The Glexped

You’ve heard of ‘Glamping’? Well this trip was one better, the ‘Glexped’. Rather than dragging a loaded boat everywhere and slumming it in a soggy, flapping tent each evening, I was going to have a support ‘crew’ (actually my long suffering girlfriend, Pascale) along with a van for the 2015 trip.

So why go ‘supported’ this time? Well there were a number of reasons:
  1.  I was getting old.
  2. I was getting soft.
  3.  I wanted to understand the advantages and disadvantages of supported versus unsupported expeds.
  4. The main reason however was the state of my back. I’d suffered back problems for as long as I could remember. Man-handling a loaded boat each day during the 2012 trip had caused me serious trouble. After the trip was over it took 2 years before I could start to paddle hard again, it was 3 years before my back returned to the state it was before I set out. On the way I struggled with work, driving and seriously thought my paddling career would end. My 48th birthday would (hopefully) pass during this trip, and I wasn't prepared to risk another 3 years out.
Carrying full exped kit every day was not a realistic option; I’d be taking the 'easy' way and going on a Glexped.

Fully dry when crusty

With Hind-Sight (dated 23rd August 15) 

Going supported achieved the main aim; I completed the trip with no significant back problems. In fact I feel in a pretty good state as I write, perhaps they should put the UK Circ on prescription.

Support Advantages: 
  •      Some daily admin was reduced for me; I didn't have to drag my loaded boat in a time-consuming, clumsy manner around seaside towns in order to buy food for example. 
  •        A wider range of kit could be carried in the van which gave me more options and a better stock of dry clothing! 
  •          Quality of sleep was much better - important. 
  •        I had someone to discuss ideas, plans and strategies with or just to talk about the day – all significant too. 
However the advantage wasn't as clear cut as it may first seem. Much of the coastline was remote and road access limited. This meant that I still carried a reasonably heavy daily paddle load. Yes, I didn't need days of food or water, or a week worth of maps - but I still had to carry spare clothing, repair kit, shelter, first aid, trolley and so on.  On the remotest stretches when we were pushing the weather limits I carried overnight camping equipment too.

Support Disadvantages: 
  •      Daily route planning was a little more complicated, at times daily distances were dictated by available road accessible get-outs.
  •  The fact that more kit could be brought along was a double edged sword - bigger faffs could result.
  • The van itself added some complications too – finding camp-sites, time on ‘van admin’ etc.
  • You had to consider the needs of the support crew too – you couldn't always be entirely self-centred or focussed – compromises had to be made at times.
  •  You could get too comfortable; there were a few late starts when a warm, dry(ish) van was more appealing than cold, crappy seas.
  • Didn't get the full ‘exped experience’, or perhaps more correctly got a different exped outlook. 
On the whole the van worked well, it did make life more comfortable, life off the water was improved. But it didn't guarantee a greater daily mileage.

At the end of the day the weather was still the most significant factor - we still went 11 days slower than in 2012.