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Kayak Challenges - Sean Morley's kayak challenges

"Around the Sharp End", The South West Peninsular
Sea Kayak Challenge - Part 1/2

Sean Morley is a police constable in the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary stationed in Exeter. He is a former member of the G.B. Kayak Racing Team for both Sprint and Marathon and has represented England at Wave Ski Surfing.

The Challenge: To paddle a sea kayak around the coast of Devon and Cornwall in the fastest possible time. If weather conditions permit to include open-sea crossings to and from and circumnavigations of the Isles of Scilly and Lundy.

The Aim: To raise money for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary Widows and Orphan's Fund and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

DAY 1 Saturday 5th July 1997. (46 miles, 8 and a half hours paddling)

The start of my journey was at the end of a good few months of planning. The idea to paddle around the coastline of Devon and Cornwall became more than a pipe dream when I met Rob Feloy and got to paddle the Inuk sea kayak he had designed. I fell in love with the craft, a love affair that was positively encouraged by Rob. He invited me on a trip to South Brittany in May 1996. It was my first experience of real sea kayaking. The other two 'salties', John Tipping and Angus Passmore had Inuks too. Despite bad weather we managed to get out to the Iles de Glenan and so discussion naturally came around to plans for a crossing to the Isles of Scilly. Rob had been wanting to do the trip for a number of years but had never had the right conditions. I thought it would be good if I could combine it with a paddle around the whole coastline of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary-the Challenge was set!

It seemed a good idea to get sponsored to do the paddle and since the Widows and

Orphan's Fund was the Chief Constable's nominated charity for 1997 it was the obvious choice. The R.N.L.I. were another natural choice since I would be asking friends and family unconneceted to the police service to raise sponsorship on my behalf.

The first problem I had was that I did not own, nor could I afford to buy a sea kayak. Rob leant me the demo Inuk to do a few races in and it seemed almost as if I could not lose in it. The Inuk is so much faster than the average sea kayak and with a rudder on, it's performance is truly remarkable both on flat water and in the roughest sea. The boat was clearly up to the challenge, the real question being, was I ?

My preparation was far from ideal. I caught the usual summer virus with less than three weeks to go. I was using rest-days after nights as part of the time off I would need to do the Challenge and I finished nights feeling like death. I was not at all confident that my fitness was good enough. Of course it was far too late to back out and despite some very unseasonal weather in the weeks leading up to the start, the forecast for the first week of the Challenge was excellent.

Having done all my planning in reasonably good time and in some detail - I had sent the Coastguard a route plan with my intended start and finish times and had received an encouraging reply - by the time Saturday 5th July arrived I was just keen to get on with it. I had fully loaded the kayak earlier that week to make sure the thing still floated! Fortunately it did and despite the fact I could literally only just lift it off the ground by myself, once it was on the water and moving there was not that much difference in boat speed. I had all the safety kit I would need thanks to Rob and John's generosity. They had also given me some guidance with working out tidal flows and plots for the open-sea crossings, but to be honest it all still remains a bit of a mystery to me.

Rob and John would be joining me for the paddle out to the Scillies. They would be using a double sea kayak 'The Voyager' which had also been designed by Rob. I arranged to ring Rob when I got down towards Land's End. We would make a decision on whether we would do the crossing to the Scillies based on the three-day weather forecast. I was taking a handheld VHF and a mobile phone so I could stay in touch with the Coastguard and with my partner Linda who would be manning the phone at home.

I had decided to do the trip unsupported as this would allow me to be totally self-reliant. I would be able to stop when I got tired and not be forced to continue to some pre-arranged RV point. I had food for twelve days and intended to bivvy on whichever beach I found myself on at the end of each day. The prospect of this amount of freedom was exciting in itself. I had decided to start at Lyme Regis and do it that way round simply because it was closer to home and I could get an early start without another night away.

Linda's parents came with us to see me off and when we arrived at the Cobb at 9.00am I could not believe my luck. The weather was absolutely gorgeous with hardly a cloud in the sky. The sea was as flat as a dab and there wasn't a breath of wind. A reporter from the Western Morning News met us.Clearly the well-oiled machine of the Force Press Office had done it's stuff. The Harbour Master was expecting us, wished me well and offered to radio Portland Coastguard once I had set off which saved me a job. Having posed for a few photos I left the Cobb at 9.34am, remembering to turn right ! As I passed across the front of the impressive rampart of the Cobb's outer sea wall I could see Linda and her parents waving encouragingly. "LONG STROKES" bellowed across the water - Linda's dad giving me a last bit of coaching as I glided away.

It soon became clear that my main concern that day was going to be over-heating and de-hydration. My Palm Extreme River Vest soon came off and I was grateful for the High Five hypotonic drink concerntrate I had brought with me - I was going to need it. My progress was excellent for the first hour to Beer Head. My Wing paddles were scything through the glazed crystal water and the boat seemed to run effortlessly. From Beer Head I could see Teignmouth about twenty miles away. Visibility was perfect. I headed just south of Teignmouth and soon I was well off-shore. I saw my first Gannet of the trip about a mile off Budleigh Salterton. I was enjoying paddling this familiar stretch of coastline in perfect conditions.

A southerly breeze ruffled the sea off Exmouth and it soon strengthened creating wavelets that grew into an irritating chop that deliberately slapped me in the face every so often. I was beginning to wish I hadn't cut the corner of the mouth of the Exe quite so much as progress became harder and harder as the boat bounced and lurched towards Babbacombe Bay. I had to work hard to get into Babbacombe and it was a timely reminder not to get too over-confident whatever the conditions. Babbacombe is a posers paradise for the nouveau riche of Torquay; speed boats, jet skis, dive boats and four-wheel-drives all made me in my little kayak seem a bit out of place. A quick phone call to the Coastguard (I had left Portland's area and had entered Brixham's) and to Linda, a bite to eat and a slurp of juice and I was off again.

Around the stinking Hope's Nose. With it's floating sewage debris it is a clear demonstration of our lack of respect for the ocean. Across Tor Bay and right under the watchful eyes of Brixham Coastguard. Berry Head is spectacular and a favourite paddle of mine. The sea- bird life is unexpected for somewhere so close to the English Riviera. I gave the cliffs a wide berth so as to cause minimum disturbance. The tide had by this time turned against me and I was getting tired. Rounding Scabbacombe Head took ages but I finally saw the Mew Stone that signified the entrance to Dartmouth. The tide was doing all sorts in the mouth of the river. I dashed across without much of a glance at what has to be one of the loveliest ports in Britain. Indeed the Dart River itself is rare in that it is virtually unspoilt from source to sea. I hope all the plastic rock bashers out there realize what a precious resource it is.

I had set Stoke Flemming as my target for the day. Blackpool Sands is mis-named. It is infact a gorgeous golden sandy beach that was going to prove to be the perfect bed for my first night. I had arranged to meet a friend Ian Wilson here and sure enough no sooner had I unloaded the boat than Ian strolled down the beach to greet me. Ian is a policeman in Harlow and an all round action-man. I had raced against him a few times but I always had the advantage of the Inuk. He had asked to join me with a friend for a bit of the Challenge and I was delighted to see him. We arranged to leave at 8.00am the next morning and he went off to enjoy a pub meal. I wasn't jealous because I had a pot load of pasta and the best view of Start Bay you could wish for.

DAY 2 Sunday 6th July 1997. (57 miles, 10 and a half hours paddling)

Another glorious morning. Having slept reasonably well for my first night in the open I thought I'd sneak around the corner of the cliffs to do what you must. A peregrine falcon shrieked her indignation at the fact that I was using her gully as a loo. She then proceeded to fly around telling everyone what I was up to. My breakfast of porridge made with water was made edible by the sultanas I had added. Right on the dot Ian and his mate Pete ( who I kept calling Richard for some reason) turned up and we set off in perfect conditions across Start Bay. The lighthouse at Start Point was brilliant white in the early morning sunlight. The stretch of coast from Start to Prawle Point is really special. Clearly that is what a couple we caught lovemaking on a rocky ledge thought. Ian's shouts were enough to put anyone off ! There was a classic natural arch at Prawle Point that proved an irresistable challenge despite the fact that if I did hit rocks with my fully loaded kayak it could prove disastrous. Boys will play !

Pete left us to go into Salcombe. He was not as fit as Ian and I and had enjoyed the bit he had done. The pace quickened and the tide was really flowing now. Ian did well in his Baidarka against my Inuk and in no time at all we were passing Hope Cove and onto the beach at Bigbury-on-Sea. This is the venue for the Inuk Sea Kayak Race that Rob and I are holding on Saturday 27th September 1997. I would hope we will get a bit more of a sea running for that event - but not too big, please.

I was just under half-way to Looe, my target for the day and it was only 12.30pm. The temptation of a pasty and a piece of lemon cake from the beach cafe proved too much. I was conscious that the tide was at full flow in my favour so I didn't want to waste too much time. I was just saying cheerio to Ian when Dave Grover,police diver and member of Bantham Surf Life Saving Club ran past in his skimpy red speedos looking every bit like one of the Baywatch crew. He had just swam across the bay from Bantham - hard core !

Ian shook me by the hand and at the same time heaved me seawards - he's a damn good bloke and a kindrid spirit. I certainly hope to paddle with him again. The next stretch to Stoke Point was fast, the pasty and cake settling nicely. All the way to the Great Mew Stone I was flying. I stopped on a little beach bar to rest my bum ignoring the M.O.D. signs warning of live firing. I reckoned if it was safe for the gulls and cormorants it was safe for me too. And then the bit I had not been looking forward to.Across Plymouth Sound against the tide to Rame Head. I had been expecting a bit of a battle but I was able to follow a curious eddy line that weaved its way into the lee of Penlee Point. Indeed there was so much to look at in the Sound; the usual armada of small boats, the impressive breakwater with its fortress, the historical skyline of Plymouth and Dartmoor looming to the North East, before I knew it I was rounding Rame. I had been able to see it's distinctive outline from Bolt Tail. It had seemed so far away.I could'nt really believe I was there already.

Rounding Rame Head against the tide was tough going and once into Whitsand Bay progress was slow. I could not really make out Looe Island and spent a frustrating hour trying to decide where my destination was. I landed on a beach near Portwrinkle, aptly named because as soon as I got out of my boat I realized that dotted around the beach were large flabby men displaying everything they had (not) ! One of them wandered over looking at me with a strange arrogance. I decided that perhaps I did'nt really need a rest after all.

I found the only boat wash of the whole trip past Downderry. Only trouble was I could paddle faster without it. I rode the wash as a matter of principle for about five hundred metres but then got bored and over took it. At last I came into Looe. I had never been to Looe before and did not really know what to expect. I had initially planned to go up the river a little way just to explore. I was very hot and very tired so instead I landed on the beach at East Looe and walked into town in search of water and a phone. It was 6.00pm and I had been paddling for 9 hours. As I walked along the quayside I saw that the tidal flow up the river was a good three knots. If I had decided to paddle up the river I would have really struggled to get back out to sea-good move! Looe is a happening little place with river launches and fishing boats all competing for attention. I had decided I needed a wide brimmed hat as the sun was beginning to really burn my neck despite the cream I was using and the high neck of my rash vest. I found just the job for £6 and it soon became one of my favourite possessions. I also succumbed to the all pervading smell of fish and chips and troughed-out on the sea wall enjoying the evening sun.

Having got my water for that nights stop I paddled on towards Polperro. The rest had done me good and although I was still paddling against the tide I made good progress past Polperro and around Pencarrow Head. I finally decided to call it a day as the sun disappeared behind the cliffs. I slid into Lansallos Cove meeting my first seal, a big grey, just around the corner. Well, if it was a good enough home for him then it would be good enough for me for a night. As I grated up the beach I had a sudden shivver attack. A combination of a sudden drop in temperature and too much sun. As quickly as I could I got unloaded and put on my fleece lined salopettes. They had been a first prize at the inaugural Plymouth Sound Sea Kayak Race and I have never won a more useful prize - thankyou Andy!

Whilst dinner bubbled away I had a shower in a waterfall nearby. Essence of Freisan I think, but it was still cleaner than I was! The sun was still warming the hill tops behind so I scrambled up what I thought was a path which wasn't and slid all the way back down again. I gave up and pitched the tent. A cool breeze coming off the sea made me happy to get tucked up for the night.

DAY 3 Monday 7th July 1997. (50 miles,12 and a half hours paddling)

Destination the Lizard today. Again the distance seemed daunting. I grew up on the south coast of Cornwall and I knew how far it was to the Lizard from where I was now and it did not seem possible that I was going to paddle it in one day. I got underway by 7.45am. It was a journey of memories past Lantic Bay where I used to bring groups on YHA holidays. Past the mouth of the Fowey on which I did most of my training to get to the Junior Sprint World Champs. Past the mystical Polridmouth and Mennabily and the benign giant daymark on Gribben Head that always features in my childhood memories. Across St.Austell Bay the sea was glassy smooth. I cut straight from the Gribben towards Dobman Point and soon I was a long way out. But it was all right because my Mum would be watching from the Carlyon Bay Hotel where I knew she was working that morning. Missing Chapel Point and Mevagissey I came into picture perfect Gorran Haven for a bum stop and to ring the Coastguard (I had left Brixham's area and had entered Falmouth's). I remembered a good cake shop that was still there and so were the cakes. An iced Chelsea and a custard doughnut later and I was off, fully charged! Past Vault Beach where I brought Adey, my mate from college and his girlfriend only to find the beach was naturist - when in Rome...!

Rounding Dobman Point was a big moment in the trip for me. It had dominated the western horizon for so long and it was good to get it behind me. I remember one sea trip I did as a kid in G.P. slaloms when it took nearly an hour to get around the headland against the wind. This time I cruised past in minutes and quickly bore down on Nare Head and the huge Gull Rock. There is an excellent slot in the cliff face of Nare Head and I recall on the same trip Nigel Braddon getting slammed into the slot head first by a freak swell. He snapped his paddles and had to C1 back to Portloe.

From Nare Head to St.Anthony's was good hard graft churning out the miles west. As I came onto the beach below the lighthouse I disturbed a pair of Peregrines who hurled abuse at me, the 'emmet' from the east. St.Anthony's is the eastern gateway to Carrick Roads one of the biggest inland harbours in the world and certainly under-valued by successions of local and national government. I blasted across without so much as second glance at the beautiful Helford River. That was the downside to this trip - not enough opportunity to explore. By the Manacles the tide had turned but there was no sea running at all. I kept in close but it was still hard going. Coverack looked lovely and Black Head remarkably similar to it's namesake in St.Austell Bay, but more beautiful. As I came onto a beach at Beagles Point the water had become that unique turquoise that told me I was really down west.

I had hoped for an anti-clockwise current in behind the Lizard but I could not find it. I had planned on stopping for the night on Kennack Sands but the beach was still busy and I didn't fancy it. I pulled into Cadgwith, a timeless, rare piece of old Cornwall. There was no possibility of sleeping on the beach- it was full of fishing boats. I rang the Coastguard to let them know how far I had got, filled my water bag and purchased a bar of chocolate -naughty! I paddled off towards the Lizard looking for a suitable spot to kip. There wasn't anywhere and before I knew it I was underneath the most southerly lighthouse on mainland Britain. A quick photo and then up the eddies. Now it may seem daft to try to go around the Lizard against the tide but I am not famous for my common sense. Indeed I enjoyed the challenge despite the fact I had been paddling for over 10 hours. I met a couple of seals - I would have been disappointed not to. At one point I really had to turn on the power to get through an upstream gate. It was like a giant slalom course but the Inuk was more than a match for it.

I have seen postcards of Kynance Cove but never visited before. It is another magical place with huge cliffs, stacks and caves with golden sand and deep clear emerald waters. I found a little peice of beach linking the mainland to a rock island. If the tide did'nt cover it then it would be a perfect spot to stay the night. I wanted to catch the shipping forecast so I landed and enjoyed some tortilla chips with a spicy mexican salsa dip that I had been saving for just such a moment. It was bliss but sadly my intended bed was gradually being eroded by the incoming tide and I was forced to carry on. Past Mullion and still nowhere seemed to fit the bill. I really had to dig in as the swell had increased now that I was west of the Lizard. Past Mullion with the tide ripping through the gap between the harbour and the island. I was shattered and not before time I found the perfect spot; Church Cove with it's - church (well chapel actually)! I picked the middle of the beach and took up residence receiving curious looks from the evening strollers. I rang Linda using the mobile - as clear as a bell. I was already missing her alot - it would be good to do this again with her, but perhaps not in quite such a hurry.

DAY 4 Tuesday 8th July 1997. (27 miles,6 hours paddling)

This was a day I had been looking forward to. To Land's End. The name still conjures up a certain magical feeling of daring and romance, of myths and legends about wreckers and smugglers. The Penwith Peninsular is Cornwall.

I awoke to a thick sea mist that had soaked everything whilst I slept. It was only a short day today made shorter by last nights efforts. I could relax and really enjoy it. To give my kit a chance to dry out I had a lazy breakfast and soon enough the sun burnt through. It promised to be another scorcher- I was so pleased with my new hat. Made me look quite dashing you know; a cross between Indiana Jones and Captain Pugwash ! I rang the Coastguard on the mobile and then Rob. We decided on Sennen Cove as the RV point. The three-day forecast was looking good apart from fog patches. They were definitely coming down and if the crossing wasn't on then they would paddle with me as far as St. Ives.

I got going for 9.30am - what a slacker ! I was off the sea-fortresss of Porthleven by 10.30am. I was at Porthleven the day after it was besieged and battered by the worst storm in living memory. The remaining ground swell was still at least 15 feet on that most famous of reefs. I have never surfed Porthleven, although I remember watching Minnow Green and Neil Peak shred it and get my ultimate respect. I cherish the memories of my three years living in Cornwall surfing my waveski every day that there was surf and often twice if I could. Living in a tent at Gwithian through the summers, in my van or in digs through the winter, with my mad dog Skeg. Funny though, I'm more content now; good job, nice house, smart car and the perfect woman. I guess these are the sorts of thoughts that go through your mind when you're alone at sea.

A rescue helicopter from RAF Culdrose was doing excercises in the bay. Now that is a job I wouldn't have minded doing. Having spent at least half an hour doing precision hovers over the cliffs and sea the pilot must have decided he had had enough of that and went blatting up the coast banking steeply to follow the line of the land. About a mile from me it did a 180 degree turn and came hurtling towards me like a scene out of Airwolf. It could only have been ten metres above me and to the side when the pilot banked the aircraft such that I could literally see him grinning from ear to ear. He gave me a mock salute and I returned it with a salute any Traffic cop would have been proud of. I shouted with excitement as the machine thundered past just above my head. What a buzz ! I was laughing to myself for miles after.

Mount's Bay was beautiful. The only marks on the surface of the water were behind me as my wash fanned out to the side. I kept a lookout for dolphins-I always see dolphins in Mount's Bay, but not this time. I tracked straight from Cudden Point across to Mousehole on the same course that we would have raced this year in the West Cornwall Sea Kayak Experience if conditions had allowed. Instead we had to do two laps from Penzance Harbour to St. Michael's Mount and back which was hard enough for everyone. I was beating the skis on the outward leg but couldn't surf the easterly swell as fast as my mate (and Adonnis of the Beach) Simon Lawrence.

The tide was sweeping through the Bay carrying me west and south so I went on past Mousehole and into Lamorna Cove. Another favourite spot of mine it was busy with sport divers coming and going on their rubber boats with their fancy kit and peroxide girlfriends. I bought a Magnum and watched the chaos. Sliding off unnoticed I was now entering the mystical zone of crystal waters and pink granite rock sculptures. I do not have the vocabulary to describe the beauty of this land. You will have to see it for yourself and believe me there is no better way than by kayak. I found coves I did not know existed and even the famous Porthcurno was as beautiful as the postcards suggest.

I had the best seat in the house as I passed the Minack Theatre. One day we will get to see one of their productions. A tide race was bubbling away off Gwennap Head but I was safe on the inside admiring the cathedrals of rock and the lycra clad gargoyles on gossamer threads of kermantle. I do not think I have seen so many rock climbers in one place other than Idwall Slabs in Snowdonia. Still, not a bad way to spend a day. Below, the climbers were being watched by an audience of seals, understandably envious of their agility on the rock.

A case of the grass is greener....as one flashed underneath my kayak.

Rounding Gwennap the sea was starting to move, as the oceans mixed. I could not see Longships and I couldn't really work out why. A thick haze that had lined the western horizon was starting to shift eerily. I realized that there was a fog bank running down the North Coast. No major cause for concern today but it did not look hopeful for tomorrows crossing to the Scillies. As I got within half a mile of Land's End, the hotel a beacon in the gloom, suddenly Longships appeared defiantly out of the swirling fog and it's horn sounded jubilantly. Within ten minutes and before I got there, the fog had gone, retreating out to sea, waiting for another day. Land's End as a landscape feature remains unspoilt despite the best attempts of some notorious entrepreneurs. Indeed I would like to think that the drama and significance of the place is just as important now as it was when the first explorers left it to starboard on their journeys into the unknown.

Through a couple of upstream gates and I had turned the corner on my way North. Surely I wouldn't be lucky enough to do the crossing tomorrow. I would be disappointed but then Rob has been trying for nearly twenty years and has never had it right. Into Sennen the crescent beach was still really busy - it was only 4.00pm. I stayed clear of the flags marking the bathing area and then surfed a two footer onto the sand. Time for a spot of sunbathing but first I had to make a spectacle of myself by dragging the boat up the beach as far as I could and unloading my belongings. Asking a wrinkled old man, who had obviously taken no notice whatsoever of the warnings about too much UV, to look after my stuff I went off down the beach to use the phone. On speaking to the Coastguard I mentioned my concerns about the fog for the crossing. I was concerned about us not hitting the Scillies. He was concerned about something hitting us! You have to cross two shipping lanes to get there and he reminded me that we were far too small to show on any radar. I rang Rob in a bit of a panic. Rob, calm as always, talked it through. As long as visibility was a couple of miles it would be okay. If it was too bad then we would just carry on up the North Coast and all I would have lost was about 4 hours that evening and a couple the following morning. They hoped to meet me at 10.00am.

I had a very pleasant afternoon frying in the sun, listening to music. My Sports Sony Walkman had survived the trip so far. As evening came the beach was still busy. I plodded up the sandy hill at the back of the beach intending to get sufficient height so that I could use my mobile. I met a slow worm on his way down for a dip. I guess he used a belly board. I had dinner watching the surf which had increased with the incoming tide. It crashed onto the beach just a few metres from where I sat above the high water mark. Back-lit by the setting sun it was a special moment. People stopped and just watched the natural light display, bathing in the tranquility, going home richer for it.

I was just settling down for the night tucked up like a chrysalis in my goretex bivvy bag when a woman's face appeared from nowhere. Would I like to join her for some roast lamb? Well I've never heard it called that before! She explained that her boyfriend who I had been chatting to earler in the evening had sent her down to invite me to dinner. She must have known I would refuse because she had brought down a bottle of Stella just in case. I could have hugged her! I supped it whilst completing my diary and the unaccustomed alcohol put me to sleep very quickly.

DAY 5 Wednesday 9th July 1997 (32 miles, 6 hours paddling)

I awoke a few times during the night, my subconscious mind needing to check for the fog. It remained clear and the stars were fantastic as was the crescent moon that rose slowly from an Atlantic horizon that still glowed at midnight.

I caught the Shipping Forecast just before 6.00am. Sounded good - the crossing could be on! I had a breakfast of chicken noodles. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. I pottered about waiting for John and Rob to arrive and with perfect timing just as I had pulled my kayak up on the beach inside the tiny harbour Rob's bus came bouncing around the corner. The Voyager double sea kayak looked huge, like an aircraft fuselage. It was great to see them and they were both in great spirits although I sensed Rob was a little tense. His natural selection as navigator/expedition leader putting an extra burden on his shoulders. I was just there to enjoy the ride! I rang the Coastguard to let them know our ETA for St.Martins, Isles of Scilly. I am not sure the woman on the other end of the phone realized we were doing the crossing in kayaks.

We left the harbour at 10.36am, and rapidly bore down on Longships the tide surging southwards, boiling on the outer reefs despite the lack of swell. 285 degrees from Longships and soon we had passed the point of no return. We had the helicopters and planes to reassure us that we were at least heading in roughly the right direction. Visibility was superb. No sign of fog. We had a following sea which was almost enough to get the Inuk planing on the odd one. Rob played with his GPS and told us we were doing six knots! We had to modify our course slightly due to our better than expected speed. We passed a bouy that was fighting to remain on the surface due to the fast flowing current. A timely reminder of speed of the tide and the necessity to get it right. The increasingly sloppy following sea made it difficult to steer a true course and we took it in turns to lead. John and Rob looked really strong as I sat on their stern wash. My right elbow which had started to ache the previous day became really quite sore as I was forced to make constant adjustments to my heading. Storm Petrels in groups of two or three fluttered past like large moths. Manx Shearwaters came to see what we were doing, Gannets continued to search for fish ignoring our passage beneath. Seven Stones Lightship was visible and audible to starboard. It's horn reminding us that the fog was'nt far away.

It was very hot.The slight breeze was on our backs, the sweat was dripping off my nose, as I struggled to keep up with the lads, following them like a faithfull puppy. Every so often I would find a wave and with a sudden burst of speed I could shoot past them but the effort required was taking it's toll and I was needing a rest. Having crossed the first of the shipping lanes into the separation zone we had a breather. A chance to sit and contemplate the fact that the only thing separating us from alot of ocean were a few rocky islands somewhere in the distance. A fishing boat gave us an encouraging 'toot, toot' and we set off again. We were just losing sight of the mainland which was remarkable since we had been paddling for nearly three hours when I thought I could see something on the horizon at 240 degrees. Sure enough, slowly but surely the smudged outline of the Scillies appeared. Looking over my shoulder I could still just see the mainland. The incredible visibility was something I had not expected. Bearing in mind the Isles of Scilly lie twenty eight miles off Land's End and the true horizon when you are sat in a kayak is only about four miles, to see both at the same time was amazing.

My confidence soared although I never doubted Rob's ability to get us there. The St. Martins day mark soon became distinguishable and we pointed just north of it. I was getting really tired now. My elbow was starting to lock up and John reminded me to rotate more to take the pressure off it. Ever so slowly now the islands started to fill the horizon. We decided to make our landfall on the nothern side of St. Martins and now the race was on to get there, fast! We could see a strip of golden beach beckoning to us and my bottom yearned for the moment when I could stand on dry land. We finally entered the island system and Rob called me over to use the VHF to inform the Coastguard of our arrival. A husky woman's voice acknowledged us. We passed the St. Martins day mark at 3.12pm. A crossing time of 4 hours 36 minutes. A record? Who knows? Who cares?

We landed on a deserted beach strewn with rock and weed and a fair collection of flotsam and jetsam. The fact that we had arrived in the Scillies, by kayak, started to sink in as we climbed the hill to find John's favourite Tea Shop. The view was breathtaking. I knew I was going to like the Scillies - everyone told me I would. Places given that much hype rarely live up to your expectations but the Scillies did. The thousands of islands and rocky outcrops were laid out before me like a map. The turquoise water matched by a perfect sky. As we strolled along the lane we passed little cottages with gardens the like of which I have only seen in the tropical house at Kew. Huge succulents and wonderful flowers dominated by dark green palms all growing as if we were a thousand miles further south.

Sadly the tea shop had just closed and I felt guilty for having dithered about on the way over. We found a post office and I sent postcards to Dom and Liz and Mum. I got directions to the one public phone on the island and rang Linda. I was starting to feel guilty now. What had set out to be a test of endurance was turning out to be a bit of a holiday and poor Linda was stuck at school with a PTA meeting that evening. I tried not to sound too enthusiastic about it all and promised to bring her to the islands one day soon. We wandered back to where we had left the kayaks on the beach. There is virtually no crime on the Scillies - my kind of place. A fair breeze had set in and the lads decided to try out their sailing rig. I tried not to laugh as they put the thing up. Two paddle shaft masts and about 12 foot of sail on each, the schooner rig was remarkably effective and I got some great shots as they sailed past. I was much quicker without a sail but we were in no rush. We were on Scillies time now - about a third slower than mainland time. We drifted over reefs through the myriad of channels as we rounded St. Martin's and went on past Tresco. Our destination was Bryher. Rob has a friend there who he wanted to see. As we approached Bryher a beautiful day boat approached us and I sat on its wash chatting to the father and son crew. It turns out that the boat was built by Rob's friend. It's a Plymouth Pilot with a wooden mast and gaff rig. It blended in perfectly with the island sea-scape. It seemed to sail well too. Arriving on Bryher, Rob disappeared off to find his mate Barry. He came back without him - apparently he was out sailing. We got our kit sorted and then Barry showed up. Straight away you know he's a sound guy. Quitely unassuming but clearly no fool. He runs a moderately successful boatyard which he subsidises with sailing instruction, a water taxi service, bed and breakfast accommodation as well as being one of the island's fireman. I got the impression there wasn't much occuring on the island that he didn't have a hand in. He has built a large house that has a granite tor as a back garden and a view of the channel between Bryher and Tresco that is worth millions.

We arranged to meet up later and tottered off to find the campsite loaded up with kit. I needed two trips. The campsite is just up the hill from the Fraggle Rock Cafe which is a strange little place. Bizarrely there was a young rock group all set up under a small marquee in the garden and as I erected my tent and got the dinner on I enjoyed their warm up routine. Once fed we went back down to Barry's place and enjoyed some home-made apple pie. Barry and his wife looked shattered - must be a hard life on the Scillies. I listened as the lads talked boats, soaking up the atmosphere of the place. We managed to persuade Barry to come for a beer at the Fraggle. The band were excellent and the place was happening. The beer at £2 a pint was flowing down nicely replacing the fluid I had lost during the days exertions-or so I told myself. Three pints later and the balmy evening was just starting to chill. There wasn't much room inside the pub so we headed back to the campsite a merry threesome. The Round Island lighthouse we had paddled past earlier in the day was sweeping the night sky. John said you could see 7 lighthouses from the top of Watch Hill above the campsite. Well that had to be seen so we staggered up through the gorse using my failing mini-maglite to shine the way. From the top we could see Bishop's Rock, Seven Stones, St. Mary's and of course Round Island. We could not see Longships or Wolf Rock. Apparently it is possible to see Godrevy if you are really lucky.

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