August 18 and my planning has come undone. I have discovered that I have left out at least one bag from my kit, where it can be I cannot imagine, but it contains my pump. Luckily Kerrion has loaned me a spare along with his personal four piece Lendle paddle that he used to paddle around Vancouver Island. It never leaves my deck for the next four days. The Werner just feels right.
The wonderful short paddling jacket provided by Kokatat never makes it out of Jim's car. It's just too darn cold. But once again Kerrion is there to provide a long sleeve Kokatat with a hood. This turns out to be one of the pleasant discoveries of the trip. The hood is perfect for keeping most of the rain at bay but more importantly it really helps to keep the paddler warm and comfortable.
Still my rush to start undoes me yet again. I've left the loaned pump in Jim's car with my jacket. I decide to push on rationalizing that I can get a pump or bucket or something off the beach or in Peel the first town south.
Jim Krawiecki had driven me a break neck speed up to the northwest coast to a corner called, “The Cronk.” From there my plan was to head south as far as I could go toward two possible camping sites, the first at Niarbly Bay or the second 2.5 Nm down the coast at Fleshwick Bay.
At the outset it was raining and continued to rain almost the entire time I was paddling. The weather or wind was out of the west hitting me abeam. It was sullen a perfect reflection of my mood. What was I doing out here on the Irish Sea in this cold and awful weather. I was trapped I'd said I would do this and I had feared the conditions would make it miserable, my hope was for warm sunny weather but my fears had been manifested now there was nothing to do but put my head down and paddle when all I wanted was to be home wrapped in my wife's arms.
Heading south the west coast of the island consists of sand beaches separated by rocky cliffs until eventually the sand beaches give way to the higher uplands and constant cliffs. However for about the first 5 nautical miles the shore is a sandy beach. Beyond the shore the land shelves up. It's here that you can see all manner of homes, some small, some new, and some very large and very old, such as the Bishops Court Estate.
Just south of the Gob ny Creggan Glassey the cliffs start in earnest. In Gaelic Gob means spit, ny means north, so this translates into Creggan Glassey's north Spit. I think.
From here south there are lots of caves and frequent waterfalls. I only took time to explore one cave that had a double entrance. With so little time I had to pass on playing consequently I passed by countless rock gardens and spaces where I would normally spend the better part of the day scrapping gel-coat from the bottom of my boat. Very out of character for me. There was another reason for passing these areas and this I like to think was in character. Being alone I could not afford to make an error fooling around in these high risk areas.
I started to grind it out and after three hours I arrived in Peel 6.5 Nm south through driving rain and rolling seas. As you approach your awareness is torn between the 11th Century Castle sitting on St Patrick's island and the town's beach and promenade. Both are stunning. Peel is also the home of the world famous Manx Kippers. If you've not enjoyed these think of smoked salt.
As I pulled up on the beach there were two other kayakers and I was greeted on the beach by this woman who called out to me by name! Immediately I thought this could be trouble. I tried out a few first names, none fit. Finally in her polite English manner she reminded me we'd met last night or was it this morning - she was Jim's partner.
Moments later Jim arrived and upon learning I'd forgotten a pump ran back up into town to buy me a sponge while Christine fetched me a pump. These people were so enthusiastic, even overwhelming.
A bit abut Jim K He's the co author of the Welsh Sea Kayaking guide from Pesda Press. It's a great guide and I highly recommend it – even if you are not planning to paddle this area, it is a worth while read. Jim is also a great photographer and was busy documenting my trip around. He just kept shooting photos.
Turns out I needed the sponge as the day hatch was mysteriously full of water.
Approaching from the north Peel looked charming. But again there was no time to explore, my camp site was still about 5 Nm down shore and it was getting late in the day. As I continued south the rain would come and go but if anything the sea state seemed to be getting worse.
When I arrived at Niarbyl Bay I found a ten foot beach guarded by rocks to either side with further rocks laying just off the shore break necessitating a crooked s approach. Easy enough on flat water a bit more tricky in surf. Presently the breach was being pounded by consistent 4 to 6 foot waves.
I spent a great deal of time sorting out the wave pattern giving up day light for a smooth landing seemed the right choice. Eventually I slide in on a smaller wave and surfed the boat into the stream bed that was washing down from the hills above.
With the boat beached I began the laborious unloading and carry up past the high water mark. As soon as the tent came out the rain came back. Every thing seemed to get wet. Sometime during the night the rain gave out to intermittent showers unfortunately the wind seemed to be building. By morning the wind was out of the SW and the waves pounding the beach were rather disquieting.
I broke camp slowly hoping for better weather. Finally I launched into what I suspect were moderate seas. I passed on my helmet has sometime during the night it had become home to a snail which had left a nice slime trial across the inner lining. Day two was about to begin.