Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Eddystone lighthouse and back ... by Tavi Murray

Out to the Eddystone lighthouse and back …
29th August 2015

It’d been blowing hard for a week, stopping Zoe and me finishing the Plymouth to Mumbles trip, but the weekend was August bank holiday, spring tides and at last a pretty decent forecast at least in the south. Unfortunately, though, I had to be back in South Wales for Tuesday morning so couldn’t plan anything big.

Where to go? Well I was keen on another crossing … and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time this summer looking at the South West Sea Kayak Guide. With the forecast a trip out to the Eddystone lighthouse together with some south Devon coastline seemed the obvious target. The lighthouse is 20 km out to sea south of Plymouth, so there and back it’s not dissimilar in length to the Scilly’s crossing but the tides are relatively weak, and there isn’t too much shipping.

Zoe was wavering between longer trips to Scotland or Ireland and joining me … so I was contemplating another solo trip … but to my delight she decided to brave the long slog south and we were on!

Zoe and I met and spent a happy Friday evening eating, drinking and plotting/planning. Although I have since decided beer and charts don’t mix well as mine now have some interesting new brown stains!

The first lighthouse on the Eddystone Rocks was lit in 1698. The current lighthouse is the fourth incarnation and has warned shipping of the reef since 1882. The previous lighthouse had been in place since 1759 and its stumpy foundations are still in place on the rocks.

Given the tides would be flowing westward most of the day we decided to paddle from Wembury to the east of Plymouth to gain maximum assistance. We set off paddling past the Great Mewstone and stopped to call the coastguard on the VHF. Visibility was good and we could see the lighthouse off in the distance as soon as we set off, there was a very light wind and a gentle 1 m rolling surf, making a big contrast to my Lundy crossing earlier in the summer.

After nearly 3 hours my GPS told me I was still a km away, and I was convinced I must have the location wrong – it must be closer than that! But my location was spot on, it’s just that the 49 m high lighthouse is massive! 3 hours and 3 minutes paddling and we were there. It’s an incredibly impressive place. The tower reminded me of Tolkein’s tower at Isengard. Next to the current lighthouse is the stump of the third (previous) lighthouse. The swell was crashing against the rocks of the reef despite the lack of wind – there was certainly no possibility of landing. The reef is also clearly a popular fishing spot and there were some 5 or so small boats out trying their luck. A floating lunch followed with us simply staring upward in awe at the lighthouse.

The breeze had dropped and the water was now oily calm despite the swell. It was time to paddle back … and for the porpoises to start their show which continued all afternoon. I counted nine, but it could easily have been more. As usual we stopped every hour for a snack and a drink. And when we did we could hear the porpoises breathing even when we couldn’t see them. It made me wonder if there were always this many around but they are usually just hidden and their sound is masked by the waves.

Six and a half hours for the 41.2 km trip. Although we paddled some very nice coastline during the rest of the weekend this crossing was definitely the highlight. The Eddystone lighthouse is a totally inspiring structure, truly awesome … and the trip is highly recommended.

I think I’m getting a taste for these offshore trips and there’s a few more on my paddling dream list! Fancy a trip?

Tavi Murray

Foot note - The above Blog, is about an independent journey that both Tavi and Zoe made and aims to highlight and provide a snap shot of what others are doing, who are part of the mentoring programme.  Through coaching, support and encouragement from Coastal Spirit - well done girls!!  Thanks, Roger

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