What a complete contrast to the ghastly weather only two days ago.The wind had dropped and more remarkably the swell had also virtually vanished, allowing access to the open sea for the first time for months.
Unfortunately the rain had left the inshore water cloudy so my efforts to catch a bass by trolling were in vain. Fortunately I foul-hooked a pouting when I switched to mackerel feathers. Of course I put it back after a photo shoot….
Although winter marine wildlife is a bit more thin on the ground than in the summer, I was treated to a flypast of several Red-throated Divers.
What do you do if you are desperate to go for a paddle but a howling wind has messed up the sea and torrential overnight rain means the rivers are also innaccessible?
You swallow your pride and go canal paddling. I plumped for the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton because it should offer the best shelter from the wind. My trip started off well as I had a close encounter with a kingfisher…..
It was good to be flogging along at a good lick in my Paddleyak Swift but I am at fault in thinking I am Olympic class and burn myself out too early.
Today was no exception so by the time I had thundered up to Tiverton and half way back again I had to have an emergency stop on the edge of the golf course. This part of the canal is actually rather stunning as it executes a huge loop following the contours of the land in an effort to avoid having to have a lock. Irritatingly I ran into an area of thick duckweed which had a treacle like effect on my progress.
I soon demolished a couple of ham sandwiches,which never taste too good on winter kayak trips,and downed a thermos of coffee which was a mistake as my drysuit has no comfort zip.
I like my wilderness experiences so was a bit irritated that the canal towpath had been turned into part of the national cycle network and was buzzing with cyclists and walkers with yippy dogs. One which was a bit like a rabid wolf hurled itself at me as I paddled past but fortunately it lost all its ferocious zest once in the water and just looked like a floundering doormat.
I passed a family of swans and the enormous cygnets still made a ridiculous squeeky babyish whistling noise. They’ll get a nasty shock when they get their marching orders from their parents in late winter.
I was determined to paddle the entire eleven mile length of the canal but it was hard to pass my car at the seven mile mark and carry on. A deep cutting containing the old lime kilns culminated in the very narrow Westcott tunnel and just peeped through before heading for home.
The one hour return paddle to my car was interminably tedious as only canal paddling can be .I was fairly pooped anyway and it was made worse by a nasty squall and accompanying headwind,and another ferociously yapping,but tiny,dog that wanted to cock its leg on my kayak as I got out.
Was it really worth paddling 22 miles on such a grotty day?…….as always, Yes.