The Long Way Around?

The Irish Sea

You've got to make the call fatboy, no one else can do it for you.
Across or around?
It was time to toss the coin.

I really wanted to finish in 80 days, for me that is a good marker for a serious attempt. The Isle of Man was only 15 nm away. With good conditions it would be a day to the island, a day to reach the south and then a day to cross to North Wales; 3 days from Scotland to the land of wind and rain. Even with a day or two for weather, that meant a 78 – 80 day finish was still on the cards. I really wanted that. Going around would take 7 or 8 days, maybe.

Things are never easy.

It was a 15 nm crossing to the IOM, but it was a 40 nm one to get off. The weather was not super helpful. I’d already taken a delaying detour to Whithorn to see how things were going to develop. The forecast ahead showed a 1 day window of good weather, but it was sandwiched between a day of coastal slog weather and then days of SW winds. A 1 day window was tight; if it wasn't good enough I was concerned that I could be stuck on the IOM waiting for the weather to make it off. That could take days, or weeks...

To add a little spice, not all the forecasts agreed of course.

I could go across to Ireland and run down the coast, to then make the Rosslare-St David’s crossing. But this would still leave a 40+ nm crossing at the end. I didn't have any maps for this stretch either. No, not really practical.

It was starting to look like going around the outside was the better alternative.

But it wasn't an easy one; there were plenty of crossings here too. It would start with an 18 nm crossing of Luce Bay, then a 10 nm of Wigtown Bay, followed by another - this time the Solway Firth. After a run down the Cumbria coastline there would be the fast flow of Morecambe Bay to contend with and then the inhospitable concrete coastline of Blackpool and Fleetwood to suffer. Following along would be the sandbanks of the Ribble Estuary and Crosby, before the busy shipping channel of the River Mersey. More shallows of the Dee Estuary would await, before finally taking a day to transit the North Wales coastline.

The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to get stranded on the Isle of Man.

So if going around the outside was not an easy alternative, why choose it in the first place? Well, it gave options. I could be stuck on the IOM waiting for the weather for who knows how long? If I went around the outside I may be able to progress a few more miles on poor weather days.

It was a tricky decision to make. By going around the outside I knew I had sealed the fate of the 80 day finish - it couldn't now be. But I couldn't be arsed getting stranded either, to sit around waiting for weather that may not come. Going around the outside it would be.

There was an upside to going around though. It would take me to places I had not paddled before. The ‘corner’ of the Solway Firth is often overlooked, that would be new to me. Morecambe Bay too. I had been brought up a few miles from the Lancashire coastline, on the edge of Morecambe Bay. On clear days I’d looked across to the sheds at Barrow, I’d now finally get to paddle across The Bay.
Cutting across to the IOM was a technical challenge, and it made sense timing wise for the UK Circumnavigator. But you missed out on a good chunk of the coastline - somehow it almost seemed like cheating a little.

When I turned eastwards I knew I would be second guessing this decision for a long time to come. But we had limited weather info, I was tired both physically and mentally, and there had been a few demanding days on the run up.

If I was in the same position again, I would have to go with the same decision.