Firstly we were contacted, just before Christmas, by Iain Clarke at Action Duchenne, our chosen charity, wanting to meet with us. Secondly we undertook several mini-expeditions during the Christmas period to begin testing ourselves more progressively. And finally we applied for and subsequently were awarded support from Pyranha Mouldings, a kayak manufacturer. I will cover each of these in turn, but they all give us real hope that this is more than just a dream, and it can in fact become reality.
Firstly we undertook some kayaking over the Christmas period, which was a real contrast from last year when is was very cold and snowed on several occasions during December and January. This year we are (a) much hardier and willing to go out in all weathers and (b) the weather has actually been nice and mild.
We have been out on Southampton Water from Marchwood up to the mouth of the Test, where it meets the Itchen. This was very hard work because the water was choppy, and in fact washing-machine like where the rivers meet south of Town Quay and Ocean Village. We paddled back in progressively worse conditions and, although not dreadful, were enough to make me really start to hurt quite a bit - cramp, sore shoulders and a dodgy knee.
However a subseuqent paddle from Ashlett Creek was much more enjoyable and successful. For a start, we are finally getting used to reading the tides and weather and, in particular, how they combine to create various conditions. We carefully planned our route and the timings etc, and headed across the mouth of Southampton Water towards the Hamble River at high tide. I called this trip the Jolly Jolly Paddle because there are pubs called The Jolly Sailor at both ends. When we got to The Jolly Sailor at Hamble we were a little early for a pint, but held on for a half at opening time (it was a Sunday). We then headed back for a full pint at the pub at Ashlett Creek where there is good beer and an open fire. The upshott, though, is that we played the tides just right and this made for a far more pleasant paddle.
Our next piece of luck over recent weeks was the meeting with Iain Clarke from Action Duchenne, which ended up being a confracall. Jon, Stu and I huddled around Jon PC and put the phone on loudspeaker. What we heard was music to our ears, as Iain basically offered to pick up as much of the organisational side of the trip as possible, if we just concentrated on getting fit for the crossing.
Not so encouraging was hit story about another cross-channel attempt he is involved with, this one a swim. He said that, although the distance between Dover and Calais is c20 miles, you have to swim about 40 miles because, given the time it takes to get across, you have to swim in a dog-leg up and down the tide, hence you double the distance!
This send shockwaves through our systems!! 40 miles!! The most we've done so far, on the Jolly Jolly Paddle and once between Hythe and Eling is 9.5m. So, we need to start upping the ante considerably, and fast!
Anyway, Iain's offer of help was very gratefully received, and we proceeded to download all our previous correspondence on matters such as pilot boats, French landing permits and begging letters to his inbox, and hopefully he will then pick much of this type of thing up for us. Even if he can only make a small contribution to the organisation, it will be of massive benefit to us.
The final piece of good news is that Liz Forshaw from Pyranha Mouldings has contacted me and Jon to say we've been successful in our application for expedition support. Her email reads:
- A written report of your trip for the Venture Kayaks Website.An article submitted to kayaking magazines and general outdoor magazines (if you need contacts for this let me know)
- A selection of images of the kayaks in action that we can use after the trip.
- A short (100 word max) synopsis of the trip, where you’re going, why etc for our news. ( I need this quite quickly with a photo of you both)