selected reports from Newsletters
A blustery day around Portsea Island
With a late start time of 11am it was easy to arrive on time. It also gave me plenty of time to review the conditions at Sally Port, Southsea and Eastney Sea Front. The group was a reasonably strong one and the forecast was for some strong westerley winds but if we had known how strong the winds would get we might have popped down the pub instead. It had been an amazingly sunny on the drive down and I still had my prescription sun glasses on when we started paddling – since my regular ones remained in the car it meant we HAD to be home by dusk else I would need night-vision goggles.
The planned trip was to go anti-clockwise around Portsea Island from Eastney. Thanks to the conditions it was agreed that we may have to change the plan depending on how we all felt once on the water. With a good tide behind us we were soon past the ferry and fully exposed to the wind on our port side. This caused us to aim inshore partly to offset the drift but also in the hope of getting some shelter. By the time we arrived at Great Salterns Quay it seemed that all were able to control their kayaks in the breeze – even if we had only covered 1.5Nm. As we progressed further North we stayed as close to the shore as the incoming tide would allow before pausing briefly at the dredgers.
The Eastern Road Bridge was soon behind us and at this point the wind was fully in our faces. Despite the 'wind against tide' situation the waves were small and rarely splashed over the deck. Once under the railway bridge we found the tide against us. This meant not only did we have the noise of the M27 and the wind to contend with but had to hug the shore as much as possible yet again. The Hilsea Bridges had plenty of tide coming through them and caused some tricky moments.
Avoiding the wind as much as possible we arrived at the M275 bridge near Tipner. This would soon be the final decision point of whether we carried on or not. Our progress into the wind was not bad so we agreed to head on and had three options, lunch at Portchester Castle (1Nm but away from our best course), push straight into wind for 2NM to Fort Nelson and follow the Gosport shore or sneak around the firing range and lunch in the shade of Whale Island (still 1.5NM away but more or less in the direction of travel). It was agreed to head for Whale Island as it would be dark if we got delayed on the sea front. Soon we were “relaxing” in the car park at Stamshaw having paddled through the tunnel under the M275. OK, not the best lunch spot but it was out of the wind.
Entertainment was provided as we were getting back on the water. Two fishermen had brought their row boat in and grabbed their small trailer to place under it. Not realising that the slipway was sloped quite steeply they let go of it just under their craft. It was only when one of them used his oar to look for the end that they discovered why some folk have a piece of rope on the end of the trailer…… As we paddled out of the tunnel we hoped they found their trailer soon, low tide was only 6 hours away.
Once round the southern tip of Whale Island we were fully exposed to the wind and again progress was not too bad. Obeying all the rules of the harbour we stayed to the North of the main shipping routes and eventually arrived in the shelter of Burrow Island. I was pleased to find the tide was already heading out as it meant we would get better assistance for the blast out of the harbour. Despite making a slight error of navigation in between all the moored yachts we were able to relax in the sheltered environment. As we approached the harbour entrance a quick briefing was given so that we would all know where we were going and why we were staying out to sea – when any sensible person would have stayed closer to shore.
The tide was now pushing out quite well and we popped out of the entrance quite easily into some serious sized waves. I was the only one who religiously kept all the red poles to our left – well we were in sight of QHM. This also meant that I dropped out of the flow and could only watch as the others blasted off in the distance. Realising they were not going to hang about for me I had some work to do to catch them before they made the next red marker. The waves were all about us as we closed on Clarence Pier and the Hovercraft stand. With a hovercraft sat on the ramp we pushed on so we would be across his route as quickly as possible. Even so once we were part way across the hovercraft started his engines and drifted back to sea. It did not seem the right day to be moan down by so little traffic and he must have seen us as he altered course soon after turning to sea, phew!
Once he had gone we made to cross the channel diagonally. This would put the wind and waves more or less behind us and actually allow us to cross the channel quicker. It was a little anxious to watch some of the team struggle a little but once we arrived at Southsea Castle the worst should have been behind us. It meant I could close in on some foam around the Castle whilst the more sensible folk stayed a little further off shore. The crossing to the Pier was still bumpy but a lot less technical than what we had already covered. It was expected to be bumpy at the end of the Pier and it did not let us down. Strangely there was no abundance of fishermen to watch us “cruise serenely” by. Now all we had to do was let the sea behind us blow us home.
There are those who like following seas and those who don’t. John was having problems keeping the boat on track, which we later traced to not enough gear in the back of the boat. It made it very tiring for him and Sean was also feeling the conditions. Richard seemed to have it all figured out or maybe he was just better at “survival paddling”. With each forward stroke we seemed to be doing three low braces. As the waves crashed against the beach it seemed like the only landing spot would be Eastney. Our progress was very good and it was with more than a little relief that I watched the yellow jet ski buoys pass us by. We split into pairs as we approached Eastney and the sea had not finished with us yet.
In front of us we could see occasional breaking waves, not good as they were 300m off shore and remained steep and breaking from that point on as they headed for shore. This was the West Winner bank creating some last minute activity.
Our position and timing was important in getting us through. Sean and Richard pushed on as “the Johns” brought up the rear. It meant we could see what bits worked well for them and where to avoid if necessary. Despite a few hairy moments we all made it through and eventually made it over the safety of the long outfall. In fact almost as soon as we got in the lee of Eastney the conditions changed dramatically and were almost relaxing. We landed in comfortable daylight but off to East Winner the sky was dark and foreboding – until I remembered I’d been wearing my sunglasses.
We had almost finished getting dressed when the first rain of the day hit. We were glad that we had not been out in that lot but it did leave me asking folks if we should have gone out in those conditions. All seemed glad to have experienced the conditions so we were soon on our way home to warm up and have a long bath with some radox, separately of course. Soon after leaving Sean was stopped chatting to a Coastguard person. It seemed that we had been seen leaving Portsmouth Harbour but never came back, not that we could have if we had wanted to – which was why we did it that way round.
Next day I was foolish enough to look at the Chimet web site. This has a number of places where wind data can be obtained. It showed that the average wind speed for the day off West Winner was between F6 & F7. The lowest wind speed was 23 knots (F6) and that was while we were having lunch. As we had made our way along the seafront it had remained at 27 knots which was “comfy”. With the maximum gust of 44knots (F9) matching when we were in the thick of it at Eastney no wonder the world was a bit bouncy.
So should we have paddled?
We were a strong group who remained in close contact for the whole trip (except when I dropped out of the flow at Portsmouth Harbour Entrance). There were a number of potential escape routes or turn back points and each time a turn back point was arrived at it was discussed about what we would do next. The open stretch of water was along a populated area where land was never more than 0.3NM away (though it did look further on occasions). Whilst landing on that shore would have been tricky it was not impossible. Certainly the actual winds were stronger than forecast but it is one trip that I will remember for some time. Thanks for making it round folks.
The Hand of Fate
The predictions for Sunday were enough to send the most seasoned of weather forecasters back to bed. Temperatures were set to range from –5C to +5C, winds from 0 mph to 15 mph and it was going to rain, shine and snow all on the same day. Which may have been why there were only six of us paddling that day: Sheila, Steve, Mark , Simon , Liz , Jenny and our leader, Richard G (who was paddling without gloves). Anyway, we were paddling on sheltered harbour water and nothing could go wrong.
“Oh no!” Liz wailed, gazing down at her fingers as she discovered that she had two left handed palmless mittens. At the same time, Jenny was woefully pogieless and trying to make do with a pair of holey gloves.
The paddle up Langstone was pleasant, with the last of the tide carrying us along and a mild breeze in our faces. Jenny was suffering, however, and kept dropping back to try to revive her fingers, which were becoming increasingly red and painful. Steve bravely gave her his pogies and he and Liz helped her to warm up again, plying her with hot coffee at Langstone Bridge. Richard decided that we ought to turn back as Jenny’s hands were in no state for a long day’s paddling. Steve cleverly fashioned a pair of makeshift pogies out of two Tesco’s bags and attached them to his paddles.
At lunchtime, we stopped in the inlet spanned by Harts Farm Way, but I wouldn’t spend too much time looking it up on the map unless you are in need of scrap metal. Simon took some pictures of Jenny and I wrapped up in our emergency shelters in front of a burned down shack which give a sense of the place.
During Lunch, Jenny had the misfortune to fall over a sandwich snatching dog and bumped her nose painfully, and then had to put up with Simon teasing her about
Japanese stuntmen on TV doing similar things. But the weather was kind to us on the way back. With almost no wind and the sun on our faces, the harbour looked splendid.
Despite the cold, we did a bit of the usual rolling nonsense back at Eastney. Steve dismissed my challenge to roll the Umnak, looking at it suspiciously and saying that he had rolled an Icefloe (a related kind of kayak) and that was enough, but did agree to spot my roll, which was an interesting one. Something about it must have put Simon in mind of his Japanese stuntmen again because he quickly got his camera back out, his face still a little pink from his own rolling traumas.
He was having difficulties caused by a new buoyancy aid. “He’s going to bale out” Steve predicted gleefully on his first attempt, but the rescue team got there just in time. Possibly the sight of five eager bows trained directly on his fingers helped to ensure success the second time round. A lady passing us on the way to the car park asked us if it wasn’t too cold in the water? “We are crazy” I explained. But even so, we had lots of fun.