A Year Behind The Paddle – Sea Kayaking Adventures 2021

Kayaking has been a passion of mine since I was a child—I spent many great summer evenings messing about in boats with the Sea Scouts. Then, after a time away dedicated to other outdoor pursuits such as rowing, sailing and (of course) cycling, in 2018 my kayaking was rekindled.

A Valley Etain 17.5 RM was my first expedition level sea kayak, and the boat I used for the Round The Island Kayak marathon back in 2019; a 92-kilometre non-stop paddle around the Isle of Wight to raise funds for a local children's cancer charity.

The lockdowns of 2020 saw me reaching for the paddle on a more regular basis, as I looked to add as much diversity to my life through varied outdoor sports. Honing my paddling skills during this period, combine with great memories of the 2019 Round The Island paddle got me thinking about the next sea kayaking challenge that might be on the horizon.

Kayak racing has never really been on the agenda for me, but I have always enjoyed seeing how far and how fast I can go under my own power—this has been the main motivation for many of my cross-continental bike tours, and I was keen to see if I could achieve the same buzz from kayaking.
The desire for speed and distance fuelled the search for a faster sea kayak. Enter the Zegul SeaRocket.

The Zegul SeaRocket is a state-of-the-art racing sea kayak, but with enough storage and stability that it can really go the distance on expedition length paddles.

The Kevlar reinforced fibreglass hull is stiff and rigid; with a bow shape that cuts through the waves like a missile—a characteristic that makes for a fast, fun, though often spray-filled ride.

For many reasons, the summer of 2021 ran away with me, and my adventures in 'Robyn the Red' were confined to the eastern Solent. However, that did not stop me pointing her bow towards some new destinations and pushing fast through the water with the paddle.

One of the highlights included a 45-kilometre paddle over to the mainland to do a circumnavigation of Portsea Island (the island that Portsmouth is built upon). This paddle required careful timing and seamanship to ensure that the tide carried me in through Langstone Harbour, that there was enough water to sneak through the tunnels at the north side of the island, and then that the tide would carry me back down through Portsmouth Harbour on the west side of the island. It was a challenging but rewarding day out.

Another beautiful paddle was an early autumn mission over to The Witterings, on the east side of Chichester Harbour. Setting off from my base in Bembridge Harbour this 40-kilometre round trip was very much a paddle of two halves: with a following wind and tide carrying me over to the mainland shore in just under two hours, but the return leg taking more than three hours against a building wind and tide. I eventually scrambled out of the kayak with heavy shoulders and a very wet backside, but still smiling.

The ultimate objective for Robyn the SeaRocket is a non-stop cross-channel paddle from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg in France. This 65 mile (110 kilometre) marathon will be a huge challenge requiring intricate planning and superb seamanship to undertake it safely; the offshore nature of the route will bring all kinds of new trials and hurdles, but I am eagerly awaiting it.

The Channel Crossing will hopefully take place in May or September 2022, but in the meantime, the next few months will be spent getting long hours in on the water (fully kitted up in thermals and waterproofs), and trying to out-run the winter storms.

Stay tuned…


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