When Team goes Solo

I can’t thank enough the folk who have helped and supported me on this trip and actually made it possible. What started out as a team event when Sonja and I left Bullock Harbour (yes, with a tear in our eyes) on May 12th took a completely different turn when Sonja got sick and after 2 days at Golam Island, north of the Aran islands got off the water and I realised I was on my own.

However, with all the support crew, back home and in Ireland, through email and with the reassurance they knew where I was and all was well through SPoT has always left me feeling that I was never completely alone. I for one will certainly be looking into getting hold of one of those little orange gadgets. It was a shame he stopped working on those last few days but hopefully we’ll find out why. There is a new SPoT 2 available, so will be keen to see that too. I know for sure quite a few folk who are very interested in SPoT.

Chris Reed, of Chillcheater who generously provided a load of my paddling kit and gear needs a special thank you. I lost my beanie hat after about day 2 which was a real disaster!!

There were other people who helped and supported- MULE BARS where fantastic and there are enough flavours to keep the taste buds happy! They came into their own towards the end of the day when energy levels slumped. Expeditioning solo is probably at its toughest at night, all the kit has to be taken out of the boat to ensure it’s light enough to wheel or drag to a safe place above the high water mark. When that is done its time to put up the tent or bivvy bag and get some food inside!

Blizzard Survival gave us emergency survival jackets and blankets, kept in the cockpit and fortunately never needed- which is where they’ll stay, ready but hopefully never to be used!

Brian Forrest of North West Sea Kayaking in Donegal and his delightful family were fantastic and I think I ate them out of house and home while I was stuck there weatherbound- l was so lucky to be held up in such luxury with Joan and the girls taking such good care of me. It was here I hit a big low and it was a huge help to have moral support to get me through.

Biggest thanks of all has to go to Des Keaney (and of course Sonja) of DEEP BLUE SEAKAYAKING, Dublin who looked after me and provided loads of useful advice and again kept morale up and kept me going!!
It took a couple of days to transform from Team head to Solo head but I got there thanks to the support of everyone and inparticular Nigel. It was Mark Tozer who initially got me into solo paddling initially, so it was as well I had a Solo head to find! I missed the fun and chat Sonja and I had and hope she gets better quickly so can complete the full circle herself as well.

Predominantly though to SEA KAYAKING UK and Nigel Dennis- the pure carbon kevlar Pilgrim Expedition, otherwise known as ‘Red’ was tough as old boots but looked regal. The fine gold glitter shone and twinkled in the sunlight, it would catch my eye and I felt so proud to paddle that boat. I look forward to having loads more adventures with him. He’s fast and sleek and handled like a dream!
Also mega thanks again to Nigel, now owner of LENDAL PADDLES for surprising me with a brand new set of super lightweight carbon paddles! They’re awesome and have probably splashed their way over 500 miles since I took possession of them on the Dingle peninsula and still look brand new! They cruised over 90 nm just these past 2 days.

Lizzie and Suzie were awesome, the sqeal of ‘Eila!!!’ from Lizzie as I was about to wheel my boat up the slip at Port Stewart in the rain and dark was such a welcome surprise! They couldn’t do enough to help me out and made the next few days evenings and put ins a delight!

There is a whole host of other folk who have been awesome, friends and family back home, especially my daughter Beth, Snowdonia Canoe club, Paul and all the Cybi Kayakers in Holyhead and all the people I met and helped along the way. Kielan, Ian and Oivera at Helvick, Hannah and Gerry at Blacksod, Marion and Liz, Tony, Michael and Margaret at Inishbofin and Charles at Gola to name just a few. Lifeboat men all round the coast and well, everywhere.

So many folk have inspired and helped me!!

Last but not least Waddles, he has placed an order for a 25cm expedition paddle- but he sure proved his worth! Always at the helm, checking we were on course and ensuring all the passing wildlife called by to say hello!

This journey may well have come to an end but the journey of Expeditioning and Life continues.

Well done Eila

Full on to the last, she gave it all she had for those last two days, determined to finish off last night. She slipped in to Bulloch Harbour behind my back as I was trying to get students on the water for an evenings session. I had a big banner hanging from my car “Well done Eila, sea kayaked around Ireland in 37 days”. That got some attention from those who were about, my intro students couldn’t quite imagine paddling much futher than Dalkey Island. Unfortunately I had to leave, but don’t worry, Des and Nigel were there to pop the champange with her. Slowly she began to become more human, food and drink did the trick. Home for a bath, we talked to the wee small hours.
There’s definitely a sense of my job half done, as I begin to get better, the loss of what should have been becomes greater. The mind is toying with the idea of finishing, I need to work for the moment, get fully back to rights again and then who knows, I’ll keep you posted. Fortunately the northern half of the country isn’t sinking!
Finally I would like to thank everyone for the huge amount of support, everyone has been so nice and understanding since my return. The amount of money raised for Focus Ireland has been fantastic, a special thanks to all those students of Deep Blue Sea Kayaking who added their support.
Sonja Ewen.

Back at the beginning!

The sound of water woke me- it was still dark, but as I peeped out of my bivvy bag the water was up on the slip! 30 minutes later decision made, time to go! Don’t ask me how or why I was on the water at 0530- but that’s what happened!!
So- for a short note for now- I paddled all the way back to Bullock Harbour, where I landed 14 hours later at 1930!! Back at the Start- Dublin and back the long way round!!

Forrest Gump

I was on the water at 07.30 and thought I’d just keep on paddling and paddling!! So I paddled all day, past Strangford Lough and then Carlinford Lough – then. Was ready to stop- but trying to find somewhere to land was a challenge, there was absolutely nothing for miles! The area is really flat big boulder (impossible size boulders)- so at low tide- which is what it will be in the morning, I’ve a nightmare giant put in over rocks, sand and seaweed- this quay completely dries out! Ah , nothing for it except patience and feeling strong! I was lucky when I arrived, a chap called Tony came to my aid. He even went and bought me milk, how kind was that! One of each- low fat and full fat! That was such a lovely thing to do.

This is giant jellyfish country too!! More another time!!

Ferry times for Dublin Port

Fastcraft
Arrive Dun Laoghaire 12:00 Dep 13:15
Stena & Irish Ferries
Arrive Dublin Port 05:45 & 05:55
11:35 & 13:49
17:05 & 17:25
19:15 & 00:45
IOM Ferry Arrive 07:00 & 15:30
Depart 10:45 & 18:45

Stena & Irish Ferries
Depart Dublin Port 02:15 & 08:05
08:20 & 08:45
14:30 & 16:00
20:55 & 21:15

It’s easy peasy Eila, bright and sunny here, not like crossing Cork Harbour with no visability.
See you soon.
Sonja

Sunny days

The sky was clear and the sea calm as I peeped out of my tent this morning. For some reason it was only 5.20 and I was awake and even the sun was smiling at me!
I was on the water at 07.30- admitably the put was made that much easier with the help of Chris and John, a couple of local paddlers who turned up just at that perfect moment! They were out to make the most of the day and head out to the islands!

There was the gentlest of breezes on my back as we cruised across Larne and then onto Belfast. If circumstances had been different it would have been great to call in and visit previous work colleagues- or give them a fright in my soggy paddling gear!

The paddle across Belfast Lough was easy enough, but the thought of getting squished not overly appealing, especially as I don’t have any comms now! Lizzie worked the magic and advised the Harbour I’d be there and they did a great job of ensuring I had the whole Lough all to myself for the 2.5 hour crossing and nothing crossed! Squishing fears on hold now until Dublin Bay!

It makes for a feeling of such a light relief now that I am in civilisation, knowing I am paddling past houses and cars is comforting and reassuring after the previous days and weeks. The towns at the top of Belfast Lough are very attractive and I pottered as the tide kept me moving- in the right direction for once!

So- another 30nm further, and BallyHalbert was today’s stopping place! We’re exploring the area and headed across Strangford Lough for a lovely pub meal! Tomorrow’s weather is looking promising, so let’s see what tomorrow brings!!

Ballygally

If you have been following my track from SPoT there is some sad news in that he somehow died yesterday. Adventure Trading are working on it and bemused as this hasn’t happened to a device before!! Alas at the moment there is no route to follow- but I am still paddling!!

So– today I left the beautiful little harbour at Ballintoy and worked my way along the stunning Northern Irish coast. It is so green, with rolling hills and roads that run right by the sea.
The tides at Fair Head were amazing, tideraces in all directions! Nothing too hairy!! I am now in Ballygally, 30 closer to the start point!

The perfect flat grass campsite is turfed concrete – well I guess it is, my tent pegs only went in about an inch!! Bug and tick free then I hope!! Liz and Suzie are still here being support! It’s fantastic, they made me tea again tonight and are packing me full of veggies and goodies!!

Blisters still arriving- got a rather large one developing on the old posterior now… Whatever next!!!!