Last week I headed down south for a few days paddling with friends Gaz, Streaky and Dave. For months we had a few days booked off with a plan to paddle out to Lundy to climb on the Devils Slide. Lundy is somewhere I have wanted to paddle to for years but have always missed out, unfortunately it wasn’t to happen this time round either. Sunday evening we sat down to look at the forecast, Monday looked fantastic, light winds, 1m swell, awesome. Tuesday didn’t look so great – Westerly F6 gusting 7 with a 3m swell at 15 seconds, sounded exciting to say the least. After alot of talk about manning up and discussions that the it will be wind with tide etc we decided that a comitting 15 mile crossing in these conditions wouldn’t happen.
Our contingency was to try and do a trip on the Isle of Wight. The plan was to leave Stokes Bay on the mainland at the start of the EBB and use the tide to takes all the way to the needles in time for the start of the Flood. We would then use the Flood to take us all the way along the south coast of the IOW and get around St Catherines Point and onwards to Shanklin. Shanklin would put us in the Lee of Tuesdays strong winds and we hoped we could then sneak around to Ryde and Nip back accross the solent. Monday was going to be a big day, about 75km.
Early start Monday morning enroute to Stokes Bay, Roadworks, missed turning, got a bit lost, result – on the water later than hoped. We had a fantastic paddle throught the solent dodging tankers in and out of Southampton and the tide flying us along at about 6-7kn. By the time we got to Yarmouth the wind had picked up to a steady F 3 on the nose and it became apparent the tide wasn’t going to be helping us for much longer, due to our late start.
By the time we got to the needles the tide was fully against us and hammering through on the Flood. The wind had picked up a bit and the sea state on the south coast was a bit confused. We had hoped that the wind would stay westerly and would help up us along with the tide to St Catherines Point (still another 25km). The wind was coming from the south and would make for an awkward few hours. We decided to press on to freshwater bay and see how things looked. The coastguard had issued warnings of the wind picking up to southerly force 6 to gale 8 but weren’t giving a timescale. It was 5.30pm, if we pressed on we would be lucky to be off the water before 8.30 – 9. Group dymanics were interesting here, 4 blokes who all work in the industry and would all class themselves as pretty confident paddlers, we struggled to make a decision as, I suspect, nobody wanted to be the one to say ‘lets call it a day’. In freshwater bay we could see a pub and it didn’t take long before the thought of a pint in the sun and a big steak convinced us to stop.
We needed to get back to the solent side of the island in the morning as the wind was due to really blow up over night and there would be know way of getting out of freshwater. Luckly we had pulled into the beach where Owen Burson for IOW sea kayaking operates from and he very kindly sorted us out with a lift in the morning. Streaky made a few phone calls and manged to sort us with a fantastic nights accomodation in a distant relative to his girlfriends dads house, thanks to Mark for putting us up in his amazing pad.
Owen dropped us at Wooton Bridege and we had an exciting paddle back accross the solent in the morning in great wind over tide conditions with some great surfing. Great few days with the boys even though we didn’t make it around.