We were heading down to the South West Sea Kayak Meet at Corfe Castle. Vicky, Seth, Dave, Paul and I fitted comfortably into Seth’s van with borrowed sea boats on the roof.
After a pretty hectic week at work the promised weekend of sun and sea down in Dorset was getting off to a pretty unpromising start. It had started by taking an hour and fifteen minutes to load the van, it was raining and we’d had to drive into the centre of Oxford to pick up a missing member of the team. To cap it all Seth, our driver, had managed to get into an altercation with a taxi driver over who got to the only working diesel pump in the petrol station first.
I think Seth might of been expecting me to be watching his back. I couldn’t be bothered and ducked into the petrol station shop to buy a Cornetto.
The ruins of Corfe Castle date back to the eleventh century, but it was blown up following its fall in the Civil War by Parliamentarian forces in 1646 to prevent it becoming a Royalist stronghold again. It made a stunning back drop to our camp site. This however was something I may not have appreciated fully at the time, having decided to cheer myself up on the journey by sharing a couple of bottles of wine with Dave and Paul. I’m not sure our driver was impressed.
Things were looking up though. The skies had cleared, we were at our destination and there was a weekend of sea kayaking ahead. Only two problems lay ahead; making sure I didn’t drink to much in the pub that evening so that I was fit to paddle next day, and the fact I’d never been sea kayaking before in my life!
As it turns out neither of these turned out to be a problem. After a splendid evening in the local pub catching up with old friends and meeting new ones; we woke and after breakfasting, gathered for the days briefing. Mark explained the purpose of the weekend (have fun, socialise and paddle) and outlined the plans for the day.
The were around eighty of us attending and we split up into groups of eight, each led by someone with some experience of sea paddling and headed off to Knoll Beach before heading off for a paddle around Poole Harbour.
Despite the force 4/5 wind which, it turns out, makes things a little hard going, it appears that sea paddling isn’t that hard at all. Certainly with a bit of white water experience behind me it seems it’s a case of pointing the boat in a straight line and paddling. Learning to turn the beast of a kayak took a while but I never once felt unstable and even managed to catch a few surf waves on.
The wind did make things a little slow though and it took us just under six hours (including first and second lunch) to complete our 18km tour of the harbour.
Poole harbour is a place of surprising contrast; ferries, millionaires row and oil wells didn’t seem to spoil what seemed to me to be a tranquil and quiet place.
I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the day. I was expecting it to be a long slog, hard work and plain dull. I was wrong.
Unfortunately I had forgotten one crucial thing; suncream. I was now sporting possibly the worst case of sunburn I’ve ever encountered.
The evening was spent with a BBQ on the beach before once again ending up in the Greyhound. Later that evening I slipped into a satisfied sleep looking forward to the next days paddling.
The next morning we had an early rise for the days briefing. The wind had dropped a little and Mark had a surprise, putting me and Andy in charge of a group for the day. Strange sense of humour that one. The days plan was to head up the Jurassic coast from Kimmeridge to Durdle Door via Lulworth Cove.
Jim had kindly lent me a composite kayak, which was a revelation compared to the plastic one I’d paddled the previous day. So much lighter and more responsive. So we headed out admiring the stunning coast line as we went, whilst Andy gave us the benefit of his professional knowledge as a geologist describing the different layers of rock (or clay) that make up the cliffs.
Unfortunately we didn’t make it further than Lulworth; we made a fairly slow pace and stupidly I didn’t drink enough and became somewhat dehydrated. We decided to call it a day and turned back shortly after lunch.
Despite this I enjoyed myself, some of the chop became quite sporty at times especially when the wind picked up.
So, my first sea kayaking experience. Fantastic, certainly far better than I expected. Of course being surrounded by such friendly and encouraging people helped and I’m extremely grateful to them for looking after a numpty like me . Especially Liz and Mark G for looking after us on the Saturday and Jim for not only lending me his boat but making sure we didn’t do anything too stupid on the Sunday.
Finally a special thanks to Heather and Mark for organising such a fantastic weekend and allowing me to take part.
More photos HERE.