Turning 30... I mean 25 obvs!!!
I've turned 30... made it around another corner... got through a whole month and I've had terrible weather on and off in June... currently gales blowing through - typical Irish summer one might say!
I got to Crookhaven, at the end of May. I had this complete mental head block about getting around the corner, onto the West coast. I cannot explain the feeling but I physically couldn't get myself to pack my boat one day, I'd check the weather again and again, thinking of all the things that might go wrong - a shoulder that hasn't been great for 3 weeks, swell, tides, over tiredness, my planning being all wrong. I didn't want to speak to anyone embarrassed about my nervousness. So I sat in my tent. My Auntie Caroline eventually rang, understanding my feelings even though she has no experience with the sea or water, she reassured me that I'd get there and was so understanding of my lack of confidence. My Dad then phoned me and said he'd be up to see me for a day or two. He knew I was avoiding the issue. He supported me through a tough mental head game and then I had a day off to get some ibuprofen for the shoulder (not a big fan of taking tablets but they have eased up the nerve in my shoulder and neck making paddling a lot more comfortable) and just to gather my thoughts.
After he left, I had some great days on the West coast, really building my confidence up. I've made it to Ballydavid but weather hasn't been playing nicely the past week or so. It doesn't show signs of improving with gales coming through and swell warnings for the weekend. It's been an incredibly slow journey so far along the West.
My Mammy, Breda and dog Coilèan came to visit for my birthday and my Uncle was around for a few days so we stayed in his partners house Patricia, with cake and lots of food, paddling when I could.
I got the Valentica Island on the 2nd June where I met the people behind the phone each morning and evening - the Coastguard (Brian, John and John). It gave me a real sense of safety seeing all the information, resources and computers they have, in case the shit were to hit the fan. The RNLI were amazing again with Richard opening the station to store the boat away.
(Valentica Coastguard's map of sea rescue services - I'm at the top of the teddys feet)
On my actual birthday the weather gods let me paddle and I had a great day of realisation as to why I'm doing this journey, paddling across Dingle bay to Ventry. My thoughts, still not believing the fact that it's me paddling when I think back over the past year. I am completely unaware of how I've got this far even from the planning stages. But somehow, Nigel Dennis loaned me a boat and a paddle, I got the time off agreed with work which meant no excuses! 6 months ago I went to the Dingle peninsula for New Years and felt overwhelmed looking at the crossings and the Blasket Islands. Seeing the lack of landings, and really doubting my ability to continue with my ability. I bounced back yet again, nervous (I'm not sure I'll ever loose that feeling in the pit of tummy) but I kept chipping away at the trips to Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, Scotland, paddling on the estuary in Aberdyfi, doing self-rescues and rolls in all conditions. My friends kept encouraging me, even when they seen my major mess ups and had to pick up the pieces. They never lost faith in me, even when I felt completely and utterly stupid. I had Jon Hynes in the background, making sure I'd thought of every detail, checking in with me every few months. Even so I cannot explain how I kept going or how it even happened, it was a series of steps. It all happened so quickly. I had done a few solo training paddles on my own in good conditions, I'd only been out in lumpy conditions with friends and experienced paddlers.... And here I am doing it! It's mental!
What I'm trying to say, is everyone should take on their own personal challenge regardless of how much experience they have or who has done it before. You'll work it all out as you go - planning and during the challenge. Even if you don't feel ready, I don't think you ever do. Don't let FEAR stop you! Because on the other side of fear is this feeling of accomplishment and growth. It is scary but that's what makes it your challenge and for everyone it's different and comes with it's own difficulties. Be brave, and even if you're not, just pretend. If you pretend for long enough you start to become what you think. With a little planning, some super positive people around you, you can achieve anything you want. I have been incredibly lucky to have this opportunity although it's been difficult and continues to have its ups and downs. This is just some of my birthday ramblings and revelations!
Fake it and you'll make it!
From Ventry, I was held up again for another few days before making a break for it in the early hours to get through the Blasket sound to Ballyferriter. My two friends Kathryn and Michael joined me the evening before at camp and then they followed me from cliffs and headlands, taking class pictures and cheering me on. They made the Blasket sound a lot more tame and friendly. The visibility and wind got a little too much and not being able to see Sybil head (another crux point) I decided to pull into Ballyferriter cove. With the support of Barry Shaw's, knowledge and kindness to send me google earth images and support my planning, allowed me to get through the Blaskets and have lots of exit plans.
Me getting through Blasket Sound - photo credit to Kathryn
Dingle Peninsula- Photo credit to Kathryn
Pulling up to the slip at Ballyferriter, I met Michael O'Farrell (going anti-clockwise) again from Clogher Head, which was just my second day on the water. We had a wee cuppa tea and chatted through our journeys before he set off again - this man is a complete legend paddling into strong headwinds and making great distances.
Reunited in bad conditions again - Michael and I
I was lucky yet again and got a cottage to stay in for 2 nights. A nice guy also called Michael took pity on my putting up my tent in the lashing rain. Then I paddled a very short distance of 12km to Ballydavid with a bit more civilisation, before the gales hit. I thought about pushing onto Brandon but my nerves got to me so I'll sit it out here. The local fishermen and pub/hostel Tigh T.P. have been amazing in helping me out and giving me weather updates.
Ballydavid - sheltered bay looking good and choppy!
Before Kerry, I was in West Cork and it was so beautiful I will definitely be going back to paddle around the islands and rock hop. So many features and beautiful landscapes all over Ireland - I could be bias but it's definitely the most beautiful country I've ever seen. While in Cork I was met two paddlers when I was just about about to set up my tent in Fountainstown, Don and Paudy. Don recognised me from my Facebook page - couldn't believe my page had made it to the other end of Ireland! It was lovely to chat to paddlers, who understood the challenge and then Don kindly invited me back to his house to have a bed for the night. Him and his family looked after me so well, feeding me and just being so welcoming to a complete stranger. I also finally met Jon Hynes in person, which was great after all the support he's given me and still giving me! Again I was looked after so well by him, Alayne, and his daughters Aoife and Sinead. With another great sleep in a bed an some great tips for the West coast.
Cows attacking me on Calf Island
Old head of Kinsale cave
When weather was calm in West Cork but visibility wasn't great - it was like a lake!
The kindness of people has got me to this point again and unbelievably my paddling and planning hasn't went too wrong. My biggest challenge at this moment is the thought that I've a ferry to catch on the 30th June, and whether I'll complete my adventure. I really want to, but weather hasn't been in my favour. I'm coming up with plan B's, C's, D's but really it all depends on weather. On the other hand I am so chuffed I've made this far, I've been by far my toughest critic and even with this I've kept going, somehow. I promise to keep trying and hopefully I'll get some cracking weather conditions to let me paddle day and night to get home!