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Isle of Wight in one


Giles

Kayak around the Isle of Wight in one day.



After weeksof planning and cancellations due to wind, I went to bed early on a September Saturday knowing I had set a 3am alarm call for tomorrow’s big spring tide. Only 2h15mins earlier than I get up for work but “crickey!”, I thought, I must be nuts and nearly stayed where I was. A quick check of three forecasts and I decided to go paddle. Lucky I had my boat on the roof and had borrowed Wallace and Grommit’s automatic dressing kit so in double quick time I was up and out the house and by 4.15am had arrived at Keyhaven. For some unknown reason I felt a bit furtive loading my kayak in the middle of the night. The tide was falling rapidly and I could hear the fish jumping in the shallow water when my headlight passed over them. 

4:45am on the water.

A spooky feel, with completely flat water, a little whispy moisture in the air and not a breath of wind. Bang! Two moored fishing boats crash into each other. I can only think I startled a seal hunting fish. 

The reflective blue strips on the channel markers helped me navigate my passage as I was sucked out the harbour in the dark. A moment of uncertainty as the channel arcs around and I am not sure if I can find the way out in the dark. It proved simpler than I feared just following the channel to its entrance and zipping round the light house and Hurst castle. Visibility was fine. 

No wind but my breath was taken by the speed at which I left the castle behind. The water was boiling and bubbling even without a breeze to stir it up. I could hear but not see more turbulent water. 

Nearly over ran the Needles.

A hard ferry-glide and 45 minutes after leaving the shore I was threading the Needles, alone in the dark. I could see a gap between rocks that looked OK, no time or visibility to be completely sure before I was dragged through. Then I could see the cliffs on Scratchell’s bay lit up by moonlight. Incredible. They were almost glowing in the dark.  

As I watched car headlights traverse the far off road it felt like I had a back eddy taking me along towards Freshwater through the small (but feeling huge in the dark) reflecting waves. Bacon sandwich for breakfast at Freshwater at first light. 

Back on the water.

It seemed to take an age to get to St Catherines with fairly slack tide as predicted. I attached my tow rope to my boat and headed round St Catherines for the first time. I had heard about it and talked to a number of people so knew roughly what to expect. But St Catherines was lively enough to pass through alone even in no wind on a spring. I avoided a back eddy, crammed down even more food and stopped at Ventor for more fuel and a pit stop at 9.30am.

Then the traverse of Sandown bay. Other than really turning my neck to the shore far away to the left, the odd fishing buoy was the only gauge of forward movement. Dogs barking on the beach echoed out to me for the hour of my passage straight across the bay from Dunnose to Culver cliff.

Lunch stop at Bembridge life-boat station.

Part enforced as I was running ahead of my plan and the tide was going to be in my face. 1/2 hour later - off again, watching a group of kayakers swing right across my path as I snuck inside them with the stronger current. I saw them later as I left West Cowes and I wondered if they were paddling around as well? Traversing Ryde Pier seemed to take an age and I felt very small watching the ferries and hovercraft go about their business. But as I got closer to Osborne house I could feel the tide building as predicted. Raced past Cowes. A quick final stop at West Cowes for a rip off can of coke and a skeg box full of stones. Then the last push. 

Still no wind, so no yachts which meant it was straight down the middle of the channel for me, with furtive glances over my shoulder. Hurst castle seemed so, so far away. Passing Lepe, a rescue boat came to check me out but left me alone. Shortly after am sure I passed a yacht in the distance with its crew calling for help. I was just about to call up the rescue boat when it raced towards the yacht. 

Tidal planning; oh how great when it works!! 

Barrelling down the Solent I felt boosted as I knew just how fast Hurst was ripping towards me. A quick duck behind the Yarmouth ferry (too tired to play Chicken) and was battling the tide back towards the fishing hut and the entrance to Keyhaven harbour. I stopped my boat at the entrance to stop my GPS, only to discover that it was pooped after only its first outing. Then a crawl back up the harbour and a very welcome finish. 

Would I do it again? 

Probably not, but you never know. Definitely not if there is anymore wind or less tide. So mother nature will probably rule it out for me.

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