Deja Vu 4 - Crossing the Humber + The Return to Withernsea

Day 33 – Mablethorpe to Withernsea – 22nd June – 24.7 nm

There were too many ‘4’s showing on the alarm clock this morning, it was an 06:30 on the water time, so the clock beeped at a time, when frankly, it just shouldn't.  It was even early enough to beat the daily early-morning pigeon wake-up call. Today was the day to cross the Humber, and it looked like we would need an early start once again.

Of course, going the wrong way around wasn't going to help. On the flood you can just point south along the coast, stay far enough out so you don’t get drawn into the mouth, dodge a few boats, then dodge the range and then 16 nm later Bob joins the family tree. Easy Peasy.

On the ebb it’s a little more complicated; if you cross mid-tide you can expect some lumpy conditions and an unpleasant eddy line running off Spurn Head. You also have to factor that geography dictates that you will be paddling against the flow coming out from the river for a time, and then you’ll work against the eddy for a while too. Throw in a wind with any form of east or north component and life could become unpleasant. You could avoid some of this by staying off-shore, but then this means you have to cross three shipping traffic separation schemes (TSS) rather than just the one – a total of 4 nm of shipping lanes rather than ¾ nm. A kayak is easily lost in that lot.

And just to add to the mix, when you factor in the Donna Nook Range, you have about 15-16 nm between get outs to consider too. Nothing is ever easy of course.

Today the forecast is for a steady NW breeze early on but then rising between 10:00 and 11:00, becoming progressively shitty throughout the day – and going north of course. I really didn't feel like combining the outflow from the Humber with a stiff headwind; that had all the makings of a testing time.
There was a recommended crossing point for the TSS and I fancied making use of that – figuring that high-water may bring a rush of deep draught boats into or out of the river. Slack water would be the time to cross and was around 10:00, so that should just get me across before the wind arrived. It would also mean that I should be able to sneak through the range before Biggles and his chums awoke and started missing targets on the beach.

The plan seemed to be fitting together nicely; however, the more perceptive amongst you will point out that this will mean paddling against the flood to get to the TSS crossing – that is 11 nm against the flow, with no beach to scratch along. C'est la vie, you can’t have everything.

So the figures were calculated; an 06:30 start to get to the edge of the TSS for the 10:00 slack. I hadn't got a reply from the range so I didn't know what they were up to, to be frank I wasn't feeling too obliging anyway after the earlier Range-Fatboy interaction. 

So, 6 minutes late, off the beach and heading North - farewell Mablethorpe.

 As I head north the shallow water becomes increasingly coffee coloured. Later I hear the range checking in with the Coastguard, so they are awake today, but I'm not too far from the northern edge by now – no worries.

I arrive at the TSS 15 mins early, not bad after 11 nm against the flow, I'm quite pleased with that. I call into Humber VTS, but the handheld isn't really up to the job, it is a bit of a Norman Collier conversation. The attitude here is in contrast to those helpful folks at Dover; I'm not made to feel too welcome just poncing about in my likkle toy canoe. I listen to the guy taking the piss over an open mike. No worries, I’ll just crack on then. 

I sit and float for a couple of Ferries to go by and then go to cross, the passing wind-farm boat joins the party with a patronising comment too. Big boat – little willy I guess.

But soon I'm across and heading on towards Kilnsea. The low-lying extent of Spurn Head lies to my left, it seems much further away than the map suggests.

I hadn't been completely convinced by my plan, but now as I paddle across I realise it was the right decision. I am pleased it all seemed to work ok. 

But as the tide turns and the ebb starts, the wind builds and soon it’s a slog north. The wind comes and goes as rain squalls roll in, the temperature drops. I paddled quite hard to get across the range earlier, the inside of my cag is quite soggy. After the short wait for the ferries and the change in weather, I'm now getting cold. I decide to land on the scruffy beach at Kilnsea to change my clothing.

Here it is all too obvious that the muddy cliffs are quickly eroding, the once-mighty gun emplacements are no match for the relentless march of the sea. The naked cliffs give a hint of what is to come. A little warmer now, I head out and move along the coast once again, with mud cliffs and leaden skies for company.

In 2012 I had an unpleasant day that came to a halt at Withernsea. I was stuck there for a further day, and to be frank it wasn't the most pleasant part of the trip. I really had no desire to return to Withernsea - life's not that bleak surely? But as I head up the coast a nagging voice is starting to make itself heard.

The map shows a long stretch of low cliffs north of the town, with no guaranteed get out until Hornsea – 12 nm hence. I could continue and take a chance of finding a gap somewhere, but I am cold and tired, it is 7 splashy hours since I set out. Hornsea is a long way away today, too much of a gamble. Rather grudgingly, I accept that there could be a return visit to Withernsea after all.

Off the beach and I drag Team Manager into the Shores Diner to warm-up and reminisce over a mug of tea and a bacon butty (I know how to show a girl a good time).

Later we end up on the same mildly depressing campsite that I visited in 2012, across the road from the fondly remembered dog-poo field - the day finishes off with rain and a trip to the launderette. We had to laugh.