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Learning to be stronger

My last blog I was me stuck at Clogher Head, with high winds and having the craic with Sean and Michael. Since that 10 days have almost passed of highs and lows that I've shared on Facebook and Instagram, but only getting the chance to blog now. Where am I? Well on Saturday I paddled to Fethard, co. Wexford, in some interesting conditions with strong winds building from South West. I landed at Fethard just before Hook Head, as the smaller headlands were kicking up quite a bit. It's probably the meatiest conditions I've been in by myself. With some cracking waves coming side on, I constantly having to angle the boat into the waves and brace of some breaking ones. The only thing I could think about was staying upright and concentrating on what was coming.

Overall, it was a short wee paddle from Kilmore beach, about 5km from St Patricks Bridge at the Saltee Islands (a crest shape path-like rock formation that heads out East from Kilmore Quay out to th Saltees). I thought it was going to be kicking up a bit but it was flat calm. It was from Kilmore Quay itself that things got interesting. I have been super lucky again, after contacting the Fethard RNLI lifeboat launching authority- Walter, to be in a lovely warm house in Duncannon, while my boat is in a garden in Fethard. Waiting patiently for the wind to die down but enjoying the rest - this is most consecutive days I have ever paddled (training fail haha). Today (Monday 15th May), winds are gusting at force 7/8 and it seems we are getting the first decent amount of rainfall in a long time. How did I get to here? I paddled obviously haha... but I left Clogher head on Saturday last week (6th May). Conditions were still pretty windy starting out after lunch with some strong force 6 gusts but got better in the late afternoon. I got to Skerries around 6pm were RNLI sorted a place for the boat and a shower for me. Sunday brought amazing conditions which meant I had a big day and got across Dublin bay to Dun Laoghaire. Where I was met by my two uncles from Dublin (Bernard and Tony) and my dad and his partner Mary. I felt the miles that evening. Next day I got out on my boat, feeling a bit pained with the start of a kidney infection which meant stopping a few times for the toilet. I made a silly decision to stop on a beach at North of Greystones harbour. The waves were dumping onto the steep peddle beach. This led to me letting the boat hit me hard in the surf and great bruises (anyone with a brain knows this is an ametuer mistake, you never stand in front of your boat with surf behind it, especially a fully laden boat, it only ends in pain). I had my first mental breakdown were a swore at the boat, the beach and myself - luckily no one was on the beach or they left very quickly haha! I eventually got off the beach with half of it in the boat and began to paddle, but with some wind on my side I tried to use my Skeg (a rudder like thing that drops out the bottom of the boat, and helps your boat track through the water better in wind), the lever would not let me drop the skeg. I made the decision to stop at Greystones harbour, fix my skeg and get my act together. I walked up to my sisters, partners Ross' parents house, where I had great sleep and BB sorted me out with lots of cranberry juice and solutions for my infection.

On Tuesday 9th may, I got up early and paddled to Arklow, making good time. Here the RNLI Arklow sorted my boat with somewhere to store it overnight, in the rowing club and I met some very supportive rowers - Eamon, helping me with the boat and giving some local knowledge and Jan for offering me a bed, dinner and washing my clothes (their 1st wash). It was amazing to find out Jan used to work in Outward Bound in Aberdyfi when it was the Boys school and knew some of the people I know. This trip just makes you realise how small the world is. From Arklow I had my lowest times, perhaps it was the conditions being so good and having time to think, maybe it was the fact of the novelty being solo had worn off, or maybe it was just pure tiredness??? I still do not really know, but I camped at Balgarrett and my uncle Bernard drove down to see me for a few hours. When he left I struggled with being alone, so I read some letters my amazing friends in Wales, which made me feel overwhelmed by their support and belief in me and also made me laugh!

Thursday brought another hard day were I only paddled for a few hours and stopped at Curracloe my point to get to on Wednesday. I felt exhausted and demoralised. 20 odd kms done. I was aiming for 40km per day. I lay on the beach feeling defeated and wrecked. My auntie Caroline phoned, worried about my kidneys (being overprotective) and could hear my tiredness so she decided to organise I stay at a place just 2 minutes from the beach. I went straight to sleep, woke, showered, ate and slept again! Friday was a new day, misty conditions but still. I was unsure about How I'd feel, but I was feeling better. Jon Hynes phoned me that morning to throw me some positivity and it was lovely to chat through my plans for the day. I then headed to the beach, got in my boat, clipped my GPS to my deck because of the fog and paddled off through some tiny surf. I got about two miles down the beach when I looked at my deck, realised my GPS was missing. Searched my day hatch, pockets, knowing it was on my deck, but GONE. I paddled into the beach and ran 2 miles up to where I launched to find it rolling about in some waves! I could not believe how lucky I was. Ran back to my boat, launched and paddled on.

When I got to The Ravens Point, I met some seals. At first one was very interested in me, within 20 minutes, there were at least 20 Seals checking me out, with 3 very curious, cheeky chaps! I took a video of it (its on instagram) and 1 of the wee shites came out of the water right next to me, making me involuntarily scream and laugh. They followed me the whole way to Rosslare Harbour, biting the toggle of my boat, swimming under the boat and all sorts of shenanigans.

Thursday brought the most interesting paddle in days, and it felt so good. I got off the water in Kilmore beach just a few kilometres from The Saltees and St Patrick's bridge, because I was losing visibility with the fog and the tide was turning.Although i have had my highs and lows, I've got through it. I'm beginning to learn how to be more introvert and trust what I'm capable of. My plan to build my confidence on the east coast has worked and I've made it around the Teddy Bears bum (Ireland looks like a big teddy hugging the Atlantic). Saturday weather was changing with constant force 4 winds and gusts of force 6. I met a guy called Mick and his dog who helped me launch the boat. My Mammy, came down to watch me paddle, giving Some moral support and friends Stevie and Rebecca also came later for some on land support. The conditions were pretty big with South Westerly winds as I mentioned in the beginning. I did around 25km to Fethard which I was happy with given the conditions.

I am looking forward to getting to the next corner and I realise I'll hit more walls and doubts but hopefully I'm a little more prepared! But more importantly I could have not done this without the support of my friends, family and kind strangers who have became friends.... and although I claim to be doing this alone - I am most definitely not alone... I've had Stevie Millar paddle with me, along with Rebecca and him follow me around the country, supporting me in every way possible - in person and through text. My friends with their wise and inspirational letters, Helen, Tom and Broni for calling. Jon Hynes for picking me up when I really felt finished and chatting through plans. The friends and people who have contacted me at different stages to encourage me or just to let me know they are there. My uncles and auntie for going out of their way. My mammy for checking in on me everyday and taking my pups across the country for a visit. My wee dad who called up to see me when the weather meant I was stuck in Duncannon and we went on other adventures! The people who keep donating to a great cause -Inspire and my dads singing circle friends who have supported my charity through and through, organising so many charity events. Without all of you wonderful beings... would I still be going... I'm not sure?!?!

I cannot thank you all enough!! And so I will keep trying and learning to be stronger, more determined... let's hope tomorrow brings kinder winds so we can get the show on the road.

Paddy and Rosie, when it was sunnier in Co. Wexford - keeping me company in Duncannon

(Paddy and Rosie, when it was sunnier in Co. Wexford - keeping me company in Duncannon)

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