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!!