FINALLY SCOTLAND

So we are back on the mainland.

Yesterday we had a short day on the water. We paddled from Glenarm to Cushendun to reach the best place for crossing to Mull of Kintyre. Tides were running in our favour early in the morning or late in the afternoon, it was also quite foggy, so we could not consider crossing the same day although I could have been tempted otherwise.

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At Cushendun we have found an interesting house on a secluded beach having a system of caves as a driveway, it looked wicked.

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Today we left at half past seven towards Scotland. Crossing was OK, it was an important crossing, since it brought us back to mainland. It wasn’t as hard as we expected but it still felt longer than what it actually took us.

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There was an unusual number of Puffins flying around, more than we’ve ever seen on this trip before. We landed half past two, and I have to say, it is great to finish early sometimes, especially when it’s sunny. We managed to let all of our wet kit to have some sunbathing.

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And as a treat we had Haggis Nachos, what a great first day in Scotland.

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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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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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EVENTFUL OR NOT?

On the map Cardigan Bay didn’t look that big. At one point Michal was toying with the idea of crossing it from Strumble Head. But the enormity of the firing range and the distance, about 45NM, changed his mind. We liked our time at Steve’s, even more when he came to New Quay the following morning with his friends to help us to get the boats to the water.

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And so we went on and on. What made it so long for us was the fact that it all had just one name, Cardigan Bay. The last crossing didn’t help either, it looked fairly small on the map, it was just a corner of a bay, but it was long, slow and tiring.

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On the other hand we had some great glimpses of the wild life.

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And food wasn’t bad either, good we have to go to public houses to check their WiFi.

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Today we were slow to start, not till two hours before the end of the morning tide. This put us in front of a decision, paddle through Brandsey Sound and then struggle against the tide as far as we were able to. Or stay somewhere close to the headland and catch the early morning one tomorrow. We choose the second option, as we are not Martin king.
This gave Michal the opportunity to shorten his beard and hair, so he can see and be seen again!

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And I could indulge in some basic domestic chores.

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Not the best time to use the bottle

We had great time at Steve’s, the armchairs were comfy, but there is always time when the good things have to finish. Steve went to work and yes,we would feel a bit guilty if he founds sitting still there, so paddling we went.
The forecast was for F4 to 6, headwind of course and moderate sea. We had not expectations and therefore it wasn’t too bad in the end. Besides the back up plan was straight forward, we knew where Steve lives.
We paddled all right, although Michal had three cold splashes and kept complaining about it.
Enjoy the video. We did feel a bit sick while watching it.

 

Two days in Pembrokshire

The evening before our departure day we received two emails. One was from Sue from West Wales and one from Steve B. from Aberporth. Both were offering us places to stay with all the luxuries that come with being under a roof and both gave us good information. Unfortunately we had to decline the offer from Sue but decided to take Steve on his and so mission Aberporth started.

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Having a firing range ahead of us we had no other option than to leave Barafundle Bay early. We left at 5.30am, it was about 15 kilometres through the range and we had three hours.

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We enjoyed the breaking of the day and the some of the most beautiful coast. We allowed ourselves a little exploration of a cave, but really we were in a bit of hurry.

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All was going wonderfully and just when we thought we were out of the firing range, a patrol boat came. Apparently the firing range is larger than we thought, but they were nice and offered to give us a lift or tow. Tempting, especially that the tide started to turn. But no, we have to do by our own power, so we politely declined and continued under escort.

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We pushed agains the tide towards Jack’s Sound and camped on a beach waiting for the next tide. The midday sun was warm and we both snoozed for about an hour waking just in time to pull boats higher up on the beach.
The paddle to Ramsey Sound was uneventful but we saw lots of puffins in proximity to Skomer island. Some blurred picture here.

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It was getting late once we passed Ramsey Sound and we started to play with the idea of calling it a day at Whitesands Bay, but the tide was going, we were comfortably sitting in it, so decided to go as far as Aberdeidi. Also it’s much quieter than Whitesands Bay. A reward for this decision came in the look of several dolphins swimming around us all the way there. No pictures of them though.

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Second morning we got up early again a found out that if we are very close to water and have only already made tea and lots of sweets, we can be ready in one and half hour! We were catching another tide past Strumble Head. However once we passed it the ride finished and a slog against tide started. We pushed till Godwick for late breakfast, rest and wait for the next conveyor belt along the long Cardigan Bay.

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We made it to Aberporth late in the evening since some headwind came to keep us company for a while, never mind at least we saw more dolphins. They are hard to capture when you paddle but when we landed in Aberporth there was one wooden one, so I got that one at least.

Barafundle Bay

Being beaten by the wind yet again we became land bound on Barafundle Beach for few days.

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Failing to make it through firing range on Sunday meant that on Monday we could not go, even if it looked that the wind decreased to F5, which we can do for short distances.

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In the end it was exactly as we were assured by few friends, not bad place at all. The beach is lovely and quiet. The cliffs are stunning even from the land.

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We discovered some Lilly ponds, few local establishments and so far no one seemed to mind.

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Hopefully tomorrow early morning the combination of wind, tide direction, non firing will allow us to make a move.

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Gone with the wind

The farmer, his name is Andrew, was true to his word and came in the morning with his daughter, Saffron, and brought us coffee. We had a chat and the he took us to local shop. He was also offering showers. But just having left Lundy campsite we didn’t want to become spoilt. He also offered teas and charging stuff but we politely declined all. Then he mentioned wi fi and got our attention. We then spent the rest of the morning in his kitchen.
Saffron draw a cool picture for us, which is bellow.

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Then it was time when the tide turned in our direction and time for us to go paddling again. Unfortunately the wind beat us yet again. It was solid F6 against which we stood no chance. The target of our today’s journey got shorter and shorter till we ended in Barafundle Bay, whole 2,5nm from Freshwater East. Hopefully when we reach Scotland we will be able to fight more and longer.