Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sun-drenched and copper-tainted

With Jess Andrews' fitness advice still fresh in our minds, Jon and I arrived at Hythe planning to paddle to Eling and back, a route we knew to be just under 10 miles. On a previous occasion before we took any real notice of tides or the weather (quite important things as we have since discovered on many occasions!) we went the other way, had a fantastic paddle as far as Hythe but turned back and had to heave our way back to Eling against tide and wind.

But now we know better. High tide was at 12.54 yesterday and we knew that if we started from Hythe at around 11.30 we would get to Eling at 1-ish and then settle in for a gentle surf back to Hythe on the retreating water.

Timing has never been our strongest point, and a puncture meant that Jon needed to visit a garage, so at 1pm exactly we launched off Hythe slipway and headed off upriver, minus Stu because of unfortunate shift patterns. It turned out to be one of the nicest paddles of the year so far - a nice sunny day with little breeze and, although we started to feel the tide pushing against us as we came up through the container terminal opposite Marchwood, it wasn't too challenging.

Soon after setting off we found ourselves in the middle of the waterway, which is actually quite wide, and passed some container ships and the normal mix of industrial sights. We spotted a police car on the end of a jetty and it momentarily reminded me of films I've seen with shady police involved in smuggling or other unsavoury activities at wharfs or harbours.

Anyway the provision by Jon of some Sports Mix sweets, sort of wine gums+, made a pleasant paddle even more enjoyable. Although this blog is not sponsored by Sports Mix, I have to say they were rather nice and I would recommend them as a supplement to your normal energy drink or whatever it is you use when doing exercise!

We broke the physchological barrier that we both had in the back of our minds from the last time we did this route, namely the long wide stretch from the dog leg of the container port to Eling, which seems unending. We finally beached at Eling slipway at 2.50, this was a good 20 minutes later than anticipated. After a short leg stretch we got back in and started the paddle back.

To start with it felt like peddling a bicycle downhill, when you can't quite get traction. This was because we were now going with the tide, but bizarrely it didn't really feel like we were getting anywhere. It was only when we looked at various markers in the water, such as deep water buoys etc, that we realised we we moving quite fast.

Before too long we were approaching the jetty where the police car was parked and, suspiciously, he/she was still there. We decided to paddle underneath the jetty and directly underneath the car. As we came out the other side and cleared the jetty, we heard a shout of "oi lads", turned around only to see the policeman beckoning us back towards him. We spun around and drew closer, used to people showing an interest in our kayaks and asking where we'd been etc, only to be told that he didn't think it was too safe to be paddling under the jetty.

This to us seemed a little bit odd, and we wrote it off as being the actions of a bored copper who had been sat there for almost two hours by that point, for reason or reasons unknown to us. We paddled away slightly bemused, and a little unclear as to why paddling under a jetty was any more dangerous than paddling at all. To be honest, drowning is probably our first concern, and slightly higher up the list harmful that could befall us under a jetty.

It felt a bit like the villain in Scooby Doo warning the kids not to go near that haunted house, but really just trying to keep them away from their secret lair. All a bit odd. At this point it is important, of course, to confirm that I have no reason to suspect this particular policeman of being a villain or being involved in anything unsavoury. It was just a little bit weird.

Nonetheless we paddled onwards and, in a total of just 75 minutes, found ourselves back on the slipway at Hythe, a full 35 minutes quicker than the first leg of the journey....what a difference the tide makes.

As far as our challenge goes, this was an important milestone. 10 miles in just over three hours bodes well, although it wasn't a particularly tough trip. However it suggests that a time of 7-8 hours might be achievable for our crossing when the time comes.

And there isn't likely to be any bored coppers in the middle of The Channel to delay us unnecessarily...

No comments:

Post a Comment