Lies, Threats and Bullies

Day 20 – Hastings to Dungeness – 9th June – 19.6 nm

Firing Practice Area
No restrictions are placed on the right to transit the firing practice area at any time. The firing practice areas are operated using a clear range procedure: exercises and firing only take place when the areas are considered to be clear of all shipping.”
Admiralty Chart 536

If I had known how today was going to pan out, I would have stayed in bed.

It started very early – 05:30 on the water. I wasn't a happy bunny to be up so early, even less happy because I was slogging against the flow. A ridiculous o'clock start to paddle against the tide? Yeah, whatever...

 It had to be an early start because the weather was going to go to poo at lunchtime, seriously and sharply to poo. It was going to be bad for the next few days too, so we had to get around Dungeness today or we were going to be stuck.

Out of Hastings, and then along the cliffs, the wind was kind to me here, it was all nice and pleasant. The early-start plan was working. I was still relieved to reach Cliff End though, as the first hints of the wind started to show. But even against the flow and the now NE wind I was quite enjoying myself as I scratched along the beach once again, really scratching in-close today.

Then we got to the Range.

Now I am one of life’s muppets. I play the game, I stick to the rules. When everyone else is ignoring or bending those trivial little rules, I still stick to them. It’s not by choice, I’d rather not but I still do; it’s just the way I was built.

I stopped to ask permission to cross the range, close to the beach if possible – it was too dodgy to go offshore. No go.  There was no negotiation, no compromise, no help – just a no-go, go away. Fair enough I suppose, it is only canoeing after all.

But when I didn't, the lies followed. I knew where I stood here so they didn't have much impact. Been there before, for 20 years or more.  Still, it was not a pleasant situation.

Then threats were tried: military police, civilian police, Coastguard... the Salvation Army etc.
Eventually a compromise was offered that I would be escorted quickly across the range, good stuff – 45 mins and I would be done and around the point. That will do, cheers!

It wasn't true of course; we headed out on a strange heading and it all-too-slowly dawned that they were taking me around the range. I couldn't go that far out in these conditions, no way! I made it clear once again that I couldn't go out there, not in this, FFS.

More threats followed, demands for personal details and more talk of police etc.
Eventually I decided it had become too dangerous, I left the range boat and went it alone, it was blowing such a hooley by now I couldn’t hear the threats any longer anyway.
It had taken 30 mins to get out into WTF? land; it took 2 hours to get back to the beach. 2 hours at 2 kts, into the sort of s*** you don’t want to paddle through – ‘if I go in now – that is it... game over... f***’.

I got to the beach and there was nothing left, absolutely nothing, I had used everything I had ever had to get back in one piece.

I was grateful to make it back, but furious that others could put me into such a situation, into such danger. But I was angry with myself too, believing what I was told and playing the game when it was obviously not safe. You have to make the final call, no one else. Up yours ugly.

I didn't get around Dungeness that day, nor the next.

I used a different strategy when encountering ranges during the remainder of the trip.