Tuesday 27 September 2016

3rd August 2016 - Cross bay paddle

Weather permitting, every day I go to and from work, I look out across the bay. A trip across has therefore often been on my mind. Getting the right tides, right weather and a paddling partner all to coincide with time off can be tricky though and many forecast weather windows seem to either move or disappear as the alloted time comes closer.

With everything seeming to align and Sharon agreeing to look after my lads, we found ourselves ready for the off at Glasson dock, well not before lunch at the great little caf there! 

Finally it really was time to go, but the weather seemed a little breezier than forecast.  We checked a couple of weather sites and while a storm would be coming in later that night, we should be OK. We decided we would reassess at the Lune buoy before making a final decision, so off into the gloopy mud we went.

Dick's plan seemed to work the best, sledging in his kayak down the mud bank into the muddy water, while I just slowly wallowed. Thoughts turned to Willy Wonker's river of chocolate as we were sped ever faster down the Lune, passing a couple of fishermen in traditional boats and the Cockerham light looking a little worse for wear after a collision with a vessel (ouch!).

A patch of more turbulent water and a significant change in its colour signalled the transition from river to sea, if life came with a soundtrack, the Waterboys would have been on full blast.  The presence of two large merchant vessels also indicated that we had moved into deeper waters.

After a hundred or so metres though the choppiness died down and the air felt much stiller and despite the misty haze obscuring our destination we knew the crossing was on.

Paddling for any distance on a bearing was a new experience for both of us and it was with real satisfaction that a special buoy, our nominal way point, came into view, not far off our heading. Stopping each hour for a break, a bit of food and a GPS check on our position seems to work well for us and also allowed us to relay to each other that each of our left arms were becoming progressively wetter and wetter!

Paddling in the bay is a strange experience, is the water inches deep, feet or fathoms? Series of breaking waves gave a clue to the shallower areas as our objective began to appear out of the murk. We were glad we had a bit of local knowledge as we knew that paddling straight towards our objective would lead us to becoming grounded in the shallows.  We therefore kept heading for the southern tip of Walney before turning to make our final approach in deep water.

Landing on Piel Island was a fantastic feeling and even finding that the pub was shut did little to dent my elation, though the carry of the boats up onto dry land definitely took the edge off! We set up camp in the outer parts of the castle and were just finishing tea as the weather started to change, our starting point lost in the murk. 

Our starting point somewhere in the murk
One of the things I love about activities on the sea is occasionally being able to justify a long lie in and a relaxed morning due to waiting for the tide. Emma though had been up bright and early and would soon be waiting for us on the other side of the channel so we got our stuff together, paid our dues at the pub (he'd closed the previous evening as he'd run out of food and gone to buy some more!).

Packing the boats for the return to the mainland
Both the wind and the tide were moving at a fair rate as we left the shore and headed out from the lee of the island. Poor Dick spent the entire crossing knowing that something wasn't right, but only realised it was that his paddles were upside down as we neared the far shore. Something definitely wasn't right here either...
Setting off from Piel
Emma was stood waiting at the top of the slip but the lovely little beach that we normally land on had been replaced by waves breaking straight on to the steep sea wall. My plan was to head off to see if we could find a better landing, but Dick remembered a Gordon Brown video we had watched about swimming your boat in.  We both got in close to the shore and found that the swim was unnecessary as we could step out of our boats into the shallow water and guide them in. Poor Emma then helping us manhandle them up the steep sea defences.
Kayak back on dry land, Piel in the background
Huge thanks as always to Sharon and Emma for dropping us off/picking us up and looking after the lads in between (though I think Sharon was looking for an excuse to go and see the BFG at the cinema!). Thanks to Dick too for sharing the adventure.