Crossing the Humber

First we have here two photos from paddling towards Withernsea and after the landing there. Of course as usually with photos the surf looks much much smaller than what it was.

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The day we didn’t leave because the surf still looked menacing enough we went to do some sightseeing. Now Withernsea was something. Once it used to be a great and popular seaside town with many attractions. Nowadays it’s still is a seaside town, only it looked less glamorous and not very popular at all. And we had to show great effort to find decent coffee shop. On the other hand it has lighthouse which is situated right in the middle of the town.

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Of course it wasn’t always like that. When the lighthouse was built, there was no town, no houses. The lighthouse was built among dunes far away from eroding shore. But once the shore started to be strengthen the houses appeared and slowly spread all around reaching the sea.

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Right, it’s time to get to our heading for today. Ever since leaving Aberdeen we were told about it. We heard about it all the time. Crossing the Humber. Who cares we done Cape Wrath, Pentland Firth or something foolish like going over to Northern Ireland, history. Humber, that was what was getting us interest and fame.
Well now we know why. If the other crossings were hard, this one, was one of the hardest. Only ten kilometres from shore to shore, due to few launching or landing possibilities before and after the crossing, it is a considerable distance. In the end we made over 24NM without landing. The tides are strong, too and happily play with the kayaks dragging them left or right as they wish.
On the pictures our path can be seen, we held the same 150 course for the whole journey.

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And then there are the ships, big and many. We had four big ones passing us very close and few lurking in the distance. We also found a tiderace or overfall, and when we were fighting our way through them, I was only hoping that shipping lines don’t go through these. No, they didn’t. To make it more interesting our not so favourite friend, the headwind, joined in at the very beginning and kept us company at solid F4 all the way till the finish.

Fortunately the seals saved the day. They joined us in hundreds and followed us for miles, playing and showing of. Some of them also tried to splash us and succeeded with Michal getting few showers.

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We decided to land in natural harbour of river Saltfleet. At its mouth we met few members of Satlfleet boat club. They were very friendly and straight away offered us their grass for camping and toilet to use. There are very simple things that make us happy after so many months of kayaking.

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North England

The road map sheet number 225 gone missing. It wouldn’t be that important if it didn’t contain our route for almost two days. But following the coast, we managed.

It had some benefits. We didn’t have to worry about miles long beaches with surf or cliffs without landing possibilities.

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We saw some interesting sights but didn’t have to match them to their geographical names.

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But we know we crossed the Tynemouth and the Teesmouth. There were some impressive cliffs in between with a lighthouse on Lizard Point.

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Crossing of the harbour in Middlesborough knocked the air out of us due to strong side wind and it being 3NM wall to wall. We finished that day right pass the spit in a hole between dunes, hoping the tent will last the wind. We don’t like sandy beaches and definitely camping on sand with sand in the air and everywhere.

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Yet, with the lit gas rig and the gas works humming gently in the background it was almost romantic.

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We passed Redcar and stopped in Saltburn for a Jacked Potato for Brunch. Brunches are our latest invention, we do them now, to speed up and save time. This jacked potato was very important, because on its fuel we continued all the way to Yorkshire.

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We stopped in Whitby. We should really have fish & chips here, but the potato, even after few hours, was still going.

Then there were the cliffs, dark in the rain. But we enjoyed them nevertheless. The rain and clouds transformed otherwise just another ordinary cliffs into something atmospheric.

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Not knowing where to stop kept us going, but when it started to be just a little bit uncomfortable we spotted some houses and landed. The name of the village wasn’t what was written on that stone which greater us on the beach, it was Robin Hood Bay.

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The dinner that day confirmed we were in Yorkshire for sure.

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Next day the cliffs were green and we could see the true Yorkshire landscape above. We enjoyed its views till Scarborough. We continued to Filey Brigg. From there the view towards Flamborough Head opened. Just there we also though if we ever were going to see birds again, for example puffins.

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We crossed the bay easily. These cliffs may the last ones till London. They are definitely the first chalk ones since South East Coast.

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The paddle around Flamborouhg Head was magic. If you haven’t done it, you should. We are coming back to do so. It’s like one of my favourite paddles, Old Harry’s Rock times hundred with the addition of thousands birds.

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We paddled in silence since their voices were so great that we would have to be shouting in order to hear each other. The wings flapped above us. The gannets stayed high. The razorbills, guillemots and puffing flew quite low around us.

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Just sometimes the peacefulness was interrupted by splashing in the water. I just hoped they could see the “No droppings!” sign on top of my head. They have, but missed Michal’s, fortunately only got his shoulder.

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We rounded the headland and stopped at South Landing. Grassy car park made a great camping spot, firm sand and slipway made the landing easy, too.

Extinguishment of seagulls caused by other birds

In the past as soon as people knew we were going on a trip, we came back from a trip or where to a certain place, they would ask about wildlife and mainly birds. When we were getting ready for this journey and during it, we had many conversations on this subject, conversations we try to avoid as best as we can.
If we were given a question of which birds we saw, we would say seagulls, yes/no puffins, cormorants. Often a question of had we seen any gannets would follow. Here we had to turn to mind reading, if it looked that the expected answer was yes, we would say so, if no, we would say that. There was only 50% chance of getting it wrong.

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Let me explain. Czech Republic doesn’t have sea and surprisingly any seabirds. We are not that mad about them to spent time and effort reading about them. More so since we started kayaking there was always something else to concentrate on.
As expected during our trip so far we have seen many birds, usually seagulls, puffins and cormorans. But at some point there were so many so further identification was needed. Small and big seagulls emerged, some of them had black on their wings, some of them had red beak. Puffins were joined by fake puffins and really fake ones. The big brown bird was always chasing smaller white ones. There were always few ducks around, too.
Now you know why we were avoiding sea bird topic.

However everything has to finish and so did the seagulls. The high wind and predicted bad weather saw us stranded in Aberdeen. It wasn’t that bad since we had roof and bed five minutes from the harbour wall provided by Finlay and Linda, friends and colleagues of Mark, brother in law of our former and future landlord.
On Saturday morning I downloaded the new issue of Ocean Paddler and there was an article about seabirds. What a coincidence. So there and then the seagulls’ faith was signed. Indeed we have seen gannets, actually we have seen plenty of them around Troup Head. The big brown bird is Skua, the pirate, always chasing others for food. Oystercatcher is not a person but the smallish black and white seagull with long red beak. The fake puffin turned out to be a razorbill.

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In the evening we were sitting with Finlay and Linda. The question of wether we seen any seabirds came. This time we could show our knew knowledge. But it turned to be even better. Linda is an ecologists specialising in sea birds, so if conversation on our part could have been very short lived, she patiently went through various places where we went and explained which birds we could see.
And so the kittiwake and not the small seagull was born, another tiny seagull with distinctive red legs and beak took his black hat off and is known as tern. The shag is no longer a cormorant. The black and white duck turned out to be guillemot, the ordinary very common looking seagull emerged as fulmar.

We left Aberdeen on Sunday to continue south. Not only the coastline was amazing but there were many sea birds. What a difference the knew knowledge made. We spent hours looking around and naming them, excited that we still remember.

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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SOMEONE’S BEHIND YOU, SOMEONE’ FOLLOWING YOU

Our stay at Lundy was longer than planned but pleasant nevertheless. After the first beautiful day of the first rest day we had the pleasure to listen to fog horn for two days. It was also windy and rained a lot. On the other hand Lundy’s library shelves were well stocked and both of us had an opportunity to read two books while we were there.

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On our fourth day we had the opportunity to witness and learn about bird watching. Not that we learnt any more names and species of birds. But we witnessed what a rigorous sport it is. It is important to note every spotted bird in special book, and to add your personal details and of course details about the bird. All in pencil! And then it gets competitive how many of such birds were already spotted, who was first, who saw most and so on. Maybe when we finish with kayaking we would become bird watchers.

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Four days we stayed at Lundy, had very good food, good rest but the time to move on came. We got up early and left just after six. Everything was very quiet while we followed the coast of the island and only the seals came to sing good bye. This bliss lasted only a short while, once past the shelter of the island the sea became moderate and wind increased. But hoping the forecast was right we carried on. Fortunately it all calmed down lately. The crossing picked up its pace and soon we could see land all around us, Lundy at south west, North Devon at south east, Gower Peninsula at north east and our destination at north. We only couldn’t see any land at our west as America is little bit too far.

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Just when the crossing started to be little bit too routine a seal appeared. He looked a bit breathy as if chasing us from Lundy. He must have been tired as he tried to climb up on our kayaks. Fortunately he preferred orange colour to red, but tried to get on both boats in turns. For a while it was fun, till we realised that it was very determinate seal and if we wanted to stay upright we better kept moving, since he couldn’t get on a boat in motion.

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But seals obviously learn quickly, he disappeared for a bit and we thought we got away, but the second time he joined us, he was not afraid to get on board and catch a ride while the vessel was moving. And so water taxis we became.

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In the end we were saved by the wind and the change in a sea state back to moderate and the seal was gone. The rest of the journey went smoothly without any major events.
We landed in Freshwater East and met local farmer Andrew, who may take us to the shop in the morning, since we have later start and he offered to help.