Lessons learnt today: keep your mouth shut when launching in surf and to remember I’m on a trip not just out having fun in the surf.
We were up before the sun today and launching the boats just after it came over the horizon. We needed to get on the water before the tide exposed nasty rocks on our surfy boulder beach. We all got out without incident but I did get a mouthful of salty water to wash down my breakfast.
We had an unexpected tail wind and following sea for most of the day. The boats felt alive for the first time on the trip rather than the sluggish tubs they’d been till now. The sea birds were out in force and enjoying the conditions too: gannets heading north with purpose, kittiwakes swooping effortlessly through wave troughs and over the crests, guillimots with fast beating wings putting in far more effort to keep aloft, while the black guillimots were happy to float on the surface and only take to wing as we were within a few feet.
I was enjoying myself catching a few waves when I picked up one a little bigger and closer to shore than was wise. Turns out I’m more like a guillimot than a kittiwake. The wave broke over me and I was upside down before I knew it. Should have rolled up but got knocked back over by the next wave as I was catching my breath. End result I was standing chest deep in water next to an upside down fully laden kayak. I was soon on my way again and the electric pump made short work of emptying the cockpit. No harm done but definitely not a smart move at the beginning of a long trip.
We paddled into Kilkeel harbour and found a slipway amongst all the fishing boats – one of the largest fleets in Ireland. A friendly lady at the Fisherman’s Mission allowed us use of the facilities and an offer of free tea or coffee. On our walk back to the boats we got chatting to a guy walking his dog who happened to be a volunteer with the RNLI press office. He was interested in our trip and took some photos to put out on their Facebook page.
Carlingford Lough was our next challenge. The tidal currents in the channels can reach 5 knots – considerably faster than we can paddle. With a mixture of planning and a considerable amount of good luck we arrived just after the flood had started and well before the current had reached its peak. Even so we had to paddle hard crossing the north channel to hold our course. We crossed the border somewhere in the middle and will now spend the next month or so in the Republic.
On reaching the north end of Dundalk Bay we considered our options. We still had a favourable wind but the forecast was for it to turn southerly and increase. We weren’t keen to get caught in the middle of a 2 to 3 hour crossing with a strengthening head wind so headed for Gyles Quay where the map indicated a caravan and camping site.
We got a considerable amount more exercise pulling our kayaks up a 400 metre hill to our caravan touring pitch. Thanks to Rob for making the decision to pack his trolley (Dave and I left our considerably larger ones at Larne).
Two pints of Guinness each rounded off an interesting day.
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