Jono contacted me and asked if i was up for a distance sup. After looking at the weather forecast we decided it would be perfect for a downwinder from Queenboro. In to the thames estuary and up to Gravesend.
With the forecast giving the wind 10 to 12 knots due east. this would make the wind directly behind us for about 2 thirds of our Paddle to Gravesend. Our launch spot was going to be Minster, However being a weekend in August with clear blue skies the traffic turned out to be a nightmare. So we decided to change to Queenboro instead.
After a good start to our paddle. We struggled to get around the shallows leaving the river Medway and in to the Thames itself. We then thought it would be plain sailing with the wind directly behind us and some wave gliding down to gravesend. Unfortunatly the swell direction was coming from more the north. So this made it into a very bumpy ride down the thames.
Unfortunatly our perfect forecast turned in to a 5 and a half hour endurance paddle up the thames. Not out finest hour on the race sups however this was a bit of the thames that neither of us had paddled so it had to be done. Although we both agreed neither of us is likely to be paddling it in the near future..
You cannot have it epic everyday otherwise what would be epic….
I got a call from Jono on saturday morning to see if i wanted to do a distance SUP paddle on the sunday. John was doing a two way over the weekend. Leaving his car at Queenborough on the saturday. Then paddling over to Faversham. Where i was going to meet him and we were going to paddle back to queenborough on the sunday.
The weather forecast for the sunday was perfect. Bright and sunny with a light North Eaterly breeze. I met Jono at his friends boat at favershams Standard quay. On which Jono had spent the night. We were going to leave from Standard Quay. However there was still no water in the creek when i arrived. So we revised our plans and decided to leave from Harty ferry. As there is water their at all states of the tide.
We left Harty ferry at around 2pm in lovely bright sunshine with a light breeze behind us. Exactly what distance Supping is all about. This tripwas not about eating up the miles. This one was more about soaking up the sunshine and tranquility. We still made good progress though and on our way decided to make a small detour up the creek to Conyer. What i little gem Conyer is Quiet peaceful and picturesque. We were just about to head back out of Conyer when we spotted a long time friend of ours on his boat. Chris Calthrope was just getting ready to go out on his sailing boat for a sunday afternoon play in the summer sun. We had a quick chat and catch up with Chris. Then we were back on our way.
The rest of the paddle up to Queenborough Was very peaceful apart from a short time where we met some people on jet skis that looked like they had bought them but did not really know what they wanted to do with them. They seemed to be going round in circles aimlessly. Once out of site and sound of the jet skis. We had a quiet paddle up to Queenborough. With the wind just building as we got to our destinatioin. We arrived at Queenborough at about 6.15 in the evening. Not a cracking pace but a great paddle in great weather. Possibly the most pleasent paddle i have had in a long time.
A friend of mine Danger John lives on his canal boat near the lock at East Farleigh on the river Medway. He loves doing long sup paddles and after looking at the wind and weather conditions on the 16th October thought it would be perfect conditions for the longest sup paddle yet. A paddle from where his boat is at East Farleigh all the way down the river Medway. Out in to the Thames estuary and round the corner to Minster.
I will admit i did have a bit of a feeling that John was pushing his luck if he thought that we could stand up paddle all that way down the medway in one tide and get round the corner at Sheerness before the tide turned and became a hinderance and not a help. We were going on a neap tide anyway so the ebb running in our favour was not going to be that strong anyway. We got our paddleboards ready the night before along with the kit that we were going to take with us. we did this because high water at Allington lock in the morning was 7am. we wanted to be there for then but had a 4,5m sup to get there. So we got up at 5.30am had a quick coffee and we were on the water by 6.
The start was dark and raining quite hard. The rain was supposed to of cleared by midnight. This was not the start we had hoed for. By the time we had suped to Allington Lock though dawn had broken and the rain had stopped. So things were starting to go in our favour.
we left Allington Lock just after high water. This being the start of the tidal part of the river Medway meant we started on the high water slack tide. We now had 24.5m of the Medway to Paddle to get to Sheerness.
We supped for about 2 hours and then decided it was time to stop for some food and drink. So when we saw a pontoon with not to many boats tied to it decided it was the perfect place to have a breakj. There had been very little ebb tide to help us to this point. However why we were sitting on the pontoon we could see the tide starting to pull away which would now give us an extra knot of speed over the ground.
After paddling for about another hour we got to the m2 motorway bridge. This was a good feeling as we new we were well on our way to rochester and chatham. Which is roughly half way down the tidal part of the Medway.
After about another hour our long distance sup took us to Rochester castle. we had the full flow of the ebb tide with us by now and were picking up speed with the ride helping us. Supping past Rochester castle was a real joy as the views were great and the sun had come out and turned it in to a glorious day.
You cant sup past the russian submarine without giving it a pass by. Once we had paddled past the submarine we made another stop for food and drink on the last pontoon we could find near Chatham and then paddled off towards our exit point of the Medway at Sheerness.
It took us another couple of Hours to paddle down near sheerness where we stopped and sat on our boards for our last fuel stop. We were both getting tired by now and decided to push on to our destination at Minster before the flood tide came through and slow us down.
We arrived at Minster at 1.50pm which was 7 hours 50 minutes after we left East Farleigh. We covered 31 miles and that is the longest stand up paddle i have done to date. 30 miles is probably about the limit i would do in a day. We could of paddled further but there would of been no enjoyment in doing so.In my eyes that means there is no point in doing it. Johns sup is a 12.6 raceboard and mine is a 12.6 starboard astro touring inflatable sup. There was a great sense of achievement of arriving at Minster and the great thing about doing a car drop is that you have to get to your car to be able to get back home again WAHOO.