Thursday, 6 December 2007

Crossing The Finish Line

Days 167 to 175

October 19th to 27th

Leaving Cleethorpes i head down the Humber and back out into the North Sea heading south towards Mablethorpe, as i cross the RAF Bombing ranges at Donna Nook a visitor stops by to hitch a ride. Hearing a noise behind me i turn only to find a small baby Starling fly over the back of my boat and land on my head!! I was some 2km offshore at the time and obviously as welcome to him as an Oasis in the Sahara, he sits on my head for a while before moving down to my deck bag as i paddle him into shore where he makes a short 50m dash to dry land!

The next day i paddle past Skegness (where their lifeboat comes out to visit me) and across the Wash in the glorious sunshine. This is the last of my big crossings and brings me back into East Anglia, its a good trip and because of the low lying land in the region its the first time that im completely out of sight of land during the trip. Reaching Norfolk i catch the tides and end up past the large seal colony at Blakeney Spit to complete a 68km day.

Norfolk passes easily with some bouncy days keeping me off the water for a couple of days. Then passing Southwold i enter into Suffolk, a lack of phone signal when i land means that when i do call the Coastguard to let them know im safely onshore i find that they where only 30minutes away from launching a full scale search!

All of a sudden i find myself on the last 12km of the trip from Felixstowe to Shotley Marina, i've arranged media coverage and sadly found that the RNLI couldn't escort me in due to operation matters!! I have mixed feelings about finishing, part of me is glad to be off the water and safe before winter really sets in while the other part of me doesn't want to give up on the lifestyle of paddling everyday and existing in a small bubble seperate to the rest of the world.

After an Interview with Felixstowe TV i round Landguard Point into the river Orwell for the final few kilometres. I can't help but remember how unsteady i felt as set off 175 days ago on a journey which i had never expected to turn out as it did! Again i feel sadness at nearly being done.

I arrive at Shotley Marina to see a small crowd and enter the marina itself to tie up for the last time. I find that i don't really know what to feel as i land but can't resist belly-flopping into the water to show of for the cameras. Then its to the bar for a welcome few pints!

Total Mileage is 3477.3km over 175 days with an average of only 19km a day when all is said and done.

So whats next - well in January i start with the Army at their officer training school at Sandhurst, after that who knows - i've certainly got a taste for adventure and i know that this is just the start. Perhaps its time to row the Atlantic.......

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Royston Vasey: Local Birds

Days 157 to 169
Tue 07 to Wed 19 Oct

Well, things have slowed down yet again. After a fantastic 10-day run to Scarborough I get stuck by big swell and winds which block Filey Brigg and Flamborough Head.

After two days climbing the walls I make the short hop round to Filey. Here, Barry the RNLI coxswain gives me tea and Toffee Crisps. As we chat the VHF radio in the corner starts chattering. It turns out that the crabbing boat Flourish has been rammed and sunk 30 miles offshore.

Rescue 128 (Sea King Search & Recovery), nearby vessels and other Royal Navy vessels scramble to the area and three of the four crew are rescued. Despite a lengthy search the skipper is never found. It's a sobering reminder of the dangers fishermen face every day. My thoughts go out to the skipper's family.

Leaving Filey the next morning I push round Flamborough (watching the Sea King SAR practise cliff rescues) to the clay cliffs south of Bridlington. I get a little put off by the small clay cliffs here - the chalk bed runs some seven miles inland from here. I hadn't expected these, and my supposed landing at Atwick
doesn't actually have any sea-level access.

Instead I land through the increasing surf on the narrow, steep beach at Hornsea. Disaster strikes here and in a freak carry handle accident Marty the ship's mascot (Halfway to Scotland, 26 Aug) is decapitated. During his short career he performed his duties brilliantly and his loss is sorely felt.

Next day the swell is up again (sea state moderate/rough) and take off is a little interesting. It's a fairly short day to Withernsea where the landing is hair-raising through the dumpy waves. Saturday night here feels far too much like Kidderminster back home.

Weather turns here as a front pushes down from the NW. I spend the next four days at the Spurn Head Bird Observatory waiting to cross the Humber. During my time here Rose and Jean from the Crown & Anchor along with Andy from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust stop me going completely nuts from boredom... though I do worry about their sanity.

After a while here I feel I've learned all I need to know about birdwatching. I make my TV debut on BBC Look North, and meet the Humber lifeboat crew (one of the UK's two permanent crews). Luckily a high pressure arrives and allows me to cross the Humber.

Under control of Humber VTS (stops a repeat of the Thames tanker near-miss) it's a good fast crossing, though a combination of delayed starts, tides and ever earlier last light means I only make it as far as Cleethorpes. However, at least the RNLI crew here recognise me from off the TV.

All in all I'm disappointed by the week. I knew my good run had to end soon, but the pressure is back on to make the finish line by next Saturday!

290km to go, but who's counting...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Cliffs and castles

Days 130 to 156
Wed 12 Sep to Mon 08 Oct

Sorry for not getting on here sooner, truth is I've been a little embarrassed. If I can choose three words to sum up SE Scotland they would be WINDY, SLOW and DISAPPOINTING.

However, before I completely fast-forward I need to mention the fine people of Elie in Fife. Here Angus, Paul and Sarah (along with their mum) give me a bed to stay in and invite me to the Post-Fete committee knees-up. Last thing I remember is gin and tonics (which I hate) at 6am. Oops.

So by 29 September I've finally reached North Berwick (having gone all the way up to the Forth bridges). It's a great sigh with the volcanic plug tower of Bass Rock offshore, a large swell and sunshine.

I get a lucky break and a week (still counting) of light winds lets me shoot down the east coast. I cross back into England and pass the Holy Island (with seals) and the very impressive Bramburgh Castle.

Sadly a heavy landing has holed my main boat so the folks bring up the spare which I use for three days while an Eyemouth-based wind turbine blade manufacturer repairs the red one. Thankfully he does a cracking job!

Crossing Newcastle and the Tyne I land in Sunderland (complete with hoards of little kids - watch your valuables!) and enter Yorkshire.

Here I face a bigger swell (up to 3-4 metres), limited landing spots and high cliffs. Worse still, in Scarborough every pub seems to be a karaoke bar!

I've got less than 400km to do now and while I'm anxious to get back before the weather slides even more I really just don't want this trip to end.

Still, it would be good to get across the Wash (my last crossing) and finish with a bit of style.

Please let the good weather hold...

Monday, 10 September 2007

Downhill from here

Days 119 to 129
Sat 01 to Mon 10 Sep

High winds keep me in Inverness for the next couple of days, i spend my time reading and watching TV in the very relaxed Bazpackers hostel. Its nice to have a roof over my head and not be worrying about wet kit!!

Monday brings a nice break in the weather an i head up NE under the Moray Firth and under the Road bridge towards the Point at Fort George (still an active military camp). I wait till morning to get through the narrow entrance here and then push east again past the sandbanks and seal colonys (hundreds of the beasties and i feel guilty ever time they shuffle to the water because of me - however an offshore F6 wind means i want to hug the coast as much as possible.

I pass Nairn and Findhorn and with increasing winds and swell put into Burghead as waves slap over the harbour wall. Its a nice place and i have a few drinks in the 'Harbour Inn' with the womens darts team before heading back to the quayside for the night.

The next morning i wake to F6 onshore winds, haven't slept well as the tent nearly blew away last night - none of the pegs held in the stony ground and i ended up anchoring it down with drybags from the boat. By 1600 the winds have dropped to a F4 and i set off reaching Lossiemouth that evening, all day i've seen hundreds (WELL MAYBE NOT) of Tornado fighters, Sea King SAR helicopters and Nimrods from the 2 nearby RAF bases.

Another early start in sunshine today (yippie!!!) and after a brief chat to the Lossimouth Harbour master/local reporter i put my head down and paddle across Spey Bay for Portsoy. Along the way i have a regular escort from Dolphins - they come within 5m of me and during the afternoon i watch them jumping out of the water and a couple of times even chasing/throwing fish up in the air then jumping after them. The scenery also changes from sand dunes and shingle beaches to low crags with plenty of caves and arches.

Yet again the wind picks up to a F5/6 tailwind and its a bouncy ride the next day, worse still the boat stills seems to be taking on increasing amounts of water and after 1hr i have to put into Banff harbour to spongee out. Once off again i move past Macduff (great place name) but as the waves pick up decide to land at Gardenstown to repair this leak. Here i meet local man Nick and his Nephew Mathew who put me up for the night in there home and take me to the pub that night. From them i learn an awfull lot more than i previously knew about Lobster fishing.

Yet again its bouncy the next day and as i round Troup Head (home of the largest mainland Ganet colony -- thousands of them) i consider turning back. However i push on and things get calmer once i reach Rosehearty and get round Kinnaird Head. From hear on its south all the way until i reach the tropics of East Anglia.

I head past Fraserbrugh (and a rather badly parked fishing trawler - should it be on the rocks?) and land at Ratray Head lighthouse. here the old keepers house has been converted by husband and wife team Rob and Val into a fantastic hostel so i have a nice shower and the place pretty much to myself until Swiss chap Nicholas arrives.

Bit of a late start the next morning as i say goodbye on the phone to Rhiannon over the phone to fly off to a wedding in the states, we had both planned to attend but a while back it became obvious that i wsasn't going to be finished. Once again im watched by plenty of Seals as i paddle down to Peterhead (where BBC 1's Trawlermen series is filmed) and against the wind and tide toward Cruden Bay.

Once again the wind picks up to an offshore F7-8 so i take the day off and head into Aberdeen by bus to meet my younger brother David as he flys up (only £40 from Brum!!) for the week. I think there might be a bit more drinking this week, uh oh!!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

But where was Nessie!!!!

Days 111 to 118
Thu 23 to Thu 30 Aug

As I mentioned in the previous post I'd decided to go up around the Caledonian Canal, however I still wasn't completely sold on the idea so I decided to make for the Crinan Canal aswell. This cuts off the Mull of Kintyre and would save me two days which I could then have back if I decided the weather was nice enough to go round the top!

Bit of a slog to reach Arisdaig (the Southern end of the Canal) with a 55km stretch seemingly facing force three to four winds all day - felt like I'd worked for every mile! On the plus side I did manage to see around 30 seals in one place, sadly that one place was when I was answering a call of nature floating just off the Isle of Bute - can anybody spell stage fright!

I'd completely underestimated how long it would take me to paddle through the Canal. Although its only 16km long I hadn't really thought that it would have locks on it! I hitched a ride through the first eight of these with the crew of yacht Rhum - running up and down ladders and opening sluice gates. However, each lock took at least 20 minutes and what I had imagined as being a two-hour paddle took all day. It wasn't helped by a British Waterways staff member telling me I had to portage around the remaining locks!

However, as I neared Crinan I passed a small, brightly-painted wagon on the bank. Here Canadian imigrant artist Fraiser beckoned me over and gave me a signed postcard, telling me how Simon Osborne had stopped with him as he paddled around the UK a few years ago. Things turned even more surreal when I arrived in Crinan to find a group of grinning Welsh lifeboatmen on the bank. It turns out that Ross, Mick and Jo who had put the boat up overnight in there RNLI station at Porthcrawl two months ago [sooooo long!] were up here on a sailing trip. Once again the lads showed off Welsh hospitality with seemingly endless cups of tea, mackerel sarnies and maybe one or two beers.

The next day brought low cloud, moderate winds, lots of rain and low spirits to most in the Canal basin and I set out into the grey to reach Oban. This was one of my favourite days so far seeing the islands of Shuna and Luing and paddling through Dorus Mor (a tidal race where the water flows at 12km/h during neap tides!) and under the stunning bridge over the Atlantic. Really reminded me of Alaska with the occasional float plane flying around (when the weather cleared).

Oban was a lovely town and one I intend to visit again - I quickly met up with a bunch of Ozzies travelling around in a bright yellow bus with 'Wild and Sexy' emblazoned on the sides. It turns out that they where on a six-day Haggis Tour and proved very worthwhile drinking partners! Especially thanks to Colin (a moto-cross fan at heart) and Emma (another paddler). However, here I had the hardest desicion of the trip to make - to go up the Canal or go via Mull, Skye and Cape Wrath.

After much pondering and with a heavy heart I set off up Loch Linhe to Coran (a narrowing in the loch some 500m wide) to take the Canal. Over the next two days I make my way up the 96km of the canal (with 29 locks and 106 feet of verticle lift) passing through Loch Lochy (immaginative name - but visit the Eagle Floating Pub near Laggan) and Loch Ness (be warned it's much much longer than you think it is). Sadly the only large beasts I saw as I paddled up the loch where RAF C130 transport planes low flying along it, though a group of six paddlers from Nottingham in three open boats did make more interesting conversation. I must also say hello to Phil - I meet him just outside Fort Augustus and it turns out he was walking from top to bottom of the country - good luck to him.

I'm in Inverness now and looking forward to getting off the Canal with it's locks tomorrow! It feels strange to have cut off so much in just three days but in a way I'm relieved to see the home straight so close. I just wish I could have done the whole lot.


Sunday, 26 August 2007

Halfway to Scotland

Days 91 to 110
Sun 05 to Wed 22 Aug

Apologies for how late this blog is - I've been having trouble getting signal for the Internet!

This is just a quick recap blog to get back up to speed and it needs to cover a few points:

Good points:
  1. My GPS reads 2207km so I'm now over half-way - yippee!
  2. I'm in Scotland!
  3. I have a new trip mascot - Marty the Martian
  4. It's sunny!
  5. The scenery is stunning and getting better all the time
  6. I'm away from Blackpool (sorry if you live there)
Bad points:
  1. I'm badly behind time
  2. The boat's leaking a bit again
  3. My VHF radio is on the blink
So how do I turn the bad into good? Well... I've repaired the VHF using wire wool (yay!) and found the leaks in the boat.

The time issue however still looms. I got Rhianon (my long suffering RAF officer girlfriend) to check with her squadron's weathermen and their crystal balls and the news wasn't promising. Low pressures are expected for the next six to 10 days with NW Scotland bearing the brunt.

Because of this, and the fact I'm so far behind, I've made a difficult decision - to take the Caledonia canal and bypass Cape Wrath.

This will save me time and hopefully mean I don't get too badly behind due to weather.

I hate this idea - it feels like a complete failure as although I can still go round all of England and Wales, the UK circumnavigation is out. Sadly I'm just lagging so far behind though and I feel I can't risk the whole effort.

Worse still I miss an area of fantastic paddling that I'd really been looking forward to.

In a word: bugger.

To end this on a good note, I need to once again thank a whole list of people who have been fantastically supportive in Scotland. From Pete - a folk-singing Liverpudlian and friend of Nigel Dennis who I met in Whithorn - to Sally and the gang at The Ship Inn who looked after me so well in Drummore.

Until next time... (Hopefully with more good news.)

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Blackpool and Morecombe

Days 79 to 90
Mon 23 Jul to Sat 04 Aug

Leaving John's house in West Kirby i set on one of the sections of the trip that i've been looking forward to the least!! The muddy flatlands stretching up between Liverpool and the Scottish Borders.

Before starting this trip i purposefully did very little reading round of other peoples expeds so i didn't colour my views of anyone section because of areas they found difficult, this has mean't that i can judge each section with an open mind. However even with that Morecombe Bay still comes up as the one place 99.9% of paddlers hate - it has shallow water, unpredicatble tides, sandbanks, Shipping lanes and not very impressive views - right from the start of the trip i've been dreading this!!

The section started positively, I pass Liverpool and its sandbanks easily - playing tag with a seal off West Kirby (he followed me for about 2km surfacing and nudging my stern every 2minutes) and paddling through the rather disturbing collection of statues that have been Sprinkled on Crosby beach in the name of Modern Art. Reaching Formby i pass through the Great Altcar Army firing ranges and realise with a shock that i once spent 2 days sitting in a hut in the dunes as Sea Sentry making sure that no unsuspecting kayakers paddled into the range when we where firing - its was cold and dull then and from the water it was no better!!!

Lytham St Annes is the next stop, this is reckoned to be one of the rich areas around here and first glance confirms it - it does however have an awful lot of mud and i spend along time waiting on the RNLI jetty for the tide to come in enough to launch! Blackpool comes as a bit of a shock after Lytham - alot erhh tackier as i paddle through the increaseing Surf past its 3 piers, the Pleasure Beach (with the white knuckle ride - the Crazy Mouse!! good name) and the Tower. I get wiped out and nearly flipped right opposite the North Pier which earns me a few cheers from holiday makers.

I reach Fleetwood RNLI station on Tuesday and mechanic Steve takes me in and lets me store the boat in the D boat Shed. My girlfirend Rhiannon (i was told off for saying she was 'Ginger' she is a Redhead apparently!!) is down for 2 days and as the weather closes in (winds F5-7) we spend the time in Blackpool - including watching the Hot Ice show a 'danicng on ice spectacular' - her choice not mine!

The weather stays poor for the next 4 days with the RNLI staff advising me not to leave! Luckily help is at hand and my ex-housemates Mark and Neil travel up from worcester and take me out on the town for 2 nights of fun. In the process we discover that Blackpool is the Chav capital of the UK, home of Stag and Hen nights and that you can buy Stab vests in the pound shop for £100 (go figure) .

They leave on Monday and the weather clears, i cross Morecombe Bay in a SW 3-4 occ 5 in bright blue sunshine. Its a lovely crossing with Barrow in Furness's Submarine building sheds ahead of me, the Lake Districts hills to the right and Windfarms out to sea on my left. Things start to get alot choppier however as i near Walney Island on the North side of the bay, here an almost standing waves effect occurs as the tide rushes out over sandbanks - it became more interesting and i was certainly glad to make landfall. Such a relief though as i'm across the bay, really feels like a weight has been lifted!

That night i camp near Biggar and go for a drink in the Queens Arms where i meet Dave and Jenny. This local couple live just behind the pub and let me use their shower and sink to clean myself and my pans! They even give me a goody bag of food, bless them!

The weather closers down again and i edge forward through breaking waves to the end of the island, before heading out to Seascale the next day. Its a hard paddle into headwinds and 7hrs work only gets me 37km so im none too pleased, however yet again the scenery is good (Isle of Man on the Horizon and i think i can see Scotland ahead of me!!!) and the natives friendly.

In 1-2days time i should be in Scotland which is really exciting as i'll be starting the most exposed section of the trip. I'm worried about the time i've used getting here and really hoping for a good break in the weather - luckily todays forecast shows a few High Pressures around so i really hope to crank up the miles now.

Fingers Crossed

Monday, 23 July 2007


Days 65 to 78
Mon 09 to Sun 22 Jul

John Driver from West Kirby introduced an obvious but overlooked concept to me. He reckoned that any expedition - be it paddling or otherwise - has three big make-or-break factors that can be controlled:
  1. Your gear
  2. Your food
  3. The people
People will add to and argue with this list but i reckon he's got it pretty close. It's easy to write up days as lists of mileages, ports and interesting rock formations but completely miss the support and fun individuals bring to the trip. Nowhere has made this more obvious to me than in North Wales.

Right now I'm in Formby just north of Liverpool. In the past two weeks I've been helped more than ever by complete strangers.

In Newport there were lifeguards Johnny (on the way to becoming one of the grand master wizards of lifeguarding) and Ffion (on the way to becoming an underage alcoholic apparently) who fed me hundreds of cups of tea.

Newquay saw Kerry [a man] and co. from Cardigan Watersports look after me. While in Aberystwyth Maureese of Seabrin B&B gave me a place to shelter from the rain and explained why the Welsh don't get on with the English before waving me off in the rain the next day.

Aberdovey Outward Bound provided Alice (who gives me cups of tea and let me sleep on her sofa), Fiona (who went round the UK in 2005 and has lots of stories) as well as lots of other very attractive female staff!

One I reached Anglesey things got even better. Despite having man flu and a swim (was a numpty launching off rocky beach at the end of the day) in Holyhead I not only met Nigel Dennis (a living sea kayaking legend and a nice guy to boot), Phil Clegg as well as Axel (cheerful Dutch five-star coach who gave me an über map case) before drinking several pints of Guinness.

Next up was Gareth Jones who drove for one and a half hours from Llangollen to meet me at Red Wharf Bay. He put me up for the night and paddled with me pas Great Ormes Head. It was great not having to talk to myself - saved the singing voice!

Even better that night, Dave, Gareth's brother, invited me to stop with his family in Prestayn. There I found an industrial-sized barbecue and an awesome hot tub - definitely the way to end a paddling day. Considering that Gareth and Dave had only ever heard from me from a forum ( it was a hugely warm welcome.

I leave Wales that day crossing to West Kirby. The plan had been to stay with Barry Shaw but sadly he was off in Anglesey. Instead he arranged for me to stay with John Driver (an experienced expedition paddler and a great cook) and family. John takes me out for a Friday night beer with friend Rose. He's a great host, even though his 15-year-old daughter was out at one of her first parties!

So I reckon John was right: you can go anywhere in the world but it's the people that really make a difference. This is even more important to me paddling alone with no team mate or support to share stories and down times with.

Thank you to everybody who's helped or shown interest so far - it's a great thing and it really makes a big difference to the trip.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Birthdays and The Bitches

Days 57 to 64
Sun 01 to Sun 08 Jul

A new day and a new month brings no better change in the weather. Mum, dad and 18-year-old David have come down for a holiday and seeing no advantage in staying in Dale I leave with them to a rather nice holiday cottage in Newport (the one in Pembrokeshire - there's so many of them).

The new plan is to paddle south back to Dale using the cliffs as shelter from the force five to seven (occasionally eight to nine) SW winds. However, even this doesn't work as heavy swell makes cliff-hugging impossible and aside from a brief surf on Newport beach paddling is stopped.

Instead I watch Wimbledon (when it's on between rain and wind) and remember that tennis is a poor spectator sport for me! Monday 02 July brings mum's birthday (I won't say which one) and on Tuesday my long-suffering (and ginger) girlfriend Rhiannon drivers down from Yorkshire for three days' visit.

Thursday 05 July is my 25th birthday and by now I really want to start moving again. We head through wind and rain to Newport beach to find very little surf but force six winds. Dull surfing in a bad taste shirt from Oxfam (thanks David) before heading to Newport Surf Lifesaving Club for a cup of tea where the 10-year-old kids sing me happy birthday in Welsh! Thanks all!

Rhi leaves early on Friday for the north, but winds increase to force nine at times grounding me again.

Saturday changes everything, however, with lower SW winds and blazing sunshine. We move to Solva and I paddle down to the Stack Rocks via Broadhaven and back to Solva (a lovely natural harbour, however it does dry a long way out - thank god for Kari-Tek's trolley). This is equal mileage to the Dale-Solva run and negates the need for a vehicle shuttle.

Sunday brings an early 07:00 wake-up and I'm on the water just after 08:00. Still sunny with lower winds and less chop. I reach Ramsey Sound just before 10:00 and enter The Bitches tidal gate and race. Named after two rocks in the mid channel this tidal race can cause real trouble and is great to play in. Even in its first half hour or northerly flow it pushes me to 14 km/h as I watch ganets circle.

I quickly pass Whitesands Bay (last here in 2003 surfing with the uni kayak club) and rounds St. David's Head. Turning north east I can see the lighthouse on Strumble Head flashing in the middle distance.

A quick stop at Porthgain (the Sloop Inn is apparently top notch) and I'm off again as heavy rain begins to fall, cutting visibility. I fly across the bay and as I reach Strumble Head the sun reappears lifting my spirits hugely.

Things slow down here as I lose the tide and hug the cliffs to avoid the flow. Here I see two seals and a porpoise as well as passing Carregwastad Point. This is the site of the last invasion of the UK mainland when the French landed 1200 men in 1797. They weren't up to much though - the Point doesn't really make an ideal landing site and when they saw a group of local women in red shawls and tall black hats (local dress) they mistook them for British Redcoat soldiers and promptly surrendered - D'oh!

Dodging the ferry Stena Europe as it left for Ireland I arrive in Fishguard after seven hours' paddling and 48 kilometres. After a bit of faff I find Celtic Dive Centre where Mark lets me store the boat and kindly puts me up for free in the bunkhouse.

I'm tired and sore after eight days off the water but I sorely hope that this is the last really long patch of bad weather I see - it's slowed me down so badly and I can't afford many more stoppages!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Ban all Labrador Owners from Beaches!

Days 51 to 56
Mon 25 to Sat 30 Jun

A controversial start to this blog and I apologise for generalising, but for reasons that will be made clear below I feel it is necessary for the above step to be taken in order to aid Britain's cultural development.

Monday morning brought gusts up to force eight and I quickly realised I wasn't going anywhere.

Wheeled the boat up Tenby's south beach (aching arms) and paddled around the old fort cum zoo cum luxury house cum abandoned shell that is St Catherine's Island into Tenby Harbour.

With the boat stored I head to find a bed for the night. Not really a problem here with its hundreds of B&Bs and hotels. As I go back to the hardbour to sort kit I see a caravan covered in Real Radio 105-106FM stickers and a big aerial by its side.

Closer inspectiojn shows that this is the Doug & Ang Real Radio Breakfast Show Pembroke tour. A quick interview ensues pretending that it's tomorrow morning and I marvel at how artificially cheerful these people are - must be the drugs. Still, I'd like to think that I was more lively than the Pembrokeshire County Council rep!

The next morning brings a slight break in the winds so I set off for Dale, near Milford Haven. This soon slows down though as I slam into headwinds and crawl at 3km/h into the lovely sands of Freshwater East. A quick scout around finds me in the Longhouse bar/caravan park where jack of all trades Luke cooks me a gorgeous (and half price) steak whilst pouring pints and clearing up!

Intending to round St. Govan's Head before the Castlemartin firing ranges open I leave the beach at 07:00. However yet again winds slow me and I put in at isolated Broadhaven beach to await the afternoon turn of tide. From the cliff tops you can watch the infantry practise war games and hear the constant snap of their firing.

Two attempts at a breakout both fail to get me above 3km/h and conditions deteriorate, resigning me to a night on the beach here. As I cook my dinner and dry my kit over the boat I hear the house of "Come here... Heel!" being repeated over and over. Looking up I see a 50-something gent chasing a large golden labrador across the beach.

Fido, as I shall name the poor gormless beast, bounds up to me and deciding my boat warrants closer inspection starts sniffing. He obviously liked what he saw as he obligingly cocked his leg and expelled a generous amount of urine all over my dry trousers and cag.

Now I don't fault the dog - it's in his nature to irrigate things in such a manner. It's the owner - he just shrugged and walked away - who really p***ed me off. He is a prime example of a man whose pet is the intelligent one in the relationship. Please don't tell me all labrador owners are like this.

My mood remained dour until a girl in a group 10 metres away loudly announced that she had 'the world's sandiest f****.' Charming young lady - I laughed.

Thursday starts with a lovely morning (although I didn't need to see the old man swimming naked) and I leave early to avoid the ranges and a worsening forecast. Rounding St. Govan's Head it's bouncier than I expected but the speed is up to 6km/h.

Swell continues to build as the tide races in and by 08:30 it's around nine feet. Then a range boat tears by to announce the opening of the ranges. Spotting me he hoves to and informs me that the ranges open in 30 minutes. He tells me I'll be picked up and driven out.

Ten minutes later (and after a hectic scramble) I'm in a 30ft patrol boat doing 64km/h [current speed record] through what feels like the very large swell of Linney Head. The two-man crew makes me a cuppa (not easy in the swell) and drives me to the entrace of Dale Bay. It turns out the coxswain's sister was one of the oldest CF sufferers in the UK.

In Dale I'm hosted by West Wales Windsurfing staff Jane, Laura, John and Sam. Winds continue to build and the rain comes down so I retreat to the very nice Broadside B&B before dinner in the Griffin Inn. Here, local vicar Dennis is hosting an open mic sea shanty evening. It was certainly strange to watch a vicar play guitar, drink Magners and sing Yellow Submarine! Fun, but strange.

The next two days pass in similar fashion - high winds and increasing swell block the route via Jack Sound to the north. To break the boredom I take windsurfing lessons (great fun, I fall in lots and seem unable to make the board go where I want it to) and take the boat out to practise rescues. Mostly I drink tea.

Dale is a lovely little village but I'm now getting bored and frustrated only being able to stare out over Milford Haven and its huge gas/oil refineries with their large tankers coming in and out.

I'm worried about how slow the first 1/3 of the trip has been. It needs to speed up. Still, at least everywhere seems to be so windy and wet. By the look of the news I should have just stayed to paddle in Worcester.

Fingers crossed this forecast changes soon.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Up the Channel with a Paddle

Days 42 to 50
Sat 16 to Sun 24 Jun

A new blog entry has been added for days 18 to 24 - 'Meeting Dan the Dolphin' - please see below!

I leave Bude in Devon with a full stomach and a nervous feeling about the day's weather - I don't want to get caught exposed on the cliffs.

Coming round Hartland Point the sun is out and day is lovely - and easy 20 kilometre crossing, made better by the escort of 20+ dolphins.

That night Charlotte from Bewdley Rowing Club comes down and we have an enjoyable evening on sandy Saunton Beach watching surf ski races as part of Croyde's Gold Coast Festival.

The next day is a fast run - 55km up the coast and the Bristol Channel to Porlock Weir. It's a speedy run (over 10km/h average) with a great view of Wales to the north.

As I near Porlock the craggy cliffs (with great names like Hangman Hill) change to fjord scenery - plunging right into the sea. Kev [the father] is waiting for me and we eat dinner in the Ship Inn before staying in the Anchor Hotel.

My luck runs out here and high winds kick in across the country - Worcestershire seems to be underwater. Four days of climbing the walls in the tiny estate village, watching telly, visiting Minehead (DON'T!) and chatting to the locals has me catching cabin fever.

Friday brings lower winds and I set off for Nash Point and Porthcawl. I arrive some five hours later after a moderate crossing and a radio interview by telephone. Joe and Ross from the RNLI station let me store the boat in the shed and as I'm wheeling it in mum and my little brother David walk down the pier. Not expecting that!

A nice night ensues with a meal in the Royal Oak (mixed grill looked huge). David and I then took on Karaoke Ken and narrowly missed a night out in the Apollo [apparently aka Appalling] Club. What a welcome to Wales!

A sore head and limp breakfast greet me the next morning (at least I could hold it down - unlike David who was talking on the great white telephone). Back at the RNLI station Ross advises me on the Swansea Bay crossing and I leave at 11:00.

32 kilometres takes me six and a half hours. I'm knackered and I haven't stopped paddling all day. The weather was force five headwinds and the seas felt huge (six to 10 feet) often breaking - the biggest I've paddled in and I was scared for a bit. I was last in Oxwich Bay when I was training at Christmas and I wish it was as calm now as it was then. That being said, the smoked salmon sandwich that was waiting for me on the beach was a great pick-me-up - that is what support teams are made for.

So, Sunday morning and the winds have dropped. The target is Tenby. It's a bit choppy but passing Port Eynon I'm joined by Dave on a sit-on-the-top kayak. He escorts me up the coast through the swell, pointing out locals bits and pieces like the dovecot in the cliff just shy of Port Eynon on the way.

The sun's out at Worm's Head and I see an area known to thousands of geography students in all its glory. I pass between the Worm and the mainland earning a dirty look from a seal as I pass.

Yet another long crossing through gentle swell to Caldey Island. I pass the monastic retreat before landing at Giltar Point by Penally. Dinner is pasta, meatballs and mushrooms, chatting to walkers and watching thunderstorms roll across Camarthen Bay.

A pint in the Cross Inn and a chat to the locals before I walk back across the army firing range, golf course and train line to my bed on the beach.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The Cornish Coast

Days 32 to 41
Wed 06 to Fri 15 Jun

Wake up on the beach and after an interview with Pirate FM I'm off into lumpy seas. Start Point is very bouncy and I can feel my knees shaking against the hull.

Then I'm round and passing the yachtie heaven of Salcombe. It's a short day today as I'm waiting for new maps to arrive in Plymouth. Sightseeing, I put on to Burgh Island.

I've been told that the Pilchard Inn brews a fine pint and does good food. Sadly I was lied to - the Pilchard didn't do either in this instance. Out of cash, I was kindly hosted by the staff of the Pilchard who let me sleep on the veranda. They even rustled me up a silver service steak from the hotel (where Agatha Christie wrote two books). Thank you to all the staff for their hospitality.

Onto Plymouth and I pick up my maps after an evening in the Marina Club (thanks to Fiona the barmaid and Mike the florist for the BB updates!). Fowey is the next stop - a gorgeous harbour with steep sides and the occasional large ship.

As I arrive the RNLI heads out - turns out two kayakers had talked a woman down off the cliffs.
Crossing the mouth of the Falmouth Estuary the next day, a huge bank of fog moves in and stop at Porthowell where I meet Ian and Jackie who are holiday diving - they offer me accommodation in Skye when I paddle round Scotland.

The previous day's flat calm has turned choppy as I round the Lizard (after a tea break in Cadgewith). The Lizard feels really remote and I stop for the night next to Marazion and St Michael's Mount near Penzance.

Then it's Land's End and I'm rather overawed by it. As it's neap tides at 05:00 I decide I can't make St. Ives in one day so stop in Sennen Cove. Land's End is lovely - rugged scenery and the atmosphere is great. However, ship wrecks show that it's not always so cuddly. I also see my first basking shark at 15-metre range.

Leaving Sennen for St. Ives I move up to cape Cornwall. Here are six more sharks including one 25-foot beast who hits the side of my boat with its dorsal fin. You really have to remind yourself it's not Jaws - I'm convinced it didn't know I was drifting there till it brushed me. However, I feel guilty for getting that close - it's not good.

St. Ives is lovely and the harbour master Steve gives me a tour while the boat is stored at the RNLI station. I also meet up with Simon Osbourne and his missus. Simon paddled round the UK a couple of years and and we swap stories.

Next morning they come with me to give me a rescue refresher - the first time I've tried it with a fully-loaded boat. Just as well as I swim on my first roll! However, a couple of pointers (i.e. slow down!) and I nail them and the roll/re-entry. A relief as this is a weight off my mind.

The next days take me to Newquay (Blackpool wannabe), Port Isaac (lovely, and I saw Martin Clunes filming for ITV - also home of great crab salads) and Bude (where the boat overnights in the breakfast room of the three-star Falcon Hotel).

I should spend longer talking about Cornwall - it's been on the most fantastic places I've ever paddled and the people were very friendly - but time marches on. Also great beer - Doom Bar is a fine pint.

In the words of California's guvnor: "I'll be back..."

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Into Deepest Darkest Dorset

Days 25 to 31
Tue 29 May to Tue 5 Jun

Well certainly brought rain to Isle of Wight for bank holiday - the coldest holiday weekend on record apparently.

After Swanage the next target is to round St. Albans Head and its races and past Lulworth Cove to Weymouth and Portland Bill. This I quickly do passing the UK's main tank firing range and a petrified ancient forest off the Kimmeridge Ledges.

Weymouth turns out to be a busy town with a harbour of ferries, diving tour boats, fishermen and yachties. It also has a thriving music scene as Helen (landlady of the Sailors Return pub) shows me when she takes me out with friends to see the town. At 3am I remember why you should never drink with somebody who owns a pub...

Next day I make a 06:30 start to round Portland Bill (nearly an island but joined by a 500m strip to the mainland). Interestingly it turns out that the word 'rabbit' is a curse here. In a tradition dating back to its mining days the locals will only say 'bunny'. The last Wallace and Gromit film couldn't be shown here.

The most boring part of the trip follows - a 20km slog up Chesil Beach. Tiredness, boredom and a hangover mean I fall asleep in the boat and I put into West bay at a happy campers Butlins (complete with S Club 7 wannabes).

Off again the next day and as I need to visit Rhi [girlfriend] in Gosport I need to find a train station. Map says Seaford has one but closer inspection shows it to be a tourist tramline. However Dee the venerable star of Axe Canoe Club comes to the rescue letting me store the boat in their well-equipped shed. She even drives me to the station!

Exmouth is the destination the next day, after a long detour via train to Bristol (whoops) and once again being rescued by Dee. A night camping on the dunes of Dawlish Warren looking at the lights out to sea.

In the morning I'm rudley awakened not by the dustmen but by the park rangers who inform me that this is a no camping area - its an early start to Torcross. I reach the large stone beach in lovely sunshine.

I was last here on a uni field trip getting drunk on the beach and its still brings back a smile. However the calm waters around the beach hold other memories - in 1944 over 700 US servicemen died here when German torpedo boats sneaked through Royal Navy defences and sunk two landing craft.

Tonight however is much more relaxed with a dinner in the Torcross Hotel (bit Fawlty Towers for me) before a nightcap in the Start Point pub and falling asleep under the stars on the beach with the lights from Start Point lighthouse shining out over me.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Meeting Dan the Dolphin

Days 18 to 24
Wed 23 to Mon 28 May

So Friday brings blue skies and high winds - force 5-7 south westerlies. Useful when you want to go SW! Mum is coming down for the weekend so I take a day around Dover. It seems to be a town full of travellers - in two hours sitting having a coffee I think I heard more languages than are present at a UN conference (including an American gentleman insisting he couldn't leave Dover without having tasted real Dover fish & chips).

When the old dear arrives we move to Rye where we have a cottage for the weekend. Here we stay for two days until the wind drops and I put back onto the water, exiting Dover and heading for Folkestone. I soon pass Samphire Hoe where the Channel Tunnel goes underground and where all the spare soil from got dropped.

The wind is behind me and I feel it kicking me around, and as I reach Folkestone I'm getting annoyed. However my anger fades when all of a sudden I hear a whoosh from right next to my boat - I nearly fall in with surprise: it's Dan the Dolphin! I've been warned to watch out for this friendly fella who seems really curious and comes right up to the boat. He plays in the wake, crosses right underneath me and when i stop paddling to take a picture he just hangs in the water right below me looking back up before nudging the end of my boat as he moves away. After 15 minutes he's decided to move on and he vanishes.

The day ends on the far side of the Lydd firing ranges - as section I have to paddle right round the edge of due to the fact that it was in use. I've spent many hours shooting on the range here and it always seems to be cold and windswept - today is no exception.

Another day off the water with high winds and I'm back on again. I set off at 09:00 and soon fly round Dungeness Nuclear Power Station.

Crossing Rye Bay I cut a little too close to the Hythe firing ranges - the safety boat comes out to move me 500 metres out to sea and after a brief chat the crew end up donating £5. I arrive at Hastings at close to 15:00 and meet mum on the beach for chips and cinder toffee (life of luxury having ground crew!), then at 16:30 I'm back on the road again to hop across to Eastbourne.

I park up in the marina where a rather confused-looking manager lets me through the lock (first time they've seen a kayak). It's a really nice marina and it's got lots of very posh-looking houses around it. The kayak goes on a jetski pontoon and I stay in the Marine Hotel.

Next days it's a late start to catch the slack tide around Beachy Head as well as do a few media bits and pieces. It's a great sunnny day and as I wait for the lock to open I chat to a young lad on a jetski next to me - turns out he's a rugby professional from Harlequins who spends the out-of-season times sailing and playing around on the sea. He also delights in showing me just how fast he can go compared to me!

Beachy Head and the dreaded Ledge which I've been warned about by the lifeboats and nearly everyone else - in the event it's just a tiny ripple with gorgeous views down to the Seven Sisters.

These are probably the most famous cliffs in the world being seen as a more photogenice substitute for the 'White Cliffs' of Dover. As such they find themselves in all kinds of films!

As the sun goes down I realise that I won't make Brighton today and search for a place to put in. Seeing a flock of sails of Seaford I head for the clubhouse of the Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club. It's a nightmare drag up the shingle and only at the top do I find the club uses a winch!

The club is really friendly and let me sleep in their boat park. There's hot food in the galley and a bar as well! After a pint it's a few photos and a very in-depth interview from 11-year-old Zoë, Toby and their dad. Questions such as "What's the boat called?" and "What's the best food you've ever had?" for the local paper. Many thanks to all the members of the club!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Crossing into Kent

Days 12 to 17
Tue 15 to Tue 22 May

Distance covered: 192km

So it's an early start on Tuesday - I stumble out and the first order of the day is a radio interview with Howard on the BBC Hereford & Worcester Breakfast Show. Not what you need at 07:30 that's for sure!

With that completed I can get on with the biggest challenge of the day - crossing the river Thames, my first big 15-kilometer crossing and major shipping route no less! Tides are at midday so I've got a while to prepare and drink tea at the Southend Marine Activity Centre. While I'm there I'm told of the USS Montgomery wreck on the far side - she was an American WW2 cargo ship that sank with a full load of unexploded bombs. Though the fuses and bombs are kept in separate parts of the ship many still wash up onshore and need to be dealt with. Worringly they say that if the ship ever goes bang it will send water 3km into the air - goodbye Southend!

At 12:00 it's time to start the crossing. A headwind's picking up and it looks a bit challenging, but I'm told by weathermen that it will calm down at 14:00 so off I set. It's knackering with big breaking waves and constant wind - my speed is only 4km/h and if I stop paddling I start going backwards! Reaching the middle of the channel I come to what I think is a marker buoy for the shipping lane and see a large cargo shio bearing straight at me - a brief panic and I realise it will just miss me! In the event a Stena Tiger passes 250m to my front: I need to change my underwear!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Essex Marshes (Part 2)

Day 11
Mon 14 May

Distance covered: 30km
Weather: wind 4,5-6 sw

Another early start. The Crouch looks rough but I'm determined not to get stuck again.

Cross Crouch - lots of white horses and chop but quieter on south side. Today's route takes me right down past Foulness Island, army firing ranges with danger areas marked up to 6km offshore over extensive mudflats that show at low tide.

I hug the island to keep out of the wind and 3km in I'm called to the side by a MoD plod (military civil policeman) who doesn't look happy. He tells me I shouldn't be here but that so long as I don't land I can go on. I'm being watched by CCTV though - bloody big brother.

As I paddle southwest I can see the two old Thames anti-aircraft forts out to sea. Built during WW2 to protect London from German bombers, nobody is quite sure what to do with them now. The government sold them back in the '60s and they're abandoned now. I can also see the start of what appears to be a huge wind farm and a lot of big, big ships - a far cry from yesterdays

Hard work moving into the wind and I tire fast! Heavy rain comes in and as I reach the end of the island I can barely see 500m. BBC Hereford & Worcester then ring to arrange a morning interview. Timing!

I round Shoebury Ness fighting both wind and the ebbing tide: knackering. Reaching Southend I see a cluster of dinghies on the beach which turns out to be the council-run Southend Watersports Centre. Here I'm kindly given tea and a place to leave the boat overnight. Then I'm off to find a B&B: £45 a night for the pleasure of sleeping in a bed. The shower makes it worth it though :)

Now I'm out to see what Southend has to offer. Tomorrow is the Thames crossing...

Essex Marshes (Part 1)

Day 10
Sun 13 May

Distance covered: 18km
Weather: SW 4 building to 8

Wake at 05:30 feeling a litle tipsy. Water is flat calm, with no tent to pack I'm up and away fast!

Cross the Blackwater Estuary to St Peters flats. As it's only two hours off high tide I can cross right over the mudflats that go up to 3km offshore.

Wind and seas build as I travel south and by 08:30 its a good chop (as it's so shallow). Lots of confused water as I pass a line of eight barges that have been sunk about 500m offshore to form a barrage.

Bit later on and I'm getting lots of white horses. Morning is made by seeing two seal pups on the bank, I sit 300m away to watch for a while as three adults make sure I don't come closer.

Reach the mouth of the Crouch Estuary. Big chop here. I've lost the tide and can't fight both a head wind and the tide so put in here to wait out the tide.

Weather gets worse and I decide to stay the night where I am next to an old WW2 bunker on a ledge 2m above the sea. Oddly there's a seaweed covered Rover Metro in the water next to me.

The Marshes are an odd place: flat as a pancake and very bleak in the rain but lovely in the sun with swallows flying around. I don't hate them though as finally I'm moving!

Mersea Island

Days 6 to 8
Thu 10 to Sat 12 May

No movement, winds always high with annoying occasional drops down to 4s. Never lasted more than one hour though.

Learned a lot about my current home, a complete island it is cut off from the rest of Essex at high tide when its causeway is covered. Its Essex's version of Benidorm with caravan parks all over and nearly 600 beach huts. Also apparently has one of the highest concentrations of millionaries in the UK. It's also great for oysters which are grown in beds here.

Got chatting to the island's kite surfers on saturday - hoping for winds to drop but they never did. Looks a great sport - they move pretty fast and jump up to 30ft. Lunatics. A great bunch of lads who kindly took me out to have a few beers at Waldgraves caravan park bar, then let me sleep in their club beach hut. Bliss I have a proper roof and lighting – and I'm a little tipsy ;)

Thanks to all of the surfers that day - sadly I can't remember all their names.

Sunday 13th promises a weather window. Here goes!

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Stop, stop, START!

Day 3Mon 07 May

High winds stop paddle, instead of going to burnham I have lunch with my granny. Oh the excitement.

Day 4
Tue 08 May

Sit on clacton beach for three hours, wait for wind to drop from force 6-8. It doesn't. Try retail therapy, buy new tent and sleeping bag. Feel much better.

Day 5
Wed 09 May

Movement!!! Winds force 3-4 westerly (headwind) BUILDING to force 8 in the afternoon. On water at 9am. Heading for West Mersea island Essex. Dst 18km.Takes 2hrs 40min. Feels great to be paddling again. Arrive before midday. Camping at Seaview Caravan Park 15min from town centre. New tent very warm even in high winds. Four pints at the White Hart Inn chatting to Colin the landlord might've helped that though. Tomorrow: predicted strong winds in the morning. Should be calm later on. Hope to make Burnham if winds drop early.

Night night!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

The Begining

Day 2
Sun 06 May

Well its started!!

After all the planning I'm finally off, the First day was a nice paddle from Shotley Slipway across to Clacton on Sea a distance of 26km.

I was mean't to cross the start line at Midday but due to a last minute delay (the delivery man only just made it with my new Lendal blades in time, thanks Nick!) and the usual family goodbyes i set of at near 1pm to a nice, if rather small, turnout - still it was great to see so many people who had heard about the event and just come down. Weather was slightly overcast, little swell with NE Force 4 winds.

Going out past Harwich and the Felixstowe docks you get a great view of one of the UKs biggest container port - some real beasts of boats in there. Before heading out into the North Sea for the first time. Being a bank holiday mean't that i had loads of company for the trip down and i set off at a leisurely 7kph cruising on the last of the flood tide and looking at my neighbours. Felt great to be paddling and actually started.

After a bit of chop by Naze Tower headland i headed down past Walton on Naze to Frinton on Sea. By this time it was nearly 5pm (had stopped for a couple of pee breaks!), so i hauled out here and after meeting my folks headed back to the ranch for a nights sleep.

8am Today!

Bit of a change really, early start to catch the first of the flood tide and make a good mileage today - plan was to get to Burnham on Crouch (4okm) or Brightlingsea (20km) as a back up. However forecast showed Force 5-7 SW head winds and by the time i reached Clacton i'd worked out that i wasn't going to make my targets today! Quick mental arguement and i decided that it wasn't a day for open crossings around 2k wide mudflats. This means that i have the rest of the day on the beach - its taken me 2 days to make day 1's targets and no matter how sound the reasoning im not happy!!

Rest of the week shows strong winds and a low sitting over the UK - tomorrow looks right out but im hoping that later in the week Tuesday-Thursday i'll be able to nip round in short hops through force 4-5s.

No pictures as i forgot the camera in my rush to be off - however they'll be some on my website shortly.

Keep your fingers crossed that this low buggers off quickly!!

Friday, 4 May 2007

The eve before

Well here we are, after nearly 8 months of planning and preperation we're now less than 24hrs from starting the exped. And hopefully it will be the last time i see that view of Worcester!!

Its now time for the final kit checks and minor preperation and i have to say that there are thousands of things left to finish off - from printing maps off to arranging press cover.

Slightly more worrying is the fact that the weather forecast for the next week shows a change in fortune from a stable high to a rather interesting low pressure system - Force 5-8 winds predicted around the first 2 weeks of the paddle. This could be a problem - might be a slow start!!!

Anyway time to rush - speak to you all later!!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Dinners, Beer and Boats

Morning all,

Well time is ticking down, with only 3 days to go i have said goodbye to Worcester and moved across to the start line in Suffolk.

Its been a hectic week moving house, prepping kit and most importantly socializing!! Friday 27th April saw the Charity Dinner and Auction at the Whitehouse Hotel in Worcester, where 83 people from across the county turned up to help support the Cystic Fibrosis Trust...............and drink my wine!!

Despite my nevres at having to do a speach the whole event went fantastically and i didn't get too many bread rolls thrown at me!! As the photos show a good time was had by all with Sean the Inflatable Sheep being the most popular Auction prize raising £21 for the charity!!! A few hard core alcoholics moved onto the tiles at 12.30 when all the food was served and i believe Sean was seen amongst them.

Once again thanks to all who have came and in particularly to Charlotte B for bullying people out of their money on the Raffle and Angela/Shelia for saving me in early afternoon from a hell of tying balloons! Overall the event raised over £1000 taking my total to over £3000!!!

So now im in Suffolk, meeting sponsors and doing interviews as well as trying to get out on the water as often as possible. Sadly the weather isn't playing along despite being lovely and sunny has strong Easterly winds, lets hope these calm down by Saturday.

See you on the water!!

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Collecting in the Street

A busy 7 days gone by - things are picking up speed and the money is really starting to come in for the charity now!

On the 28th of March we did the first of 3 Charity collections around the county - this time at Kidderminster. This was the first time that i've done this and i'd be lying if i said that i wasn't nervous - was really not sure how this would go down. So on a rather windy day at 10am we set up the boat on its stand and started rattling (well not rattling - against council rules) the tins. Lots of interest and a few puzzled children later (general view - im mad!) and we came away having raised nearly £250 in 5 hrs.

A few days later and we're coming up to the bank holiday, this time its a bit of a road trip down to Devon to see Chris Reed of Chillcheaters down in Brauton. Having convinced Rhianon (girlfriend) to drive we set off to pick up kit and see what Reed could do for the trip. A fantastic day out and every paddlers paradise (so much kit) gave a great insight into what Chillcheaters can do and how they do it - great to see how they can tailor make equipment. A good meal out that evening in Croyden and a nice relax on the beach and we're back to Worcester with a car full of great kit.

That brings us to today, bank holiday Saturday, and the 2nd of the Street Collections in Worcester. A bright lovely day and a few strange looks as i wheeled the Explorer through the town centre saw us set up outside the Guildhall. Working in shifts right through the day we got a great response and several hours later the final count comes to £550!!! Well done Worcester. Winner for the day was Rhianon with her collection bucket (aka flower pot) and a total of £183 in.

Many thanks to all who helped during the collection days especially to Andy from the Phoneworks who pressganged his entire family into collecting in Worcester

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Only a Month to go!!!

Hello all,

Its been a bit of a while since i was last on here but things have been crazily busy! So far everything is moving along fantastically and its looking good for starting on May 5th.

So to fill you in whats been happening so far:

Outdoors Show March 18-19th

Many thanks to Nigel and all the lads from Sea Kayaking UK for hosting me at this years NEC outdoors show and providing me with the boat that i'll be using for the expedition (seen pictured behind us). The show was a great success for me thanks to Nigels help and introduction i also brought onboard Reed Chillcheater as my equipment sponsor (thanks to Chris), Lendal to supply my paddles and Kari-Tek have given me one of their fantastic trolleys to help me get to and from the water.
Despite there being fewer retailers at the show it was a great event and attracted alot of good feedback and promises of help on the way round.
Many thanks to all.
Aside from this im now back down on the water almost everyday (despite a Ford Ka driver trying to push my Landrover off the road a few weeks ago - thankfully Discoverys are built thougher than Fords and nobody was seriously hurt).
I finish work in 3 days time and then its full steam ahead on final planning. I am nearly fully stocked with my equipment and all im missing is food now - time to get to Mr Tesco and Sainsburys and buy as many super noodles as i can i think.
Hope alls well and speak to you soon

Sunday, 7 January 2007

London Boat Show 2007

So the first event of a new year is here and its already looking like its going to be a busy one. I've just got back from the London Boat Show where the lads from Ocean Training (see the sponsors page for more infomation on them) had invited me down to do the offical press launch for the trip.

After a couple of good interviews with various jornalists it was time to hit the show to see who else was out there and what bits of kit are new on the market. Spoke to alot of people and fingers crossed there will be a bit more to say in a couple of weeks time.

Well its back to the grind stone - got to get some more letters out before tomorrow.

Enjoy all