Lunchtime Starts

Day 29 – Happisburgh to Weyborne - 18th June – 17.8 nm

The wind has shifted in the night and is now roaring across the cliff-top campsite. The boats are rattling and creaking disturbingly on the van roof. This means an early rise, as I reluctantly emerge from the warmth of my maggot, to turn the van back into wind - before the boats head down the coast on their own. Yeah whatever...

But I figure that this means I won't need to be putting on damp paddling kit for a few more hours, a quick glimpse of endless-white over the cliff edge confirms things; it's blessedly back to my maggot for now.

The tide runs from lunchtime, but the forecast only gives a drop in the wind mid-afternoon, with a little swell due in later. We are determined to salvage some miles from the day and so head down to the beach. It's another hurry-up-and-wait day, as we sit in the car park, ready for any changes in the wind.

The lunchtime starts are surprisingly unpopular within Team Fatboy – the late start makes it difficult for Team Manager to get a run/walk/cycle/'swim' out of the day, when combined with the daily drive and admin.
While I don't miss the early starts, the late finishes make post paddle admin, feeding and planning rushed, while kit drying is also difficult late in the day. But that's the way it is, I'm no King Canute.

While we wander around, watching the water, it becomes clear just how significant the erosion problem is here. The soft cliffs are swifty moving inland, witnessed by the amputated roads and skeletal pipes protruding from the muddy cliff faces. The beach is littered with disturbingly recent remnants of unfortunate houses, claimed by the coffee coloured waters below. It is a sad sight.

In-vain sea defences are strung along the beaches, making access difficult. From a paddling point of view, these defences make the sandy coastline surprisingly exposed and limited for many miles. At high-water there can be no get-out options for unexpectedly long distances. Damaged, and paradoxically eroded defences can make the game of landing-roulette a little too frequent.

But life goes on; the wind does drop and soon I'm on the water.
Nothing dramatic happens - I paddle, the boat goes forward, that's it.

The late start means an inevitably early disagreement with the tide. Cromer sulkily slips by as the wind falls completely away and conditions go oily. I know what this means, the tide is going to change; and I suspect, that in turn, means that the wind is going to strengthen once again.

I paddle through slack as I pass West Runton (where in 2012 the Post Office kindly held a re-supply parcel for me - it's those little things in life...) But by Sherringham the tide is against me and soon the wind strengthens, right on the nose.

Before long I'm scratching along at 3 kts or so and decide it's time to call it a day at Weyborne. I pick Norfolk's only shingle beach, a refreshingly grey hue this time though. The wind, flow, swell and a horde of angling types conspire to make for a tricky, pearl-dive of a landing, through a rather nasty dump. Team Manager gets wet feet as she has to grab the bow, to help stop me from sliding back down the slope, into the nasty bit.

While we carry the boat up the sliding shingle, she soggily apologises for the lengthy walk to the team van. After that landing I really don't give a monkies how far it is. I'm just happy to be off.