29/4 Day 9 – Martello Towers and Kittiwakes

Rush to Sandycove, Dublin 36k

Lesson learnt today: don’t paddle up hill!

F4-5 southerly winds all day made this one the physically toughest so far as there wasn’t any respite from the constant headwinds. What you might call a real slog.

We were on the water just after 7. It was another grey day and visibility was down to a couple of kilometers. We initially decided to hug the coast on our way to Howth Head but the swell was hitting us from the side and occasionally breaking. More comfortable to head in to it so we changed course to head for the island Ireland’s Eye. It was two hours of paddling by GPS with no land in sight before the cliffs and Martello tower of the island slowly took shape out of the mists. We took a lunch break on a small beach under the tower, sheltering from the wind behind a small cliff. We had seen a number of Martello towers over the last day or so and we we’re destined to see many more as we continued into and past Dublin bay.

From the island we crossed to Howth Harbour and south around the head where the sea was “interesting” but not beyond expectations. A large colony of nesting kittiwakes filled the cliffs with razor bills
and guillimots fitting into gaps. Not often you see such a large kittiwake colony.

Now we were into Dublin bay and could see the ships at anchor waiting to go into port. David had been monitoring channel 12, Dublin VTS, for the last hour and made contact to let them know we wanted to cross the channel. As it was busy they requested we cross at the narrowest point by the towers at the end of the breakwater. This was a considerable detour into the bay for us travelling at only 2 to 3 knots but we knew that our new friend Sean from Clogherhead was skippering the pilot launch so we were on our best behaviour. As we approached the towers we could see the launch following a ship out of port. Soon afterwards it turned towards us and sure enough it was Sean coming over for a chat.

We got the go ahead to cross the channel and from there to our destination at Sandycove on the south side of Dublin we struggled slowly against wind and sea with weary limbs and blistering hands. As we approached Sandycove we could see a couple of figures waving an Irish flag. This turned out to be David’s friend Connor and Connor’s daughter Sarah. This was the first (and probably only) welcoming party of the trip. And what a welcome it turned out to be. Our boats were stored nearby at the home of a friend of Sarah and we were whisked off to be entertained by Connor and his wife Joan – showers, drinks, dinner, bed, clothes washing, breakfast. Everything we could possibly want to revive us and get us prepared for the next day.

My lesson for the day came not during our paddle but when David was talking to Connor about paddling into wind and sea: timing your paddle strokes to paddle down the wave. I’ve been paddling in the sea for 14 years and appear to have missed this lesson. Although I’ve probably done it to some extent somewhat intuitively, I’ve never really thought it through that paddling up a wave is wasted effort – the boat will rise up through it’s own bouyancy. Far better to delay the stroke to accelerate down the wave. Today (as I’m writing this after the next day’s paddle) I consciously worked on this and noticed a real difference. How much effort have I been waisted over 14 years!?

5 thoughts on “29/4 Day 9 – Martello Towers and Kittiwakes

  1. Always something new to learn Rtichie. What an epic battle you fellas had. We’ll see about getting you another welcoming party in two and a half weeks time.

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  2. With recent discussion about tides, avoiding shipping and talking to the Coastguard, it makes me realise that it’s not only a matter of having a kayak, stamina and a spirit of adventure – there’s some ‘book learning’ going into this as well! Have you all had to take RYA (or equivalent) Coastal Skipper and Marine Radio courses?

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    1. We’ve all done a marine VHF course which permits you to use the radio. The UK canoe associations have a range of qualifications geared towards sea kayakers. These cover the details of navigation at sea and tidal planning. A lot just comes from paddling with others in clubs where experienced paddlers share their knowledge.

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