On Tuesday 2nd May 2017, I started the morning by heading to Tollymore Outdoor Centre, the place that got me into sea kayaking and got me some amazing experiences in the outdoors and great friends - My first adrenaline rush in Sea kayaking was on a Scottish trip with Mike McClure in 2012, where he had me paddling through the Grey Dogs and around the Garvellachs in spring tides with some interesting weather. Mike had sold me on sea paddling and he gave me a good old 3 star sea assessment by the end of the trip (a touch out of remit)!!
So, I seen the lads Stevie, Kieran and Oisin. Stevie spent a bit of time chatting me through my planning and then we set off to get the boats ready and drive to the harbour.
Stevie and I set off from Newcastle Harbour at around 12:30!! It was glorious weather.
We got an hour into the paddle and I felt so warm I felt sick. We took a break, and I took off my BA and stuck on the deck, drank some water and off we paddled again to Cranfield Beach where we decided we'd call it a day. Stevie's wife Rebecca visited and made us dinner. Later my Mammy Breda and Nephew Chè dropped in. Then at 10pm I was alone. I felt unbelievably calm but I knew this was the beginning of the hard mental game.
I woke up to some lovely weather got my act together which took over 2 hours from waking to boat packed and ready to go. I got in the boat after 9am and I paddled for the lighthouse on Carlingford Lough. I got across to Ballagan Point where the swell was bigger than I'd expected having to push out from the spit to get around the headland when I got to Cooley Point I looked across the Dundalk bay and could just about see a shadow of land that waves would make disappear every few seconds. I made a quick estimate on time and a bearing to where I wanted to end up and off I went.
Crossings are my least favourite thing but I was switched on. I needed to keep eyes on the water. Every now and again I'd hear a crashing wave. The good thing was I had the wind pushing me in and that helped me speed along. It took just over 2 hours to get from one side to the other. I made the call to have a break at Clogher Head, have something to eat and decide whether to continue on.
I went to the old slip at the harbour and had a right faff getting the boat out of the water. Taking a good 15 mins to get the boat on the slip. I sat on my boat looking out at the sea and just felt so much relief- I'd done it!! Don't get me wrong I felt comfortable in the conditions but I think it was the first crossing with some conditions I'd been out on my own in. I had to keep my brain switched on and I just felt drained and relieved I didn't mess it up.
I made the decision to stay, so I put my boat into the side and went for a wander around the harbour for somewhere to camp. I found some wasteland above my boat and decided that would be my best option. Setting up my tent a van stops and two men jump out and shout 'Come over here till I talk to ya!!' Immediately I shit myself thinking, I'm going to get a right telling off. To find out it was a fella called Sean from RNLI and Michael O'Farrell paddling anti clockwise around Ireland and who left a day before me from Dublin.
Well we have been here since, getting treated like the VIPs. Sean has put us up in his camper while the rest of the crew have made us very welcome.
Yesterday, I looked out and from here to Drogheda and the surf was out a mile I'd say. I made the call to wait as wind was due to build all day. On reflection I wish I had of gone, because today has had stronger winds. From this I learn I need to get better at my decision making. Being on my own is going to take a bit more getting used to, as I naturally self-doubt what I am Capable of. But it's all apart of my adventure and learning curve!!