Expedition Plans – #KayakRTI Kayak Round the Isle of Wight

Last November, I rekindled a past passion of mine—sea kayaking. I purchased a 17.5 foot expedition level sea kayak and began paddling; reacquainting myself with the freedom of skimming along the surface of the water, using just your own willpower and strength for propulsion.

There was one objective, one thought, which lay in the back of my mind from the moment the first paddle stroke cut through the water… how far can I go? Much as my bike expeditions have previously taken me over many new horizons, I wanted to see where this new horizon would lead.

I set myself an objective… to kayak non-stop around the Isle of Wight during the summer of 2019. I have cycled and sailed round the Island more times than I can count, but the 95 kilometre route by kayak would be a whole new challenge, and the first of many new all-day horizon explorations.

I began training in the depths of winter; layered up like an onion, using a rag-tag bunch of cycling kit and sailing kit to try and provide protection from the elements. The paddles were a challenge. A reminder that cycling uses little of your upper body, and however strong your lungs and legs may be, your arms can be as weak as a kitten.

After many long paddles — many days when I lost the feeling in my toes and hands, and many close calls with the winter storms and strong tides, I finally began to feel at home in the boat. It was as if I was finding my feet again on familiar ground, but territory last visited when I was a fourteen year old Sea Scout.

This realisation of the feeling of reacquaintance — of re-establishing long lost connections in the brain and body, made me view my paddles like rehabilitation of sorts; a chance to retrain and rejuvenate a thought lost part of my past life. That notion got me thinking of the Isle of Wight based charity The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

The EMC Trust works with young cancer survivors aged between 8 to 24, from across the UK. They take the young people on four day sailing trips; to embrace the freedom and escape offered by the open waves, and to give them the chance to meet others who understand what they have been through.

Based in East Cowes, I have often seen the magnificent work of the EMC Trust; with groups of youngsters heading out on the sky blue yacht from the marina; sometimes with nervous expressions on the outbound departure, but always with confident smiling faces when they return.

We often consider how cancer takes lives and unfairly takes loved ones from us. What perhaps we do not consider so much is the psychological effect the disease has on those that manage to survive it —  especially on a child's mind. Imagine looking death in the face; fighting the hardest and most painful battle you could ever imagine; then having to return to school as if everything was normal again. These children are like soldiers — they need help reacquainting themselves with the life they lived before.

I decided that if I was going to paddle for twelve to fifteen hours non-stop around the Island, I wanted to do it to raise awareness of how the water can calm and rejuvenate the mind. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust was the perfect partner to support, and so a plan was set to make the Round the Island Kayak a fundraiser for the superb work of the EMC Trust team.

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Training and Preparation for the Challenge Ahead

Over the preceding months my training evolved and developed to embrace the upcoming challenge. My confidence grew, and the distances lengthened on every outing. I re-joined the Sea Scouts, as an Assistant Section Leader; so that I would have other instructors to paddle with and improve my technique. Slowly but surely, I began to re-kindle my paddling prowess.

I have learnt through trial and error to develop my equipment choices too. I have fitted a rudder to my boat to deal with the strong tides and crosswinds around the Island. I have invested in a Nookie Storm Jacket — a hand-made open-water kayaking spray top to seal out the elements. I have also developed my safety equipment set-up to include a GPS fixing handheld radio, a SatMap personal chart plotter, and a state-of-the-art Spinlock off-shore lifejacket.

My knowledge and arsenal of equipment for sea kayaking still lags far behind that of my bike and hike background, but it is proving an interesting education.

Please Support the Challenge

So, with confidence and capability building, I named a date for the Island circumnavigation. There are only a few weekends a year when the tides work out for an early morning departure, heading round the coastline in a clockwise direction from Bembridge Harbour.

The date is set… Saturday 27th July 2019

A 95 kilometre circuit. An anticipated 15 hours of paddling. A new horizon to chase.

This is a personal challenge to raise awareness of the far greater personal challenge faced by young children who suffer from cancer; and the magical work that the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust do to support them in their journey.

The challenge has been supported by a number of fantastic local businesses: including Spinlock, Daniells Harrison Chartered Surveyors, Rapanui Clothing, and OxWash. The support in the form of donations and product is a huge motivation for the challenge.

I have also received very generous donations from friends, family, and kind strangers. If you are at all able to support the cause, and further boost my motivation to complete the challenge, then please use the link below.

Many great thanks, Tim.

Follow the challenge on #KayakRTI and please support with a JustGiving donation if you can. 

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