Yes that's me standing next to the HMS Exploit. (looking rather short)
And yes that's my boat tied off to the HMS Exploit.
I hold my head in utter shame. How many of you read about a kayaker having to be rescued and think to yourself....probably another inexperienced idiot! I know I have, but today it was me.
It all started off fine. The sun was high in the sky, a westerly force 3, neap tides. A trip that I have performed many times.
There was a hefty swell as I got further out into the channel and a bit of wind at my back pushing me along, but it was a nice day, all was good. I did think to myself this could get choppy on the way back, wind against tide.
I came through the usual race off the south east corner of Flat Holm, gulls signaling my arrival.
I landed had a chat with the warden who was conducting a bird survey, gulls were back in force! His splattered coat showed evidence of that.
Tide was still in flood so I had a couple of cups of tea and sat on the slipway in the warmth of the sun, which made a change. The sea still look lovely and flat. I was in no rush.
I made my way around the island to the light house, the tide was now ebbing nicely.
At the south east point wind gust up, the race just off shore looked nasty. I know it can sometimes get a bit rough on the south of the island so paddled back around to the slipway.
A resident goat made an appearance.
Back through the gap between Castle Rock and the other side didn't look to inviting either.
I sat in the eddy behind Castle Rock and took this last shot. I've been through this tide race plenty of times before on leaving the island so it wasn't a problem. Tide on wind and swell made for a hair raising ride. Some of the bigger waves had me scrambling for my kit as it got washed from my deck. It soon became evident it wasn't just a race, the waves stretched on and on. I was confident and I felt at ease, my boat was stable. I had been in much worse sea states, however much closer to shore, and usually heading in the right direction. I wasn't making much speed, 2-3kts battling in to the wind and waves. I could only paddle head on into the waves but I needed to make a ferry glide off to the right. I was way off course. I battled on, my own pride preventing me from calling for help. I finally made the decision I wasn't going to make it to shore and grabbed the radio for assistance before it got any worse.
I heard my own call for help repeated over the radio. "mayday..mayday..mayday a 15ft red kayak under the call sign kayak 1 is in need of urgent assistance, any vessels in the vicinity please respond to location....." I could here the engine of a boat, I looked to my stern expecting to see the orange bow of an RNLI lifeboat. Instead I was greeted with the image of a grey Royal Navy ship plowing into the swell.