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PostHeaderIcon Across the Irish sea in 11hours 30 mins!


Last week – freshly back from Sardinia – I was looking forward to settling down at my desk and getting on with some work. I hadn’t even looked at the weather forecast! Then we saw Nick Cunliffe – he had some days off work and a cunning plan! The forecast was for strong easterly winds and he fancied kayaking from Holyhead to Dublin in Ireland in a following sea. I should work I thought – do I really want to put myself through paddling over 50 nautical miles in a day again!!?? Any sane person would say NO!

And so I heard myself saying, “I’ll come with you!”, and rushing about the house to get food, clothes and safety equipment together. I emailed Des Keaney of Deep Blue Seakayaking in Dublin, who looked after Barry and I so well when we crossed over to Wicklow in January. I hoped Des and his partner Sonja wouldn’t mind picking Nick & I up and taking us and our kayaks to the ferry when we arrived. I felt a bit rude asking for their kind hospitality again but the email I received back from Des made me realise I needn’t worry. It started,

“Holy Jaysus, the first decent easterly since January and look what blows in! I should have known!”
I finally got to bed about 11am, and tried to sleep. The alarm went off at 2am, and we drove to Soldiers Point in Holyhead aiming for a 4am start. Although we knew the wind would be behind us, we weren’t sure how long it would take us and we figured we should allow plenty of time to make sure we weren’t landing in the dark. Shortly after 4am we launched on the boulder beach at Soldiers Point. Before I could even get my spraydeck on, the wind immediately caught the kayaks and started blowing them west. The sun wasn’t up yet but the sky was getting a little more grey already and we could see well enough to paddle. As we turned left out of the bay, the ebb carried us towards North Stack tidal race.

“um, North stack in the dark, I thought. That would be a new experience”.

We took a wide berth around the race and fortunately, the waves weren’t very big. Then we turned on the headtorch to check the bearing and started paddling just north of due West. The wind was more-or-less behind us, the direction changed a bit through the day, but was mostly behind us and very slightly to our right. The wind strength varied from about Force 4- force 6 at times. It was strongest early on in the day and we made great progress surfing away from Anglesey. By the time a big red sun came up behind Holyhead mountain, we had covered 12 nautical miles in only 2 hours. We continued to take advantage of a chunky following sea for the rest of the journey.

We stopped every couple of hours for some food and water but not for long as it got cold when we hung about! Our average speed fell slowly through the day – partly because the wind dropped a bit, possibly partly because the tide was strongest near to Anglesey and gave us less of a sideways push later on, and probably because we got a bit tired after 11 hours paddling! At one point I found myself disappointed that we’d paddled the last nautical mile at ONLY 4.5knots – then I caught myself and smiled to think that I’d have been delighted by that if we hadn’t been going even faster earlier!

We were carried surprisingly far south by the ebb tide and the flood wasn’t quite so strong, so we ended up further south than we’d hoped and adjusted our bearing for the last couple of hours and headed NW. By the time we reached Dalkey island, we’d travelled almost 56 nautical miles and been paddling for 11 and a half hours – far quicker than we’d expected. Once alongside dry land we agreed that we wanted to find the first possible place to land! We soon came across a tiny harbour with a lively swell surging up onto the stony pier where we’d need to land. It was a bit of a sporty landing, but it was THERE! We landed after 11hours 45mins, having travelled 57 nautical miles – an average of 4.8knots!! Is this a record?

I recorded the track we took using free Sanoodi software on my blackberry and you can see it here.


Once on dry land, I called Des & Sonja and they came to meet us straight away ( they’d been looking at the live update of our track on the internet and knew that we were nearby!) They wouldn’t let us carry the kayaks and ordered us into the warm car while they tied them on the roof! Back at their home, we were well fed and looked after – thank you so much again. Anyone wanting to go kayaking in the Dublin area should get in touch with Des – you’ll be very well looked after!
We stayed overnight with Des and Sonja and travelled back on the Stenaline fast ferry the next day. Thank you very much to Stena and Eila for providing us with a free ferry ticket, and for taking the kayaks on the ferry as luggage. It was humbling to get back to Wales in warmth and comfort in under 2 hours, after our 11 and a half hours the previous day!!


There are a few more photos in my flickr account here.

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