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Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

Helen and David Corrigan, who we met in the Harbour at Portsoy on Friday night, very kindly put us up at their home last night. Fantastic to spend a night out of the high winds and rain, lovely home cooked food and company!

But what’s happened to our hairy faces? We woke this morning and it ha all gone. I think Angus and Bruce may have had something to do with it.

Thank you so much guys for looking after us so well!

In the photo from L-R Angus, Geoff, Bruce, Andy

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A long one this. But strong winds have kept us off the water again and so I have some time to waffle on!

Having exhausted the cafe facilities in Scourie for 48 hours whilst the big winds kept us off the water again, it was finally time to make a break for it.

We were up at 6am, gear and tent packed away just as the rain started. That’s the worst. Packing away your stuff wet knowing it’ll be making everything else wet inside the kayak.

We had a quick breakfast in the laundry room of the campsite – at least it was warm and dry – 5 Weetabix and some Alpen, cup of tea and a banana. It was just a light breakfast as we hoped to stop after 3 hours paddling for a snack!

We chatted to a lovely 70 year old Canadian who was cycling around Ireland and Scotland (wow!) whilst we climbed into our wet paddling gear. We said our goodbyes and launched by 7.45am.

No matter how wet or unpleasant the day seems when you wake up, as soon as you are in the kayak, all seems well with the world. It’s just the transitions that are uncomfortable – either getting kitted up in the morning or changed again in the evening.

We headed north out of the relative shelter of Scourie Bay and headed towards the mist covered, slightly intimidating, cliffs of Cape Wrath.

The sea felt different. A northerly swell was rolling in, typically between 2 and 3 metres, something we haven’t had for a while as we enjoyed the protection of the Isles along the west coast. We actually enjoyed the sensation of being lifted up high and then dropped low into the troughs. The wind rush over our ears picked up noticeably on the way down whilst it was almost silent at the top.

We chatted about what it would feel like to finally get round Cape Wrath. Only one more turn before we head south again.

Before we headed for Cape Wrath itself, time for a break on the stunning Sandwood Bay beach. We had to choose our landing spot carefully as the swell converted into quite a large surf. We cleared our decks of maps, camera, GPS and anything else that could be lost if we rolled. We didn’t pop the helmets on but we did deploy the straps on our Tilley hats! After a couple of cheeky surfs we landed and jumped out as quick as we could to avoid getting sucked back out into the surf.

A stunning beach and totally deserted. Or so I thought. In the space of the 45 mins we stopped to eat our rolls and heat up our potato cakes, we met 6 people and saw several others who had braved the 9 mile round walk to get to the beach.

The sun was out and the wind had dropped – it is times like this that can tempt us to stay off the water for longer than we should! Anyway, Cape Wrath was waiting for us and so we pushed off.

The launch was exciting to say the least. Geoff said he was going to wait till the sets died down before he launched. So imagine my surprise we he appeared to launch at the start of a set. He cut a dramatic figure as his 18ft boat soared almost vertical on each wave and slammed down the other side. I counted at least 6 of those. Poor bugger. Meanwhile, learning from his minor timing error I had sat in the shelter of a rock and pushed out once the set had come in. A couple of wet slaps in the face was all I got.

Mind you, later I discovered I had forgotten to do up my relief zip on the dry suit (must be my age) and so was uncomfortably damp for the rest of the day. Fate has a way of evening things up!

Cape Wrath was only 6 miles away. Strangely we felt a little apprehensive about this one. To add to our mood, the cloud cover increased and the water took on an inky black complexion.

As we rounded the Cape itself, we could just see the top of the lighthouse some 210ft above us.

The name Cape Wrath comes from the Norse meaning turning point. Mind you it’s English meaning is perhaps more appropriate now.

The north going flood tide and the east going ebb, which was just starting, was mixing and fighting with each other for control. The northerly swell and now and easterly swell combined to create quite a turbulent mix. Add to that the severe clapotis (reflected waves off the cliffs) and we found ourselves in easily the biggest and most confused conditions we have experienced so far. At times the sets were coming in up to 5m.

Geoff was keen to get a picture with his SLR. So we rafted up for stability once we got past the worst stuff and he got some shots of the lighthouse. Can’t imagine we would have contemplated that a few weeks ago.

We pushed on, but were caught in the west going tide as it accelerated towards Cape Wrath. Our paddle speed was down to 1.5kts. Ouch, less than half of what we would normally want. At this rate it was going to take another 4 hours to get to Durness. And of course what had been northerly head winds were now easterlies, but we have come to expect nothing less.

After an hour and a half of making slow progress and defending ourselves from incoming waves we seemed to break free from the pull of the stream and our speed picked up to a more reasonable 3kts. The tension began to ease, we began to talk more and admire the incredible scenery and wildlife around us.

As we finally rounded Fairaid Head towards Durness we were rewarded with the sound of whale blow hole behind us. Geoff ‘Oddie’ Cater spotted the dark fin of an Orca. We spent a few minutes watching it surface in the evening sunshine, but when we heard a couple more blows behind us and closer, we decided not to risk spoiling the day and paddled on.

When we arrived at the campsite, the lighthouse keeper from Cape Wrath was there and asked if we were the kayakers he saw earlier rounding the corner. When we said we were, he passed on a message from Tanya to say she loved me and well done! Oh my word! Tanya had called the Ozone Cafe at the lighthouse, as she thought we might stop there (we didn’t). The owner had told the lighthouse keeper who was staying at the same campsite so he passed on the message and made us a cuppa. What a wonderful end to an amazing day.

Today and tomorrow we’ll be in Bettyhill, mostly in the cafe eating, as gale force winds are building. But as Harry, one of Geoff’s daughters says, we must not worry about where we think we should be, we must just be where we are.

The photos are of the Curvy Bikers (West Coast) – a fun bunch we met at Scourie and the view from our campsite in Bettyhill.

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We were up at 4.30am yesterday after an ok night’s sleep on the harbour wall in beautiful Clovelly.  We had a little cover under a walk way but Geoff, who was in his bivvy bag, can confirm that it rained during the night and that the rain was wet on his face.

We paddled 11 miles across Bideford Bay trying to find the figure of 8 stream that a local fisherman had told us about.  He suggested we aimed for the 5 star hotel at Saunton Sands – slightly ironic given our accommodation arrangements.  About 5 miles across the mist came down and we lost sight of land.  We took a bearing and tried to keep the kayaks on a heading of 45 degrees.  Around an hour later and to our delight (and a little surprise) the cloud lifted and hotel was still there – we were on course.

We pulled into Croyde Bay at high tide and thankfully very small surf.  By 10am were in a local holiday park cafe eating an enormous breakfast while we waited for the tide to go out and turn back in our favour.  We wanted to avoid the peak of the tide race around Ilfracombe but still get the benefit of some tidal stream as we completed the last 11 miles.  The downside of this master plan was that it took us 25 minutes to carry the kayaks (each around 100kgs) down to the water.  Mmmm – still figuring out the most efficient strategies.  The split shift (paddle twice a day with the tides) seems to work though  – and suspect we’ll take advantage of this more in the weeks ahead.

We’re now under a roof in the Oceanbackpackers hostel in Ilfracombe and weather bound for a couple of days as we wait for the Bristol Channel crossing – 22 miles to Port Eynon.  We would normally be out in a F5 head wind but not when crossing the Channel.  Best to be safe and we prefer to be conservative with some of our decisions, even if that means adding a few days to our expedition.

So time to eat, wash, dry kit out, let blisters dry out and inspect sore bits and make some funny videos – really sorry we haven’t been able to post any of therm yet we’ve had a few techy problems. But hopefully we’ll get this sorted soon.

We are loving the messages of support – thank you so much!  We are all a little tired and aching but in high spirits and growing more confident by the day that we can do this.

Anyway better go we’ve got a brew on…..

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Short video of a draughty day at Portscatho! Hope it calms down for the start of our paddle tomorrow. The HomeSeaHome team of Natalie and Michal return to their camping. We’ll see them again tomorrow.

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So, only two days to go … and I cannot wait!  Probably not the reaction you’d expect from a loving and supportive wife, but this might help clarify things:

  • the guest room will revert back to being to a guest room and will no longer be a kit and exercise room
  • no more packages to sign for – the constant doorbell-ringing also makes George bark, incessantly
  • no more hearing him whinge about niggles, old and new
  • no more wondering what all the grunting and groaning is coming from the garden and the shed – fortunately its just him huffing and puffing while exercising
  • no more ‘would you help me carry the kayak through the cottage’ – bearing in mind the kayak is almost 18ft long, always drips water and sand, and is not the most manoeuvrable of things
  • I will become top dog

I could carry on, but I won’t.  It is all of these things (and more) which, actually, will make me miss him so much.  Even writing this makes me tearful (get a grip TB), but I am so proud of Andy.  This trip has been months in the planning, and he has been training religiously to make himself as strong and as fit as he can be.  It is important for him that his body doesn’t let him down, and he also won’t want to let Geoff and Mike down – and not to mention everyone who is supporting them and of course the charities they are hoping to raise lots of £’s for.  I’m not too worried about the actual paddling, it’s the other stuff that wakes me up at night, like, will he get a good night’s sleep;  will he stay injury-free;  will the weather be kind to them;  and I hope no-one steals the kayak!

I cannot wait for the day I see him appear from around Nare Head – I’ll be the one on Tatums Beach in floods of tears and popping open the champagne.  I’m sure this trip will be a life-changing experience, I’m just hoping it doesn’t make him want to do it again – his Mum won’t be happy!  But then again, at least I’ll know what to expect.

Good luck honey.  Be safe, be strong, but most of all, have fun.  Love you, xxx

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A big thank you to MooD International who have just made a very generous donation to our charities.  MooD International are Mike Greenslade’s employer and have already donated in a sense by allowing Mike to have the time away from work to take part in this expedition.  The GB360 Team are all very grateful for this latest contribution to our sponsorship.

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Well, a year in the planning so what’s an extra couple of days?  Sadly the forecast for Sunday is looking pretty awful – Force 7 (gusting gale Force 8), so we’ve made the call to delay setting off till Tuesday 1st May.  Really sorry if you had hoped to join us down on Tatums Beach to say cheerio on Sunday but we hope you can still pop down on Tuesday.  We’ll be there from 11.15 am and will be heading off around midday.

Andy, Geoff, Mike

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Tanya and I spent last Saturday with family and friends at a surprise farewell gathering in Rowledge Village Hall in Surrey – where my folks and sister and her family live.  So much laughter and fun (as you’ll see in the photos), amazing food and fantastic company – a perfect way to say cheerio.  When I’m having a tough day out on the water, I’ll remember that afternoon and everyone’s good luck messages. Thank you so much for a fabulous send off!

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The GB360 Team are thrilled to say that donations to our charitable causes have now reached over £5,000 – and we haven’t even set off yet!  Thank you to all of you for your generosity.

Just a reminder that all of the money that you donate goes direct to the charities. The costs of the expedition itself are being met by the three of us, with some generous support of gear and food from a number of organisations – visit our Friends and Supporters page for details.

If you haven’t sponsored us yet, and want to, then click on the link on the right. We are supporting five very worthy causes and whatever you can give will make a big difference – thank you!

Andy, Geoff and Mike

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You may remember that “Look what we found!”, the environment and local farmer friendly food company, very generously agreed to provide us with some of their fantastic ready meals for our 2,500 miles around Britain.

Mike, Geoff and I liked them so much we’ve made them the staple diet for our expedition – that along with porridge and chocolate!  We now have 120 ready meals waiting to be boxed up and sent to strategic points around the coast to top up our supplies on the way round.

However, this week we decided to try out a selection of the meals on perhaps the most discerning of palates – that of Freya ‘Egon Ronay’ Poppy, my six-year-old god-daughter who knows what she likes, AND what she doesn’t.

Freya "Egon Ronay" Poppy with her meatballs

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