Water, Water, Everywhere...except here

Day 74 – Bispham to Leasowe – 2nd Aug – 26.9 nm

It’s a Sunday and a spring tide. The tide won’t be running in my favour for a while but we need to start early, if we don’t I'm guessing we’ll run out of sand. Blackpool’s extensive selection of concrete sea defences makes for an inhospitable place at high water.

I’m also expecting a Sunday morning spring will bring out the worm danglers, the crystal ball hints at a tricky compromise between staying in close to avoid the flow and dodging the fishing lines.

I get changed conspicuously in front of the bank with the world’s busiest cash-machine and then quickly trolley down the concrete ramp. As feared the sand is disappearing quickly. I wade across a narrow channel of moving water and place the boat on the final remaining patch. By the time I am sat in and the deck is going on the Taran lifts off the bottom, just in time. We turn S and start the day.

There’s a stiff S headwind from the start, combined with the tide against and it’s going to be a sub 4 kt slog for a while. The plan is to clear the concrete of Blackpool and then sit things out for a while on the beach S of the town, until things are ready to time for slack water across the Ribble Estuary.

I try to stay in close to gain whatever shelter there is from the wind and tide, but straight away a line is cast across my bow and fouls the rudder. The anticipated abuse follows quickly from up on the wall. They have a colourful, though rather limited, grasp of the English language and seem very keen to share it with me. I can’t clear the line and I see movement as they start to run along the wall, hurling more abuse and threats. Sigh. Come on you fat twit - I can keep this up all day – I know you can’t.

I move further out but have to endure the wind and tide more. It’s going to be a shitty start to the day, the scene is set – suffer the morons or suffer the wind. Oh yeah, it’s all glamour in this game.

Later as I draw level with the Airport, I clear the concrete and sand is once again a welcome sight. The conditions settle as the rebound from the walls is no more. Likewise the moron abuse has faded, they are too lazy to walk out onto the beach here.

There are civil engineering works going on, a couple of diggers are marooned precariously on a small man-made island a few metres offshore. They still have a way to go yet though, the calmer conditions don't help with the poo mitigation schemes, there are still plenty of floaters playing the tide. Just what do they eat here?

I've only been on the water for 1 ½ hrs but already I'm knackered and fed-up.  I land and change into dryer clothes, trying to stay warm in the wind. I'm sure I read somewhere that it is August now.

Just over an hour and it’s time to go again. I'm keen to reach the mouth of the Ribble at slack, it’s a shallow place, with training walls and shoals, I’d rather contend with as little wind-over-tide as I can. But the crossing is rather uneventful and I continue S towards Formby.

My mind drifts back to the previous autumn when I paddled up the Ribble. I was paddling a trip from North Wales to the family home, just 15 miles from here. The route went along the coast, up the Ribble and then along the Lancaster Canal. Other than a few minutes of trolleying at either end it was a 3 day, door to door paddle. I returned to the start by bicycle – which also took 3 days. Hopefully I won’t be camping on Formby beach this time though.

3 hours after getting on the water again and I am struggling once more, I have to come in to land at Formby for a break after all. I am too buggered to even trolley the boat up the beach and so I sit marooned on a camping mat, trying to stay dry on the soggy sand, while rather comically changing into more dry clothing. Sometimes you just have to accept that you are making things difficult for yourself. On the upside, Team Manager has ventured out to meet me, it's nice to have a little company. TM was keen to see Formby Beach, less keen to pay more extortionate car parking charges. Good ol' great britain. 

Then of course, it is time to get on once more. The spring tide is rapidly dropping, more and more sand is being revealed. No matter how much I try to ignore the fact, the later the restart the trickier things will likely get later. There’s still the shallow S end of Formby beach to contend with and the Queens (Mersey) Channel to cross. Got to go.

I sneak through the shallows of Mad Wharf Sands but can’t be arsed to paddle all the way around the end of Taylors Bank. I pay for my laziness as I route up a dead end channel and run out of water. Bollocks. 

The chart shows that it’s going to be a couple of miles of farting around in the shallows to try to find a way out, I can’t be bothered with that. The quickly dropping water soon means I can't paddle out anyway. I took my chance...and blew it. I can see the training wall on the edge of the channel a few hundred metres away. There’s nothing for it but to get out and drag the boat across the sandbank. Bollocks once more.

As I'm about to go a pilot boat and freighter appear on their way out of Liverpool. I'm conscious that a lone figure wandering around on the sandbanks a couple of miles offshore may cause a coastguard based stir, so I sit tight, waiting until the boats pass. I try my best to look invisible. It’s a nervous couple of minutes, the tide is dropping quickly and the training wall is showing more and more of its jagged edge. If it drops too far I’m really going to be stuck.

Finally the boats go by and I'm out and across that sand like Usain Bolt. Well, that is, like a short, stumpy, middle aged Usain Bolt, clad in Gore-Tex, dragging a kayak, across an uneven sandbank, trying to look inconspicuous and who was never that fast at running anyway. I hope there is no well meaning binocular-jockey, with the coastguard on speed dial, watching from the shore for just such an occasion.

Another boat is now heading out of Liverpool; frantically I fit the deck, scrape over the training wall and start to paddle quickly across the channel. The fun isn't over yet though, the training wall on the far side is poking through now and I have to look for a deeper spot, taking my chance on a small rapid that seems to give the best option.

Jeez, what a day. Well all I've got to do now is slog against the wind for a while. It’s obvious I'm going to run out of water, and so to limit the impending walk I head straight for Leasowe. This should give me water for as long as possible.

Even so it’s over a mile of a trolley across the rippled sand to finally make the shore, the final climb over the sea wall is by torchlight. There’s a little confusion as a couple of guys walk out to meet me. Initially I have slight sinking feeling, is there another ‘foolhardy’ lecture to follow? But their uniforms are a little eclectic and it turns out they are cockle gang-masters who have mistaken me for their Chinese workers out on the sands.

We brave the boy-racers of the Wirral and sleep in the car-park.