Day 8 – Seaton to Salcombe – 26.3 nm
I was reasonably happy with Week 1. The daily average was just over 26 nm, Lundy, Land’s End and The Lizard had all been ticked off and, while there had been a few lively moments, on the whole things had been fairly straightforward.
Today continued eastwards of course, but as we were hoping to sneak just ahead of the forecast of deteriorating weather, it meant that we would be working our first real ‘options day’ – working from one get-out to the next as we progressed
Off the beach and out across Whitsand Bay and 7 nm to Rame Head - the first go/no-go decision. As the headland pushed me out, the wind and swell became more significant, but I figured it was still ok and so another 5 nm to cross Plymouth Sound.
The next decision point was Wembury, or to go another 5 nm to Erme Mouth. Things were steadily building, matching the forecast, but it was ok – onwards.
By the time I was crossing Bigbury Bay hourly admin was getting a little tricky, I could eat and drink but taking a pee was getting a little fraught. Conditions were building behind and now there was some rebound from the rocks too. Time to wake up.
A further 5 nm onwards was the most significant option point, Bolt Tail. The next stretch was an exposed headland of rocky cliffs stretching a further 5 nm to Bolt Head. The swell and following sea were going to make this leg challenging I figured. The increasing flow around the headland would make a turn-back difficult, but on the up-side the faster water may settle the conditions a little – well that was the theory - an optimistic theory perhaps.
A brief call to Team Manager to confirm I was going on, and then – “...you’re committed now”. It did get lumpy, the swell was growing ‘beyond happy’ now and the rebound was stretching things. No thought of food or drink, no thought of pretty much anything, just concentrate and paddle.
You know, the sort of day when the amount you open your fingers on each stroke steadily decreases. Until you reach Evo-stik grip and need help to peel your fingers off at the end of the day.
Moving along the cliffs the flow increased and the effect of the swell did lessen a little, phew. But nearing the headland things started to grow again.
Off Bolt Head things had gone from ‘beyond happy’ to ‘decidedly unhappy’, the swell was pretty chunky now. Once again I was chasing shoulders and looking for gaps.
A lobster boat roared through it all, giving me a thumbs-up – ‘Sorry mate, but I ain’t taking my hands off these paddles for anything’. And then I was cursing the chaos I could see heading my way from his wash, until I realised that it was big enough to hold back the swell coming from behind.
Nice one, time for a burn, to bring the end closer via this unexpected oasis. It sounded all white and nasty to the rear but if I didn't look it wasn't there.
And then I had rounded Bolt Head and paddled into the shelter of the outer bay off Salcombe. Suddenly I arrived into a land of sit-on tops and speed boats, dinghies and donuts. A marked contrast in a few metres, it was hard to reconcile for a moment.
That was enough for one day.