Heading out from Hythe Marina, I kept to the shoreline and worked my way up past Marchwood and Cracknore Hard. This route keeps you well away from the shipping channel along a edge of a nature reserve. Its a strange situation to be on one side of the water surrounded by fields, woodland and nature whilst looking across at the hustle and bustle of a major city.Just before Cracknore Hard, a huge container ship was berthed and required me to head out into the channel to pass it. It sounded as if it had the engines running so I took some time to ensure it secured by mooring lines which mean’t it was not about to move. Happy it was staying put headed around its towering bow and on passed Marchwood Yacht club.
From here I passed a huge berth with numerous cranes, lit up like christmas trees and then on into relative darkness winding my way up until I was in striking distance of Redbridge Flyover. As time was pushing on I turned about and with the tide now dropping enjoyed an easier paddle back towards Hythe Marina.
At this point something quite unexpected happened. Shortly after rounding the berthed container ship, a reasonable distance out into the channel, I heard a loud splash and noise behind the kayak. Turning I could see nothing in the beam of my head torch. I kept paddling hard towards the shore when another loud splash came from my right side.To be honest, my heart was pounding and I had no idea what was happening. Suddenly, to my left, no more than a paddles length away, a shape rose out of the water, keeping pace with me. It was a Seal.
For the next 10 minutes or so, the seal kept alongside me, stopping occasionally to pop its head up and stare at me with a loud snort before surging on to catch me up. I kept my course straight and maintained speed so as not to scare it away whilst it almost bounded along next to me. Then as quickly as it had appeared it vanished.
A little research once back home has revealed that it is likely to be one of a colony of Seals based in Chichester Harbour, as this article from the Southampton Daily Echo explains.
The seals are part of a colony of 16 that inhabit Chichester Harbour, but they have been spotted roaming the north coast of the Isle of Wight, in Southampton Water and as far north as the Itchen River.
Similarly, the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton reports frequent sightings of a Seal in Southampton Water.
As for me, well once I got over my initial shock and fear I was left speechless. Having paddle around the Solent Area so frequently during the last 3 years I have never encountered a Seal, then suddenly in the space of two weeks I have two experiences. It made the paddle a truly special one.
View Southampton Water in a larger map