There is nothing more drab than a seaside resort in the rain.Last time I came to St. Ives it was a cold drizzly day in April. The sea was an unwelcoming lead grey, the town looked grim, and there were a load of wafty arty type people with peculiar hats.

Sunshine transforms everything beyond all prediction. The sand becomes the colour of Utterly Butterly and the sea the hue of a Tub Gurnards eyeball:

Tub Gurnard-hopefully the eyeball should be that colour and it's not a cataract

Do I qualify for a peculiar hat?

Today was just such a spectacular day in late September although it shouldn’t have been, according to the forecast. I was prepared for some lumpy conditions but as the weather front cleared the wind dropped out much more than expected and the sky became cloudless.

I launched from Carbis Bay and started off with a circumnavigation of the Hayle estuary and docks. A toad was merrily swimming across the neck of the inlet, a distance of about 50 metres.

Now hang on a minute, my pudgy friend, just what do you think you’re doing?Where can you possibly be going and how did you know to set off at precisely high tide so that the water was slack and you wouldn’t be swept into the vast open space of the estuary or the even vaster open space of the Atlantic.And anyway don’t the laws of osmosis state that if you swim in the sea your porous skin will absorb a load of water and you will explode? (er….maybe I’ve got that wrong)

May I propose that toads have got more nouse than just sitting around in a dank corner looking smug and warty might suggest.

I got shouted at by some bloke on the bank, presumably for being somewhere where I shouldn’t be. Amazing really, he was causing a lot more disturbance by his rushing and yelling than I would ever cause as I paddled along in complete silence. I didn’t stop, as it looked like he could do with chasing me around a bit more to burn off a bit of blubber. I havn’t been shouted  at for a couple of years ever since we disturbed that shooting party on the river Tamar…..although that was not so much shouting as maniacal screaming.

Time to head out into the open sea….no hassle out there.

Along the open beach front at Hayle I caught a succession of big mackerel on my Dexter wedge.

I kept well offshore as the further north I paddled the bigger the swell became as I was away from the shelter of the St Ives headland. As I passed the surf beach of Gwithian there were a couple of monster sets of waves which would have completely minced me if I was further inshore. To make the trip complete I ‘slingshot’ behind Godrevy island although the swell and big tide race made this a bit of a white-knuckle experience.


I made a B- line directly back across the bay towards St.Ives which took me a mile offshore. I love this kind of remote paddling ( can’t be yelled at) and heard the puff of a porpoise blowing. They are incredibly unobtrusive little creatures and just get on and do their own thing. They don’t show any interest in kayaks and are VERY difficult to photograph as they have gone again before you squeeze the shutter.

Elusive porpoise

The wind eased right off and the swell reduced as I headed across the bay so I tied up to a lobster pot flag to do a bit of bottom fishing and soak up the sun. I had soon dredged up a dogfish from the depths on a mackerel strip.

St Ives doggy

It was a struggle  to drag myself away as I was hopeful for something bigger, and it was so incredibly pleasant and peaceful. Oh crikey, I’m going all peculiar hat again.

Several more dogfish…they play dead by curling up into a ball. I hope it was only playing.

I crossed the remaining three miles to St Ives island and then coast hugged into the harbour. A load of people were lined up on the quay photographing something in the water. I quietly paddled over and a seal rapidly intercepted, no doubt attracted by my kayak’s fishy odour. Nothing wary about this seal. It came right up alongside and craned it’s neck into my boat looking for lunch. Well, low tea actually, as it was about 3.30.

Uninhibited seal

I had kept five mackerel with the idea of improving the intelligence of my children by feeding them omega 3 oils, or whatever. However realising this was probably wasted effort I opted to feed them to the seal instead. I dangled them over the edge of the kayak and the seal wasted no time at all in taking them from my hand and wolfing them down, much to the approval of the shutter clattering crowd.

Marginally more photogenic underwater

St. Ives is blessed with a variety of golden sand beaches all pointing in different directions. And as I already hinted the town was looking impressive. Certainly in contrast to Newquay and Perranporth which would struggle to look anything other than concrety, no matter what the meteorological conditions.

Superb St. ives

And so back to Carbis bay whose beach was surprisingly thinly populated. Gin clear water puts it right up there in my top favourite beaches of the SW.

Carbis bay

This gobsmacking location was a suitable finishing point for my four year long project to paddle the entire coastline and riverbank of Cornwall and a part of Devon, based around the centre my own personal, and probably closeted, universe.

This has involved paddling from Holsworthy down the unbelievably small river Deer, joining up with the River Tamar for the 50 miles down to Plymouth, a quick diversion ten miles offshore to the Eddystone, then along the south coast to Land’s End.

And a similar trip along the north coast starting on the river Torridge a mere 5 mile east of Holsworthy , down to the sea at Bideford and then all the way down to Land’s End via Lundy that way.

And of course not to forget our memorable camping trip to the Scillies including the 30 mile paddle back to the cornish mainland.

Circumnavigation route of SW England based on Holsworthy

If you cut the corners the total distance is about 330 miles, but I have paddled up every single inlet and creek, culvert ditch and drain, giving a total distance of 821 miles. Measured by GPS.

Where next?