Summing Up

Anglesey - Jan 2016


So how did it all go?

Well, it was cold, damp, stressful, tiring, expensive, intense, frustrating, challenging, scary, rewarding, disappointing and a touch dodgy.

 It went pretty well, all things considered.

When I set out the main aim was just to complete the trip, and return safely. We managed that one.

Next, was to finish in 80 days. I really wanted that one. It was the goal that got me out of bed on the miserable mornings. However it wasn't to be.

The daily finish-projections varied widely as things progressed. At the most depressing point the figures showed 92 days, at times 70's faded in and out, even the odd high-60. But once things had bedded-in the numbers hovered around the 80-ish mark. In the later stages, as we headed down the Scottish West Coast, sub-80 still looked possible; however once I committed to going around the Irish Sea that dream was over - 83 days, no excuses, end of story.

Going the Wrong Way

Working anti-clockwise was more challenging technically:
  •  After the South Coast most of the time was spent paddling on the ebb. This meant that rivers, estuaries, bays and harbours were emptying rather than filling, and in turn, this meant that the more challenging water conditions were now ‘outside’ of those features – sometimes this made for impressive and extensive differences.

  • The timings of paddling on the ebb also made for a lot of long ‘multi-shift’ days and early starts. Fatigue built up.

  • Probably the most significant factor was that the ebb was working against the weather and the swell. Much of the time the swell was lifted significantly by pushing against the flow of the ebb.

 Van Support

Though I would paddle this trip solo, I had decided that I could not set out on this trip alone. The 2012 trip had left me with significant back problems. This time the boat load had to be lighter and long-term tent-life was not an option. Having the Team Manager and the Van along for the ride were a success; I returned far less painfully than 3 years earlier.
  • Sleep was also better in the van - it was quieter, warmer, drier and more secure.

  • I had the luxury of taking different boats and kit to try out.

  • Food was better too.
There were down sides to the van though:
  • It brought its own admin; surprisingly having the van didn't make the daily start any quicker.

  • You had to consider the other party, they had a life to lead too. Compromises had to be made sometimes. The focussed selfishness had to be toned down a little.

  • This time I was less of an adventurer and more of a tourist. People were less intrigued to know what was going on, they didn't come to chat in the way they had previously. I missed that, the trip was far more bland without the daily ‘character’ injection.

  • It was expensive; as we were seen as tourists we were also seen as fair game to be milked of cash pretty much wherever we went.

  • The van was a late arrival on the scene prior to the trip, it became a distraction in the late stages as it was prepared.

  • Team Manager got to see the stress and daily dodginess close-up. This was often uncomfortable for her. It will be interesting to see her outlook on future paddling exploits.

Van and TM did over 6000 miles.



Light V Heavy - Boats

The light construction Taran  (pink + yellow) handled things well; it was the sole boat to be paddled from Scarborough onwards - from Day 36 -753 nm done, 1107 nm to go. However, I did make an effort to look after it - it was not used for seal launches and dodgy landings were avoided whenever possible.
  • The heavier red + white boat was used when things were likely to get ‘scratchy’.

  • Manual handling was easier with the light boat.

  • The light boat was a 4 hatch boat i.e. no rear day hatch. The red + white was a 5 hatch boat.

  • The light boat did not make any significant difference to the daily mileage, when viewed from the perspective of the trip as a whole – the weather was a far more significant factor.
Still, whenever I had the opportunity, I chose to paddle the light Taran.


Kit

I took kit from two manufacturers: Palm and Kokatat. Both performed well, I had no problems with either. I tended to alternate between brands in order to keep me in dry kit for the day.
  • The Kokatat kit was made from Gore-Tex, the Palm from their own-brand XP fabric - the Gore-Tex was more breathable. Both were waterproof.

  • The Kokatat kit used was ‘left-over’ kit from the 2012 expedition. The Palm kit was sourced new from Surf-Lines in North Wales.

  • I couldn’t get my hands on a large range of Kokatat locally to try out for function or sizing. I could get ‘hands-on’ with the Palm kit, via Surf-Lines in North Wales. These folks were reliable and delivered on their promises. That was enough to swing it to Palm for the new kit.

  • A combination of new Palm and ‘legacy’ Kokatat kit kept the budget within reason.
Now I train daily in my Palm Kit, it does the job. I still look after my Kokatat kit, just in case there lies another trip ahead.

Spraydecks: of course, were supplied by Phoenix of Nottingham. I've been paddling them for 20 years or so - I'm not going to change now. Another big thank-you to Joel and his elves!

Yours Truly


Physically:

There were no significant back problems this time, in fact no major problems at all. I did have some eye problems, with symptoms similar to mild snow-blindness. These lingered for a couple of months. I had lost my sunglasses in the final couple of weeks.

While you can clock up miles on such a trip, and the body takes it surprisingly well, ‘race fitness’ is destroyed. You come back surprisingly 'unfit'. There is also the long-term fatigue that you would expect from 83 days on the go. That lingers.

The body craves the calories long after the paddling is finished, for me this means my weight balloons – still working on that one. Pass me another cake in the meantime.

Mentally:

I didn’t come back quite as weird as I did after the 2012 trip. It had helped not to be alone every day. We also took time to return home this time, ‘cooling down’ on the way. It helped that I didn't have a bad day in the same league as the Rubha Reidh day in 2012. My confidence had been battered after the 2012 trip, this time that was not such a problem. That I saw this trip as more of a success helped too.

It still was difficult for a while though:
  • Motivation didn't exist.

  • Nothing seemed important, nothing...

  • Emotions were flat, life was grey, it was hard to get excited about anything.

  • I had used up my decision making allowance for the year, I just couldn't make any decisions. I couldn't commit to such things as work dates or social invitations etc. Life was for today only, no further ahead...

  • There is also a long-term mental fatigue. That lingers too.

It’s over 5 months since the finish day as I write this, things are steadily getting better, but some things still hang around.

Overall 

Yes we didn't get the 80 days, that was the only real disappointment I guess. But if that’s the only one then you can’t get too upset.

I was pleased how I paddled technically late on; some days I see as some of the best paddling I had done for a decade or more. I can’t ask for much more than that.

I was a bit lazy here and there, but then it’s easy to criticise with warm and dry hindsight, and after a time of regular sleep.

We worked well as team, once again. To live in the confined quarters of a van, in such a stressful (and smelly) environment, for nearly 3 months and still be friends is some achievement. I owe that girl so much...

We made a few mistakes on the decisions, but on the whole I think we dealt pretty well with what came our way.

So... I was supported, we took a van and I was still 11 days slower, but I couldn't have asked for much more - from either of us. It would have been nice to have some better weather, but that doesn't happen, it's in the rules, it’s part of the game.

No, I'm pretty happy after this one, 83 days will do.

The emptiness has gone, the hole has been filled, questions have been answered...

83 days, 1860 nm and 434:43 hrs

Job Done.






UK 1UK 2Diff (UK2 v UK1)
Total Days:7283+11
Non-Paddling Days:1011+1
Paddling Days:6272+10
Total Mileage (nm):17731860+87
Total Paddling Hrs:419:00434:43+15:43
Daily Avg (total days - nm):24.6322.41-2.22
Daily Avg (paddling days - nm):28.6025.83-2.76
Daily Avg (total days - Hrs:5:495:14-00:34
Daily Avg (paddling days - Hrs:6:456:02-00:43
Overall Average Speed (Kts):4.234.28+0.05
Max Day Mileage (nm):53.4946.38-7.11
Min Day Mileage (nm):8.504.86-3.64
Max Day Hrs:11:5010:31-01:19
Min Day Hrs:1:5301:11-00:42