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Found this shot of a Lion’s Mane jelly fish in amongst some photos from our trip around Ireland last year.

If you want to hear more about our little adventure, Geoff will be heading off to the National Trust’s Stackpole Seakayaking Festival 20th – 22nd May to give a talk about it. The event is being run by our mate, Mike Greenslade, who is now living the dream as an Area Manager for the National Trust.

There are still tickets available if you fancy a weekend of stunning coastline and great kayaking courses.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stackpole-outdoor-learning-centre/features/stackpole-sea-kayaking-festival-2016

Andy and Geoff

Lion's Mane Jelly Fish

Lion’s Mane Jelly Fish

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It has been just over two weeks since Geoff and I finished our adventure.  Most of the kit has been washed, repaired and stored away, swollen hands have just about returned to normal (although I still can’t get my wedding ring on).  Neither of us has yet got back in a boat but we’ll be putting that straight very soon.  We’re  looking forward to getting out on the water and not having to worry about cracking out 30 or 40 miles or where we’ll sleep for the night.

We haven’t yet sorted through all the photos and video clips – but when we do, we’ll put together a short video of the paddle and post it on here.

In the meantime we both just wanted to say a further THANK YOU to all those who have donated to our two charities (Samaritans and West of England MS Therapy Centre) since we arrived home:

Bobbi and Dave for organising the raffle at the Royal Standard in Gerrans; Diana; Samaritan Volunteers; Anne and Terry; Steve and Lucy; Toby; Maggie; Derek; Cynthia (again!); Chris and Nett and Liz.  

Our total, including Gift Aid, is now £2,312.50 – amazing.  Thank you so much!

We will be closing down the fundraising page very soon so that the money can be handed over to our chosen charities – so if you did intend to donate then you’ll need to get your skates on!

The link again:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=Midlifekayak&pageUrl=2

Geoff and Andy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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With bellies full of tea and sausage sandwiches we kept all our paddling kit on and climbed into our bivy bags last night at around 12.30 am. The forecast for our final day looked better – west south westerly F4 gusting F5 – a notch or two lower than it had been. We just hoped that by only leaving 31 miles we would be able to get the job done.

We were up at 4am and on the water at 5am. That’s a total of 7 hours sleep in the last three days as we have attempted to paddle both ebb tides a day down this stretch of coast.

Feeling a little emotional to be finishing this incredible adventure, we paddled the 31 miles in a ‘oner’ and pulled into Rosslare fishing harbour at 12.15pm.

Geoff and I climbed out of our boats gave each other a big hug and opened a bottle of Proseco.

We feel incredibly privileged to have been able to paddle round this amazing country. We have seen incredible wildlife and scenary, experienced some exhilarating conditions and met some wonderful people. Thank you Ireland!

Thank you to all those that have helped and supported us along the way or made donations to our charities – can’t mention you all but special thanks to the gang at Seakayaking Cornwall for all your support and advice.

And of course a special thank you to our wives Sue and Tanya for putting up with our crazy adventures. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

   
   

Don’t ask……   

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Since we came round Malin Head five days ago we seem to have battled against headwinds. I’m sure all us paddlers (and cyclists for that matter) on expedition complain about the winds being against them. And I’m sure we only remember those days slogging it out against the wind rather than those where the sun warmed our backs and the winds have us a gentle push on our way. But we do seem to have had more than our fair share. But hey, no complaints – everyday is an adventure and a physical and psychological roller coaster.  If one of us is feeling low or slow, the other will try and perk them up. We’ve found that food and singing usually do the trick. Distracting each other from the thought of cranking out 30 or so miles a day has become a distinct skill of ours.

As for the singing – not sure we will be repeating performances on terra firma, but our repertoire is developing into an eclectic mix – The Auld Triangle,  South Australia, Wish You Were Here, Cecilia, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…..if you happen to find yourself on a headland along the Irish East coast over the next few days, and the wind is blowing in the right direction, you might just catch us murdering a great song.

On the way to Whitehead on Saturday we came across a charity cycle event in Larne. It was in aid of http://www.makeadifferenceworldwide.com – who are currently helping disadvantaged people in Malawi. Looked like a great event despite the strong headwinds (we have something in common with cyclists). The organisers saw us land and straight away invited over, gave us soup and food and made us feel very welcome.

Thanks so much guys and best of luck with the fund raising!

Last night we reached the south end of the Ards Peninsula and got a sneaky camp in the grounds of the Quintin Castle – an old Norman building – now updated and renovated complete with its own slipway and heli pad. Not a bad place to kip for the night.

This morning we made only 11 miles before the winds picked up to F7 and gusting F8. When Geoff got surfed over some rocks we decided it was time to get off. So now we are in the club house at Ardglass golf club, drinking tea and eating cake whilst looking out at a wild sea.

Right now we have covered 790 miles and have about 160 to go.  
Thank you to Chris, Janet and Morgan for your very generous donations! Around £1200 raised now – amazing stuff!
   
  

    

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Making the most of the stream on this side of the country as the tide is squeezed between Ireland and Scotland. That means paddling two shifts a day – early morning to lunchtime and again in the evening.. 735 miles down and 215 or so to go.

Yesterday at Malin Head we ate breakfast on the beach watching dolphins broach and summersault in the bay before jumping on the tide to Portstewart where we relaxed and took on calories before jumping back in the evening tide around the Giants Causeway. A stunning way to see this world heritage site. 

We ended the day pulling up to a cottage at the base of the cliffs around the corner from the Causeway. The only way to get to the cottage is by sea. It has it’s own natural harbour. Sadly we were camping on the outside but it was idyllic. We watched the sunset and drank the last of our malt whiskey, a 16 year old Lagavulin. From where we sat we could see the Scottish Island of Islay – which appropriately is home to the Lagavulin distillery.

We climbed into bed as the full moon rose, reminding us that we are on spring tides and so the stream is good!

Today was fun. The stream past Rathlin Island had us ticking along at 8 and 9 miles am hour. We turned south and then had to paddle in the eddies to avoid the north going flood tide which was running well over 3 miles an hour.

The morning sunshine gave way to a sudden fog bank that descended – just as well it was time to get off the water and wait for the next tide anyway. We spent the afternoon in Cushendun before pushing on this evening to Glenarm. 

The next few days are all about the miles. We’ve a pretty good idea which day we will finish now – but of course it is weather dependent. 

Hands are swollen, various body parts ache and we’re both sleep deprived but each day is an incredible experience that we don’t want to take for granted.

Massive thank you to ‘Sam’, Janet, Sylv and Martyn for your incredibly generous donations! The total is coming along very nicely now – thank you!

   
                

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Half way through our fourth week. We’ve now covered 508 miles – just over half way.

The last couple of days we have been heading east into the Bay of Donegal to position ourselves to make the crossing to Malin Beg. It is a spectacular coast but also very committed. There are few places to get out and the winds get compressed and accelerate over the mountains and hills and down through gulleys.

Yeterday we left Knocknalina with a southeasterly F5. We made good progress until we got into Donegal Bay proper.  We were facing F8 gusts frequently and for prolonged periods which attempted to rip the paddles from our hands. But we were still making headway, albeit only around 2.5 to 3 miles an hour. Then came the most torrential rain that was so hard it almost hurt the hands.

We had made 13 miles but progress was getting tougher. Porturlin was just a mile further on and offered an option to get off and reassess. If we pushed on we were committing to another 15 miles of potentially worsening conditions.

We opted for Porturlin. As we made our way to the back of the harbour and a beach landing we ate some food and discussed options. The wind seemed to be strengthening and so whilst we felt we could cope with the conditions we also felt why slog out 15 miles in 6 hours when we could probably so it in 3 tomorrow. 

We stayed in the kayaks and waited for the rain to stop. It was the best way to stay warm. In fact we both dosed off.  Finally the rain did stop and we landed and pitched the tents amongst the sheep and got some hot food on. 

It is strange how very quickly you become comfortable with a new camping site. What at first can look quite inhospitable becomes homely once you are warm and inside your tent. In fact I’m writing this inside my tent on a harbour wall while the world goes by outside.

Today the southeasterly turned into a southwesterly so although it was a similar strength as yesterday, at least it would give us a bit of a push.

For most of today, the rain stayed away and the sun lit up the extraordinary cliffs. We even had time to explore a couple of caves and gulleys – certainly the largest Geoff and I have ever seen. This is definitely an area to come back and explore more.

We have seen very few other craft up the west coast, those that we do see are lobster or line fishermen.  In some ways it adds to the sense of this being an extreme stretch of coastline. One thing that has struck both of us though is the greeting we get from fishermen as we paddle by. Not just a nod through a cabin window, most make a point of leaving their cabins walking to the stern and giving us a hearty wave.  

This afternoon we walked into Ballycastle to Mary’s Cottage Kitchen – soup, toasted sarnie, bread and butter pudding, cheese cake and around a gallon of tea. Perfect stop.

Thank you to Kim and David for your very generous donation! The total for our charities is climbing nicely.

The photos can’t do the scenary justice but do check for Geoff at the bottom of the cliffs – you’ll get a sense of scale. 

   
            

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Another great day on and off the water.

Last night was bonfire night in Ireland which is held on the eve of the birth date of St John the Baptist. No fireworks on Clare Island but the world’s biggest bonfire had been built on the beach about 300m from our tents. When Geoff and I headed off to bed around 10.00 pm the party hadn’t started. We thought perhaps we had got the wrong night and were quietly relieved that we might actually get some sleep. What we hadn’t reckoned on was the party starting at 3am. Our tents now formed the centre of the car park and what must have been all of the island’s young people arrived on cue. We kissed goodbye to any sleep….

Lack of sleep didn’t seem to affect us today though.  We timed our launch to pick up the north going flood tide through Achill Sound and together with a southerly wind we made between 5 and 6 miles and hour for the first 10 miles.  The persistent rain and mist didn’t take the gloss off a perfect start. At Achill Bridge the tides meet so that north of the bridge the ebb tide continues north. That means you can get a good tidal push for 14 miles or so – free miles!!!

We had timed it just right. We paddled under the bridge and pulled over on a slip way as we had spotted a supermarket. We must have looked a right pair as we walked in. We got a few funny looks and friendly comments. 

A coffee, sausage roll, chicken and mushroom pie and a breadcrumb fillet of chicken later and we were back on the water to pick up the ebb tide. 

As the tide changed so too did the weather. The rain stopped and mist and cloud lifted leaving us to paddle in glorious sunshine and allowing us to enjoy the incredible mountainous backdrop on Achill Island.

18 miles down now and we were out the other side of sound leaving Achill Island behind. Another 14 to go before  we met the channel that joins Blacksod Bay with Broadhaven Bay. 

Incidentally, a weather report from Blacksod lighthouse on 3rd June 1944, caused Eisenhower to delay the D  Day landings by a day and potentially averted a complete disaster.

By the time we arrived at the channel at Belmullet it  was low water, but there was still just enough for us to paddle the few hundred yards through. 

We were feeling good and the sun was still shining so we decided to stop for fish and chips and then push on a few more miles. 

So here we are at Broadhaven,poised to enter Donegal Bay tomorrow. We’re camped on an old slipway beneath a trawler feeling satisfied with another 36 miles under our belts.

Big thank you to Freya, Becky, Daz, Christine, Deborah and Joanna for your donations. You guys are amazing and so generous!

   
   

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