Sarah in Cornwall: “Out into the open sea”

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Even today at Granby Street Market people were asking me ‘How’s Sarah getting on with the sea kayaking?’ Well this is how. She’s been to Cornwall. And in a couple of weeks she’ll be back in Anglesey. In her element, literally.

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This year my personal mission has been to learn to sea kayak. This sea kayaking mission began three years ago in Anglesey where we were walking, and I saw these boats from the cliff.

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And I said, ‘I want to do that.’ So this year has been my year of doing  just that. It began in the River Dee on Wednesday evenings, moved closer to home in the docks here at Liverpool with Liverpool Canoe Club on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings, and then the ‘real’ adventures began. My beginners course in Anglesey where I am on open sea for the first time – post here, then my intrOmediate course, again in Anglesey with a different coach where I go into the swellies – post here. And I’ve just done another intrOmediate course this time in Cornwall.

I’m in a blue boat this time, and I’ve taken all the photos on day one – so there are no photos of me, but plenty of the bow of my blue boat. I arrive in Falmouth very late on Friday evening, it’s nearly midnight and bed down ready for a 9am start. Having arrived in the dark I do a quick drive around the headland in the morning, where Pendennis castle sits – it was built by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1542.

Arriving at Sea Kayaking Cornwall, I now feel quite experienced with my own gear and wet bag (note: still missing my own kayak and paddle though).  I am in a group of three, me, Dave who lives in Perranporth, and Steve from London, our coach is Mark. We load up the boats and got to Swanpool beach where we set off. We glide past Gyllyngvase beach, I am staying in a hostel near to this beach, and enjoy the view of the land from the water – I like the new perspective of land from the water.

The first day we do a trip, and on the second day we do a shorter trip, and spend more time on techniques. This is my kayaking map of the weekend.

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On our first day we did some rock hopping along the coast and reversing into coves. The seaweed was amazing.

And then we head out into the open sea! Making our way across the harbour to Black Rock, a rock in the middle of the harbour, with a conical marker – this is a very busy harbour and the rock is submerged, depending on the tide, and invisible to shipping.

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As you can see in the above photo there are lots of craft about, plenty of sail boats, but we encounter motor boats, and even a passenger ferry, so there’s a lot to learn about being safe in this sort of ‘busy’ environment.

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This is Black Rock. No seals here today.

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And we continue across to the other side of the harbour to our own private beach for lunch.

Which was very nice. It’s really exciting to be able to access beaches that you can only reach from the sea! After lunch we carry on down the rocky coast round the lighthouse, which is full of interest to a seaweed fan.

And here are two starfish on the rocks…

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The tide is approaching low now, so plenty of interesting things to look at on the rocks, seaweed and jelly fish.

And with the wind picking up we set back across the harbour to return to Swanpool.

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And it was a great day.

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I return to Falmouth Lodge hostel, which is a lovely place run by Judi. For my tea I have fish and chips from Harbour Lights – who have won an award as the best independent fish and chip shop in Cornwall – and indeed it is delicious. I am early to bed ready for day two.

Day two was just me and Dave with our coach Mark, so plenty of time for individual attention and looking at techniques, as well as some interesting rock hopping, and lunch together in the group shelter (it was very windy and we were wet, so this makes a quick easy shelter proving a humid warm atmosphere so you don’t cool down).

Part of the many techniques we looked at included rescues and also how to ‘flip’ the boat up from a capsize, using your hips, without doing a ‘wet exit’ (i.e. leaving the boat). I was very excited to learn how to do this as this is the start of being able to ‘roll’, which means if you capsize, you simply roll back up. Sounds simple doesn’t it!?

Another great day, thanks to Sea Kayaking Cornwall and our coach Mark.

Sunday evening I have my tea in the hostel and step out into the road as I can hear music.

Just a few metres from the hostel is this, the Princess Pavilion.

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And in the lovely courtyard, St Stythians Band play such classics as ‘Born Free’ and it is magical.

And it is a perfect summer evening, with a glass of white wine and I couldn’t be happier.

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The next day I am returning up north, but plan to break my journey, so have found accommodation the other side of Dartmoor, which means I’ll get 100 miles of the 350 miles home done today. I like the moor, it’s a wild place.

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I arrive at Moretonhampstead, which is on the edge of the moor, and this is where I am staying.

In this very attractive village, with an extremely attractive church and churchyard, where I spend a few hours in quiet contemplation, which is of course part of the attraction of solo trips away.

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Walking back to the hostel I come across this, an almshouses, now in the ownership of The National Trust, but lived in. (No doubt kindly rented by the NT).

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And the next morning I drive around the moor a bit more, it’s a strange contrast of manicured and wild. That’s the village of Widecombe in the Moor from a distance, I did drive there but it was unimaginably tamed and I didn’t stop. But from lots of places in the moor there are huge outcrops of granite, tors, and a real sense of wildness. And then lots of little ponies. A strange place.

So what’s next on the sea kayaking adventure? Well, it’s four days ‘on the water’ back in Anglesey at the end of August.

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