Old Jack Frost is definitely about. Morning’s are starting crispy as you like, and we are donning all of our warmest adventure gear as we womble about the Dorset countryside. We love all of the seasons and the variety they each bring but one of the common ailments associated with this one is that all adventuring must come to a halt. It’s just too darn cold and dark.
Well, we reckon this wintry trend can be brutally bucked. Adventuring is for all seasons and this is one ticks all the right boxes for a 5-9 #microadventure
Dan, the brawns behind Fore, shows us how it’s done, reminiscing on a night paddle…
“Taking to the sea in your favourite vessel, which for me is my Romany Surf made by Nigel Dennis kayaks, is an adventure at any time of the day or year. But at night this magic can be ten-fold.
I took to the water one night, starting from our hutquarters on Studland’s Middle Beach and setting out to circle Brownsea Island. Before adventure kick off I checked the weather and tides and dropped a call to the Solent coastguard to file a transit report. For the double safety whammy I left details of my trip with my emergency contact on shore, “my wife.” The kit I carried consisted of the usual, a chart, compass, spare paddles, a change of clothes, repair kit, survival bag, distress flares, vhf radio, waterproof mobile phone as well as a head torch- all you need should you face a sticky situation.
Safety checks in place I launched, checking my watch and marking the time on my chart before gently heading across Studland Bay, letting my body warm up and my night vision kick in. As I go I checked the chart and set a course to steer which would take me to the far end of the bay.
Night paddling can be pretty disorientating so you have to focus on the navigation even in an area you know well. There was no moon that night and little ambient light, so I focused on the compass and kept track of my position across the bay using transits from the navigation buoys out in the main channel.
Although there are hardly any boats on the water, the night is alive with bird life and fish keep jumping near the kayak (I kicked myself for leaving my handline at the hutquarters- school boy error!).
As I approached the end of the bay I heard the waves breaking in the shallows and noticed some lights approaching the wall which forms the training bank. Clocking the tell tale paddle flash I realised that i’m not the only kayaker out and about!
I turned the corner into shell bay after the obligatory kayak chat and started heading towards the bright lights of the chain ferry, marking my progress using the flashing cardinal markers and comforting red and green flashes from the channel marker buoys.
Approaching the ferry I concentrated on the current, my position in relation to the ferry and scanning for other traffic. There are a couple of small boats around but none to worry about, but I would always keep one eye on them in case that changed.
As the ferry started moving, indicated by the flashing light, I started to paddle towards it- in the dark it seems huge and I was reminded how small and vulnerable we are when in our kayaks.
As the ferry slipped into my wake I shift focus on crossing towards the castle on Brownsea Island, conscious that I am against the clock and the tide is about to turn. I dodged the sandbanks and make it to the castle before navigating round the side of the lagoon. I saw the bright lights of Poole that might normally be alluring but in that moment there was nowhere I would rather be than hacking round an Island by night in my trusty kayak.
I was in a natural rhythm and worked hard to make the boat glide through the water, conscious that if I dawdled it will be a late, late night. I paused only briefly to re-energize and snacked on some nuts with the memory of my earlier feed with the small humans seeming a long way off.
After rounding the top of the island by Pottery Pier I started to head back round towards the ferry. I love the change this brings, as Poole becomes no longer visible and the remoteness of the south side of the harbour becomes my new challenge and environment.
I treated myself to a wee, always a tricky maneuver in a kayak, and sit their drifting while slugging on a brew of mint tea before heading on my way and pushing against the incoming tide back towards ferry.
With the ferry passed, a coaster approached in the dark lit up like a Christmas tree and I ensured I gave it a wide berth, pleased to cross the training bank and make it back to my home turf, Studland Bay.
Head down, I got back into a smooth rhythm and into my little world where time stops and nothing can break my bubble. Checking the chart and my watch, I tracked my progress across the bay before landing back at the beloved hutquarters.
Hungry but chuffed I finished with the last jobs of the night- phoning the coastguards to let them know I'm back on the beach, and texting the wife so she doesn’t have to worry about digging out the life insurance policy! A quick wash of the kit, a brew and half a loaf of toast and I slept like the dead. A 3 and a bit hours night time adventure- job done.”