Sixty-five hours after leaving Tower Bridge in her kayak, Sarah Outen steps foot on French soil - arriving in Calais with the dawn
My cheeks are chapped; my neck muscles have a few knots they didn’t have before and my fingers are squealing from blister hot spots when I curl them into a fist – my body knows that it has paddled from London to France. My brain definitely does and it also keeps reminding me that we did it on very little sleep. I have slept for seven hours already today but know that as soon as my head hits the pillow I'll be dreaming again.
I am happy to report that at 6.30 this monring Justine and I paddled in with some dinky surf on to the beach in Calais after 8.5 hours paddling through the night across the English Channel, battling with sleep monsters, cold and more rough stuff than we had hoped for. We had paddled under Tower Bridge in London 65 hours and some 110 nautical miles earlier on Friday lunchtime.
The Channel was tough. Really tough. It is a notoriously busy shipping lane, meaning that we needed an escort boat to trail us – and get in between us and the big cargo ships and ferries honking north and south. It was cold, dark and rather rougher than we expected. Or at least than Justine expected. I hadn’t known what to expect – I was rather tired and a bit spaced out from the effects of an upset tum, just hoping that my insides would behave for the crossing. I wasn’t exactly assured when Justine mentioned, about an hour in, that had she realised just how rough these metre high waves were that she would have veto’d the crossing that night. Having just been slammed side on by a wave that nearly toppled me, I would rather not have heard that.
Each hour we rafted up alongside each other to feed and drink, pausing only briefly as the wind was cold and the tide was pushing us further north than we wanted, notching more miles to the log.
Two hours in and I finally felt settled – I was comfortable in the boat, enjoying the challenge of the beam on seas and loving the starscapes. With each hour that passed we got tireder and tireder, alternately descending into ourselves to paddle in silence or singing out aloud to keep ourselves awake. I could only remember school songs and musicals and so resorted to making up songs myself. Anyone on the outside would have thought we were going mad and Justine’s regular hallucinations would have confirmed that.
After five hours I was really struggling to keep my eyes open and even started questioning which way was up. Our judgement was slowed and at each food break we checked and double checked that the other was OK and that we had resealed hatches correctly.
As the glow of Calais on the horizon slowly turned into blobs of orange and then lights and shadows, I knew that we were on our way to ticking off the first leg of the journey. Then, as the grey dawn broke over the greyer sea, I laughed and hollered and gulped back the tears – I was really on the way now and had just ticked off the first step of the journey.
The Jolly Curgenven
It has also been wonderful to paddle with Justine – fun, interesting and useful to pick her brains on kayaking and filming matters too. I can’t wait to get back into Nelson and paddle alongside her between Russia and Japan later this year but, meanwhile, I have some cycling to do…
On Friday 1 April Sarah Outen set off from Tower Bridge at 1.07pm on her bid to loop the globe using just a kayak, bicycle and rowing boat. Her journey will see her travel across three continents, taking on the North Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic solo.
Friday 1st April 2011
I write this from Gravesend Rowing Club. Barefoot, in my thermals, headtorch illuminating the space in front of me. Justine, my Paddling Chief & Film Guru, has just tucked up into her sleeping bag on the floor behind me -where my own sleeping bag is laid out ready and waiting. We arrived at just after 7pm in the softest of spring sunsets – the air calm and mild, mirroring my own space inside, now calmed after the storm of the final preparations this last week.
Today has been so special – the finale of nearly two years hard work from my team and I to get L2L ready to go, and the start of the journey ahead. I have grinned from ear to ear most of the day and inside I have been singing, so happy and proud that we even made it to London. From here on in, the journey is the reward – but I am stoked that so many people have backed us and came out to Tower Bridge to cheer us on.
It’s 11.41pm and the alarm is set for 2am. This means that really I should be in my sleeping bag by now too. But I am on a bit of a high, so I won’t go before sharing with you a few thoughts from Day 1 of this 800 + day adventure.
First, a thank you – everyone and anyone who hooted, hollered or hugged me today – from near or afar. I am only here because of the collective efforts and energies and support of people and groups and businesses all over the world. This isn’t just my journey any more – it is for everyone.
So – some stats for Day 1:
* Miles paddled – 25(ish)
*Hours spent grinning – 24
*Hours spent sleeping – 0
* Mars bars eaten – none. Saving them for tomorrow.
* Bird species spotted – at least 6 (Shelduck, black headed gull, grey heron, fulmar, oystercatcher, cormorant)
Tomorrow we leave at 02.30am to try and make the most of the tide – the Thames Estuary starts flooding back in around 7am so we need to try and get to somewhere sensible like Whistable around then or shortly after, as being on a sandbank might not be the best fun. It’s looking like it will be blowing a fairly fresh and blowy southerly wind, so this should make for some interesting conditions as the water gets shallower and we shall probably get rather soggy with the splash.
Forgive the lack of coherent structure – although I am on a high, my brain is a little tired. So it is probably time I catch some sleep. It’s now officially tomorrow which means that in just 2 hours we get up to get back in the boats.
Onwards to the world my friends – we’ve a few more miles to go yet.
Happy happy days to you,
Sarah and Nelson (the kayak) x
PS Weather looks good for Monday – we hope to make the crossing to Calais, France – from Dover or Ramsgate
PPS Who made the caramel shortbread that we found on Justine’s boat before departure? It is delicious!
Sarah is taken through the mechanics of changing an o-ring on her freshwater-making machine by her Jim MacDonald - Sarah will use the desalinator during her epic solo row across the North Pacific Ocean, which begins in March 2012.
Sarah takes her friend Claire to Ireland to clock up some miles on her new bike and to train for the mammoth 7,800 miles she intends to cycle in 22 weeks from France to Russia on the first leg of London2London:via the world.
Sarah travels to Cornwall to meet her row boat for the first time. Sarah's last boat, Serendipity, was a girl, but Sarah is sure that her North Pacific vessel is a boy and has named him 'Gulliver'
Gulliver will take Sarah across the North Pacific (in 2012) and across the Atlantic (2013).
Sarah's epic London2London via the world 'loop' of the globe will start on Friday 1 April with Sarah getting into her new kayak, which she has called Nelson - her "man for the trip", as she's described the boat. Nelson will take her down the Thames and across the Channel. They will then meet up again at the tip of Russia where Sarah will kayak and cycle her way to Japan via Sakhalin Island.
This is the story of when Sarah met Nelson for the first time. It was pretty much love at first sight...
I’m Sarah Outen, I’m 25 and I’m about to embark on a massive journey that will see me loop right around the planet solo, using just a kayak, bike and rowing boat...
I’m Sarah Outen, I’m 25 and I’m about to embark on a massive journey that will see me loop right around the planet solo, using just a kayak, bike and rowing boat.