Being half term there’s not been much opportunity to get wet but with everyone else out and being between shifts and Tim having the day off there was no excuse not to go so plans were made; if the wind held off we’d fish, if the wind didn’t we’d paddle. Tim wanted to try the MidWay so with the wind and sea whipped up that was all we could do. Turning up at 11 just as I was getting up we had time for a quick drink and for me to get a couple of fillets of cod out of the freezer for afterwards.
On my way back from work I’d crossed the path of a coastguard truck with flashing blue lights, the story transpiring that a skipper had fallen from a twenty foot angling boat off Corton and was unable to get back aboard; Coastguard, Lifeboat and helicopter all scrambled and fortunately he was able to hang on, was got out and whisked away to hospital. Hopefully he’ll be fine but that’s a long time to be in the water in these temperatures. That was while the sea was still okay, just a swell rolling the boat at the wrong moment. The wind continued to build and the sea turned ugly by lunchtime. The bright blue sunny days of the early half of the week had now passed and become grey and damp and the flat water had turned into lumps. Good lumps. With some white on top of the lumps. It’s be good for a fun paddle; we headed to Dogger and dragged the kayaks down to the water’s edge, Tim in the MidWay and me in the Scupper. Tim went out first, straight out through and over the waves which were rolling in between four and five feet at times, broken a bit by the groyne. He was out in short order and I went next, starting fine and then taking a couple of larger ones that gave me a nice faceful to blow the nightshift cobwebs away; RRRapido weather really, my last wave before the breakers were passed not far off six foot and curling over. I regretted not taking the deck cameras out. The tide still had an hour or so to run but the wind was coming the other way and was stronger. It was hard work! Straight into a wind that got up to 28 knots and climbing, climbing, scooting down and climbing we headed south towards Lowetsoft. Originally thinking we might head back to mine and return in Tim’s car to fetch mine we changed plans on the water and decided to turn at Ness Point. Tim was loving the MidWay, feeling as comfortable in it as I had when I first paddled it – the experience of surf kayak twitchiness giving us a headstart. Definitely quicker than the scupper and into the wind he was able to pull away from me easily. We just paddled along and chatted from a couple of feet away. Off Ness Point it was time to get some photos and as I hung around in one place he paddled about’ most of my photos only seeing a large lump of water as he disappeared from view every few seconds. Taking it further he edged, then sat side-saddle, beam on to the waves before trying quick and easy self-rescue. Then, hunger starting to pull at our stomachs, we started to head back. It was great fun, nice bit of water. SPOT THE TIM. It was fun trying to surf out there, the height and speed was fine but they just wouldn’t rear up enough for us to stay on them. We decided to swap boats about halfway back; I jumped in (wanting to immerse my new Aleutian suit to get rid of some of the new-suit stiffness), Tim shuffled across and I self-rescued and off we went, getting a couple of minutes north before I spotted flashing blues, two sets, tearing along the sea wall. Great, thought I…and sure enough they stopped abreast of us. They started to gesticulate to us and we held our hands up to say we were fine. They seemed to be beckoning us in – with 6-8ft waves, strong wind and a bit of tide this wasn’t the greatest idea as I had a groyne and huge, car-sized jagged rocks to contend with between us, those rocks breaking up any waves that hadn’t already curled over and broken. We watched as one of them clambered into a drysuit and life jacket…not really sure what he was going to do but I sincerely hoped he wasn’t planning to get anywhere near the water. The megaphone came out but we still couldn’t hear. I had by now called Lowestoft Port Control up and asked them to relay a message that we were fine, they would relay this to Humber Coastguard but would also be best placed to speak to the lifeboat if that was being scrambled. Which it was. It was stood down fortunately, not sure at what point but I would imagine they’d have come over if they’d already left their berth. This had not filtered through to the trucks though and I wasn’t getting any closer to the shore so I waved the radio at them; they called through on 16, moved over to 67 and I spoke with them and Humber, confirmed we were the kayakers they were called for, that we were fine and not, as had been reported, in difficulties or struggling against the tide, and we paddled back to our launch point expecting a slapped arse. Just before landing we saw a coastguard truck pull up and with large water between us and the shore I surfed the MidWay in straight and smooth, Tim following behind. As we started up the beach, all drysuited and with radios and PLB’s the truck moved off, just making sure we landed okay. So we loaded up and went back to mine for a nicely battered piece of cod. ----- I suppose, with hindsight, we should have called in to let the coastguard know we were out and on VHF but as we would not be anchoring and had intended just to paddle one way there seemed no real point and I’d only intended letting Port Control know as we were going to cross the harbour approaches. I certainly didn’t expect a false-alarm call to be made on our behalf, especially on a sparsely populated stretch. Had we gone in from the town beach I’d perhaps have called and if we had been planning to swap boats or self-rescue instead of just doing it on the spur of the moment (certainly off the town beaches where I always call those sessions in) then I’d have called it in too but there’s no accounting for what people might read into our situation from the shore. As embarrassing and unneccesary as it was it is good to know that people do keep an eye out and do make the call if they suspect things might be amiss and very gratifying to know that even though the government decided in their wisdom to close our local MCA station we still have coastguard support and of course the RNLI. Of course, had Yarmouth MRCC still been open they would have known that most of us angling boys have radios and might have put a call through first and that loss of local knowledge is always going to be regretted by those of us who use the water around here but at least there are still teams around who can respond quickly to any perceived danger.