Day 75 – Leasowe to Llandudno – 3rdAug – 29.7 nm

There are a number of 8m+ drying heights lying around on the chart. Even though it was a big 10.0m spring tide last night, if we set off too early today we are likely to end up walking across to Wales.

It is blowing a hooley plus today, from the WSW. Going out around the edge of the sandbanks isn't a realistic option. But then going across the Dee doesn't look such a good one either. I need to time the mouth of the Dee for high water; it’s not a day to be farting around in any shallows.

To complicate things, the sea defences here are an endless stretch of sloping concrete. Too early a departure and it will be the game of hunt-the-deep-bit across to Hoylake, too late and it will be a boat grinding comedy launch.  Just another day.

Ah yes, the wind. Yesterday I paddled from Blackpool to the Wirral, all day head-on into a S wind. Today I hang-a-reggie towards Anglesey and right on cue the wind goes W, you just can’t make it up.

So, it’s going to be an options day. We’ll take whatever miles we can, with an eye on the landing options as we go. The first option will be Hoylake, all of 3 nm down the coast. It would set the record for the shortest day of the trip if nothing else. If it wasn't for the wind, a long day today could even mean a welcome return visit to home, after 70+ days away.

Even though the tide doesn't demand an early start, we awake early as the car park steadily fills with dog walkers and the return of the cockle pickers.

I remind Team Manager that we need to keep an eye on the tide so we don’t run out of launch sand. Of course I finally peek over the wall and realise we are going to do exactly that. A frantic prep and then a fast trolley ½ a mile along the wall looking for any last remaining sand. We find a small piece behind a groyne and it’s off and away. Van life has finally got too much for Team Manager, she’s on her bike and off towards Hoylake, muttering about needing a break or something.

Turn left and re-paddle the stretch we just walked and then on towards Hoylake, working hard against the wind.  As I move along the coast the water grows shallower and shallower. By the time I close on Hoylake I'm threading through surfy shallows, looking for gaps and trying to avoid the worst of things.

Finally the the white stuff thins out as the water deepens, but as I round Hilbre Point the full force of the wind makes itself known. I'm not going straight across the Dee from here, in that - so I turn instead towards Hilbre, looking to take a little shelter from the islands. I've been meaning to paddle here for years, but somehow I didn't quite expect it to be like this.

The island doesn’t take much wind away, but it does take the edge off the sea. Even so things are splashy and the boat is slamming over the waves. I guess I've been spotted as a lifeguard jet-ski heads out to see what is going on. He makes a couple of laps and then heads off, back towards West Kirby. I hide behind Big Hilbre, taking a breather.

Nice as it is here, we are not getting any closer to home, so I stick the bow though the gap and head towards Wales. The wind is blade grabbingly brutal, the boat thumps over the waves, a face full of spray accompanying each ride. I have to keep the boat directly into wind, even slight heading off and control becomes mildly tenuous, so I point into wind and wait to see where Taran and me end up.

Half way across and the last of the North West’s poo sticks is spotted. I’m impressed; this one is less of a stick and more of a true ‘log’. I marvel at how such a thing manages to exist all the way out here in these conditions. I wonder once again of the diet involved and make sure that I close my mouth as the spray comes over the deck.

It’s hard work going across the appropriately named Wild Road and then I finally slide onto the beach for a slightly shell-shocked breather. It’s time for lunch.

It’s such contrast here, the sun is out and the off-shore wind means things are flat close in. The beach is thronged with visitors from the nearby caravan parks. Bikini’s are out and people are in the water - it seems slightly surreal to me after the last hour.

The high water means there is a route inside of the Point of Ayr lighthouse, and then it’s off towards Prestatyn. It’s still blowing strong, along the beach but also slightly off-shore. Today wouldn’t have happened if it had been any more northerly.

 At Prestatyn I watch a couple of lads messing around in a blow-up dinghy. They are trying to paddle in but getting nowhere against the wind, then the boat flips in the surf. One of them can’t get back in. I head in closer but a friend on a sit-on-top arrives and they sort things. What-could-possibly-go-wrong?

Rhyl comes and goes, as it should.

It’s a bit bouncy off the River Clwyd and then a real slog as the coast and I turn straight into wind once again. Kinmel Bay creeps by agonisingly slowly, but then I start to gain a little shelter from the high ground beyond Abergele and take the luxury of going straight across, for the Porth Eirias Centre at Colwyn Bay.

It’s been a 6 ½ hr 25 nm slog and I’m knackered, it’s time to call it day. But Team Manager reports a forecast for bad weather looming so we decide that I should paddle until my arms drop off – or Llandudno – whichever comes first.

Llandudno it is.

The stretch from Rhos Point to Little Orme is surprisingly confused and I'm glad to gain the shelter of the Little Orme. Nearly home now. Around the corner and into Llandudno Bay, this stretch always seems to take forever, but eventually the boat slides to a halt. The adventurous day finishes in the ATS car-park. More glamour.

It has been a long day. But we are now back in Welsh Wales, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We discuss the way the technical paddling level has evolved as the trip has progressed. I wouldn't have managed, nor attempted, a day like today early in the trip. It's not really a conscious choice, things have just moved on.

Best of all we can drive home and sleep in a bed tonight.