I very nearly went to Lundy but aborted the trip because I didn’t have the guts. Although the sea was calm it was just about the biggest tidal range of the year and I was a bit worried about the tide races….not a place to get into trouble by yourself.
But I really fancied an offshore paddle so the Eddystone lighthouse seemed a good second bet, twelve miles out from Plymouth breakwater.
Cawsand was my departure point, at dawn.
I was dead excited about this trip as I hoped to have more epic wildlife encounters. No fishing rod I’m afraid. Last time I came out here we caught hardle any fish and saw very little else. In fact I think I caught only one pollack and a Herring gull (on a plug).
So I was more than pleased when I nearly bumped into a Basking shark only half a mile off Penlee Point. Not the biggest, but a top sighting as they are nothing like as common around here as they are at Land’s End.
There was the Eddystone like a stick on the horizon. This kind of paddling is not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. Over three hours of potentially pretty tedious stuff. But if you like your sea creatures there is rarely a minute without something going on at this time of year (hopefully). I was rather flattered that quite a few gannets interrupted their flight path parallel to the coast to follow me for a while because I obviously looked like I might have a few fish on board, or drop them over the edge. One immature bird did a few circuits around at close range. Big birds…six foot wingspan.
Next on the sea beast list was a sunfish, which I sneaked upon as close as possible but it slunk under the waves when I got too close, like they usually do.
The surface glassed off to a flat calm as I neared the light, and a couple of storm petrels passed in front of me. Havn’t seen any of those since the Scilly crossing three years ago.
I stopped for my Weetabix three miles short of the lighthouse and as usual the final approach seemed long. There were a cluster of fishing boats over the tide race just in front of the light and one caught a decent sized bass as I was passing. I joked that I wish I had brought my fishing rod and would just nip back to Plymouth and get it. The fisherman replied “OK”.
I circled round the ferocious fangs of reef behind the lighthouse, paddled back between the old lighthouse stump and the new one, and then there was nothing for it but……paddle back.
To make it a decent day out I thought I would take a ‘slingshot’ around the Mew stone and then cross back across the mouth of Plymouth sound to Cawsand. So I would be crossing different water and may see more stuff. I wasn’t disappointed.
Just when the water was about its flattest I heard the ‘piffing’ of cetaceans quite a long way off and saw a large patch of disturbed water approaching from the east. By sheer good luck it was heading straight towards me and I soon recognised the big beefy shapes of a fair sized school of bottlenose dolphins. Fantastic. I just sat and waited and they all piled in towards me when they sensed my presence.
They surged all around and swam just underneath the surface looking up at me. And I’m pretty sure I that the sound I heard like a creaking door must have been coming from them. Certainly no creaking doors ten miles out to sea off Plymouth although it could have been my excitement centres in my cerebral cortex grinding into overload and on the verge of meltdown.
There must have been about fifteen of them including some quite small calves and they splashed and circled me for a good five minutes. They are pretty sizable creatures and they don’t half shift underwater. A bit of a different experience to the lumbering lethargic lump that is a basking shark.
As a farewell display half a dozen exploded out of the water in front of me, and then they carried on their way to the west.
That was a difficult act to follow but the jellyfish tried hard in a squidgy sort of a way. And Compass jellyfish are very striking creatures.
I had dodged quite a few boats all day ranging from fishing boats to yachts and the odd small trawler, but as I was watching the dolphins I noticed a large box-shape on the horizon that was rapidly growing bigger. Oops, the Roscoff ferry, and it was heading straight towards me.
I hoped that the rules of engagement state that multi thousand ton ships give way to 23 kg (excluding paddler,and lunch) kayaks. And as I was in mid hope it turned to the right, or should I say starboard, and proceeded to take a big loop around me. I would have given the officer of the watch my one remaining Kitkat Chunky if I could.
There was plenty more interest to come in the remaining five miles to the coast. Porpoises, loads of them. Five different groups. They are funny aloof little creatures. Completely the opposite to the dolphins who come charging over for a look and all but jump in your kayak. If you see a porpoise surface close by, there’s a good chance next time it pops up it will be quater of a mile away. Although there were so many they were surfacing all over the place.
I circuited the Mew stone and cruised back to Cawsand and the comfort of the coast. Bit busy. Maybe I should have been a porpoise.