After a few weeks without paddling due to work/home commitments the opportunity to head out presented itself. Heading down to Lepe, I was unloading my kit when a car pulled up near me with a Nordkapp strapped to the roof. The owner, Charlie, came over and we struck up a conversation – checking out each others kit and discussing routes we had paddled in the area. The discussion led to our plans for the day and when we both discovered we had similar time pressures and only a couple of hours available we decided to paddle together.
The Solent was almost deserted and drizzle and mist clouded the views. However, the wind was reasonable and sea state slight so we headed out towards the Isle of Wight. Half way across the extra speed of the 18′ Nordkapp (vs my P&H Iona at 15′ or so) became apparent and I was working hard to keep in touch.
From the mist, we saw a tanker making it’s way up the channel. Bearing off towards Newtown Creek, we passed behind the boat which was moving deceptively fast. We were soon alongside Gunnard and without discussion instinctively both turned towards Cowes. We relaxed our pace and enjoyed good conversation swapping stories and learning more about each other.
Heading around the Marina wall into the mouth of the River Medina I was struck but how deserted it look. Having last paddled into Cowes shortly after Cowes Week I was more used to dodging ferries, motor boats and all manner of sailing craft. Today, a lonely looking yacht was motoring in seeking a birth.
We pushed on up the Medina, to the turn before the Folley Pub. Unfortunately there was no time to continue up for a pint. Turning about we cruised back to Cowes and along the coast to Egypt Point. By this time, the tide was against us and the sea state had risen slightly. The paddle back across to the mainland was going to require a bit of effort.
We aimed off towards Lepe Middle and dug in to ferry across to Lepe Beach. I fixed my sights on the Cardinal Mark off Stansmore Point and used it as a target, adjusting the angle of the boat accordingly as the flow increased. A hard 40 minutes ensued as once again the superior speed of Charlie’s Nordkapp became evident.
We were soon back at the beach where a quick carry up the exposed shingle had used back a the cars smiles on our faces and swapping numbers with talk of future paddles.
It was an unexpected trip but left me with a warm feeling about the folks you meet via paddling – to be able to meet a stranger and end up sharing a few hours of adventure is something quite special. As so much of my paddling is done solo, it was a rare treat to have some company and I couldn’t have wished for a better companion. Thanks Charlie!