A paddle around Hayling Island

Our route around Hayling Island
Since buying our little slice of Hayling Island, in the form of an 8x10 shed, or Beach Hut, located on the Southernmost beach, I'd talked about, thought about and planned in my head a paddle around the island - it's an island after all so perfect for a circular trip.

Initially my idea had been to paddle board around the 14 odd miles but as this would be a fairly big undertaking on a paddle board and the weather would need to be pretty much ideal (including tides) I never got further than talking about it with Tom. Then came the Kayak.....

The double kayak (a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 135t (13.5ft)) made the round the island trip much more achievable as there would be two of us paddling and we'd be far less reliant on a flat-calm sea for our trip.

So, following an aborted trip up to see family nr York I found myself with a "spare" Friday off work and, as luck would have it, the tides were just about right for an early morning start and round-trip attempt - it was just down to the weather to behave itself now.

Tide details for the day of our trip
Planning, something for me that is almost as good as the trip itself, was fairly easy but detailed and Tom and I had numerous discussions about what to take and wear on the trip.  We settled on wetsuits (a good call!) and food/drink for the trip but to keep other items to a minimum aside from safety kit as we had the beach hut as a base to start from and change/dry off at the end.  Our other consideration was that Hayling, while a small island, is fairly well populated so, as we were planning to stay near to shore all the way round, we wouldn't be far from people if the need arose.

All packed and ready for the off
The night before we both packed and reviewed the weather, nothing but high winds would stop us now, but it was worth keeping an eye on what was expected - which was sporadic rain, 2-3ft swell and winds to around 15mph.  Not ideal but also not to a level where we'd have to abandon plans.

Arriving at the beach hut to unpack
We headed off around 6am on the morning of our trip, aiming to be at the beach hut and in the water by 7-7:30am as this was the sweets pot for the tides & daylight.

Hmm, slightly choppier than we'd hoped for!
As we headed down across the beach the rain started, and the swell became more obvious, as did the cloud bank rolling in from the direction of the Isle of Wight which lay completely shrouded in cloud - the wetsuits were already looking like a good idea!

Hayling Island - showing high and low water details
Our route;
To make the most of the tides and currents we'd planned a clockwise route around the island, hoping to exploit the high water as much as possible and so be able to hug the land rather than stay out in the main channels.

I'd estimated it to be around 14miles and we had an OS map (Explorer 120) in a waterproof map case in the boat with us as well as my Garmin Forerunner 935 and our Cobra Marine VHF radios for emergency use.  As the visibility was poor Tom also had my Petzel head-torch on both for our benefit and any light craft we may encounter.

Leg 1 - Beachlands (beach hut) to Sinah Sands - 3.2 miles (total distance)
So this was it, the start.  The boat was in the waves (which were waist high already) and Tom was in, and then he was out - oops, my fault! I'd tipped him out badly misjudging a wave and trying to get in the boat at the same time.  Start again...

We were off, for real this time!  Straight out through the waves until we were a few hundred meters from the beach and into the swell which was rolling around 1m on-shore, not idea as our route was parallel to the shore meaning that this was hitting us almost broadside but luckily the kayak is such that it rolled really well with the waves and swell and I, sitting in the back seat stayed fairly dry.  A very different story for Tom in the front seat, as I was to find out later on in our trip, as the spray and roll was relentless.

We paddled along averaging around 5:30min for 500m (the 500m split would become my guide to progress and current/swell during the trip) and managed to cut around Gunner Point fairly close to the landmass due to the high tide.

There was no traffic on the narrow mouth between us and Fort Cumberland and the drop in swell was really noticeable and we made good time (splits dropping to around 4:30min/500m) through the harbour and to the strange looking Mulberry Caisson (a concrete structure for use in WW2 during the D-Day landings).

Leg 2 - Sinah Sands to Upper Rithe - 4.2 miles (total distance)
As the tide was still almost fully in we paddled a route that took us to the right of the main Langstone Channel and over the flat mud of the nature reserve.  The wind had dropped and the clouds broken and the water was noticeably calmer through this section - we paddled on, making good time, our pace dropping to around 4mins per 500m

Leg 3 - Upper Rithe to Penner & Nature Reserve - 5.5 miles (total distance)
This section was much the same as "leg 3", still making good time although we could see the signs of the tide starting to turn as the swell mixed with the outgoing water causing strange ripples which were more interesting than unnerving to look at.

We decided to paddle on to the nature reserve before Langstone Bridge for a cup of tea courtesy of Tom's flask that was hopefully still wedged in the rear cargo hold of the kayak!

Leg 4 - Nature Reserve to Northney, landing stage - 7.3 miles (total distance)
We arrived at the larger of the pool/lakes that make up the nature reserve and stopped here (after a brief dart into the pool to "play about" on the outgoing fast water) to consume our cups of tea and standard sustenance (for me and Tom anyway) in the form of a pack of Maryland Cookies!

Following this interlude we paddled on and around the top of the island to pass through the pylons of the old railway bridge and then under the road bridge before heading out across the flat, sunny water that welcomed us on this leg.

We both commented on how odd it was to have set off in the wind, rain and swell, then paddled through wind and cloud and now to be almost too hot and with our split times down to around 3min 30s for 500m!

Leg 5 - Northney to Gutner Point Nature Reserve - 8.9 miles (total distance)
We could feel the wind start to pick up as we paddled down the eastward side of the island, between the land masses of Hayling Island and Thorney Island but still managed to make fairly good time and decided to carry on until we reached the most South Easterly point, Eaststoke Point, for our 2nd tea and biscuits stop!

Leg 6 - Gutner Point Nature Reserve to Mengham Rithe - 10.2 miles (total distance)
Paddling past the nature reserve at Gutner Point the going became noticeably harder and our splits dropped back to the mid 4mins per 500m, the wind and tide was against us now and the chatter subsided as we kept going - luckily with the chatter went Tom's (un)witty comments, so every cloud does have a silver lining, even though blacker ones were building again from over towards Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Leg 7 - Mengham Rithe (Black Point) to Beach Hut - 13.5 miles (total distance)
We sought some shelter amongst the moored boats around the approach to Black Point and this made things slightly easier for a time.  The boating traffic picked up (slightly) around the harbour entrance and we decided to stop for our second break just after the IRB Station so that we could rest before the wind and waves got much bigger.

2 more cups of tea and another packet of Maryland Cookies down we both felt much better and ready for the final 4km back to the beach hut.

The wind had picked up again, as had the tide, and we made noticeable gains on, and subsequently overtook, a small sailing yacht that was also heading out to sea against the wind, under sail alone.

Rounding the corner we opted to stay on the landward side of a sand bar that was just showing above the receding tide and take advantage of the calm water which would offer us a few more moments of respite before the metre plus swell that awaited us on the Westward paddle back along the seafront.

We'd swapped seats in the kayak after our stop at Black Point and I was about to experience the spray, rolling and general helplessness that Tom suffered on the initial leg of our trip.  Paddling out through the swell the waves were swarming over the front of the boat and crashing into me mid-chest, an exhilarating and disconcerting experience but one that makes you trust (like it or not) the person steering and in command of the boat!  All was going well, and being filmed on the GoPro until the last wave before the open sea hit me and knocked the GoPro out of the boat......  Luckily, the floating handgrip that was attached to the GoPro did exactly that and as we turned around the orange tip gleamed at us from a few meters away allowing us to "nip back" and pick it up again - you can see this from the footage below!

A quick video of our trip from GoPro & GoPro Quik
The last few km's were uneventful, aside from the growing swell, and general feeling of fatigue - it's noticeable that when in the front of the kayak you seem to tire more easily, the lack of ability to really affect the direction of the boat seems to not make it through to your brain and you try to do so, which tiers you out even more.  My forearms had that feeling you get after a long weights session in the gym, but without the muscle gains!

And then, with our splits having dropped to nearly 6min / 500m we arrived back at the beach hut - the final approach and dismount was less than graceful as the waves were crashing onto the steepest part of the shingle beach and as we hadn't bothered to coordinate our landing I hopped out to find the kayak, borne by the next wave, flying sideways towards me, knocking me over into the water - oh well, those wetsuits were useful after all!

So, was it worth it?
Most definitely yes!  Despite being knackered by the end of our 13.5 mile paddle we both sat happily in the beach hut drinking cups of tea and in equal parts reminiscing and planning the next trip!  If you get the weather and tides right I highly recommend it - but watch out for that swell and the outgoing tide.

From Garmin Connect, recorded on my Garmin Forerunner 935


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