Sunday, June 17, 2012

A fathers' day fail!

I did a fair amount of homework for today's early-morning trip to Milford-On-Sea, from where we intended to kayak the 7+ miles around to the headland just south-west of Mudeford. I looked at the problem; I looked at the weather....sunny and a light wind, so no problem. Except that it didn't turn out that way!

We pulled up at Keyhaven and hauled the kayaks up and over the spit and almost fell back down again in the wind that was coming up off the Channel from the southwest. It had seemed so calm in the shade of the high spit down on the road. Yes, it sounded a bit windy but we thought it would be fine.

It was 7am and we were sat on the beach looking at the waves, The English Channel and The Needles in the distance. The 6ft plus waves were coming onto a steep beach and it looked a bit hairy. Offshore it was very choppy. We noticed that every so often there was a massive wave preceeded by a fast sucking-out of the water off the beach, which was reminicent of what they say happens when there is about to be a tsunami!

The light wind was a force 3-4 at least. Stu decided to go for it, and so Jon and I volunteered to watch in case someone needed to call the emergency services at short notice. Stu waited for a huge wave to come in, break over the top of him and then paddled like fury out and clearer the next one, which was a little smaller, and off out to sea. He disappeared and then re-appeared as the waves rolled him about and it looked like a stuggle to stay upright. After 10 minutes or so, Jon and I were still sat on the beach wondering whether to go for it, and Stu was loitering offshore knowing that getting back onto the beach was going to be a challenge.

Suddely Stu decided enough was enough, and came back in. Usually you basically paddle as fast as possible to ensure you land as far up the beach as possible when you come in. This is exactly what Stu did, but a wave rolled up and under him as he approached the shore and then was dumped nose first with the back of his kayak 45 degrees higher than the front. Stu rolled off the front of his kayak and landed on the beach, his boat landing almost on top of him in the process and his sunglasses disappearing without trace.

Jon and I looked on as he picked himself up, recovered his kayak and wandered towards us. We decided to try it from the other side of some rocks, thinking it might be a little less violent. Stu was very game today and clearly the Sports Mix he had before we started had given him more than a sugar rush. He succesfully launched at the second attempt and Jon did too. I failed miserably and after four failed attempts decided to stop on the beach and watch the other two. Our 15m kayak was not going to happen today.

They came back in quickly and we decided to have one more go. Jon and Stu got off the beach quickly this time, finding a good gap in the waves to get offshore. I confidently waded in, sat on my kayak and let a small wave break over me and then paddled quickly out. Suddenly I found myself back on the stones. It was one of those horrible pre-tsunami moments and the water beneath me had suddenly retreated out to sea. The 6ft wave yawned and grew in front of me. I felt totally calm in expectation of impending doom, as I wondered what would happen next. The wave rumbled up underneath me and lifted the front of my kayak up, rolled me off and I took in a big mouthful of manky seawater. I held back my kayak which rolled towards me heavily, and the weight of it stopped me getting up. I waited for the next wave to come over me, but instead managed to get up and onto the beach, dragging my kayak behind me. I wanted a swig of water but my bottle was gone!

I looked out to sea and Stu/Jon were paddling about, rising and falling in the swell. I think I got away with it without being spotted!

I decided enough was enough. I lay on the beach in the early morning sun (it was still not even 8am)and had a snooze.

Jon/Stu came back after 10-15 mins and we called it a day, but when we got back towards the car we decided to paddle about in Keyhaven Reserve. We headed for Hurst Castle where we beached and had a look around. It was so calm in the reserve that it was hard to believe that, just the other side of the spit, the water was in chaos. We strolled around to the seaward side of the castle to take a look at the water between the Isle of Wight and Hurst Point, which looked very choppy to say the least. This narrow channel acts like a funnel between The English Channel and The Solent.

We headed back home and, given it was Fathers' Day and we were finishing much earlier than planned, we headed into Milford and had a very nice full English breakfast at a very nice cafe.

With the sea kayaks turning up last week (but not the spray decks) we will have to get out on some seriously long paddles to get used to the new boats and get some miles under our belt. The hard work starts now, but we'll certainly pay more attention to the wind speed forecast from now on.

The really good news? I checked back on the seaward side of the spit, and found my water bottle. A small victory for the day!

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