Friday, February 24, 2012

Shaken, Rattled & Rollered. Saturday 18th Feb.

Having had a couple of weekends off for work commitments and bad weather, Charlie, Jon and I were looking forward to getting back on the water.  We met at Hythe marina at 09:30 and the plan was to get as far up the Itchen river as possible but leave enough time to get Charlie back as Saints were playing at home (not much gets between Charlie and St Marys stadium on a Saturday afternoon!).

Three men and their boats
Luckily, we came across these kayaks just lying around on the slipway, they made our rubber outfits appear far more socially acceptable.

The weather was reasonable; no rain and only a slight breeze, and Southampton Water appeared fairly calm with only a little top-chop.  We set out on what has now become a familiar route for us towards the Queen Elizabeth dock and the mouth of the River Itchen. The crossing of the shipping lane was plain sailing and we soon settled into an easy paddling rhythm with the breeze at our backs as we passed the docks and the entrance to the Ocean Village marina.

After paddling under the Itchen Bridge, a very cheerful conversation about suicide was interrupted when Jon spotted the hovercraft at the Griffon Hoverwork slipway and we moved in closer for a better look. It was here that we first realised that the wind was picking up and that the gentle breeze that had been pushing us up the river felt quite a bit stronger when you faced downstream!   Initially we decided to push  further on up the river but with second thoughts (and what we like to think of as increasingly good judgement) we voted to turn around and give ourselves plenty of time for the return journey.

This decision turned out to be even better than we first thought.  The water felt more and more like treacle as we headed back down the river and the head wind became a greater nuisance by the minute. Even trying to use the slip-stream of a huge passing aggregates ship didn't help and as we neared the mouth of the river once more we knew we were in for a struggle to get back across Southampton Water.  

 Rounding the corner at Q.E dock the shipping lane had become a washing machine.  This is the point where the two bodies of water meet, creating swirling currents. Add into the mix a strong wind holding up the choppy waves and what was an enjoyable, easy -going paddle only forty minutes previously had suddenly become the biggest challenge we had faced this winter.  It was slow progress and we were getting wetter from the cold spray by the second. At one point Charlie and I didn't make any forward progress for what seemed  like an age despite paddling like mad!  Then, just to rub salt into our wounds, a series of huge rolling waves decided to make their way up Southampton Water making staying on our kayaks a challenge in itself.  With heads down and paddles going ten to the dozen we made slow progress across the shipping lane. Eventually we were able to ease up and laugh at ourselves as we approached Hythe marina slipway,  thoughts of dry clothes,  warm cars and a beer in the' Salt Bar' making reaching land all the better.  Cold, soaking wet and knackered........we couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces.

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