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Sitting in a bar in Baltimore, the last town before we head up the West Coast, just reflecting on what an incredible week we’ve just had.

Sorry the blogs have been a bit intermittent but we don’t always seem to have data connections.

In our first eight days we’ve paddled 160 ish miles, seen some incredible scenery and wildlife and met some friendly and generous people.

The coastline has already lived up to its reputation. As we’ve paddled west the cliffs have started to grow and look increasingly dramatic. Whilst the majority of paddling has been headland to headland stuff leaving us a few miles offshore, each new bay that reveals itself seems to be even more jaw droppingly beautiful than the last. And that’s not meant to be an insult to the east end of the south coast, it’s all good.

We’ve paddled with flocks of Guillemots and of Shearwaters circling our boats, coming in low to check us out and peeling off at the last minute climbing to circle and come round again. We’ve been given high dive demonstrations by fishing Gannets and entertained by the comedians of the sea bird world, the Razor Bill, which look for all the world like a cross between a penguin and a duck (well to me anyway). They look so clumsy in the air but once in the water look serene. We’ve also seen Chuffs and Puffins and lots of birds we didn’t know the names of.

And then yesterday, perhaps the highlight of the wildlife week, we had just launched from a stunning sheltered bay on Galley Head and discovered a basking shark feeding just offshore. We stayed peacefully alongside it for a few minutes as the 3 to 3.5m beauty filtered the water alongside and under our boats. An amazing experience – the photos don’t do it justice.

We’ve met some more great people. Jon Hynes and his lovely family, put us up in their house in Kinsale, washed our clothes, fed us and took us on a stunning tour of the Old Head of Kinsale (particularly fascinating for me as it is where  my family are from originally). Jon is also a very gifted paddler and outdoor pursuits instructor and guide. He knows his stuff and spent a couple of hours sharing his knowledge of the West Coast with us.

Check out Jon’s new website http://www.seakayakaroundireland.com

Jon is also paddling around Ireland this summer. Geoff and I are fully expecting him to overtake us pretty soon after he starts!

Last night we were camped in a stunning sheltered spot in Glandore Bay. We got chatting to friends Louise and Kat. A little while later, their husbands, Rob and Matt, came down to the beach with BBQ fish, potatoes and some wine. The problem was that Geoff was asleep and knowing how much he values his rest, I decided it was in his best interests that I should eat the fish. We ate the potatoes on our paddle into Baltimore this morning. 

So thanks Jon, Kat, Louise, Matt and Rob! It is meeting people like your goodselves that is making this trip so special.

 Neptune and the weather gods have been kind to us this week. We’re both increasingly apprehensive about facing the West Coast and the Atlantic swell but also excited about the adventures it has in store for us.

The week has at times been an emotional roller coaster. The “why?” Question eats away at you when you feel tired and vulnerable but as we build the mileage, that will ease.

A selection of snaps from the last few days…

   
             

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One thing about these trips that amazes me, is just how many experiences seem to be squeezed into just one day.

We got up around 6am having slept reasonably well in our bivy bags. By the time I arrived back from a trip to the public toilets, Geoff had already been given a cuppa by our lovely neighbours, and very soon I had one too. 

We were packed up, said our goodbyes and launched by 8.15. Leaving the Saltee Islands behind us we set off on the 15 mile crossing to Hook’s Head. Using our compasses we headed almost due west (with a pinch of South in it). Within a couple of hours we were properly alone on the water with the sun on our backs and making good progress.

A good day for wildlife, we saw our first Guillemots,Razor Bills, a solitary Puffin and a sleeping bull seal – vertical in the water.  Starting to feel like the expedition has started.

After a stop for lunch in Slade, we pushed on a few miles to Tramore and pulled into small fishing harbour which we discovered was also home to the RNLI.

To cut a long story short – what then followed was our second experience of incredible Irish hospitality. Pretty soon the local RNLI had arranged for us to store the boats and give us a place to sleep. Geoff and I headed off into town in search of food and our first Guinness.

On getting back, a car and a chap on a bike pulled up -Mick O’Meara and Dermot Blount. Both of them had paddled round Ireland in 1990 and set the record which stood for over 20 years. We enjoyed hearing some of their stories over a glass of wine and picking up some tips for our trip. Great to meet them both. Thanks both for your hospitality!

And also a big thank you to Dave O’Hanlon and the RNLI boys for looking after us so well……and for the life boat escort out of the bay the next morning. (So exciting!)
   
       

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Found a couple more videos we haven’t shared yet.  One of some of the amazing wildlife we saw along the way (forgive us – David Attenborough we are not), and another to counter the perception you may have got from our Eat, Sleep and Paddle video that it was Caribbean sunshine all the way round!

Geoff and Andy

 

 

 

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Geoff and Andy will be giving at talk about the trip tomorrow night at St Mawes Sailing Club.

Look forward to seeing you there

Geoff and Andy

http://www.stmawessailing.co.uk/xml/eventssource/index.php

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Hope to see you there!!

Geoff and Andy

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Hi folks,

Hope everyone has had a fab Christmas and is looking forward to the new year!

If you are struggling for things to do once the festive season is over, you could always pop down to The Harbour Club, Portscatho on Tuesday, 15th January at 8pm.  Geoff and I will take you on a little journey around Great Britain, share some of our experiences, stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and some of the inspirational people we met along the way.

We have some photos, some videos and plenty of tall stories to tell (getting taller as the weeks go by!)

Entrance is free, but we’d welcome donations to charity.

Hope to see you there!

Geoff and Andy

Home Coming

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A little video to say thank you to all those special people who made our little trip possible, who wished us well, who inspired us along the way and of course, who made such generous donations to our charities.

There are so many people to thank and sorry if we have missed anyone!

The fabulous total raised now stands at £11,800 (including Gift Aid this should climb to over £14,000).

Cheers

Andy and Geoff

http://youtu.be/MC4-dz4-QWk

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Already three weeks since we finished.  Beards have gone, swollen numb hands almost back to normal, kit all cleaned and put away and we’ve just about finished sorting through the 500 or so video clips and 1,000 photos.  We’ve started preparing a short talk about the trip and have a couple of opportunities to test the boredom thresholds of audiences next month. “Then on day 7 we paddled some more………on day 8 we did the same….”

Once we’ve had a chance to do some editing we’ll share some of the video clips with you all.  There are some cracking shots but clearly we only got the camera out on sunny days – very little evidence of the worst summer on record!

Just in case you had wanted to be at Portscatho Harbour when we arrived three weeks ago but couldn’t make it, a couple of video clips for you.

The first is from Mark Hatwood who runs Roseland Online:

http://youtu.be/yhykmIuQkhA

The second is from ITV News West Country.

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Well, a little later than advertised (2.30pm) on Thursday, Geoff and I paddled into Portscatho Harbour, let off a couple of smoke flares, jumped out the boats and gave each other a big hug. But the biggest hugs and kisses were for Sue and Tanya.

2,318 miles, 115 days, 92 paddling days, around 2 million paddle strokes (no we didn’t count). Job done, expedition over.

We had paddled to Portloe on Wednesday night and caught a glimpse of Portscatho in the distance between Gull Rock and Nare Head. Just for a moment we discussed just pushing on and landing to surprise everyone but that was just for a moment. We were looking forward to a couple of beers on our last night in the knowledge that we only had 5 miles to go and of course seeing all our families and friends.

That night we washed, changed and slept on two benches pretty much in full view of the village. Sorry about that Portloe but we were demob happy and didn’t care! The next morning after breakie and a chat with a few residents and holiday makers we launched. To our surprise we got 3 cheers from them as we left. We were both in tears as we paddled out of the harbour.

We had plenty of time so we paddled round Gull Rock and waited for some friends who said they would meet us to paddle in the last few miles. Mike Greenslade, who was so much part of the expedition early on, Simon Osborne, from Sea Kayaking Cornwall who coached both of Geoff and I to get ready for this expedition, and his fiancé  Roz Leahy. To our surprise John Shaw, Zoe and Pete Shepherd also paddled out to meet us. A couple of motor boats (sorry no names) joined too. So that was our amazing little flotilla as we made the last few miles.

As we got close to the harbour we could see the crowd that had gathered. I think we were more nervous than we had been all trip. Such an amazing welcome. Better than we had ever imagined.

Thank you all so much!!

Sorry we couldn’t get round and say hello and thanks to all of you!

It may take us both a little while to adjust and certainly a few days to clean and repair all the kit. I may just write a couple more reflective blogs as we get used to life back on land. But in the meantime thanks for following our journey. It’s great to be home!

Andy

(Photos courtesy of Mary Alice Pollard http://www.justnicephotos.co.uk/ and Simon Osborne Sea Kayaking Cornwall)

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Tonight we are in the bivi bags on top of what I think must be a sewerage pumping station. Mmm lovely.

So 140 miles in the last 4 days since Lulworth Cove and only 35 remaining till Portscatho Harbour.

We thought at this stage we might just be paddling in gentle seas and reminiscing about the trip. Unfortunately we’ve been slogging it out against some stiff winds and cursing rather a lot.

Yesterday will go down as one of our little expeditions epics. Slog against wind and tide from Oddicombe Bay to Brixham. Great stream then to Start point and the tidal races but then we lose the stream for the remaining 4 hour paddle to Hope Cove. 12 miles of clapotis and slow speed = soul destroying. But just to keep us alert we encountered out largest set of overfalls so far in this trip. Will spare our mothers the scary details but it was an experience right up there with getting round Cape Wrath.

Today we’re back in Cornwall. Hoorah! Another slog of a day and tomorrow is going to be the same. At least though the wildlife is returning. Seals are making more frequent appearances again and we’ve seen our first sun fish too. In fact several of them.

Today was also a first for me. Lunch on board a yacht. Paul and Anita – a couple of friends of Geoff were sailing in the area and invited us on board. Such a lovely couple and an amazing boat too.

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