IOPCC Trip Report

Sandsfoot to Ferrybridge and up The Fleet.
Sunday 3rd January 2010.


Sunday January 3rd was forecast to be cold and windy. The scheduled event in the IOPCC paddling programme was to put in at Sandsfoot on Portland Harbour, paddle up the Fleet and then back again. This paddle was suitable for everyone and a group of 12 met at Sandsfoot at 09.30am. The forecast was accurate. Freezing temperatures and a strong easterly breeze.

The group included the usual suspects in closed cockpit sea kayaks but also three new members in sit on top kayaks. It was good to see twelve people on the water and to welcome new members in craft we had little experience of so early in the year.

It was a high spring tide and the whole of the beach at Sandsfoot was covered at HW. We knew this meant that the flow under Ferrybridge was likely to be in excess of 6 knots! Well wrapped up in a variety of dry suits, pogies, balaclavas, pink woolly hats etc we set off with the wind behind for Ferrybridge. There were waves but everyone coped with this without a murmur. Approaching Ferrybridge it was evident that the wind and waves were funnelling through the gap and with wind against tide there was significant rough water! Out leader Clive J had asked Ian and I to bring up the rear so we had a good view of the group as they rode the waves . 10 out of 10 for surfing style to John Mc on his 3m SOT. I have never seen a SOT surf – and as it turned out neither had John! He seemed to be having fun…sort of!

Once safely through into the Fleet we had a relatively easy paddle up the Fleet. Although we were against the tide the easterly wind was significant and we were blown up to the narrow gap next to the Army barracks. The flow here is squeezed and was very fast. Clive West was delighted to be able to use his towrope in tandem with Ian to give John Mc a bit of help up to the lunch stop.

As it was such a cold day Clive J who was leading the trip had planned to stop after 1.5 hours so the time out was about 3 hours. We had a short break on Chesil beach for a chat and a hot drink. The flow had increased even more and was perfect for practicing ferry gliding so we did a bit of that before setting off at speed through the narrows and back down the Fleet. We regrouped before Ferrybridge and John Mc left us at this point preferring to walk back with his SOT on wheels.

The group whizzed under the bridge and just as it seemed we would get through without incident Sandra was taken by surprise by a very fierce eddy and her SOT turned over. The flow was very fast and she was quickly swept out into the Harbour. Once clear of the flow and eddy Kevin M was able to raft alongside and turn the boat over and Sandra was able to climb on. In those conditions it took longer than any of us would have liked to get Sandra out of the water. (about 3 minutes) The sea kayaks were difficult to manoeuvre in the wind and waves and we had no experience of rescuing with a SOT.

Once aboard Sandra was cold but otherwise unscathed. The wind had increased to 24 knots gusting 27 knots easterly - that is Force 6 gusting Force 7 against us. The paddle back to Sandsfoot is just over a kilometre and it was quite a battle against the wind and waves. We all paddled back and arrived back at Sandsfoot having enjoyed our adventure.


Pictures of the paddle are on the
Galleries Page.

Sandra and Ryan and their Prowlers at Sandsfoot Clive J giving the group their briefing
John McKinlay on the way to Ferrybridge A grey day over Portland
Heading up The Fleet Kevin M, later to become the hero of the day.
John Mc getting a helping tow up The Fleet A well earned break on The Fleet
John Christmas surprised and delighted not to be first swimmer of the year!
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Report and pictures by: Barbara Browning



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