Just for the record...

For some time I have been thinking of paddling what is perhaps best described as a time trial, around Walney. At around 32km, with significant tidal flows which must be used correctly to acheive a good time, it is an ideal venue for such a trip. It is also a 'local' paddle of which I am rather fond for a variety of reasons, not least because West Cumbria will always feel like home.
The ideal conditions would be light northerlies and a big Sp tide - a raw February day with north-westerlies and an 8.9m tide (Liv) was some way from this ideal, but the wind direction was at least favourable for the push down the west coast. At F3/4 however, with relatively slow flows in the channel, it made the 'inside leg', much slower than is possible. It was also the first time I'd been in the boat for nearly three months.
Also of some significance was the HW time, which meant it was necessary to start the trip at Earnse Point - on previous trips around Walney I have always started at Roa Island which is preferable to my mind for a variety of reasons including tidal planning.
In the event, we made reasonably quick progress down the west coast, covering the 15km from Earnse Point to the top of Piel Island in 1hr 30mins - our average speed a fraction over 5 knots.
Leaving the seals, many of whom had followed us from the shingle banks of Haws Point, we stopped briefly beneath the castle for a snack, staying on the water, in the relative warmth of the boats, rather than getting cold in an icy breeze on shore.
From Piel Island, we cut into the channel to pick up the tide. The northerly wind against the flow created some chop, further slowing our progress - with a good tide and lighter winds, the run from Roa Island to the northern tip of Walney is easily made in around one hour. Just over three kilometres short of the point, we had our only break ashore - it was a cold stop and even some determined paddling around the top failed to restore circulation to hands or feet. Stupidly, I had left a paddling fleece at home and was wearing just a base layer and cag - by the time we finished I was quite seriously cold. The usual end-of-paddle-changing and boat-sorting routine was painfully unpleasant.
I did manage to get one shot before hobbling on frozen feet to the car, but it wasn't until I was home and properly warm, that I remembered to check the timer on my watch which I'd stopped just before landing beneath Earnse Point. Secured to the shoulder strap of my BA, I'd simply pressed randomly with frozen fingers until a beep signalled it had stopped, before dumping wet kit unceremoniously in the cockpit to be recovered later.
So, just for the record, our time was: 03.57.42 - Average speed 4.3knots - which includes stops. Not a bad run we thought, for the conditions, tides and lack of recent paddling - I would expect a paddler who trained for this sort of thing, using a good tide, would be able to knock an hour or more off this time. But for me the trip was never meant to be anything more than a personal challenge - this paddle serving as a benchmark for a more concerted effort later in the year perhaps.

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