Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Abortive Solent attempt

Jon and I resolved to cross the Solent on Sunday, and were suckered into a false sense of security, then paid with a hard slog back to Lepe after bailing out half way to Cowes. Well, I say Cowes...

When we got to Lepe, the sea was like a mill pond. But there were 8-10 sea kayakers who weren't falling for it. When I asked whether they were heading to the island, they said "no chance". They were off to Lymington for the day, and promptly set off in that direction, cutting through the water in a way that our trusty and well-appreciated sit-ons can't really achieve. We wanted slightly envious as the effortlessly powered off to the west. They had warned us that there was a force 4-6 coming in later and it would be coming from the north, meaning that it would be a hard paddle back if we went over to Cowes.

But...what did they know? The water looked serene, and we decided to go for it.

It started to get choppy after about two hundred yards, and progressively worse.....and then went like a mill pond again. I kept thinking that perhaps this wasn't a good idea. I think Jon thought the same, but equally we both felt condident that we wouldn't sink in a sit-on, and so the worse that could happen is we could get rolled on a heavy wave and have to jump back on.

So we [sort of] powered onwards. We approached a massive buoy which had a bell on it, donging away every time it swayed on the tide. As we passed it, I realised it was coming towards us at speed, then it rushed passed us and headed off towards Cowes.

Of course, this isn't what was happening at all. The water piling up in front of it simply gave the impression it was moving. In fact we were being swept along at a fair pace by the tide rushing past the static buoy, noisily tolling away like a death knell. It was the final encouragement we needed.

Let's go back, we said almost in unison.

It wasn't easy. I fixed on a yellow buoy just off Lepe, and lined it up with the cafe on the beach. But the gap between the two viewpoints widened as we tried in vain to paddles against the tide, crabbing slowly towards our goal.

Eventually, knackered, cold but more experienced than when we set out, we arrived in the calm, still mill-pond-like water off Lepe. The tide had retreated considerably and we had to carry the kayaks much further up the beach than we had down it on arrival.

As we went back over our paddle, grateful not to have been washed ashore in Cornwall somewhere, we looked out at the bell buoy we had passed, and realised it was well to the west of Cowes, where we had been headed. The tide had taken us well off course, and we hadn't even realised until now.

A really important lesson about understanding the tide times and the currents and, of course, the weather.

But we'll get to the island at some point, and it'll be a real boost when we do!

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