Today I'm enjoying a well deserved day off, having made the most of the gorgeous weather we had, and in less than five weeks, conquered Scotland.
In my last blog I was telling you about the difficulties I had already encountered and foolishly I said, "I expect to encounter even more difficulties". Well I wish I had bought a Euro Millions ticket, because I was dead on the money, me and my big mouth! During May I have crossed shipping channels in dense fog, battling my small kayak against enormous ferries; suffered with an infected toe that lasted for over three weeks due to it being wet all day long, which resulted in a trip to A&E and a good old lancing, suffered constantly with blistering on my hands, which are nearly down to the bone; I'm now experiencing pressure sores and rather unexpectedly, flexor tendonitis in my hands, meaning I find it difficult to straighten my fingers; and if that wasn't enough I have, at times, been sleeping rough on beaches, where in the freezing temperatures and relentless rain of early May, I found that my waterproof bivy bag was not as waterproof as I had first thought!!!
Two weeks ago the weather changed unexpectedly with some North Easterly breezes and some Northerly swell. This meant I had to keep my wits about me all day as it created some breaking waves on the port side of the boat that needed a few braces and stabilising strokes to counteract. Although it was a relatively short day, about 28 miles, for some reason my body ached all day (particularly the shoulders) and I found it all incredibly hard. I felt physically and emotionally drained at the end. All in all I was thankful I was ahead of schedule and could afford a few welcome days off and my body could rest to sort itself out.
On the 4th June I left from Rosehearty harbour. I was a bit wary of the 20mph NW winds and size of the swell, but I had hoped that once round Fraserburgh the wind would help me along. Thankfully (for the first time since crossing the Bristol Channel) I dressed for immersion with my new dry suit and helmet as there were plenty of rocks around. Things started well but as I turned round past Fraserburgh all I could see was swell and white water up ahead. Weighing up my options I decided to pass inside a beacon and ship wreck about 2 miles out to sea but as I got closer realised it was the wrong choice as there was no safe route through the breaking swell. I decided to turn around and head back out to sea but turned to face a huge breaking wave which hit me, but didn't knock me over. Unfortunately it was one of a set and as soon as I saw the next one coming I knew it was going to knock me over. It did. I managed to roll initially but got knocked over again by the next wave and took a swim. I managed a self rescue roll but when pumping out the boat it was too unstable and I got knocked over and under again. Eventually I attached my tow line to the boat and managed to swim in away from the multitude of rocks. I got back on the beach in one piece and my kayak with only minor repairs needed. Despite finding bits and pieces of my kit in the surf, including a tiny pot of Vaseline, I lost my camera, my GPS unit and favourite hat! Worse things happen at sea, so not all that bad I guess.
The 6th June marked my 67th day. I had achieved 421 hours of paddling, 1,662 miles, 1,515,600 paddle strokes. Kayaking; hobby or obsession? Six days later I am back in England and I'm on the home stretch! Apparently it's all downhill from here to London.
I woke Wednesday and went looking for a spoon to eat my 'boil in a bag' porridge, having lost mine in the swim last week. When I got back my kayak was being inspected by the police as a member of the public had reported an 'abandoned kayak'. We skirted the issue of me sleeping rough and they went off to return 15 minutes later with a spoon! How's that for community service! A very tough launch; the surf hurt a muscle in my left shoulder, feeling a tear and the boat buckling as it slammed over the waves. Still, made it - just. Paddled on in glorious sunshine and big swell and managed to find a safe(ish) landing on a stunning beach between Banborough and Seahouses opposite the Farne Isles. No police in sight!
So the plan going forward is to arrive in Tynemouth on Sunday (17th June) to meet my new colleagues at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle and members of the North East NRAS Group, who are coming out to support me on my challenge. I start work at the Freeman Hospital in September. I plan on reaching London for the finale on the afternoon of the 6th July; if you're in the area it would be fantastic to see you, do get in contact with Val at NRAS on email@example.com or 01628 501 547
Quite an eventful couple of weeks, I wonder if it will be as simple as sitting back and enjoying my last 3 weeks of the trip?
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