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 Zoƫ, 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!

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