ARE WE THERE YET?

So here we were, about eighty kilometres from the finish or starting line, in Arklow, sleeping on the floor of the Rowing Club. The last date of our trip, Lindsey’s back to work date, was fast approaching, yet, the weather decided to tease us a little bit.

We knew we wouldn’t paddle on Thursday, and thoroughly enjoyed the day off. Eamonn and Gina from the club took us out for breakfast, which was very nice, and I n the afternoon we met more people going rowing. We politely declined the offer to join. No no, thank you, we do like to see where we going rather than the other way round.

Then, we had to make the decision, it was obvious that this time, for once, the forecast wouldn’t change. Friday continued to be windy, gusting six, for the first half of the day, promising calmer afternoon. The swell forecast was still quite high. To go or not to go, take a chance or not, finish Saturday or Sunday, these were the options. In the end I left it to Lindsey, as she was the one who had deadline, both Zoe and I had more time to spare. Lindsey gave it a thought, and made the right decision of not going, the paddle would not be enjoyable, there wasn’t a point of ruining the trip in its last days. She decided to call work to explain that we were close, but depended on the weather. Her boss must be a very wise woman, she assured Lindsey, that all was fine. And so we had two days off in Arklow.

Finally we launched again on Saturday, I was smiling, going to Howth or as close as. The day was great, headwind and tide against us to start with, but so what. The first stretch to Wicklow was full of surprises, little beaches, lots of greenery, some rocks.

Wicklow Head stood high, waiting, the tide race could be seen, however by now the tide was with us and carried us through. We decided to stay away from the shore to make the most of the flow as we had a long long shingle grey stretch to follow.

Yes, apparently the 25 kilometres of the Strand is the most boring paddle here in Ireland. I like monotone, so enjoyed watching the three individual white houses appear on the horizon, then get closer, then pass, then disappear into the distance behind me. There and now the train passed next to the shore, and planes were landing and taking off from an airstrip close by. Lots of things to be entertained by.

We were going to Howth, and eventually the headland came up on the horizon. Soon it became clear that we would get there the next day.

In the meantime we finished the stretch of the coast, went through Dalkey Sound and turned into Dublin Bay the scenery changed to line of many different houses, rather big than small with private landings. We found ours in Sandy Cove, small beach, bit of grass, benches and a leafy residential area all around.

On the last night of our trip we were met by Zoe’s friends, went to pub with great music, then slept in the Thousand Star Hotel as we say in Czech Republic.

Sunday was our last day, not only we wanted to get to finish, we also wanted to get the ferry back to Holyhead. We woke up early, at 5am, and soon we were surrounded by crowd of people. Wow! This social media paddling is amazing, one would think, so many people to bid good bye to us.

But no, the beach we chose to land on yesterday, was selected for a breathing swimming workshop that morning. While people sat on the beach breathing in and out guided by a drum, we were packing, eating breakfast, and disappearing behind rocks, all at 6am.

Eventually we left them to it, and started into the headwind again. We had Dublin Bay to cross. And as we went quite in to avoid the area where it splits into two lanes, the wind then pushed us back out to Howth.

I remember Howth as a small rainy dark slipway with nothing much around. To my surprise it turned out to be a beautiful headland with the last lighthouse of our trip, and fairly impressive harbour busy with people, sailing boats, fishing boats, kayaks, diving boats, police boats, RNLI boats.

However, the main thing for us was, that there were people on the slipway waiting for us. We made it Howth, left to go north, arrived from the south. Are we there yet? Yes, we are.

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THREE ZEROS

Although the title might be misleading, three zeros were seen just past the Carnsore Point. We left Kilmore Quay to continue our journey around Ireland. We had the most southeasterly point to go past, Carnsore Point. There isn’t much I can say about this only that instead of planned nuclear power stations it had wind turbines on.

The point itself provided some fun seas, and a slushy smelly short stop. We entered St George’s Channel, which connects Irish Sea and Celtic Sea, by now we paddled through both.

Our spirits were high when we discovered that each and single one of us has a zero on their compass. Yes, we can say it now, we started our last leg towards finish. Yet, nothing is straightforward, and with Lindsey’s back to work day (Monday) fast approaching, the weather seems to like to keep us in the unknown in terms of when the finish will be.

The coast settled into a long line of beaches, which some may describe monotone, but I like long unchangeable coastlines as much as I like cliffs, islands, and anything else.

We made stop in Rosslare for ice cream, and tea-coffee, before continuing with another tide later that evening. We are committed to distance once again. Sadly this resulted in beach camping, but at least this stretch made it into another film “Saving Private Ryan” this time.

The following day, apart from surf launching, brought another long stretch of beaches. However this time regularly broken down by views of smaller and bigger villages, a harbour or two, and eventually some mini cliffs.

Done with surf landings and launching, which I like as much as camping on sand, we were heading to Arklow, big harbour.

Big harbours aren’t easy for camping, yet we were lucky, and ended up staying in Arklow Rowing club for two nights while the weather settles down.

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK

We were on a mission to cover distance and distance again. So far so good, but ahead of us was the Hook Head, not the most fearful of headlands we paddled past so far, still it needed some caution.

The chart showed a tide race called Tower Race, and in my experience, if tiderace has a name, it needs to be approached with caution. We started our journey on Bunmahon beach, where we spent two nights. We were on the copper coast and this little village used to be big mining town with about 1500 people living here at some point. Hard to believe now, but the reminds of the mines could be seen on cliff tops. The coast was again spectacular, stacks and arches, if only the swell allowed us to explore. This time we were not alone on the sea, and actually met and exchanged few words with random kayakers, from Bristol, and local ones, too.

We passed the Metal Man statue on a headland just outside Newtown Cove at Tramore. Built in 1823 instead of a lighthouse, his right hand is pointing away warning passing ships to stay away from dangerous rocks.

We landed in the harbour of Dunmore East for tea-coffee, amazing lemon drizzle cake and to think of where to next. We had good wind behind us all day, but the forecast was showing force 5 at Hook Head. Some of us were reluctant to go. In the end after much sitting, thinking, and mulling things over, we decided to paddle across the bay to be closer to the Hook the following day. However, the landing places were a bit unsure, so we decided to pick one closest to the head hoping it would be sheltered enough to land that day and launch the following. Then we decided that we might as well see if we can go past the headland. Best decision ever!

As we approached the other side we could see that landing isn’t great, oh well, we had to paddle past the head, which actually looked better than expected. And that was great, as I really wanted to be done with it. The Hook lighthouse stood high overlooking our evening paddle. We decided to continue towards Baginbun Bay.

Baginbun Bay was the place where Normans landed in 1170, they chose wisely as it is very sheltered bay. And although I absolutely hate beach camping, it was one of the nicest beaches we’ve seen so far.

Sadly we didn’t really have time to make the most of this beautiful place, and while some people enjoyed a swim late in the evening, we were heading to bed, as we decided to get up in the dark and be on the water before sunrise. And no, it wasn’t because we wanted to embrace the whole ‘see sunrise on the beach’ idea, we wanted to make progress before the wind picked up later that day.

We had an offer to visit our friend’s cousin in Kilmore Quay, and with forecast promising another non paddling day the following day we were keen to make it.

Little did we know this leg was turning into a small journey throughout history. We passed the world’s oldest lighthouse built some 800 years ago. We landed where the Normans did. We rounded headland which stood at the origin of the “by any means” phrase. There are many theories of its origin, but I obviously like the one acclaimed to be made by Oliver Cromwell to take Waterford by Hook, on the Wexford side of Waterford Estuary, or by Crook, a village on the Waterford side in mid seventeen century.

We had no idea then that the family we were to stay with, Anna, Jim and Jack were from Butlerstown Castle. Their family came to live in the area when they had to leave England after being on the wrong side during the Civil War.

And that’s how we came to stay at the castle for two nights. I have seen many Tower Houses around the coast of Ireland, but this one I could actually visit.

We had good rest among woodlands and flowers, the furthest inland we ever got to. Our boats stayed on the beach in Kilmore Quay, as always, we believed that people are good. They were, even in Kilmore Quay, and the person, who went through our front hatches didn’t take anything more than my half empty bottle of whiskey.

Do we go or do we stay?

We arrived to Portmagee and already we knew we would spent at least a day here. Camping was ok, short carry, two flat patches of ground between high water mark and a fence, most importantly just outside the town.

Already on arrival to Knights Town on Valentia Island we found out that due to cut cable internet was down in the majority of the county, fortunately we scraped enough cash to have dinner, leaving shopping for the next day. Days off could be as busy as paddling days. Pleasure first, that was a nice breakfast, then duties. We had to hitchhike to Carsiveen to withdraw money and do shopping. However they had a leisure centre, so long soak in the pool, jacuzzi, and shower was great, followed by more coffee and ice cream later. Even if we had to hitch back again, it all went ok.

Portmagee used to be a small fishing village, now it’s a gateway to Skellig Michael. The place from Starwars as known to most people. The island where monks lived in beehive huts for others. We settled for local sights.

The following day we had to make decision to paddle or not. The wind looked all over the place, the swell being blown up by day of high winds. We had cliffs to paddle past, then long crossing towards Dursey Island. Go or not to go. What will we gain by going, maybe ten kilometres past the cliffs. We probably won’t be crossing. But would we be able to paddle the following day, when the forecast is still showing as being unsettled. Some of us wanted to go, some not, the decision process can sometimes take time.

In the end we decided not to go, and spent the day exploring the Kerry Cliffs, from the land. Splendid, we could see as far as Great Blasket island, Puffing Island, and Skellig Michael with Little Skellig in the background. And of course we could see the whole area of Portmagee sound with Valentia Island. And no, is does not derive its name from Spanish town of Valencia, it comes from Irish and means “island in the mouth of the sound”, and that’s exactly what it is.

LONG WAY

If you were to drive from Inishturk to Kilbaha, it would take according to Google about four hours and distance of at least 267 kilometres. It would also require taking a ferry from Inishturk to Ronagh Quay, and to go on few motorways. If one was to walk this route it would be about 206 kilometres, with one ferry to Ronagh Quay, and then one from Rosaweer to Inishveer and from Inisheer to Doolin. We did go from Inishturk to Kilbaha, however obviously not by land but by sea. I don’t know how many kilometres that really was, yet it seemed to be a long way over few days.

We left Inishturk after nice evening in local community centre. We liked Inishturk, it has been inhabited since early times. We stopped in the harbour of Port an Dun, a natural harbour used by first settlers and many after. During our stay here we met here a group of people from Inishbofin, who liked it here as well and came for a day trip. They told us that if we were to pass Inishturk on our way south, we should stop for tea in their house by the flagpole.

We paddled over to a Inishbofin and indeed happen to land next to a flag pole, which actually ended up being the flag pole. We visited Rachel and Malcolm, who live here, and their friends. What a great stop this was, Lindsey got tea, and ai got coffee. They also came to help us with the boats as tide was running out of the bay quickly. We were quite worried about having to carry them long way after our stop, so declined any offers of longer stay, so

Rachel prepared cheese sandwiches for us, all wrapped up for our long journey. We launched, waved, turned around the first set of rocks, and once out of view ate them all at once.

The sandwiches were so loaded and delicious that they gave us enough power to cross straight to Slyne Head, one of the many headlands on our way south. The day turned hot to the point that at lunchtime I couldn’t resist a swim, the sandy bay just looked too inviting. We continued further, we were on a mission. Rachel told us about the most amazing banana cake to be had on Inishmaan, and we wanted that. We flew past Connemara, made a brief overnight stop, and next day crossed to Aran Isles. Our plan was to lunch on the first one, have cake on the middle one, and perhaps quick stop on the smallest one. However, we ended up staying on Inishmaan, the middle one. Two days Lindsey and I were entertaining ourselves with the idea of banana cake on Inishmaan, it helped us to paddle late into the evening, to cross, to continue to the east of Inishmaan.

Only when we landed we found out that the cake shop up is shut on Thursdays. Never mind, at least we were in good position to cross the following day towards the cliffs of Moher and beyond.

Cliffs of Moher, up to 214 metres high, but we didn’t see any of that starting our crossing on a bearing only due to fog. The day was long, we passed the cliffs, crossed several bays, passed Morton Island. That one had a impressive napoleonic lookout tower on. Our landing wasn’t the most exciting one, but in the end the steep single wall provided straightforward haul of the boats up beyond high water mark, and launch, and in the end the shingles once we removed the big boulders were quite comfortable to sleep on.

Our next and final leg of this mission was today. We wanted to get around Loop Head ready for Shannon the following day. According to Oileáin, the Irish Sea kayaking guidebook, this stretch is the most committing one on the West coast. Yes, it looked like tens of kilometres of cliffs with a headland at the end. And for us, the weather had something special, it decided we have to do it on a bearing mainly hiding the cliffs behind low clouds. At the start especially, then they were appearing and disappearing until the head itself.

On the other side it was different story, swelly turbulent sea was replaced by smooth waters, clouds by sunshine. We pushed all the way to Kilbaha mainly for its name, but the promise of a pub, too. It is time for tea and coffee after all.

270°

Two hundreds and seventy degrees. Two hundred, according to definition is ten more than one hundred ninety while seventy is a number equivalent to the product of seven and ten, or ten less than eighty. For us it was simply the direction that my compass was showing over the past few paddling days.

It was 270 when I was towing Lindsey across the Lough Swilly into headwind and swell, so her boat keeps only twenty metres behind mine. The wind was pushing us more and more into the bay while we were trying to reach the Fanad Headland.

It was 270 when we were paddling again few days later towards Horn Head, and impressive headland with cliffs as high as 180 metres above the sea. The direction was pointing straight at the small incline in the cliff, which I chosen as my wee stop. It didn’t disappoint, it was there, and even sheltered enough from swell. Here Head was spectacular, birds, cliffs, waves, but fortunately now tideraces running. True is, we enjoyed two hours lunch while waiting for tide and swell to die down a little bit. On top of the cliff we can see a look out tower, and ai must say these towers are piece of art, built in napoleonic era.

It was 270 when we continued to island of Inishbofin (Innis Bo Finne) a small island once inhabited. It was very hot as we were approaching the island. Hot to the point that we had to take off the tops of our dry suit (don’t try this at home) in order to reach it and not to explode in the heath. That was fine for me, but a real first for Zoe.

People left here by the 1970’s and now only few come back for the summer. However here we got a nice flat grass for our tents, the church was open and had toilets!. We met the islands only artist, some fishermen and one former resident. He invited us into the village hall to show us pictures of himself as a very young man, then some of his neighbours.

Next our journey was towards a distant headland stretching far and long in the distance. It’s name was Bloody Foreland. It was 270 degrees to go to Bloody Foreland. When I looked at amp of Ireland and saw how far this point is, I thought, yeah, what a name. As we started to paddle to it, it seemed endless, so the name bloody seemed appropriate even more. Of course the name was here before us, and apparently the name but after that our direction slightly changed. Bloody Foreland gained it’s name from its rock colour which in evening sun is illuminated in red shades. That’s not what we saw.

For us this headland was significant in other way, too, as after rounding it our compass started to show other directions than west only. Bloody Foreland was our gateway to the west coast.

We paddled past the Gweedore coast and it’s many islands, Inishmeane, Gola, Owey until we ended on Cruit in close distance to golf club bar, open to non-golfers.

WILD ATLANTIC WAY – FANAD HEAD

If week one saw us paddling every day, week two seems to be a week of being weather bound. It might slow our progress but gives us opportunity to explore the unknown. First we stayed a day at Tullah Bay on Inishowen Peninsula and walked over to the village of Clonmany, known as the Cross as it is built on cross roads and in the past being a centre of the illegal poitín distillation industry. To us is known as the village of many pubs, we counted about six within one short street, as well as Tag of War club. Which apparently has been quite successful in its history of existence and won six world medals and many All Ireland titles. Lovely place with historic churches and waterfalls.

We left Tullah Bay the following afternoon when the weather forecast suggested break in the wind. Still the headwind was quite strong and made our crossing from Dunaff Head over to Fanad Head across Lough Swilly entertaining by swell and wind. Lough Swilly, glacial fjord, and our gateway to county Donegal. We crossed and wanted to finish on the beach we watched every minute of the crossing. The beach was beautiful as beaches go, yellow sand, green grass high on the hill, whitewashed boulders, little stream going into the sea. However there wasn’t any chance to fit even one tent on anywhere. Still, we got our trolley and moved the boats above high water mark, looked around, but soon we were facing a decision. To stay and make it somewhere work, or to move on, as we could be here for few nights than just one.

Even the impressive view of the Fanad Lighthouse didn’t persuade us to stay. After quick snack, trolley dismantled back in the boat, luckily water was coming in, we got the boats back on the water in search of better place. Which could mean another 10 – 15 kilometres. The swell was playful, there and now a wave would wash over one of us and give us salty bath, surf was breaking heavily on the shallows along the shore.

Finally we spotted a sheltered corner of a large bay. Dunes, car park, we decided to stay.

Fanad Lighthouse stood on the cliff in its white glory. Built in 1815 and first lit in 1817, it was occupied by lighthouse keepers until automated in 1983. Fanad Head a strategic place at Lough Swilly, the lighthouse was originally built as a sea light rather than one indicating save passage into the lough’s natural harbour. And since the weather decided we would have few non paddling days, I went to see it. Two accidental events took place here today, first I was sold a tour of the lighthouse which I haven’t intend d to do first, but why not. It’s not very often one can visit working lighthouses, the last one I saw was on Flatey in North Iceland. It was interesting to see the difference in the size of bulbs used to light the lighthouse in the past and nowadays.

The lighthouse tower is 22 metres high from its foundation to the top not including the lantern. The light is 39 metres above sea level and there are 79 steps in the tower.

Second accident was bumping into Geoff from London, whom I last saw in Jersey three weeks ago. Which was great because I could get a picture taken.

A Sense of Déjà Vu

We reached Ballygally, and it’s great we did. Originally we thought we would stop just a village before, at the end of the north corner of Larne bay, it had a beach, take away van with coffee and apparently a campsite, too. However eventually we decided to give it one last push around the corner. Ballygally, little did we know it played its part in Game of Thrones, as none of us had ever seen a single episode. Ballygally had slipway, car park with very flat patch of grass, castle hotel with coffee, and later we discovered a great pub called Mattie’s a mile up the road. What’s more in the hotel they had the door. The door, which apparently were shown in the Game of Thrones. Something we didn’t know, so we didn’t take any pictures of it to show. We only learnt about its importance the following day.

The following day we got up early to catch the tide assistance to help us with progress against the strong headwind. We managed ten kilometres, and that was good distance considering Lindsey is still quite new to long sea kayak journeys in various conditions. But eventually it became clear we had to land and finish for the day. We did so in another harbour around another corner. And when we walked up the slipway I had a sense of being here before. Yes, I recognised the old marina building in front of which, seven years ago, Michal and I set up our tent on a concrete. We were on our trip round Britain, got to Northern Ireland, and without map didn’t really know about the coast. We stayed a night in this grey, fairly derelict town with one weird pub (https://homeseahome.com/2012/05/29/islands-hopping/).

Surprise surprise here I was again. Yet, this time things were to be different. Firstly, we found public bathrooms next to an information centre. And as we stood in front of them contemplating what to do next, a lady came out and invited us in for cups of tea and coffee. We now know her name was Christine, she set table and chairs in the middle if the small centre, and got to preparing our drinks while filling us and anyone else, who came in, on information about the place. For example we found out about The doors, about ten of them. We now missed most, but one is still attainable, it’s in Cushendun, which will be on our way up.

When two other ladies came in wondering where they could get coffee, Christine holding just boiled kettle over our cups said “not here, there’s a posh coffee shop in the castle”. We stayed for few hours as time passes quickly once one is back on land. Eventually we walked away with the following: information about the village, arranged storage place for Zoe’s kayak, arranged lift for Zoe to Belfast in the morning, and a rental house for the next 2 nights.

So, we decided to stay in Glenarm until Friday, when the weather should become friendlier. The village shows signs of being a very busy prosperous town back at the turn of 19/20 century with grand houses. It also has a castle, lovely woodland, two pubs, and newly opened little shop. Somehow it also has planters made from old kayaks, this definitely wasn’t here seven years ago.

On top of that the place around the harbour is now covered in grass and flowers rather than concrete like before.

MICHAL’S TRIP TO ALASKA

Unlike previous sports we both have engaged in, when it came to sea kayaking, Michal and I started to do this together from the same starting line. However, it soon became clear that our ways of learning differ. Michal is much better at learning anything about movements, he can only hear about it, or see it, picture it, which leads to him being able to do it. Obviously most annoyingly for me I need to do all these three, then practice for long time, and then, maybe, I would get it.

We have shared stories from our trips together here on the blog, we have done journeys shorter and longer. Thank to Michal’s constant need to look for challenges, to get excited about an idea,  his strong desire to execute it, it meant that we have spent significant time paddling in various environments and conditions.

This time, it happened that we took different approach. I thought it would be great idea to join someone else in their trip, and somehow, both me and Freya thought it would be even better idea, if Michal does so, too.

So there he is, paddling in Alaska with Freya Hoffmeister on a trip different to our usual ones. And here are the notes that he managed to send me from different legs as their internet access allowed.

Michal left London on the 21st of June and he and Freya met in Chignik, a little place, where she finished her previous leg with Catriona Woods.

flight

Over to Michal:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE, RIGHT? Saturday 23.06.18

chignik airport

“Today’s highlight was a bit of a language barrier. Freya was worried she would not find the right gas canisters for her stove here in Chignik, so she asked me to bring my multi fuel one.

We were very lucky and were looked after by locals, Clyde, who runs Trident Seafood was really helpful the whole day, trying to source out everything we needed prior our departure, including the epoxy to fix both of Freya’s kayaks.

However, when it came to fuel, everyone seamed to be quite confused.“Petrol? What do you mean? What’s that? Fuel, what fuel? Do you mean kerosine?” After a while we established that cars use diesel and gas. So we asked if it would be possible to have some gas.

It turned out we could, but not before we were told how flammable it really is, and how careful we needed to be. So I brought my petrol bottles and started to fill up the first one from metal canister Clyde showed me.  Lupe came to assist, and  again, while he was helping me with filling of our bottles,  we went through a long discussion about how dangerous and flammable this stuff was. In the end I had to agree to try if it actually worked with our stove. Before I got on with it, I was pointed to fire extinguisher. After that, as a precaution,  I boiled some water for my flask in the middle of gravel car park,  and surprisingly it worked fine like with any other petrol before.

ALASKA IN A NUTSHELL Sunday 24.06.18

Finally, it was time to leave. Boats were packed and floating on incoming tide. I was waiting for Freya to come. She went to make one more attempt to order epoxy resin to be sent ahead to Sand Point, our next port of call. Again with not much success. As soon as I arrived, we had kayak fixing day and used almost all remaining epoxy. Hope these kayaks wont need TLC too often.

Ready at last, I went to afloat first to make sure the kayak was to set up well for the journey ahead. I am using one of Freya’s kayaks, which is quite different to mine. Fortunately, everything was fine, and we could finally set off. After few paddling strokes I noticed something strange floating in front of us, sea otter! We haven’t even left Chignik and here was a Sea Otter. What a start!

sea otter.jpg

First few kilometres took us along cliffs on flat sea, and soon we started to cross Castle Bay, then we noticed spray of water in the distance. It was coming closer and a whale resurfaced. We haven’t even done ten kilometres and already I saw a number of sea otters and a whale, amazing.

We turned around Castel Rock, a stunning headland, I haven’t seen such overwhelming formation for ages, so we admired rocky structures, towers, gullies and faces until the  headwind picked up. Fortunately we could see a sandy beach ahead landed for lunch. This was my first introduction to what is means kayaking in bear territory.  Bear footprints everywhere and an old fridge washed on the beach was completely trashed by presumingly bear claws and paws. Fortunately, no bear in sight, otherwise I could say: “I’ve seen it all” and go home, now.

Soon after lunch headwind increased significantly and it was time we started to look for landing place. First beach didn’t look to good, yet Freya insisted it would be fine. We landed but it turned out, there was no space for  tent, we had to push another 7km to the next beach called Necessity Cove. Landing through damper went smoothly and soon we had the tent up on a stoney beach. One thing that I will have to get used to, is cooking outside. Apparently it is not a good idea to cook in your tent if there are bears around.

bear hand

GETTING TO KNOW MY NEW KAYAK   Monday 25.06.18

I woke up in the morning and first thing I heard was: “It’s raining, what do you think? Would you mind if we have a day off?” I don’t like rain so the answer was easy. “Ok,” I said and continued sleeping. Few hours later I could hear: “It’s not too bad shall we go?” What could I say, we are here to paddle in the end. One hour later we were on the water and paddling. While launching I was introduced to how to use a launching string. I never needed one on my kayak but seems quite essential to use with the rudder on Freya’s kayak. Anyway, soon we were making nice progress along the coast. It wasn’t raining too much, visibility was ok, just top of the cliffs were hidden in low laying clouds. As we were nearing big headland wind started to pick up and waves were getting increasingly bigger. Soon we hit area where the tide, swell and wind were all coming from different directions. Clapoties were reaching two meters and Freya put her buoyancy aid on. It was challenging paddle as I was still getting to know my kayak. Paddling with knees together like on the surfski in those conditions was quite new to me. We turned a corner and decided to head for the beach deeper in the bay rather than crossing and rounding another headland. We had lovely 40 mins run on following sea all the way to the beach. Well, it was rather bouldery wall with no place for camping. We tried hard. But no place for tent at all. It meant we had to go around the next headland and firstly into the wind. Luckily, in the end, it wasn’t that bad. Tide probably turned, sea became more regular. After we turned the corner it was decision time, which beach to head for? We chose place called Herring Lagoon as something containing a word lagoon in the name must be good place for landing, only, it meant another 12km crossing into the fog.

Eventually we reached steep stoney wall, damper wasn’t too horrible and we landed safely. After climbing to the top of the bouldery wall, on the other side of the spite, we could see why it’s called Lagoon. We didn’t cook dinner this time, Natchos and cheese dip were good enough. I almost feltasleep even before finishing eating.

ANOTHER FIRST – PADDLING WITH MUSIC      Tuesday 26.06.18

It was raining again. Everything was wet. But with the forecast for light following sea we had to go. I’m slowly learning what it means to pack quickly. First everything is packed in the tent, then getting changed to paddling gear, tent down, kayaks packed, and then finally, some oats with milk for breakfast while watching dumping surf.

Sea today was significantly smaller, it was still raining most off the day with no great visibility. Soon we started our first 14 km crossing of the day, Freya couldn’t find her paddling rhythm, which made her to switch her music on. With rain hitting my hat I couldn’t hear that much anyway. Suddenly there was big splash just next to me, a whale, only ten meters away! It came up once more and then disappeared. “You see!” said Freya “I told you. They like music.”

whale freya

Now we were paddling in St Kilda like landscape, huge headlands and islands with birds everywhere. Only difference were local puffins they have long white hair on the top of their heads. I hope I managed to take good enough photo. Soon we landed on small rocky beach on one of the islands, rest of the island looks really steep, like St Kilda, so we hope it’s bear free. We set our camp in heavy rain and decided to chance it and cook in the tent.

EATING FRUIT WHILE PADDLING? Another first     Wednesday 27.06.18

It wasn’t raining when we woke up. That was promising. When I got out of the tent I could see that we are on small island just across from Perryville. It didn’t look like much, just few buildings scattered around so we didn’t bother to paddle there.

Before we set off, we had to set time aside to prepare pineapples, yes we had two fresh pineapples with us. Mine was living in my helmet for three days. Now it was time to eat them. Freya cut them to stripes and filled few zip lock bags to be ready to eat on the water. pineapples

Few minutes into paddling the sun came out. As it shined through the clouds behind us sunlight just hitting a rock ahead, we could see an eagle siting on the top. My first eagle on this trip. Sun didn’t last long but eagles did. By the end of the day we saw six of them.

sea eagel

Soon it was drizzling and headwind became quite annoying. We were making progress between islands eating pineapples. When that wasn’t filling us enough we stopped on small sandy beach for lunch. There were bear and human footprints everywhere, we were not sure which were older and which more recent. Freya found round fishing buoy and we spent few minutes playing football to keep warm. In the afternoon we continued into the rain and wind.

football

I wouldn’t mind if we had a dry day for a change sometime soon. Beach, where we were planning to land, had noticeable surf. Fortunately we found a sheltered corner. And again bear footprints were everywhere. We pitched tent on the highest spot of the sand while it was still raining. There were patches of green plants around, I tor off some and placed them in the porch of the tent to reduce the amount of sand sticking to everything. Then it came: “You are very tidy, not messy at all. If you wouldn’t be married already, I would marry you!”

clean tent M      clean tent F

ANIMALS EVERYWHERE       Thursday 28.06. 18

It was raining hard all night.

Did I mention that I don’t like water? And rain is the worst kind of water. So you can imagine I wasn’t overwhelmingly enthusiastic to get ready. Fortunately as we started to pack, the rain almost stopped.

In Freya’s chart it said “large caves” by the headland in few kilometres. We were quite keen to see what it means. Two sea stacks could be seen just of the headland, when we rounded the second one, one its exposed side, we could see lots of holes and caves. It looked like Swiss cheese. We explored the biggest one, unfortunately due to the swell, we couldn’t visit any of the smaller ones.

Next, we had to cross a larger bay, about ten kilometres into the headwind. There is one thing that annoyed me today. Freya asked if we should cross straight for the headland, or if we should go deeper in, and stop on the beach. In the end we agreed to only have a break on water and not to bother with landing. Yet, when we crossed, Freya said: “I fancy to land on that beach, it’s not too far anyway “. Fine! – We had to paddle ten minutes into the wind to get to the beach and then paddle the same back after the break. Why could we just not paddle straight there, right from the beginning?

Anyway, when we rounded rocky headland there were dozens of Sea Lions on rocky ledges. Mostly female, roughly the size of ordinary seal, with one male between them. It was huge! At least twice the size of big Atlantic Grey Seal.

michal by freya.jpgPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

sea lions freyaAfter that we were paddling along the cliffs into the wind when Freya found a puffin. I mean there was a dead puffin in the water. The next second she was pulling it out with huge smile: “we need to take pictures “. She was shouting in the noise of wind and waves.

That’s not as simple as it looks. “Should I be kissing it? Or should it be on my shoulder? Do I look good? What about my hair? And hair band? I don’t like this hair band, it’s not black. Maybe we should take some on the beach, on the tent. I need to hold it this way. Do I look good?” This all was probably meant to me. And then she goes to puffin:”You will go on my website, you will be famous. Fifteen thousand people will see you…”

puffin 1   puffin 2

puffin 4  puffin 3After long photoshoot she paddled with the puffin all the way to the beach, put the tent up and did more photos with poor puffin. Who cares that there are bears around. I mean there are not just bear footprints on this beach, there is actually a bear walking up and down the same beach we are camping!

This time I cooked dinner outside, just in case. After we had eaten, I started to write down notes. When I finished writing and put my iPad down, I looked out through the open tent porch. Bear! There was a bear standing 20 meters from our tent! Of course, first we started to take pictures, but then as it was still coming closer, we began to make noise. Bear didn’t seem to mind, so I shot a banger.  Freya half jumped out of the tent shouting at the same time. That scared him, I mean Freya, he hardly noticed the bang! Hope that was enough of bear excitement for the rest of the trip.

bear in camp

banger

TACKLING MONSTERS        Friday 29.06. 18

We woke up into a drizzle. First thing Freya asked was: “Did you sleep well? No dreams about bears?” No, weirdly there were strange monkeys in my dream but not a single bear.

Launching was pretty straightforward, swell dropped a lot as predicted and we started paddling on almost flat sea. That was good because we were heading for Sand Point, which was over 60km away with 40km crossing to start with. Clouds were slowly lifting and we were chatting about kayak designs, forward paddling, and so on. Then a whale resurfaced just in front of us. It took ages before it started to go down giving me plenty of time to find my camera and take two pictures before it disappeared.

Slowly sun made it through the clouds and I realised that I was over dressed. Fortunately sea was like a mirror allowing me to take one layer off. It is actually quite fine to try to take drysuit with front entry off while siting in kayak. It took quite an effort to pull it over my head.

I think I mentioned before that Freya is paddling topless most of the time. I mean without PFD, she calls it topless paddling. And of course she believes this is best and most efficient way how to  paddle forward properly. PFD is too restrictive and you cannot rotate with one well enough, so it means your paddling is not good. And of course, if Freya believes in something, you hear about it, not all the time, just there and now, about five times a day, every day.

So, as I had my BA off I decided it was time to make her happy, and not to put it on again. I even called my PFD a monster when asked her to put it on my back deck. That made her day, I think.

Michal paddling by FPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

We were making nice progress towards the first island insight with brief stops for snacks. Soon, we came across lovely landing spot with waterfall which was ideal for short pee brake. When we started to paddle again, headwind picked up, not too strong but annoying. For some reason Freya became slower and slower. Waiting for her to catch up was a bit irritating. At one moment, when she got next to me, she asked me to put my PFD back on again, apparently I’m too fast without one.

When we turned the corner and could almost see Sand Point, we spotted  a small boat on the horizon. It looked strange, definitely not like fishing boat. When it came close we waved and it turned and came all the way to us. It was actually a welcoming committee looking for us.

committee

They were really pleased to find us, gave us some fruity drinks, took some photos, had a chat and took off towards Sand Point to announce what time we would be there.

Last stretch was slow and took forever, we were paddling into the wind and sun. Eventually were made it to Sand Point.

sand point

Tina, Paul and few of their friends were waiting for us. Tina’s house is just by the water so it was fast to unload. We were taken full care off. Shower, washing machine, dinner, internet and even a beer for me.

kayak TLC

REST DAY   Saturday 30.06.18

Last night I managed to put my first post on FB. Internet is not fast here, it took ages to upload few photos. Then, I exchanged few messages with Natalie before falling asleep by midnight.

This morning we started with some kayak TLC. First we fully unpacked them and dried them as much as possible and left them in the sun. You see, we have a day off and it is sunny! Then we made it to Trident Shop to buy some epoxy. In between I even managed to talk to Natalie, internet is not that slow in the end.

Afternoon was all about sorting our food, shopping for more food, working on kayaks and trying to find some local contacts further along the coast, in Nelson Lagoon or Port Heiden ideally. Those might be crucial as most likely I would have to fly out from one of those, and if all goes well Natalie will have to fly in.

Then we were getting ready for dinner with glass of wine and beer respectively.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks great so we will be paddling.

Crossing to Scillies

I am organised, very organised. I have been working in a school for eleven years now, so my year starts every September and finishes every July. My holiday dates have been pre-planned for me for years in advance.  On the rare occasion, when I may not know, when they are, all I need to do, is to check the airline ticket prices, their double or triple hike is a clear give-away. To cope I learnt to plan and book early, in the end, it would be irresponsible to waste twelve weeks of holidays.
This has been true until the seventh of April of this year. The following two weeks were my Easter holidays, yet somehow I haven’t made plans, or only vague ones of skiing, or going to spa or something. Various reason made them to fall through, and I almost started to think that I have indeed allowed for two weeks of holidays to go to waste.
High pressure that settled over Britain in the first two weeks of April this year, proved me wrong. And I was reminded that sometimes not having firm plans and go with the flow and weather is the best. We took it on board and made the most of it. I broke another of my rules and routines of only doing long crossings as part of a multi day journey, when one is fit and mentally prepared.
But really, we could not not do it. As we woke up at home on Saturday morning post my last day of work, and checked the weather, it appeared: the thought. On Sunday, while continuing with checking the  weather, the thought slowly changed into a firm idea. On Monday midday it started to become a reality, we were packing, and leaving London towards South West.
On arrival to Cornwall we had two important tasks to do: have dinner and plot the crossing. The plan was simple. The starting hour friendly. The weather pleasant.
We left Sennen Cove at eight in the morning, passed the Longship Lighthouse rather quickly, and settled down into the  rhythm of stroke after stroke, which would eventually bring us to our target, the Isles of Scilly. DSCF2296DSCF2300
The day was clear and sunny, the swell was playful and we made it to St Mary’s one hour faster than we thought. And even if that meant that we were slightly more south than we could have been, it was fine. Landing at Bryher in the afternoon felt good, and the smell of wild garlick quickly cleared our lungs of any city smog. We made it, and felt happy and content.

In this mode we spent the rest of the five days on the islands. Deciding that we will only cross St Marry’s Road if we have to go back on the Scillonian we spent most days paddling on the west or  north side of the islands exploring Bryher, Tean, Tresco and only paddling as south as Samson. The lazy mood stayed and we spent a considerable amount of time on the land exploring the islands rather than just paddle and paddle from one to the next. DSCF2323
And although to go back, we had to take the Scillonian, sometimes changing ones believes is good.