Monday, 3 June 2013

Irish Sea Crossing

This trip has been a year in the making and it has been a long winter.  Last year poor weather, work and family commitments had put this voyage on hold.  A month prior Mike and Eurion came close to an attempt but last minute un-organisation flawed that plan.  A week prior we spotted a good forecast for a possible attempt.  I had no expectations, the forecast would never hold.  As the week went on Monday 3rd June just got better and better.  A large area of high pressure was building over the UK.  Friday we made the was finally on.
This was the forecast on the Saturday. The Met office had predicted force 3-4, smooth to slight seas and average visibility.  To make the best use of the tides a crossing from Rosslare to St Davids would be preferable.
I met Eurion at his at 07:50 to travel to Mikes in Fishguard before midday.  Boats were off, packed and loaded on to the trolleys.  We wheeled the kayaks a mile or so to Goodwick ferry terminal, with a few odd looks from passing vehicles.
After a full English we set off to the ticket office where a very nice man gave us discounted one way tickets to Ireland. 
Photo by Eurion
We boarded with the cars, with further odd looks.  
Photo by Eurion
We sat above deck to take in the sun waiting to depart from Fishguard harbour....
and say goodbye to Wales.
This is where the realization of the scale of our trip hit home.  What kind of idiots jump on a ferry to get as far away from Wales as possible only to paddle back.

Photo by Eurion
The journey seemed to drag on.  We found a comfy corner to sprawl across in the lounge where they played Life of Pi, a film about a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean.  The crossing took about 3 hours, about a fifth of the time it would take to paddle. 
We were ushered off the ferry, Eurions trolley comically fell to pieces on the ramps then it was Mikes turn as he rammed it into a kerb.  As far as trolleys go I think I will be investing in the one that I borrowed.  
The beach was a short walk from the ferry terminal.  We left our boats at the top of the beach and headed up to Rosslare to find some food and hopefully a pint of Guinness, well it would be rude not to.  
Photo by Eurion
 Result, chicken curry and chips....
Photo by Eurion
and a pint of Guinness.  There was a band in the bar playing typical Irish songs and it was quite tempting to get a few more pint in, but we had just the one. 
The midges were a nightmare up on the grass so we moved our bivi bags down onto the dunes.
9pm and the old guys were off to bed early.  I can't get to sleep that early, I'm a bit of a night owl, plus the sun was still up and there were people on the beach.  I managed to get my head down for a few hours before I woke to Mike yelling at me.
Mike appreciating the flash of my camera...morning.  3am and it was time to get up, get dressed and pack the boats.  I couldn't help thinking as I sat down in my boat and pushed off the sand that I wouldn't be getting back up again for another 15 hours.
Photo by Mike
We slipped off into the dark still not quite fully awake yet.  There was no sign of Wales for now, just the flash of Tusker Rock lighthouse and an array of shipping buoys blinking on the horizon. 
Behind there was not much to see of the Irish coastline but a thin strip of land and the lights of Rosslare harbour.
The sky brightened and the endless sea in front of us merged with the clouds.
The sun made a short appearance but was quickly swallowed up again into the overcast sky.

Photo by Mike
We passed Tusker Rock as the Stena Line ferry made it's returning journey from Fishguard.
I hadn't expected to take so many photo's, after all there isn't much to see on the open water.  But we couldn't believe the glassy conditions.

Shearwaters glided effortlessly around us, gracefully skimming their wing tips across the waters surface.
Just under five hours in the first sight of Wales came into to view.
Porpoise made a regular appearance as well as a pod of dolphin who passed just behind us, clearly on to much of a mission to pay us any attention.  The occasional seal made an appearance along with the usual sea birds including Puffin, Gannets and Razorbills.
Exactly half way we passed out of the cloud that had hung over head since we left Ireland into the sunny Welsh half if the voyage.
We still couldn't believe the water.  Sky and water merged together.  Scattered white clouds reflected on the waters glassy surface as gentle waves rolled underneath almost hypnotising.  It was as if we were flying.
Little circles appeared on the waters surface like rain drops.  Some darted away from the boats path.  I can only assume they were very small marine creatures.  Apart from a little back ache we were all feeling really good.
As each hour passed a little more of the Pembrokeshire coastline presented itself, however still looked far beyond reach.  Grassholm and The Smalls lighthouse could just be made out a long way south.  I started to falter around the ten hour mark.  I was lagging behind and attempted to stretch out the next hourly break.  A message tone from my deck bag suggested I had finally got a phone signal so I took a call from my wife.  I had been waiting for news on the sex of our expected third child, another boy.
Photo by Mike
Mike offered me a Red Bull.  I have never drank one before without the added Vodka but was willing to give anything a go.  Setting off again I wanted to get ahead, paddling behind doesn't help motivation.  I got my head down and before long I had left the others far behind.  A yell from behind to slow down, I really did get 'wings'.    
Photo by Mike
The Bishops were now looking close.  Eurion continued to call out the distance remaining...20 miles, 15 miles, 10 miles.  We were within reach but I couldn't help thinking these distances would usually be a good day on the water.
As we neared North Bishop it was clear the strong currents were carrying us north.  We had wanted to pass south of North Bishop so we steepened our bearing to compensate but North Bishop was out of reach.
We couldn't allow the same to happen with St Davids Head so a sharp ferry glide into a strengthening head wind was adopted.  The final two miles dragged out, so close yet so far.

Photo by Eurion
Small foot high waves rolled in onto Whitesands Bay carrying me and my boat the final few meters to touch gently down on to the sand.
Eurion was striding across the beach to where I landed like he had been riding a horse all day and as expected the legs didn't work.  Shoulders and back aching a little but the legs...gone.
We were early, quite a lot early.  15 hours was our target and we managed a time of 13 hours 39 minutes.  Steve Bunston had agreed to pick us up and by the time we wheeled the boats up to the beach car park he was there with a four pack of beer to celebrate.
Photo by Steve.  Left to Right Mike Mayberry, Stuart Yendle (me) and Eurion Brown.
Steve loaded the boats up on to the van...
Photo by Steve
while we laid about dwelling on the days achievement.
Our track from the GPS 
We stopped off in St Davids for a well earned fish & chips.  We decided to get home that evening to the comfort of our own beds.
Photo by Steve
Morning after the trip and we all felt surprisingly good.  The only feeling that I did anything the previous day was a slight ache in the shoulders and the feeling of a hangover, the combination of dehydration and tiredness.  The sense of achievement is a big factor that is still sinking, after all it is one of the reasons for doing such an epic trip.  Would I do it again? Oh yes.  If only to beat our time.  
The Performance Sea Kayak records board -

Thanks to Mike and Eurion for the company and support throughout the trip, couldn't have asked for better company.  Thanks to Steve for the lift and much need beers after the trip.  Thanks to the Rosslare and Milford Haven coastguard and Stena Line Ferries.  A big thanks to everyone who has supported us and donated to our charity.  If you would still like to donate please click the 'sponsor me' link bellow.  Thank you.
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
And in case you missed the video diary made by Mike here it is...


Mike Mayberry said...

A great write up Stuart, thanks for your company. :)

JW said...

'The records board' - would that be the Performance Sea Kayak 'records board' by any chance?

Stuart said...

Thanks Mike.

It does look rather like the Performance Sea Kayak records board JW :-)

I've added a link to your page.