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.......