Busted 1 and Busted 2

Day 39 – Alnmouth to Berwick-Upon-Tweed – 28th June – 29.9 nm

It’s another split shift day, aiming for an 08:00 on the water. It’s grey, wet and draughty. As we get everything together we watch a Barn Owl hunting along the field behind the beach, a magical distraction.

The beach lies in a sheltered breeze, but further out it looks quite choppy. The forecast is for the south wind to pick up further within the hour. It’s from the side initially, but if I can just sneak around the rocky corner at Boulmer then I figure it just becomes an options-day with a following sea.
 I want the miles. The forecast is better for tomorrow, I would really like to finish today at Berwick in order to be in a position to get around St.Abbs tomorrow, in turn to be in position to cross the Firth of Forth the day after. A lot depends on today.

Off the beach and gratefully around to Boulmer without a hitch.  Much of the coastline is low rocky reefs from here on. Landing options are limited, but with the south wind it’s possible in an emergency.

The wind quickly picks up and things get a little boisterous not too far out. As I pass each protruding reef or low headland I sneak into the ‘bay’ behind it to head north – this gives me the best of both worlds, I get the advantage of the following wind but the water conditions are less challenging with the shorter fetch. I make good progress and have a smile on my face. As I reach the end of each ‘bay’ I have to move out to surf over the next reef, things go a little ‘yeehaa’ for a short time but then I quickly sneak back in and continue on my way. I thought the reefs would complicate the day but in fact they have made it work.

In the distance I spot a low headland with a small hut on it. I watch a seemingly endless stream of push-chair pushing individuals heading for the hut. It confuses me - they walk up to the hut, pause and then head off back, and another takes their place. I don’t see a single person without a push-chair. What is this? Some sort of young-mothers convention? What’s special about the view from this little headland? Why all the push-chairs?

Eventually I get close enough to see. It’s a tee for the golf club. The push chairs are golf trolleys of course. Suddenly it is obvious.

Team Manager makes it through the rain to the impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle and I get a spirit-lifting wave before carrying on. After Beadnell the coastline starts to turn left a little. The south wind has been negating the tide for a while but is less help now and as it becomes off-shore it blows the paddle splash into my ear.  I land at Bamburgh Castle to wait out the wind and tide.

We are parked quietly on the back road, minding our own business. Team Manger goes for a wander and I try to sleep, after shooing away an attention-seeking, piss-taking Rook. I watch the wind blowing out of the bay that separates Holy Island, it’s pretty white out there.
There is a pattern to the wind; I reckon if I get it right I can sneak across in a lull. I start to get ready. Then a sea-kayak-toting van screeches to halt and a slightly confused smile leaps out - Busted 1.

 It’s Ollie Jay from Active 4 Seasons. He’s looking out for Katie Ellis and Lee Taylor who are heading down from St Abbs today on their clockwise circumnavigation. We chat as I try my best to avoid the reason why we are in the area. The boat, fully loaded and kitted, sits just behind Ollie- I can’t really pretend I’m just out for an hour’s bimble with all that gear, so I make excuses about testing kit and long distance training – sort of true – apologies Ollie!

There’s no sign of Ollie moving on, but the clock does, and so eventually I excuse myself and launch. I let myself get distracted chatting with Ollie and pay for it half way across as I get hammered by a brutal wind out of the bay. In the shallow water the seas quickly become short and sharp. It all gets a bit dodgy, I can paddle this, but if I go in then things are not going to have a pleasant outcome. Eventually there’s a gap, enough so I can run downwind for a bit to get some shelter behind Holy Island. I sneak around the corner, a little dazed, and head into the miserable bay to lick my wounds. The last time I sat here it was shitty day too - I might remind myself not to bother next time. I am viewed suspiciously from the shore by some nature-absorbing types, eventually I get a wave – but it looks more like a ‘sod-off’ than a ‘welcome’. Time to take the hint.

The sun comes out as I head towards Berwick, but the wind is rattling down the Tweed valley and I am working my nuts off to get anywhere against the splashy chop – it lasts for 2 hours.
When I land on the beach I am spent, there is nothing left, nothing at all. Team Manager remarks that through the binoculars I look “pretty good, good style and determination...”  I quietly reflect that I had to paddle with the best I had, I had to give it all. If I had stopped out there tonight I would not have made it to the beach, I just wouldn't.

Later we are ripped off by the most unfriendly campsite of the 2015 UK Circumnavigation Trip; they may be pleased to know that they won the same accolade during the 2012 UK Circumnavigation – yeah, that's one for your advertising blurb.

As we head into town for food, we spot Katie and Lee’s boats perched on a grassy patch by the old bridge. We get a text from Katie asking what brings us to this part of the world – more excuses follow – Busted 2.