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.

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