Better late than never?

This is long overdue, but I’ve finally decided I should write down some post-paddle thoughts. I’ll try not to waffle too much.

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Firstly, there is no way on earth I can begin to express in words the gratitude I owe to such a large number of people. To everybody who went out of their way to donate to our page, send us messages of support, bring us cups of tea, offer us hot meals, welcome us into their homes or RNLI stations, cheer us on or who simply smiled and said hello as we landed, exhausted after a long slog paddling into the wind…Thank you. Your acts of kindness made this trip so enjoyable and ultimately successful. Mike and the team at Rockpool…there is no way I would ever have left Swanpool beach without the fabulous Taran 16 you made. Thank you.  I was excited about meeting people on this journey, but there is no way I could have predicted the generosity Lee and I experienced from numerous people on the trip.

Before I left, I wrote a blog post thanking some of the people who had helped get us and our boats to the start line. Now that we’re back, I can’t begin to thank everybody, so I just have to hope that I thanked people sincerely at the time, and that they know how much their kindness helped get us back to Swanpool beach. I’d like to think that we were willed on by the generosity we experienced around the coastline of Britain, and that one day we may pass it on to future adventurers we meet.

Secondly, I have to say thank you to Mum and Dad for putting up with the worry of me being out at sea, sometimes without contact and often in bad weather. I’m not sure when I’ll be forgiven for not phoning when we landed on the Isle of Man. It became a bit of a running joke, but thank you to Mum for sorting us out with some of the best coastal accommodation in Britain. Somehow she managed to phone up campsites in remote areas of Scotland, Wales and Norfolk, occasionally just 15 minutes before we landed and we would almost always strike lucky.

Thirdly, I could never have predicted the fun we would have with other adventurers who we were fortunate enough to journey with. Nick Ray, still paddling around Scotland…keep it up! Then Nick and Duncan with whom we formed our little team of four around the roof of Scotland. Well done on your epic trip, and thank you for all the shared memories. I would never have believed we would paddle round Cape Wrath with two new expedition buddies who were strangers only days before. It is incredible how we can work and laugh together when we share a common purpose.

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Nick and Duncan

Nick and Duncan

I’ll try to be honest about post-exped. life and adapting to reality back on dry land. For a few days I loved it. Small things like toilets and hairbrushes were luxuries, it was great to catch up with family and friends and not being at the mercy of the wind and tide was something of a relief. Yet, somehow I couldn’t focus and I missed waking up with a clear purpose each day. Only a few days ago, I was preoccupied by four things; the wind, tide, tent and food. Now, it felt like this had been taken away from me and I was flailing around lacking any direction. Despite this, I enjoyed readjusting to ‘old’ life and saw it as a challenge.

Hairbrush excitement :)

Hairbrush excitement 🙂

The first thing to strike me was how quiet it was inside. Not hearing the wind or sea outside the tent when going to sleep was slightly disconcerting and I couldn’t get used to not waking up next to my Taran. My eyes and nose streamed for the first week inside and I would wake up sneezing. As unbelievable as it may seem, it felt like I was allergic to being inside.

Yet I feel like this post-journey grump is all part of the process and that it will teach me how to crawl back into society. I’ve somehow managed to get a full time job starting in a few weeks and have rediscovered a love of sea swimming which should keep me entertained while my hands hopefully stop swelling up. I’ve bimbled around on the sea in Taran a few times, but not been out in anything significant yet. I’ll get around to that soon enough though.

Last, but by no means least, I should probably thank Lee. I don’t know where to start, but I’m not sure I’d have got back to Falmouth without him. It certainly wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. Lee, I’ll maybe even forgive you calling me ‘bumder’  for 4 months solid. Cheers buddy. Oh, and Lee… guess what?

For now, I’m not going to lie. I think I’ll miss this a little bit….

After our first crossing, S. Wales

After our first crossing, S. Wales

Day 128 Looe – Falmouth

Our last day had finally arrived! We soon realised it wasn’t going to come easy though. The British weather wasn’t about to let us finish without a bit of a fight. The wind was pretty noisy and the tent was flapping away. We got up and managed by some miracle to be on the water by 6.45am. We were desperate to get back, but the headwind was pretty annoying. After failing to prepare any food, we resolved to have a quick pit stop, but I’d forgotten how far any landings in Fowey were up the river.

We landed quickly at the entrance to Fowey and before long we headed back into a now stronger headwind, past Gribbin head and across Mevagissey bay past a myriad of small fishin boats being chucked around by the wind and swell. This was the toughest bit, but once we had rounded Dodman point at slack water, the wind died and the tide was finally with us. We managed to make much better progress and the realisation that we were about to finish hit me.  I couldn’t believe Gull rock was just THERE… right in front of me as I rounded Dodman point! Then all of a sudden Portscatho appeared. From here on in it actually took a while for St Anthony lighthouse (Fraggle rock) to appear, but as I came round the corner I had a lovely surprise as 3 of the friends from Fal cc who had started the trip with us had paddled out again. Lee blasted back quickly to land first while I chatted to Sarah, Mike and Julian and thought I’d keep with tradition by being the straggler at the back, landing a few minutes behind Lee.

I was so surprised how many people had turned out,  it was really lovely. It was so great that even though a lot of my friends have now moved away from Cornwall, their parents or families had come down to see us land.  It was really appreciated, so thank you!

From about the 2nd day of the trip, Lee had said to me that he was going to spray me in cheap fizz when we finished. I was worried about wasting good alcohol, but Lee assured me it was fine so we made right arses out of ourselves. When I did get round to finally drinking some, the combination of being dehydrated and exhausted meant that it went straight to my head. Anyway. .It was a lovely end to a fantastic adventure.

Day 127 Salcombe – Looe

We knew this was the last day we would have to paddle and set up camp at the end, but there were still a lot of miles to go before we got to Looe. We packed down our rather cheeky tent pitch and got on in glorious sunshine by 8.15 am.  We made our way out of the estuary and along the coast towards Plymouth.  From this far out, it was actually a really pretty paddle.

We stopped for a lunch break on a little island which we decided was ours in Plymouth sound. It was bliss. I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly sociable person,  but on this trip I’ve discovered a certain disdain for crowds or groups of people.  Since the Hebrides, where we pretty much had beaches to ourselves every night, my heart sinks when I see hoardes of people on the beach where we’re about to land!

After Plymouth, we still had a fairly long way to go, and after an unexpected siesta, we found ourselves paddling into the sinking sun past pretty coastal villages towards the distinctive harbour light at Looe.

The slipway here was used by the lifeboat, but the shore crew assured us they were already out on a shout so we were safe to land. They were looking for a missing man, but the search was fruitless. Let’s hope he was in the pub.

We pitched the tent right by the slipway and the lovely crew let us have a quick shower!

Day 126 Lyme Regis- Salcombe

We could taste Falmouth now, and we knew we just had to pull hard for a few days to get home. Finally the weather had calmed down and we were ready to put in some long days. As we packed up the soggy tent in Lyme Regis, I began to realise I might miss this. Even in the damp weather, I had a purpose each day and it kept me moving forwards.

We climbed onto the water and began the paddle across the bay. We were moving slower than we hoped, the wind and tide were still pushing us but the weather brightened up and we spotted so many barrel jellyfish!

We arrived at Hope’s nose just at the turn of the tide and this made it easy to move past both headlands. Berry head only had a tiny bit of swell,  and behind here there were some pretty cliffs. It began to look more like home. After a brief stop where a lovely kayak group handed their campfire and some marshmallows to us,  we set off for the final stint around start point and into Salcombe. There was a tide race here but nothing compared to some of the stuff we’d seen!

I remember the last section of today being really slow. We could see Salcombe once we rounded the last headland, but it seemed to just get further away as I paddled. Once we landed and saw the distance we’d done was about 36nm today. .It made a bit more sense.

A lovely family on holiday offered us the use of their hotel shower, and I must have looked exhausted as one of the chaps ran me a bath. Absolute luxury! Thankyou.  We chatted to their children afterwards and I felt very honoured as one of them asked for our autographs. Very exciting!

Day 125 West Bay- Lyme Regis

IMG-20150804-WA0001Very slow progress, but we really had to claw some miles out today. A blustery start saw us dodging some waves out of the harbour as Virginia waved us off.  We tucked in to the coast,  but this made little difference and we arrived at Lyme Regis where we had a lovely chat and cup of tea with the lifeboat station man.