Ballymoney to St Helen’s Pier – 57kms
The quiet beach we’d had to ourselves overnight was great but camping on sand certainly has its drawbacks – gritty oats for breakfast. Packing up camp without transferring buckets of sand to your kayak is a challenge and I’m sure we’ll all be living with it for several days.
The tide wasn’t running in our favour till 8.30 so we had a relatively leisurely start to the day and got away on the last hour of the flood to make the most of the ebb heading south. Unfortunately the easy living of the first part of the week had made us lazy in our water planning and we had all run dry. An early stop was required to refill.
We pulled onto a slip outside the harbour entrance at Courtown and then had to lift our kayaks off to the gravel on one side when we relised that it needed to be kept clear for lifeboat launches. The water stop soon turned into a wonder round the grocery store to top up on tasty snacks followed by coffee and sausage rolls consumed in the sunshine on a bench by the harbour. But time and tide wait for no man and we were acutely aware that we were wasting free kilometers by sitting on shore relaxing.
In the next three and half hours we covered 30 kms with no more effort than being on a Sunday club paddle. The wind was from the west (offshore) so there was no sea to speak off but enough of a ripple on the surface to keep the kayaks feeling lively and a joy to paddle – when the sea is flat or there is just a gentle swell it can often feel like you’re paddling through treacle.
The land on this stretch is relatively flat but as we headed south east after Cahore towards Blackwater some low gentle rolling hills terminated at the sea by steep sandy cliffs brought to mind the Seven Sisters of East Sussex where the hills of the South Downs meet the sea with stunning white cliffs. Probably me just getting emotional and missing my wife as it was on a walk along the Seven Sisters that we fell in love 28 years ago… enough about you Ritch, get on with the trip.
Before Wexford the land slowly terminates in a long low sandy spit. At the end of the spit you look across a shallow bay to Rosslare Point, Rosslare and Rosslare Harbour. Wexford itself is far off to the west and out of site. As the waters are so shallow this can be a place with tricky sea conditions. Today there was a small chop kicking up with plenty of white water but we kept together and easily avoided the worst. A few curious seals from a large colony on a sandbar gave us an escort for a while and after a couple of kilometers we were back in deeper water and the sea settled. We then turned our minds to getting past Rosslare Harbour without a ferry incident. Two ferries came in during the time we crossed half the bay and the first of those could be ready to leave before we completed the crossing. We took the safest option: stayed well west of the harbour before approaching close away from any ferry route. David then called the harbour on channel 12 and asked for permission to cross the harbour mouth.
Once across we were briefly entertained by a dolphin who didn’t seem the least interested in us. It was just a short few kilometers to our intended campsite now but the tides had turned and we needed to get round Greenore Point first where the water runs fastest. In today’s weather it proved quite routine but it was easy to imagine how it could have been worse.
The last bit of drama for the day occured after we pulled the boats up and Dave inspected his hull. He had grounded briefly in the final 100 metres of the trip on his way into St Helen’s Pier. It hadn’t seemed like much but there was now a hole in the hull directly beneath his seat.
We fashioned together a makeshift repair using surfers’ wax and a short length of keel strip. We avoided using anything more messy or permanent as that would be more difficult to remove when it came time to make a proper repair. We’ll just have to see how it holds up tomorrow.