Simon’s dad had been floating (get it!) the idea of getting a couple of kayaks for a while. Then in July he asked us both if we wanted to go on a half day training course in Exeter. A very long story later, it is now August and the three of us have just completed a 2 day sea kayaking course taking in parts of the stunning coastline around Dartmouth.
The meeting point was at Coronation Dinghy Park which is immediately across from the higher ferry. The weather wasn’t great on day 1 but still provided us with a lovely view of the colourful Kingswear houses sitting on the hill across the estuary.
Our guide was James, a very experienced sea and white water kayaker. He helped us to get kitted up with a dry bag, cagoule, spray desk, buoyancy aid and of course kayak and paddle. After some basic instruction on dry land we carried our kayaks over to the slipway and, with a helpful shove from James, were soon floating in the turquoise waters of the Dart.
My arms and shoulders started hurting after all of 3 minutes paddling and I spent most of the next two days wondering how I could possibly go on. Turns out the 10 minutes I laboured on the arm machine beforehand at the gym didn’t go very far. We paddled into a creek initially to practise ‘skills’ such as turning, drawing the kayak sideways, using the skeg etc. The sun really came out for this which was lucky as Brian, the fourth member of our party who we had only met that morning, got a bit too enthusiastic with the paddling and capsized.
James then guided us down the estuary towards the open sea.
We stopped for lunch on a secluded little beach before navigating our way around several rocks and out to a seal colony.
By this time it had grown quite grey and wet but that didn’t dampen the excitement of having the seals come and swim around our boats. For me this was the highlight of the whole two days. Unfortunately the clever little things always managed to disappear when the camera appeared and so we didn’t manage to get a shot of them. Here is a picture of us waiting patiently in the ‘lagoon’ before they decided to come and say hello. It is quite blurry due to the rain but in some ways that helps to convey how atmospheric it was.
Day two was a beautiful sunny day but unfortunately our guide wasn’t able to get hold of a camera. We headed straight out to sea, past Dartmouth Castle and via an eerie sea cave, to do some ‘rock hopping’. This was great fun and concentrating on not hitting anything took my mind off how sore my poor arms were. I’d also developed blisters on my hands from yesterdays paddling and on advice from our guide wrapped the bottom of my thumbs in electrical tape. It worked a treat!
Again we ate lunch on a beautiful beach in a lovely little cove with views of Blackpool Sands in the distance. Over our sandwiches James tried to teach us the basics of navigation. I’m pleased to say that I was the only one in our little party who figured out where we were on the map – much to Simon’s chagrin.
For the last couple of hours we practised rescuing each other. It took me several minutes to pluck up the courage throw myself over (spray deck release cord already in hand) and it was every bit as cold and as salty as I had been dreading. Fortunately our guide was the rescuer at this point and so I was back in the kayak in no time. Solemnly vowing I wasn’t going in again I then had to rescue Simon’s dad. It was sketchy. I struggled lifting his boat to get the water out. He also didn’t make the best subject; loosing a trainer as well as deciding to remove his (not so) waterproof trousers half way through my valiant life saving efforts.
Overall it was a fantastic experience. Are we ready to own kayaks? I’m not so sure but we’re off to Cornwall next week and may decide to rent a couple for an afternoon to see how we fare on our own. If I haven’t posted again by the end of month please call the coast guard!