Myself and Mike Alexander crossed the Irish sea in a sea kayak.
Just one little kayak in the middle of the sea. At one point there were at least 25 miles between us and land. How many more ways can I put it?
It’s not so easy to write about this part of my journey at the moment, as my brain is still a bit fried. I also have to say that I am only representing my thoughts and experiences in this situation, not Mike’s as I’m sure he’ll have a a different story to tell. So when I say ‘we’, I’m implying ‘me’. I hope that’s not confusing!
Although it was all over in 22 hours a lot happened, both physically and mentally. I will try and summarise.
Firstly, a couple of facts:
1) I had been in a sea kayak only twice before Sunday’s crossing.
2) I learned to swim only last year, had I not learned I would not even have considered kayaking across.
We had a lovely, smooth launch from Porth Dafarch. There was a gentle breeze and the conditions couldn’t have been better. Once we could see South Stack and got clear of the headland it started to get choppy. We had about 4 hours or maybe 6, of that. Not much talking, just paddling and keeping on.
Then the north westerly dropped and the sea became calm. What a relief. We had good conditions and we paddled on. The sun was going down and we were pointed right into it (note to self; next time you paddle across the Irish sea BRING SOME SHADES!)
It was blissful when the sea was calm. We were both calmed by it and everything was stunning. The water shimmered with tiny ripples and rose and fell pleasantly with every soft wave which passed. Ships looked amazing, just sitting there on the sea, powerful and massive when they passed by. After all we were basically sitting at ground level looking up at these things.
At one point out of nowhere, in the calm a wave broke right behind the kayak. We both were in shock as, of course, the thing to watch out for when you’re paddling in the ferry lanes, is massive ferries catching you by surprise. I threw my body round (a dangerous thing to do in a sea kayak) as it was such a shock and I saw what looked like a wave or wake behind me. “What was that?!” I asked Mike, in a panic. “I dunno but it was big”, he said. “Maybe a basking shark?” We stopped and looked round and round to see what the hell was going on, when about 20 feet away a beautiful creature came up to take a breath. It did a big ‘blow’, showed itself then disappeared back in. It was a beautiful sight. It was brownish-grey, and had quite a short dorsal fin. Maybe minke. Maybe humpback. A whale anyway. We weren’t sure but we knew it had come to say hello as we were the only vessel for miles around.
We would paddle for an hour then have a 5 minute break in which we would have a wee (into an improvised milk bottle urinal), eat something, stretch arms and back a little, or I’d have a look behind to see how Mike was doing., Then we’d set off again.
The first half of the journey was alright, really. 11 hours of paddling, shoulders, arms and legs in good condition.
Once the sun went down things started to get a little harder. We knew we had nearly half the journey still to go and we had to paddle through the night and out the other side to morning. It was not pleasant but the old ‘point of no return’ had well and truly happened and we were well and truly committed.
The sea picked up again. At this point I was hoping it wouldn’t but gradually it got choppy and that lasted for another 3 hours or so and when it went completely dark it calmed. Onwards we went, driven on as we started to see the lights of Dublin, around 11pm. We were looking for land and spurred on by seeing more but the reality was we were still 9 hours away and going as slow as walking pace. It was torturous at times. I know that I made the mistake of putting too much hope in what was ahead and that was a very dangerous thing to do when we had hours and hours of work ahead; and my body was feeling weaker, and my legs were feeling more pained and I hated everything I had with me. I had jelly babies with me to give a sugar hit and I started to hate them! I said to Mike, bitterly “I’m never eating a jelly baby again after this!” It really didn’t matter but at the time the jelly babies were like some kind of poison in my nut, seed and dried fruit mix and I resented every little one. Every time I went to get nuts, I got jelly babies! Anyway….sounds crazy, right?
It really felt like we were quite close to Dublin at one point. Mike checked the chart against his GPS; still 18 MILES away. Resolutely, we paddled on, I was aching now but had to think of positive ways to frame it. By comparing it to what we’d done already it felt better. There really was no point of thinking ahead, or even looking at the lights for solace or whatever. The reality was that there was still a massive stretch of water between us and Dublin, it was dark, I was wet through and cold and going nowhere; stuck in this plastic bath tub, unable to stand up or move about.
Ok, I’m running out of energy now, I’ll post the rest very soon! 😃