It was a really nice sunny morning with just a whisper of wind, and we launched into water that was like a millpond. We planned to set off towards Calshot knowing that it would be our longest paddle yet. We were on our sit-ons, because the spray decks from Venture Kayaks haven't yet arrived. It was low tide which meant we couldn't get in at Eling....if we had been able to, the day's kayak would have been more than 20 miles, but the slipway at Eling isn't easily usable at low tide.
Shades, sunhats and sun lotion on, cags and extra layers stowed away, we set off in the cool but very promising early morning weather with an extra bit of power in our paddles. This was proper kayaking weather, when you are kayaking for pleasure rather than for training. Today was going to be a bit of both, because we didn't plan to rush it but expected the distance to start tiring us out during the last quarter. We also had our eye on a toasted sandwich at Spinnakers Cafe in Calshot Activity Centre, where we expected to arrive at about 9.30.
We paddled along this now very familiar stretch of Southampton Water towards Hythe, passing the Marchwood incinerator (very definitaly a cover for some sort of James Bond villain's lair) and Cracknore Hard, where they seemed to be irrigating the water using the sort of system you see in fields during high summer.
We stopped at Hythe Pier for a Jelly Baby (what no Sports Mix? That's another story...) or two, and then cracked on to Calshot. The stretch between Hythe Pier and the gas ship pier at Fawley is a really long haul. It wasn't particularly hard going, it just takes forever. This is because it's a relatively straight bit of water and so you can see the target from a long way off. A glance at Google Maps shows it to be 3.4 miles, but it never feels like it is getting any closer.
When you finally arrive at the gas pier, the ships there are massive, and getting too close it a little unnerving. Plus any wash from the ferries or boats going up and down the water washes back off the gas ships causing a washing-machine-style effect.
The lifeboat station and lookout tower at the end of Calshot Spit came into view, and we were on the final straight. We paddles around the corner, the tide now causing us a little more hard work, and beached in front of the activity centre only to see that Spinnakers Cafe was closed. A little sunshine disappeared from our day despite the bright and warm conditions.
After a short break we began paddling back at bang-on 10.00, and got back to Marchwood just after 12, having passed a massive container ship, plus a tallship on it's way out into The Solent.
The return journey was odd. We knew we were travelling back on the fastest incoming tide of the day, but that it was only around 1 knot. As our speed is usually around 3-4 knots, this meant we were travelling faster than the tide and therefore still having to work quite hard to cut through the water. Even so, we got back around 30 minutes quicker than the outward journey, despite it not feeling any easier.
And so we got up early and beat our personal best distance, another step towards success in our Channel crossing objective.
We just need to get into the sea kayaks now.