Friday, 6 July 2012

Getting the window .... paddling the English Channel

Crossing the English Channel by sea kayak, was to be the beginning of Alice, Erin and Marks three month paddle to reach Finland.  A challenge that stands alone as it is and is sort after by swimmers, SUP, rowers, kite surfers and basically any craft, these days!  Being the busiest shipping lane in the world makes the paddle more complicated and hence expensive, as a safety boat is required.

Up at 0630, breakfast, last sort of kit and then 2 hour drive to Dungeness.  Forecast was looking great after our 3 days wait. Erin, Alice and Mark had used their time well, in checking kit and pre boat pack, padding out sea kayaks, additional specfic food and essential haircuts (except 4 Erin).  Big thanks to Alice's parents, for looking after us and feeding us so well ...

Erin in the van on the way, studying the map ...left of her head!!

It was an interesting landscape, with poppies and loads of these tall blue flowers and grasses, mixed in with pebbles and wooded shacks and houses ...

and electric pylons, nuclear power station, a disused lighthouse  .... and packed Ikea bags ...

and a new light house (apparently built because the other was obstructed by the power station). This board walk was great and eased the 40 minute carry, of kit and kayaks to the sea.

 Yep, and then the mist rolled in and the fog horn blew, we hadn't booked this!!

Kayaks loaded in good time (left at 1100) and off we slowly went, as the mist began to rise and we looked out for the safety boat ... Alice above

Mark calling up Will on the safety boat to check their progress ....

The first of 7 during the day .... and to be honest, their seemed to be far more while we were packing.  Must be the 0830/0900 rush hour thing!

This is what we booked, an oily swell .... although Alice who had been setting the pace and course to paddle (so looking down at the compass) was now feeling sea sick :(

Into the 5th hour and after both Erin and Mark had done a couple of sessions on point, Alice was sick and probably for the best ... they were all tired but had been well prepared for the sun, mmmm I wish I had!!

It was also about this time when the main 7 mt ribs engine cut out ... thankfully Will had a 2nd smaller boat, so he could set up a tow ...more later ....

The last 40 minutes or so and the current had turned against us, producing some rougher water and meaning all had to be on their mark, to ferry glide into the bay.  We were soon through and as Id left my passport behind, I said my goodbyes in the shallows.

Mark, Erin and Alice ... it says something of Alice's determination and working through being sea sick. I never been sea sick but have had a number of clients who have been and ive had to tow them and find  land.  Being towed or the safety boat was an option, but one Alice wouldn't consider  ... fair play to her.  They paddled into the beach, just south of Cap Griz Nez, after 6 hours and 40 minutes and a distance of 25nm, about 50k!

I paddled back out of the shallows towards the safety boat and balanced, actually wobbled my self into the speed boat, grabbed some food and water and snuggled into the bucket seat!

The current now was flowing strongly against us and we were only pulling 4knots, with the broken boat under tow as we headed towards Calais.  Plan was to leave the broken boat so we could whizz back to the UK, happy days ... but, the marina has a tidal sill, that meant we couldn't get in until 1230/0100 ... 2nd problem was that they didn't have enough fuel in the working boat (due to towing).

Well the guys explored a number of options, while I sipped a celebratory beer (thanks Will) and they decided to syphon the petrol out of the broken boat, into a canister and transfer into our working boat and then continue to tow back across the Channel, to leave the broken boat in the marina at Dover ....

Photo above is 1 hour into the crossing, looking towards England, with a ferry on the right and what looked like Manhattan travelling along (the upright columns to the left are are a huge tanker) ... 3.5 hours latter, cold and damp, yep it rained ... we reached Dover ...

With some creative packing my kayak sone fitted well into the boat ...15 minutes latter, that was quick .... I was back at the start, it was 0100, and another 20 minutes saw all of my kit in the van, kayak on the roof and me curled up in a sleeping bag on the back seats, tired but content!

roger chandler

expedition support and sea kayak training
sea kayak courses north wales

1 comment:

  1. Well done everyone, you had some interesting moments there.