GOING NORTH

This morning we had to go past Belfast, the only place we could identify easily without a map. We left our camping spot in sunshine which didn’t last long, soon the sky became cloudy and fog came just as we approached Belfast Loch and its busy shipping lane. We didn’t feel very comfortable, however it wasn’t too bad in the end and we could see all ships early enough.

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Soon after we reached cliffs on the other side of the loch. The area here is called Gobbins, and before the first world war was very popular tourist destination. In 1902 the Railway Company built a walkway, a narrow path which served tourist till 1962. When they built it they said: “new cliff path along the Gobbins, with its ravines, bore caves, natural aquariums …. has no parallel in Europe as a marine walk”. It looks pretty amazing and we spent some time to explore it closely. It follows the cliffs for long way.

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Rest of the day we just continued north till we reached village big enough to have a pub and called it a day.

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ISLANDS HOPPING

Northern Ireland

This wasn’t even mentioned during our brief discussions about where and how we would go. We didn’t know ourselves till about Thursday that we would come here.

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But when considering our options, going up north irish coast and cross north west of Mull of Kyntaire seemed the best.
On the evening before crossing we could see Ireland distant hills.

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On the morning of the crossing we couldn’t see Ireland at all and didn’t until about seven hours into our eleven hours crossing. But once we landed the isle of Man was nicely visible.
The crossing itself was very quiet, some following sea to start with and some wind form side for the last part, but that was it. And we probably saw a whale, don’t know what kind, but it was much bigger than dolphins are.

We plan to paddle along the north coast till we can cross back to the mainland again. Not planning to come here, we didn’t bring a map, and so can’t give you any geographical names. We just have to keep the land on our left for a change.

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What’s more, it’s pretty here. And the locals are friendly, one dog walker just took our empty water bag away and brought it back full.

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ISLAND HOPPING

ISLE OF MAN

So we landed on Thursday night and found shelter in Mariners’ Shelter in St Mary’s harbour. Next day we were given the forecast by the harbour office and it was clear that we were going nowhere for the next few days. The main problem had to be sorted, where to stay. This wasn’t our first visit to the island. We came here two years ago to kayak with Adventurous Experiences. And so Kieron it was to whom we sent a text. Him being away, paddling at Aleutian Islands, his colleague Sam answered. World is small, it was Sam with whom we paddled last time.
And so we set off from Port St Mary, hoping to get as far as Peel, or maybe Niarbyl, just a bit closer for our next journey and for the pick up. The wind was force 4, due to pick up by 4pm. We made it through the Sound of Calf before it became a Tiderace and continued past Port Erin. The wind was strong from the side. Hidden under the cliffs we enjoyed a bit of coast exploration.

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But this did not last long, the wind followed the cliffs and soon became a headwind. We pushed as far as we could, being carried by tide, but soon the kayak started to reverse, being blown by the wind. The water was being taken by the wind from the surface and thrown into our faces, there it was a clear F7. We had no other option than to turn (not fun) and go back to Port Erin hoping that we can make into the harbour against the wind. Eventually we did. Many people were on the beach enjoying the hot weather and Friday afternoon unaware of the drama we went through.

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Now we only had to wait for the pick up. Sam took us to their head quarters at Ballabrooie Farm.

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We camped here for two nights and were made to feel very welcome by everyone living here.

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Jim (Kieron’s dad) even lent us a car to ease our exploring of the island. Which we enjoyed and really liked the wild forests they have here and the beautiful coastline.

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The only complication was that it was the beginning of TT Race. Again. It was same the last time we came here, and so we had to negotiate few road closures and many motorbike.

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I have to admit we never heard of TT Race till two years ago, and failed to see how important is was in the history of racing sport. Well, we do know now, and the next time we come here, we will try to avoid it.

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OUR CROSSING TO ISLE OF MAN

MICHAL:
I don’t know if it is because we are from a country without sea, but the idea of crossing to different islands has always appealed to me. When we started to plan our journey there was always one island standing up while I looked on the map, the Isle of Man. In false confidence I wanted to paddle there but Natalie was clear from the beginning, we were not even to talk about it, every time I have mentioned it. So it was a big surprise when she said that she was thinking about it while we were making our progress through Cardigan Bay.
We were not too hopeful, we knew we needed perfect conditions and they were five days too early. We did not expect the good weather to last but just in case, we tried to get to Anglesey as soon as possible. It always looked like we were one day too late so we went for Menai Strait as not to waste time doing the whole Anglesey and knew that we would have an opportunity to make up our minds once in Beaumaris.
The morning we woke up at Gallows Point next to Beaumaris was one of the hardest in decision making so far. Should we go right or left? We had almost perfect forecast. Almost, as there were no wind, no waves for two days but fog, which nearly made us to turn right towards Liverpool. We could see hundred and fifty metres at most and it was not going to get better any time soon.
We pondered through maps, charts and various forecasts all morning considering our options. In the end I have decided that fog is going to lift and we went for Bull Bay.
Once we have arrived there and could see limited camping options, basically no spare place for tent, it was obvious it would be pub diner and pitching tent after dark. We went to Bull Bay Hotel, which was just next to the wall on which we were drying our stuff, and had huge sign of welcoming non residents.
This time we changed our routine, the restaurant looked very empty, and asked if they were serving food that night, and then followed with our normal question if they had WiFi. We were given bizarre answer that WiFi was just for residents as they have all business accounts on it. Even plugs we could only use if eating, which they mentioned about three times. We politely left and went to search for something else. At Trescastell Hotel they had the right approach and pointed us to a table with most plugs and provided password for connection.

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Once on line we found email with invitation from Marcus Demouth, but sadly him being in the next bay and us not wanting to go in kayaks again, we stayed in our illegally pitched tent. We were calmer, now, having a backup plan of where to crash if not going.
I have to admit that for the first time I felt little bit nervous all night, being worried about my calculations and forecasted fog patches and fog banks. Fortunately early morning sunshine cleared all worries and we set of towards Isle of Man shortly after six.

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As for crossing there is nothing much to write about, we paddled and paddled and occasionally stopped to pee, wee, drink, have a snack, take jackets off, watch water, one porpoise, some birds, a big boat and one yacht, a motor boat and two fishing boats, and then there was Port St Mary.

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NATALIE:
Some time before we started the trip and Michal had the rare occasions when he was thinking about planning, he there and now mentioned the crossings. I didn’t want to hear about them, we were not to talk about it. And so we didn’t, even when we set of on the journey. I did not feel confident, strong and mentally ready to undertake such challenge. But as we slowly set off and with each bay we crossed and the longer we sat in the boats, I began to give them a thought.
I started to think about Lundy crossing once we left from Cadwith before the Lizzard. Still the second part of it, the Bristol Channel crossing, wasn’t to be mentioned. But even that slowly changed and by Newquay we started to talk about them. You have read about both.
The Isle of Man crossing was still off bound. No way. Well, till Cardigan Bay, then it changed and I started to feel a bit confident that we may give it a go. The last crossing of Cardigan Bay was slow and tiring and a little preview of sitting in a boat with no end, but I felt ready. I only told Michal about it when we left Aberystwyth. I was even getting nervous that we would not be able to do it, as each day of good weather far away from Anglesey I despaired, that we won’t make it there on time.
The paddle through Menai Strait was great and I am glad we gave ourselves the time to make decision. The morning at Gallows Point was difficult, sea state and wind great, fog not so. Looking at OS maps showing mud and sand were putting me of North west coast of England, on the other hand it is part of the coast line. But also I like islands and Isle of Man and wanted to go there. Left, right, left, right. But really it was Michal’s decision as he would have to plan it and make sure we get there, if we dare. Well you know by now which decision was made and yes we are at IOM.

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We were lucky to have great conditions, it was long crossing, 15 hours. I found it fairly entertaining, but it’s all about the state of mind. There are few things I was thinking about during it.

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My journey to Isle of Man really started in London. When we left I wasn’t fit paddling too long or too far (I haven’t paddle for months before departure), but slowly the stamina and endurance built up. This is what we want to show to young people at Shadwell Basin Centre, it doesn’t matter where and how you start, but if you persevere you would achieve. And the sense of achievement is great, we all know about that.
The second thing which was on my mind during crossing was how similar it was to Joshua’s life. It took many paddle strokes to get from land to land, again and again and again. We couldn’t see land for hours and after the first glimpse we knew we still had hours to go. But we got there eventually. And so it is for Josh, for him to learn and achieve it would take many tries and great many repetitions. Both Josh and all people around him will give enormous effort and show great patience but they will see progress in the end. Josh is clever boy, that’s clear already, and would be able to learn great lot in order to make the most of his abilities.
So if you read this far and appreciate the big effort that is behind above mentioned achievements, please, show us all support and go to our donate page and spare few coins. In the end it all will come together and make our target. Thank you.

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IOM

Yesterday at 21.20 we landed at Port St Mary at IOM. Unlike Joe ( joearoundbritain) we don’t know anyone here, so no welcoming commitee, no hot soak, no beer and lasagne, although we had the last two previous night at Trescastle hotel in Bull Bay.
While we are recovering and discovering all aches and pains from yesterday, you can still support our fundraising and aknowledge our achievement by donating £1 for each hour we were paddling (15hours) or 10 p per kilometre (80km), or £1 for each hour of not seeing land (6hours). You can support us as one team, or each member or any combination of above. Thank you, it will be much appreciated.

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Today Natalie & Michal are crossing to the Isle of Man

They have just started the crossing from Amlwch in Wales to the Isle of Man, around 80 km an estimated 14 hours paddling. Please donate 10 p per km or £ 1 per hour to cheer them up on this very demanding crossing. To follow their progress click on ” our position ” button or follow the link below

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Menai Strait

Yesterday we paddled to Menai Strait. We have never padded there before, and we’re looking forward to it.
It didn’t disappoint, although the water in the strait wasn’t moving as fast as we expected, but maybe our expectations were tool high. I have just few pictures of the entry, a town and Britania Bridge.

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This morning we woke up in our tent on Gallows Point and it was foggy.

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Visibility 150m, we had to hug the coast and found a nook in a rock with lots of painted stones. Barbara and Ian would like this.

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