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Thread: English Channel Crossing

  1. #1
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    Default English Channel Crossing

    A day trip to France, the Mr Benn moment...


    Friday 10th October at 0600 we met Reg, our replacement pilot, in Folkestone. No go, already flags were flying briskly (later, white capped waves all day), nice sunrise though, retired to local cafe for thick tea.


    Best forecast then for Sunday, or we would be waiting until May 2009! Sunday 12th October early, loading the canoes on the harbour slipway.


    Dave, first on the water.


    Away we go at 0745.


    0748, clearing Folkestone inner harbour wall. Are we there yet?


    We knew the distance is between 18 and 19 miles to France, but didn't know how far we would need to paddle having been carried either side of the track by the tide. Bye England.


    A few miles offshore a couple of yachts closed on us, then they turned back.


    Followed our path on the chart as best I could, passed south of the Varne lightship.


    I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.... The big hydrofoils were something else, a distinctive growing rumble and no sign of it and then away it goes with a big white fantail.


    That's me, wearing just a merino base layer top, one handed paddling across the Channel, Zen............actually I was mid switching sides with the faithful bent shaft paddle.


    Steve had stripped to a T-shirt by this time, warm sun in a fairly clear sky.


    Dave went one better and stripped off completely! Would have made a great photo if he had, one for our 2009 Calendar I think.......


    A bit lumpy as we crossed the shipping lanes.


    The first, westbound lane, is four miles wide, within which we had to cross The Varne shallows. They appeared as a long white line of breaking water parallel to us, which Reg turned us towards and across, notable waves there, shipped some water. Hands full of paddle so no photos by me there.

    Dave and Steve stretching their legs.


    A break for me from eating jelly babies.


    We took a five minute break after 2 hours, 4 hours and six hours, and then at 1345 when we stopped, Reg told us we had only covered half way and just 0.4 of a mile in the past hour. Yikes, tidal effect? current? Sun was on it's way down and we picked up to pretty much maximum pace and didn't stop again. Fortunately the sea calmed as we crossed the Eastbound shipping lane, 5 miles wide.


    I remember thinking it would be like this paddling in the doldrums, about which I've read in sailing voyage books. Dave and Steve, crossing the Eastbound shipping lane, five miles wide...


    Helen and Heather gave us fantastic support from the Viking Princess our support boat, Reg and Ray's Folkestone trawler. They said the reflections in the water were great at this time. A fantastic place to be...


    Finding some space approaching the coast of France. We paddled into the sun for alot of the day, fortunately I had bought a really good pair of Bloc sunglasses whilst at a loose end in Folkestone on the Saturday, money well spent.


    The trawler stayed about three quarters of a mile offshore as the depth became too shallow thereafter, of course that meant the sea kicked up a bit, but suddenly the tide was behind us taking us in and at 1715, after nearly 23 miles we beached, and of course I couldn't stand without leaning on the canoe, had to let the waves wash around us...


    As posted on the Thread, Bonjour Chien!


    Hello French people, about half a mile west of Wissant...


    Dave, finally able to walk again..


    Paddling back out to the Viking Princess. Fortunately the tide had risen and the water had calmed.


    Reg and ray hauled the canoes up and stacked them on the foredeck. Just as well we'd stretched and stood on the beach, there's no way I could have climbed the ladder up the side after nine and a half hours kneeling without stretching first.


    Sea calmed right down as we started the journey back.


    A fine sunset and a mug of sweet tea, together and with the canoes and the gear on the foredeck for the return journey.


    Great journey back on the Viking Princess, found the Carnations we'd paddled with (another story) and the coconut we found mid channel. Clear sky, bright moon and a starry sky.


    Back into Folkestone at about nine in the evening. The Viking Princess in Folkestone harbour having lowered the canoes and us on the slipway.


    Heather and Helen needed to be back and set off for Suffolk. We did the only sensible thing after paddling across the channel, enjoyed a lamb shish kebab with chilli sauce, Chinese for Steve, and then a pint of Guinness as they closed the pub on the harbour wall around us. Then home to Suffolk.

    If you think we took on a fair challenge and gave it loads of effort, suffered some pain, and believe me that chilli sauce was seriously hot, then please show support by contributing to the valuable work of East Anglia's Children's Hospices. All monies raised are going entirely and directly to the charity www.justgiving.com/opencanoechannelcrossing

    Five things that came in handy;
    Dave's strips of 400mg Ibuprofen tablets, from pocket of bouyancy aid.
    Helen's supply of jelly babies.
    Three litre Camelbak hydration bags with mouthpiece tube extn.
    Good sunglasses and a wide variety of hats.
    Heather's massage, now that's another story.

    A big thankyou for all the SOTP paddlers support, for the very generous sponsorship, and I'm just really glad the trip ended in such a good way. On the trawler coming back I suggested a trip for next year.......

    'Open canoes don't belong on the open sea', with due care and knowledge of the sea, I think they can be safely paddled there.

    One week ago we were standing on the beach in France, now seems a good time to post the blog, hope others have enjoyed the journey too.

    Happy paddling, Simon (Jester), Dave (Anglian Paddler), Steve, Heather and Helen.

  2. #2
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    I'm impressed and well done, I say no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. #3
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    Wow, really enjoyed that blog. What a great sense of achievement! Well done! Whats next? The Atlantic?

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    Well done again. Great to see the pictures.
    John

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    I have already said it but it needs saying again. Great effort for a great cause.

    So where next?

    Cracking Blogg.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

  6. #6
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    Reg, our pilot/trawler skipper advised us to use the windguru site for checking windspeed forecasts www.windguru.cz/int/index.php and our first pilot Andy suggested we use www.xcweather.co.uk Just thought other paddlers may find them useful too. No doubt the English Channel is a giant relative to an open canoe and we were fortunate enough to cross when the giant was snoring gently, I think their are only a handful of such days each year when the swell has calmed enough to make for a fair passage.
    Still if anyone else ever decides to venture across I'll be glad to share the information we gathered.
    As for next, well hopefully this week a little night paddling is called for, with the tide into Ipswich docks and back to the pub at Pin Mill. Just great on the water with the flash of red and green bouys and your watching for the twinkling lights of a yacht or a coaster underway. Then a fine snug with an open fire in the pub, one thats seen many a barge and sailing vessel pass her windows on the River Orwell.
    Last edited by Jester; 19th-October-2008 at 06:24 PM.

  7. #7
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    Fantastic . Well done .
    Bandy

    CLICK THE LINK TO THE SCOTTISH CANOE TRIPS CHANNEL FOR VIDEOS OF MY TRIPS : http://www.youtube.com/user/bandy598



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    Well done impressive stuff
    Mitch

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    Fantastic acheivement and an enjoyable blog.

    Well done.

    Richard.
    You don't stop playing because you are old, you get old because you stop playing.

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    Top bannana!
    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

  11. #11
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    Brilliant... Well done
    Kazbunny
    Don't dream it... DO IT!

  12. #12
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    An inspiring blog, thanks for that. Impressed at how calm the water appears to be.

    All the best

  13. #13
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    That was inspirational - Congratulations to you and your team.

    James
    Gumotex Palava

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    Boah ey! Hut ab!!
    (Attempt of a translation: Extraordinarily hantastic! Hats off!)
    Dull Knives are the most dangerous ones.

  15. #15

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    And they call me mad ??

    Absolutely magnificent effort and what an adventure

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    That was quite a trip guys...superb effort.
    Well done.
    Dougie
    'There is magic in running water. Who does not know it and feel it ?'
    Ernest Thompson Seton

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    well done guys. and some great pics there too. definately contenders for pic of the year on here, the ones with the two canoes and nothing else but sea!! brilliant blogg.
    sod work, im off for a paddle.

  18. #18
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    Default Fantastic

    Wow. Amazing. I'm a bit nervous of sea lochs if there is ANY sort of exposure to the sea. The whole channel! Brilliant.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ben
    One year olds want four meals a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Paper...
    Two year olds want whatever is most dangerous to get to... (Then to throw it on the floor.)

  19. #19
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    the sence of achivement you must of felt when finnaly you bumped into solid ground must have been awesum,what a wonderful trip one never to forget!

  20. #20
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    A truely excellent acheivement! Some great photos too.

    TGB
    May the gentleness of morning, greet your silent passage through endless waters...

    May all your winds be gentle. And for ww - May it rain the night before.

  21. #21
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    Heather has managed to download the data from the Sat Nav that she had secured on Steve's canoe, and she's done a great job of using that to show our exact track and speeds as follows.



    I find it interesting that we were covering about 2.2 nautical miles per hour until 2pm, and when we picked up the pace it increased to 2.7 to 3.0, I don't think we could have kept up a much faster pace than that. The Varne Light Vessel and The Varne sandbank shown on the map are in the middle of the westbound shipping lane.

  22. #22
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    Thumbs up Channel Crossing

    Hi there, Congratulations on your achievement, you can be right proud of yourselves, the pics are terrific, and all done for a very worthy cause, thank you for sharing with us. Happy PaddlingBill

  23. #23
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    what an excllent thread well done

  24. #24
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    Default The Great Channel Journey

    Congrat's. Very very way cool. And you made it!!
    coogs


    He think's thats funny

  25. #25
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    i only saw now that you had posted the pictures. great stuff, absolutely amazing. and congratulations for making it!

  26. #26
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    Great Blogg - Fabulous Adventure!

    ATB

    Stewey.

  27. #27
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    Default Photographs from the trawler...

    Heather has kindly shared her photos taken from the trawler, I thought some others might like to share my favourites.

    Into the rising sun...


    Lumpier water over The Varne...


    Hydrofoil overtaking at speed...


    A tiny ship, just about the same length as Dave's canoe...


    A surprise for Helen mid Channel, holding her bouquet, as self nominated best men myself and Dave had carnations...and of course we had a carnation for Steve...


    Approaching the white cliffs of...........France..


    Closing France the water calmed, we picked up the pace for the second half...


    Paddling back out to the trawler having beached, with Cap Gris Nez in the background...


    Steve and Helen...


    Steve had dutifully spent the whole day in 'The Office'...


    Unfortunately the paddle really aged Steve....
    Part of our essential supplies for the return trip on the trawler was of course...halloween masks for the after dark return journey...


    Back in Folkestone with Reg our pilot & skipper...


    With Heather, multi talented and much valued...


    I've been handing over cheques and cash to East Anglia's Children's Hospices, we raised, with lots of contributions and support from members of Song of the Paddle, well over £2,000.

    I think we are very fortunate to have Song of the Paddle, Magikelly has given us lots of support, John your a top man

    www.justgiving.com/opencanoechannelcrossing

  28. #28
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    Default english channel xing

    Hi there,
    fantastic, well done!
    An extraordinary adventure
    regards from Hamburg
    Albert

  29. #29
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    Default great trip folkes

    That is a great trip. Well done and great courage for attempting the trip.

  30. #30
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    Fantastic achievment.
    Wll Done.
    Cracking blog !!!

  31. #31
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    Wow! I now have some new heroes.
    Andy
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  32. #32
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    Default Fabulous achievement

    Well done, and some stunning photos. I have often wondered if people attempted these heroic trips and how they went about them.

    Well done for making the trip and well done for raising the money.

    born to paddle ... round and round in circles ...

  33. #33
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    Congratulations from Brazil! Fantastic trip.....
    Tony BR
    www.companhiadecanoagem.com.br
    www.canoacanadense.com.br/english.htm
    Past 20 years teaching Biology!
    Next 20 building Canoes!!!

  34. #34

    Question Channel Crossing

    Hello, fantastic story, and well done.

    This Summer two friends and I plan to canoe down the Thames, across the Channel at Dover, and up the coast to Amsterdam.

    We will be using the same 19ft Canadian canoe we used to do the Mississippi and Rhine recently.

    Technically, we see this as out most dangeous undertaking because of tides, currents, exposure, distance from shore, breaking waves and shipping etc.

    Having read your account, I have three specific questions I hope you might answer please?

    You mentioned that if you didn't do it in October 2008, then it'd have to be in May 2009. Can you explain why?

    How did you book/arrange the support boat, and how much did it cost?

    The weather? Did you wait until the correct weather presented itself or were just lucky? We will wait for two or three days in Dover for a window, if none presents itself, we get a lift across.

    Finally, do you have any further general advice you could offer?

    Kind regards,

    Dan

  35. #35
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    Hi Dan,

    Two reasons for deciding that we wouldn't be making the paddle between the end of October and around about the beginning of May. Primarily the shorter length of daylight hours, secondly, the chances of having a window of feasible weather and a feasible sea state.
    I believe it is necesary to have an escort vessel with a skipper, who is experienced in guiding a slow moving swimmer/kayak/canoe across the shipping lanes. The shipping lanes extend about 10 miles across the width of the Channel and so your crossing them for a long time.
    When I looked for a pilot all roads led to the Channel Crossing Association and specifically Andy King. They piloted, the present fastest paddled crossing, I believe made on a surfski in under 3 hours, and the previous paddling record crossing in a specially designed sea kayak. I believe their pilots are routinely accompanying swimmers across the Channel throughout the Summer months. They were fully booked until the end of September, hence our window was in mid October. You would need to negotiate a fee with the Channel Crossing Association.
    The weather and the sea state, you ideally need both to be favourable, and to have a slight sea state in mid Channel I gather requires at least 48 hours of low wind speeds to let the swell subside. Our pilot with the CCA was a fisherman, their trawler based in Folkestone was our support vessel. They know the Channel and not only could they judge what conditions would be like offshore from the forecast, they were talking to their mates fishing offshore and knew exactly what was happening out there.
    We had a five day window with the CCA to make the attempt in. In fact Andy fell on the third day and damaged his knee, and so we found ourselves having a new pilot, he stretched that window, as I recall to 8 days, and in fact on the eighth day conditions came good and we went for it. If we hadn't been able to launch in the window, our arrangement was that we would set a new five day window, in May or thereabouts, at no additional cost.
    If you set aside three days when you plan to cross you may be fortunate and have a favourable weather and sea state, on the other hand Andy has had swimmers standing by for a fortnight having travelled from abroad who never had the chance to make an attempt.
    General advice; have plenty of daylight hours when you make your attempt, use an experienced pilot, their are strict rules regarding crossing a Traffic Seperation Scheme and their are substantial fines if you breach them, the ships and fishing vessels use their radar to track other vessels and your canoe alone is unlikely to stand out from sea clutter on their screens, you will need an SSR name and number on your canoe (otherwise I understand the canoe could be confiscated by the French Authorities) easily obtained on line, success will come from thorough planning and choosing the a day with favourable conditions as much as from mental and physical preparation, above all you have to believe you can do it.
    If I was planning the journey your describing, I would carefully research the passage planning from the Thames round to Dover, and from the French side of the Channel along the coast to Holland. On both sides there are some very challenging stretches of water to be negotiated, especially along the coastline of Belgium and Holland, alot of shoaling water, few safe haven entrances and then poor or even impossible access in even moderate onshore winds.
    Crossing the channel, on the water have plenty of fluids and energy food handy, jelly babies, really good quality sunglasses if the sun is out you'll be paddling into it nearly all day, paracetemol and Ibuprofen in your bouyancy aid in case you have joint pain, choice of hats, choice of clothing, you don't want to be cold but equally being too warm can sap your energy. Plastic kitchen jug from Tescos works well as a bailer and as a pee bucket, and a camelbak water carrier with the extension pipe means you can put the weight of a couple of litres of water/lucozade sport in the bottom of the hull and drink from it when you like by having the mouthpiece handy.
    Were thinking of doing some exploring on the coast of Brittany this year, planning for a week of Neap tides to keep the flow rate in single figures.
    Enjoy your trip, please pm me if you'd like anymore info.
    Simon

  36. #36
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    I was just Flicking Through the April Edition of Canoe Focus (BCU mag)

    And found that this story is featured (Page 46/47)

    Well done again

    Joe
    SF Peterborough 14'
    weighs 7 Stone! 44.5kg
    Bell Yellowstone (so light)

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  38. #38
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    Thats an incredible journey!
    have you planned your next trip yet ?
    I am the author of my own mistakes.... and i have had a few best sellers!

  39. #39
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    Thats an amazing feat - just brilliant

    Sue

  40. #40
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    Inspirational- thanks for sharing your adventure!

  41. #41
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    What a great day out and what an adventure!

  42. #42

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    an inspiring paddle and a great blog...next thing the cross channel canoe race
    _______________________________________
    Pelican Potomac

  43. #43

    Default cannel crossing

    well done good photes i live up in the north coast of ireland and do alot of sea kayaking and open boating i must try it on our coast line how does the boat handel in force 3 or 4 . by looking at the pictures it looked cam was the trip planned with thoes conditions in mind once again well done

  44. #44
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    I've been handing over cheques and cash to East Anglia's Children's Hospices, we raised, with lots of contributions and support from members of Song of the Paddle, well over £2,000. I think we are very fortunate to have Song of the Paddle, Magikelly has given us lots of support, John your a top man
    Congratulations to a great crew for sharing your canoeing adventures on the sea and all for a worthy cause!

    Takes canoeing to a higher level of human endeavor!

    All the best!
    Pirate of the Grand Banks

  45. #45

    Default Hello Dan

    very inspired by your crossing... have always wanted to do it & am slowly putting plan together... thanks for posting advice/tips regards Matt

  46. #46
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    Default Great adventure well done !!

    Hello well done on your channel crossing,I am planning to canoe the entire length of the river thames and then cross the channel to france for charity,could you please tell me how you managed to raise all the money needed and do you think i could cross the channel in my canoe 14 ft canadian canoe,,thanks wayne

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    Default channel crossing

    what a great adventure,I am planning a channel crosing in my canoe ,have you any advice that might help me. thanks wayne

  48. #48
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    Hi Wayne,
    The canoe I paddled was a 14'0 Bell Yellowstone Solo, so a 14'0 open canoe can make the crossing, however, I wouldn't take this canoe if making the trip again, as I now have a Bell Yellowstone tandem 15'6 which I think is better matched.
    Crossing the Channel without a pilot boat would, in my own view, be too high risk and I think you could be prosecuted by the authorities on both sides, as strict about conduct in the Shipping Lanes.
    It's well worth searching for info from Sea Kayak crossings and swimmers, Channel Swimming Assn. is a good source of information, and they provide details of Pilots to shepherd you across, why be shepherded? your crossing the shipping lanes for several hours, the tides run and the wind blows, you need to be crossing at right angles and not die under the bows of a larger vessel, everything else is a larger vessel.
    Folkestone is a good place to launch, cafe and parking nearby to a large public slipway into the outer harbour.
    Would I cross again solo in an open canoe, yes. I enjoyed doing so in Dave and Steves company, we've shared several such adventures now, I would also be comfortable paddling on my own, but for this crossing only with a support vessel. The advantage of using local fishermen to pilot is that they are totally familiar with working across the Channel and working around the shipping at slow speed.
    If you wish to read about a journey made from the headwater of the Thames, around the south east coast and then across the Channel........ and then by way of West and Eastern Europe to the Black Sea.......a solo journey of 4,900 kms, you may enjoy 'The unlikely voyages of Jack de Crow', the vessel wasn't a canoe, it was an 11'0 plywood mirror dinghy, by oars and sail.
    We crossed when the waters of the Channel were at rest, I think very rarely are the waters sufficiently settled. You can find out the sea conditions at offshore locations, light vessels and bouys. About a week before we crossed their was heavy weather and waves over 20 feet high were being recorded in the Channel.
    For three days before we launched we met the Pilot on the quay at about 6am, we looked to the water and it looked maybe doable, the pilot had friends in their fishing boats in the Channel, he'd talked to them, the waters were rough mid channel.
    The day we left started with sea mist, poor visibility at daybreak. Sea fog is just another twist that could catch the unwary.
    For any sea paddling it's well worth learning about navigation, the effects of the tides and the wind, and starting on the calmest of days building up experience close inshore.
    Simon

  49. #49
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    hi there, a real inspiration,
    I am in the process of planning a trip too and wondered who you used as safety boats. could you PM me details please?
    Katie

  50. #50
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    You. Are. Role Models!

    I want to do this...
    ...Sometimes it's good to put the paddle down and just let the canoe glide...


  51. #51
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    A friend of mine escorts swimmers:

    http://www.channelswimmingassociatio.../kevin-sherman

  52. #52

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    Amazing trip. Well done!

  53. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jester View Post
    Heather has managed to download the data from the Sat Nav that she had secured on Steve's canoe, and she's done a great job of using that to show our exact track and speeds as follows.



    I find it interesting that we were covering about 2.2 nautical miles per hour until 2pm, and when we picked up the pace it increased to 2.7 to 3.0, I don't think we could have kept up a much faster pace than that.
    I'm not being critical because you did a great job, but the reason the first six hours were slower is evident in that curve (or lack of a curve)... you were fighting the tide. The second part of the route follows a curve, showing that you were going with the tide. The easiest way to do this type of crossing (I've sailed it) is to pace yourselves for a 12 hour crossing and let the tide take you (both ways) in an 'S' shape. You'll travel further than if you try to describe a straight line, but it will be a heck of a lot easier.

    Old thread, but I thought someone might find my two pence worth, useful.
    I'm at that difficult age... somewhere between birth and death.

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