Safari Gumotex Solway Estuary

Tuesday 4.10.16
As I got to the boat there was no sign of the tide, again it would be a high tide of 7 meters (at Silloth). I judge the tide from Silloth as it is these readings the Cumberland News give to mention tide height and times. Over the years I have worked out that it takes roughly 1 hour for it to reach Port Carlisle; the height is different of course, but if it is 7 meters at Silloth it means it will be “over the banks at Port” and thus giving me 4 hours of sailing/kayaking/floating.

As I unpacked the kayak from the bike trolley, dumped my luggage into the cabin and started to inflate the kayak the tide was reaching the boat. I did not rush, I knew how to fix the ladder and ungraciously roll into the kayak from the cockpit.

When it was inflated and the skegs screwed in, I lowered it over the side into the sea and secured it to the boat. I put some baggage in the rear cockpit to give me some back stability and lowered myself down.

The wind was strong, it was from the East, making the sea state a lee-shore and quite choppy. I pushed away from the boat and headed towards the harbour with the intention of going around it once to get into the main channel and to head down past Grune Point.

The channel pulled me down past the harbour wall and I noticed the different sub-currents swirling around underneath me, turning me from left to right and back again. There was no wind behind the harbour wall and it felt calm and peaceful. AS I turned the corner at the top of the harbour the Easterly wind fit me in the face and I had to paddle in earnest to pull away. I understood the channel was heading South East, but the wind was strong and against tide, so even though the channel was taking me in the direction I wanted to go, the wind was pushing me back. Every meter gained was achieved by many paddle stokes. I slowly passed the boat on my stern, slowly over taking it like a dream in slow motion. The wind shifted from an Easterly to a Southerly, and the water became quieter and flatter.

Then I passed the shore wall that once belonged to the harbour; then passed the houses, it took a long time and my mind began to wander. A sort of auto-pilot took over my paddling. I noticed the wavelets hitting the kayak, I noticed the spray in my face, the wind flattening the waves sometimes, but my strokes were methodical, low to the water, and plodding. I decided to video this experience, to show how routine it can be.

Slowly I got passed the solitary farm house and then I became conscience of my surroundings, especially a group of ‘white-tops’ in the distance. I want to go and see what was causing them. As I got closer I noticed they were two channels meeting each other running in opposite directions. Also there could be another reason for the disturbance; the incoming tide does not slowly come into the estuary it rushes in with multiple ‘tide races’ each tide race over laps and collides with the multiple currents or sand bars. When there is a tide race the sea state becomes confused and results in white-tops and larger waves, this could be happening. I had thought the flood was over and it was the beginning of the ebb, but if that was so the sea state would be calm as it would be ‘wind with tide’ but this was more of ‘wind against tide’. The wind suddenly shifted back to being from the East. As the ‘ripple’ effect of this confused sea state got closer I began to notice a change in the steepness of the waves. I prefer to stay facing the waves in the inflatable as I cannot ‘cut through’ a wave as I can in my hard-shell kayak, in the inflatable I only can ride on the waves and, depending on the steepness, avoid tipping.

I changed course, heading away from the white-tops, across the bay, and towards Drumbrough village. To do with meant crossing the bay, a long way out from the shore and this meant having a proportion of the waves on my port side. They were not too bad and I could ride them ok. The channel was taking me along and I found myself soon at ‘the point’ and near to the creeks of last week.

The wind was changing all the time from E. to S.E. to S. and then back again. I decided to join another channel that looked like it was heading towards Carlisle in a hurry; if I could take a ‘ride on its back’ I would get to the shore much faster. I cut across the quieter channel into the rougher wavelet area. I did speed along nicely, and I followed a stream of ‘white surf’ that marked the edge of one channel and the other. As the wind changed so did the wave direction, often it was head on, other times it was beam on, other times it was both, with standing water for me to crash into.

I got out of it and paddled over to a ‘point’ and a new creek I had not explored in 10 years or more. The high tide had made it possible to paddle up to the road. Being in the creek was like being in a different world, quiet and peaceful. I photographed the end of the creek to where the bridge/cattle grid marked the road and then videoed the slow paddle back to the sea.

I rested a while then headed back to see a smaller creek that had some barbed wire submerged in the water. I thought since I do not get a chance to get this far up the channel I will make an effort to reach the smaller creeks. Over the barb wire I paddled, and along a small creek until I reached the cattle bridge, then paddled back.

Once back in the main sea channel let myself float and to enjoy the calmness of the sea state, due to the ebb and the wind finally moving in the same direction.

With the peace and quiet I heard a ‘snort’ I looked around and I saw a black dot above the waves. Another ‘snort’ and it was a seal, sticking its head above the waves to have a look at this ‘strange creature’. Each time it submerged it re-emerged closer to the kayak. I was not paddling just floating and the lack of movement made the seal more curious. As I believe it is curiosity that makes the seal come closer. If it was frightened it could have swam away, not even made itself known to me, but it came closer, and I could see its head clearly, its markings, and it’s beautiful eyes, big and red around it sockets. How could it see in that silty water? I felt elated to share some time in its presence, and at such close distance. I had seen it before while sailing on Sadaf, but I never saw it so close. Kayaking can bring one closer too many things that sailing cannot.

After it has seen enough of me and got bored it dived and then next time it emerged it was farther away from me. I floated further down the channel noticing the sounds the ebbing tide was making as it contacted the shore line.

Passing Drumbrough Point I videoed the sea state and headed around the point into the bay where I surprised a group of birds resting on the bank. They took off and started to skim and dive over the water, great aerobatics and as they changed so did the colour from white to black to silver, hard to capture on video though.

Again, I floated and the tide took me once more passed Grune Point and into the main channel.

There was still some tide left to do some kayaking so I paddled towards the boat then onwards to the harbour and around the island. The sea state was jumping and strong, and it was pulling me out to sea, and after I had rounded the harbour wall I had to pull hard to ferry-glide to the shore and then to make my way, slowly, towards the boat in shallow water.


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