Chalkwell Redcaps

Chalkwell Redcaps

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

SKS Kayak Reconnaissance 23 October 2011 (by Jane Bell)

OK guys, here’s a brief run-down of Sunday’s kayak reconnaissance mission: 

Andy Lean and I checked in with the Thames Coastguard and struck out seaward from the Crowstone.  Waters were on the choppy side but we were pleasantly surprised by the 13.5 degree sea temperatures which prevented our hands from freezing.  Heading directly into the incoming tide it wasn’t too long before we recognised the Ray marker buoys and reminisced on times spent splashing with the seals.  Beyond that familiar playground were the unknown waters behind the sandbank.  It was pretty ‘samey’ for quite a stretch here.  Waters over the sandbank are quite shallow so for swimmers there is nothing particularly different from what we are used to further towards the shore.  There wasn’t too much traffic either, but it was early on a Sunday morning so perhaps the playboys were still in bed….
Yep, bit choppy out there today
As Chalkwell faded into the distance the Allhallows skyline sharpened and Canvey stretched out into the Estuary.  Our vision became increasingly focused on the buoy at Sea Reach no. 6.  Sitting in the middle of the shipping channel, this was our mission’s target and would mark our crossing point. All went well until we hit Leigh Middle, deeper waters between the sandbank and shipping channel.  The winds picked up appreciably here and with them so did the chop.  From a swimming perspective this would have been comparable with a bad day at the Crowstone, so loads of experience there folks!!  Determined to reach our goal, we paused for a while to acclimatise, and then proceeded onwards to Sea Reach 6.  Headway did not last long as once again the conditions deteriorated.  The Coastguard had warned of high winds rising to Force 7 (31-38mph).  On top of this we were approaching high tide and there was every possibility that things would get rougher as the directions of wind and tide came into conflict.  Approximately 3km out at sea and still a good kilometre from Sea Reach 6 we acknowledged that this was not the day to make our first crossing and, rather reluctantly, made the decision to return to shore. 

Andy Lean - October 23 2011 - test crossing
Turning around it became clear that we’d made the right call.  With the waves behind us it was now surfing time!!  This game took a bit of getting used to but soon became fun and it wasn’t long before the Crowstone became visible again.  Looking back out to sea it appeared innocent.  Of course there was the feeling that we had turned around prematurely.  But there was also the possibility that what we could see from land and what it was actually like out at sea were worlds apart. 
Little buggers keep showing up !

So we may not have made it this time, but we have learned some valuable lessons for next year’s swim.  How the conditions change in deeper water, how the kayaks handle into and against the tide, and most importantly that safety must come first.  Disappointed?  A little bit.  But glad that the ball is rolling and keen to try again when conditions are more favourable. 
The Redcaps challenge is totally do-able and with the correct precautions in place we CAN achieve it safely.  We just need to practice…..

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