It was our first morning waking up in Scotland. It was a slow start to the day. We had left St Bees head around 10.30 the previous day, stopped briefly at Whitehaven as it had been such a slog against a F4/5 headwind all the way round the headland.
After cappuccino and carrot cake we made our way towards Workington where we planned to cross the Solway Firth. In the end we decided to cross from Harrington, a few miles earlier making the crossing just a bit longer around 22 miles.
It was nearly 16.00 and a close call as to whether we should attempt it that evening or wait till the morning. A check of the forecast made the decision for us. The wind was due to pick up to a F6/7 the next day. To wait would trap us in England and we were keen to push on.
A few weeks ago a crossing like that (the size of the Bristol Channel) would have filled us with some apprehension. But now we know we can cope with them even after having already paddled for a few hours.
The winds and tide would be against us all the way but so long as we could achieve 3Kn moving average we felt we could make it before midnight. We would have light till 22.00 and moonlight after that.
Well it was certainly a slog and the stream and wind combined to push us east further than we hoped. After 12 miles we were in a wind farm and could see how strong the stream was against the pillars. If we stopped paddling we moved south east at around 1.5kn. So no time for long stops.
We pushed on, feeling slightly apprehensive as the sun started to set, but just then, around 7 miles out, we spotted our intended landing spot and started the long slog in.
We landed, tired but elated, gave each other a big hug and before we pitched tents we had a very large dram.
So today was always going to be a slow one. The wind was up and although in our favour (easterly) it had also whipped up a lively sea.
We carried and launched over the huge round bolders that covered the beach. It would have been so easy to twist an ankle or drop and break the boats. But finally we were afloat and after mopping up the water that had managed to get into our cockpits before we got our spray decks on, we were off.
The wind, tide and following sea had us flying along at around 5-6kn. Geoff recorded 9.5 maximum as he surfed down one particular wave. The cliffs seemed to whizz by. Great progress but also quite stressful paddling. It would have been easy for either of us to capsize. Some of the sets coming in over shallower ground were around 2.5m and quite steep causing the noses of our kayaks to burry at the bottom of the waves.
So after a couple of exhilarating hours we pulled into the shelter of Kirkcudbright. We made out way up the estuary as far as the RNLI station. The lifeboat was out on a shout and we got chatting to the operations manager John Collins. Within minutes John had the kettle on for us and even lowered the launch cradle for us to lift both our kayaks up the slipway. How cool is that!
When the Lifeboat and it’s crew returned we chatted to them all before they gave us a lift into town in the RNLI Landrover. Well that made my day.
I wrote the first half of this yesterday it is now Sunday. Today the wind changed for the worse and so we stayed off the water. The RNLI team had another shout (that’s 3 this weekend) so we got to see the them again and get to hear about their day and also got some good tips on places to stay and the tides.
Such a nice bunch of people, it was a real pleasure to meet them all. Geoff and I reflected later how chatting to them gave us a really great insight into the local community. Meeting people like that is one of the privileges of an expedition like this.
Thank you John and team for your hospitality!