Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lundy - What could go wrong?

Bank Holiday weekend and I joined 10 others for a paddle to Lundy. A trip put together by Mark Rainsley (UKRiversguidebook). In Mark’s words the plan …

Friday night...we will journey to North Devon and camp …. presumably we'll arrive late and leave at the crack of dawn.

On Saturday morning, (29th April) if all looks good to go, we have to all be on the water and set off no later than 10 am. Lee Bay is a tiny launch point, so it'll take a while to get us all on the water (we'll have to carry each loaded boat across the road and launch them one at a time) actually, you need to be ready, packed and changed by 9.30 am. … There is good parking at Lee Bay.

The crossing...if it is good to go, I'll call the Coastguard and let them know what we're up to. If we launch and then decide that we don't like the conditions, we can still pull out and turn back in the first hour or so if need be. However, if the conditions are good, then the actual paddle should be no big deal...just a mellow four hours of slow plodding.
Landing on Lundy... …. If we are lucky, the island manager will send a Landrover to transport all our gear the 4-500 vertical feet up onto the top of the island. If we're not lucky, then we've got a grim slog up the road carrying all our gear…

The campsite is up on top of the island, as is the pub, shop, etc. In theory you can buy all the food and drink you need at these places. Sunday. The ideal scenario would see us doing a paddle around the island. Obviously, if it looks like the weather will turn bad on Monday, we'll have to come back on this day.

Monday...the crossing back will need to either be done late in the afternoon (arriving back at Lee Bay at nightfall), or before the crack of dawn. We'll see how it all goes depending on weather, inclination, etc.

Disclaimer...obviously we'll look at the weather and plan as best we can, but be aware that there is a small but notable probability that we'll end up stuck on the island due to the weather. In this instance, you have the option of either dumping your boat (back another weekend for it?) and taking the ferry back...expensive and entirely dependent on the captain's good grace...or of calling your work on Tuesday morning to explain why you are in the middle of the Bristol Channel. So...don't say I didn't warn you....

What can go wrong? Mark Rainsley

What did go wrong then?

1. Chas drove over to pick me up at 6:30 pm Friday evening, anxious to get away. But he had forgotten his paddles and had to return to Barton on Sea

2. On arrival at Lee Bay for the launch we discovered that the car park was closed. The consequent delay in departure would cost us a lot of energy later that day

3. Having enjoyed some interesting conditions through the races off Morte Point, followed by a relatively relaxed paddle ¾ of the way, the final hour of the 21 mile crossing turned to two as we lost all tide advantage and paddled into a freshening headwind. It took us close to 5 ½ hrs to make the crossing.

4. In various states of weariness we unloaded our kayaks on the beach. Chas had just enough energy to utter some well chosen expletives when he found his sleeping bag was afloat in his leaking rear hatch

5. The island Landrover was conspicuous by its absence and we spent the rest of the afternoon lugging kit up 182M to the camp ground at the top of the island.

6. Chas still had enough energy to issue even more expletives when he discovered his tent was busted.

7. Huddled around the VHF the following morning we listened to the forecast Force 5 or 6 winds due that afternoon or evening, with more lousy weather into the next day. It meant a return by Ferry on Sunday or Monday evening

8. I was with three others that, not relishing the prospect of getting home at 2am Tuesday morning, negotiated passage on a chartered ferry on Sunday, sacrificing a paddle around the island for a poorly considered work ethic!
What went right?
1. At least the conditions proved ‘good to go’ (if not come back) – it could easily have been otherwise

2. With the exception of the last couple of hours, the crossing was fun – both the races and the subsequent leisurely paddle assisted by the spring tide, with the sun up were great

3. The camping ground on Lundy is excellent – and only 50M from the Pub

4. The pub serves a good local brew ‘Lundy Experience’ and has an excellent menu

5. Lundy is a beautiful island – 3 1/2 miles long by 1/2mile wide and rising 400 foot out of the sea where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic. A rugged coastline, steep cliffs and windswept grassland, steeped in history. There’s a lot to see – everything from lighthouses and quarry buildings to the remains of a wrecked WW2 German bomber.

6. Most of the Island is a Site of Special Interest and the seas surrounding it are England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve.There’s no shortage of wildlife – Soay Sheep, Seals, Peregrine, Gannets, Auks, Fulmars, Shearwaters etc.

7. The Island Manager and port crew were more than helpful – only too glad to assist us in arranging passage for kayaks and paddlers on the private charter ferry

8. Great company – it seems that whenever you throw a group of kayakers together for a weekend this is always the case.

9. I arrived home fresh, sun burnt and satisfied!
The ‘ayes’ have it then – a great trip. I can’t wait to return – hopefully at a weekend of settled weather when I can squeeze in all the three legs of the journey that were intended.

While it is not a trip to be taken lightly, if the conditions are ‘good to go’ – GO

Thanks to Mark R for conceiving, planning and leading the trip, Chas for the lifts and everyone else for the craic.