was fortunate enough to get offered a friendly push into the sea. We were off!

The sun was out and it was a glorious day. We were all buzzing to be away from our day jobs and taking to the water in such a beautiful part of the world; I couldn’t believe we were only two hours south west of London.

The sea was calm and the landmarks we’d travelled to see were now within reach via our favourite method of transport.

Wherever you go by water, the view is so different from land. On kayaks you see everyone peering down from the cliffs while you’re nipping in and out of the coves exploring areas they’ll never be able to see.

When it was time for a break, we stopped off at a pebble beach with crystal clear water before paddling to Lulworth Cove for lunch.

As it was such a beautiful spot, the beach at Lulworth Cove was quite busy, so I shot off to the nearby café for a cup of tea and water refill – leaving the others to tuck into their packed lunches.

Next stop: a 20-minute paddle to Durdle Door.

There’s a footpath from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, so it’s no surprise to see a few risky tourists on the edge of the cliff taking once in a lifetime photos. We paddled past rocks that jutted out of the sea which then led us to the entrance to Durdle Door.

As we paddled round the arch a few men in wetsuits emerged, they were climbing the side of the arch. It wasn’t until they leapt into the sea that I realised what they were doing! I was glad for the “safety” of my kayak. We passed a few swimmers towards the entrance of Durdle Door and through to the sea beyond.

The final stretch back was hard work as the wind had picked up. So, we decided to abandon the idea to have a break and an ice-cream at Lulworth Cove before heading back to our launch pad.

It was a tough paddle back, but we pushed through. A few of us had only kayaked for a few hours at a time prior to this trip so it felt great to achieve such a big journey. We were welcomed by macaroons and a rest before reloading our kayaks and heading back to the campsite.

After a warm shower, a change of clothes and a nice meal, we crowded round the campfire with some marshmallows (and maybe 1 or 2 g&ts). Then it was lights out to refuel for Poole Harbour.

After a good sleep and hearty fry up from the local pub, we set off to Poole Harbour – one of the largest natural harbours in the world. There were quite heavy winds so we paddled fast over to Brownsea island (where the scouts originated) and hugged the coast to avoid large ferries, sailing boats and jet skis.

The sea changed dramatically as we paddled around Brownsea island, which was great for developing our skills. The route was well planned, we tackled the tougher sea first with a gentle paddle at the end.

We stopped off at a lovely beach for a snack, which we had all to ourselves.


The water was quite shallow but beautifully clear as we completed the final stretch back. Once we’d dried off and packed up the kayaks, we drove towards the ferry (not before fitting in one last snack in the sun) – what a trip!

Now, my arms are toned, I’ve colour in my cheeks and I’m ready for the next adventure as an experienced sea kayaker.

A Tale of Two Harbours: Circumnavigation of Portsmouth Harbour, May 2019

A clockwise circumnavigation of the Portsmouth Harbour, followed by a paddle through a creek to Langstone Harbour, then out to the open sea, covering a total of 32 km.

The date is Saturday 18 May 2019 – FA Cup final day. If you don’t follow football, you might not remember that a team from the bottom half of the premier league were to play the league winners. It looked like a thrashing even before a ball was kicked. So, what to do if you’re from Watford and want to avoid embarrassment? Go sea kayaking around Portsmouth Harbour, obviously!

And so it came to be, that the Chelsea Kayak Club Watford contingent joined a footballing agnostic bunch of kayakers to paddle around Portsmouth Harbour and through to Langstone Harbour to reach the open sea: a route that was shaped like a figure ‘9’. Meeting up at Port Solent Marina on Saturday morning, we were quickly on the harbour water with light winds (F1) and cloudy, but warm (15C) conditions.

From the top of Portsmouth Harbour we headed south, along Horsea Island, then over to Whale Island, following the Eastern channel around the island. Whale Island, originally just a mudbank, has been built into the permanent Royal Navy training base of HMS Excellent and, even though land based, it is still given the name ‘HMS’ by the Royal Navy.

HMS Excellent is now primarily a training centre and at the south of the island we were able to paddle passed the training ship HMS Bristol (D23), which saw action in the Falkland War in 1982.

With the heritage of Portsmouth and the Royal Navy, it came as no surprise that there are specific rules that we needed to follow to kayak within Portsmouth Harbour. Primarily these involved being 100m away from submarines and 50m from warships at any time. The harbour is regularly patrolled by the Police and Queens Harbour Master Portsmouth Volunteer Harbour Patrol to check, and the Police launch came to investigate our movements, although didn’t interfere with our trip. You can see the Police launch in some of the pictures below.


From the bottom of Whale Island we crossed to Shell Pier, rafting up to congratulate ourselves on successfully crossing the main harbour and managing to dodge the ships.

Shell Pier currently houses a radar installation and seems innocuous enough, but originally was used for loading of ammunition onto ships. The word ‘shell’ has a very different meaning for kayakers and the Royal Navy!

From Shell Pier we followed the coast North, alongside the Royal Navy Armaments Depot (RNAD), towards Fareham, crossing to Cams Bay at Wicor Hard and managed to find a pebble lined beach and lush vegetation to sit on, for lunch.

After lunch we crossed the low lying water Eastwards to Porchester Castle. We had expected that the low water might cause an issue (grounding) but completed the 3km quickly and without issue. Arriving at the medieval Porchester Castle, the solid stone walls look impregnable even today at this commanding position at the North end of the harbour.

As the water drained from the harbour as low water started to approach, our minds turned to making the navigation through Ports Creek around the top of Portsea Island. Paddling under the M275 bridge, the flow of the water was strongly against us and although we were able to paddle against it passed the underwhelming ‘Jackstar’ sculpture by Richard Farrington, the main issue quickly became mud.

With the water draining the harbour and the creek, the water level fell to about 20cm in places revealing a sticky kind of mud. To avoid being grounded, we sought the narrow but deeper channel on the East side of Horsea Island. Once around to the North of Portsea Island, the water was deeper and more free-flowing, allowing us easy access under the railway bridge (a particular hazard at high water) and into the tranquillity of Langstone Harbour.

Meanwhile at Wembley Stadium the FA Cup final kicked-off, with some of the Chelsea Kayak Club members still unrealistically positive about the chances of Watford winning:

Pushing onwards through Langstone Harbour, passed the Mulberry Caisson – a relic from the D-Day landing – and onwards to the entrance, we triumphantly reached the Solent and turned westward, back towards Portsmouth. Although the trip through the two harbours has been enjoyable and enlightening, it is the open sea that really energises the team: the grey clouds clear, the sun shines and the water sparkles. Even though the muscles are weary, we land at Eastney Beach happy that, although we didn’t complete a circumnavigation of Portsea Island, we did complete a figure ‘9’ of Portsea Island. And a ‘9’ is just an upside down ‘6’. Ask any Watford fan.

Editor’s Note: You don’t have to be a Watford resident to join Chelsea Kayak Club. Chelsea Kayak Club is open to non-Watford residents also.

If your preferred sport is football, we won’t even hold that against you if you can do an assisted rescue 🙂