Flamborough Head - A Scarborough Bee-Day

Day 35 – Hornsea to Scarborough – 24th June – 29. 4nm

At last, a stress-free forecast - 10 mph WNW winds with a bit of swell from the north. It is a welcome, easy-decision, morning – sunshine and a breeze, no waiting around or stressing, just some straight-forward paddling – TFFT.

It’s a pleasant 10:00 start as I set off before the tide, I don’t expect much flow against as I cross Bridlington Bay - I aim to get to Flamborough close to slack. I have a sneaking suspicion that the swell may build up at the headland later, once it pushes against the ebb flow, so I start a little early.

A last glance over the shoulder at Hornsea and away, it is nice and calm, with a lazy but distinct swell rolling in. As I paddle out I watch a couple of Typhoon jets playing  ‘shoot the fish in the barrel’ with a Chinook – the Chinook is all low-level whirling and jinking, I guess I'm missing something here, but it looks to me like there are not many places to hide over open water – I wouldn't lay my money on the Wokka. Eventually they all have to head home for tea and medals, and it’s back to a little bit of open water peace and quiet for Taran and me.

As I close on Flamborough a tall ship of some sort sneaks out of the bay and rounds the headland to head north too – it rides impressively over the swell – oh well.

But it’s nice to see some real cliffs again, instead of the muddy-blancmange versions of recent days. It’s also nice to see some wildlife in the air – Gannets wheel while Razorbills and Guillemots dart hectically by.

Even though I hit the headland just after slack, the eddy flow at the top of the bay is enough to lift the swell. It is not a problem but it is still surprising how much larger the swell can grow when pushing against a little flow. I get a feeling that paddling on the ebb is going to teach me another lesson or two during the upcoming weeks.

It’s also strange how sometimes you get things into your head that just do not match the actuality. Even with maps left, right and asunder I still had it in my head that the cliffs north of Flamborough ran north-south. I was surprised how much rebound chop there was there, with the swell bouncing back off the cliffs. A quick ‘look-what-is-actually-there-rather-than-what-you-think-is-there’ look at the map explained things; the cliffs run more from east to west of course.

It takes an hour or so, but finally I'm level with the sandy beaches of Filey Bay and the rebound fades. No stop at Filey this time. The conditions are much more pleasant than three years earlier; I remember a rather nervous rounding of the Bell Buoy at Filey Brigg.

The coastline slips uneventfully by, the sun is out, the breeze drops away and I start to wilt a little. It’s a while since I’ve had a stress-free day and without the focus and low-level adrenaline my body decides I have to pay the debts for the push of previous days – I am suddenly knackered. The paddling time between rest breaks becomes less and less. It’s surprising how much admin you can find to do in a kayak when you don’t want to paddle.

But I'm not the only one struggling out here; I find a bee on the water’s surface. A clumsy rescue and it sits soggily on my deck, looking distinctly non-plussed. Soon I find another and rescue that too, and then another, and finally a butterfly too. I’ll need a bigger boat at this rate.

I round the rocky outcrop of Scarborough and take sneaky-peek at what the landing beach has in store. Not brilliant - the rocky reefs are just poking through the surface; I guess others are lurking close below. The swell creates enough surf to make a choice line through the rocks tricky. It’s enough for the butterfly – it jumps ship and flutters off. The bees haven’t dried enough to fly yet though; I find myself in the unusual position of herding soggy bees around the deck of my boat and trying to shoo them into the day hatch before we drift into the surf line.

Eventually the bees are safely below-decks, it’s time to Major-Tom and then head in. Team Manager radios instructions - there’s a little confusion as I try to match these to water-perspective landmarks. Even once I twig, it still looks a little dodgy to me - but then I notice a shallow, but sheltered little gap further along and head for that. Instructions become more frantic as I ignore advice and suddenly change my heading, I'm inside the surf now and don’t really have an opportunity to explain.

Once I’m on the beach I do have to explain, ignoring Team Manager is a serious offence! Nobody is bigger than The Team I'm reminded, there are plenty of paddlers out there – I could easily be replaced!

I trolley the boat through the crowds and traffic and then sit in the sun – spent.
Team Manager tells me of her visit to Flamborough. The young birds have hatched and she sat and watched them being fed by harried parents. It sounds like an interesting visit, while you see so much on the water you can also feel that you miss out on things too.

Team Manager was also a little dismayed at the way, once again, it seemed like a managed facility rather than a natural cliff-top with birds – entrance via the gift-shop, tarmac footpaths, fences and signs etc.
The beach is emptying as evening approaches, I try to dry my kit in a cramped parking space while Team Manager rubbers-up and heads out with her body board for a little end of the day de-stress.

Bugger – the bees! I lift the hatch and they blink sulkily at me. Still too soggy to fly, I have to lift them out and look for a little flowerbed colour to deposit them in – not quite how I envisaged the end of a circumnavigation day.