You have just landed on that perfect golden beach with the warm glow of a setting sun on your back. As you carry your sea kayak that short distance to your waiting car you reflect back on a day which has given you seals, bird life, sea stacks, arches, lunch on a deserted island and sunshine all day. This was all done with a gentle breeze at your back and the tide giving you that constant push to the finish. Now all that is left is to tie on the kayak and drive to the pub en route home for a well earned beer and chips. It has been another one of those perfect days out in your sea kayak.
The above may sound more of a dream than reality, however with a bit of planning and knowledge you too could be having days like this, or better!?. So here are a few top tips to help you plan that perfect day trip in your sea kayak.
As with most activities in the U.K. the weather is the most important factor, and for us on the sea it is essential to plan with this in mind. The more sources of forecast you watch the better overview you get, but at the end of the day the local inshore waters forecast is the most important. This can be got from ceefax, marinecall, coastguard, local papers and radio to name but a few. The most important factor will be the wind, ensure that it is not too strong, no more than force four would be reasonable, up to force two ideal. Then check the direction so you can go with it.
After this depending how much you enjoy a tan the amount of sun and temperature add to the days enjoyment. Sunshine always brings out the best photographs from your trips.
Choosing a section of coastline that inspires you is next, whether it is from recommendation, reading an article or seeing it on the map. With this chosen it is time to get the maps, tide timetables and pilots out to plan the best route. Firstly to work out the tides and tidal movement from the pilot and tide timetable is essential. With this done you then have all the information you need to ensure it is going to be a great day, it is just a matter of putting it together. Firstly decide on roughly what distance you wish to paddle and what you want to see and visit on the coastline. With this decided, go back and check where the wind is coming from and if there is any tidal movement, which direction it is going.
This confirmed it is a matter of locating a place to start and finish that fits in your time span to have wind and tide with you, a comfortable distance to paddle and you get to explore everything along the coastline. When finalizing start and finish points consider how far it is to the sea to carry the sea kayaks and whether high or low tide has an effect on this, as this again could effect your choice to ensure the perfect day. The only thing left to finalize is transport or a car shuttle to ensure minimum time is wasted or spent hanging around waiting.
The final consideration to ensure the perfect day is whether certain times of year or tide are better for your trip. If you are paddling in an area that is well known for its bird life then spring and early summer have got to be the best time to see the thousands of nesting birds. If it is seals you want to see on your trip, then timing it so you are looking for them at low water is best. That way they will be hauled out on the rocks and just sitting there wanting to be photographed. Finally if it is the faster water, exciting tidal races or maximum push from the tide you are after, then make sure you are planning your trip on the spring tides to give maximum fun.
All the above add up to one of those truly special kayaking moments. In my diary each year I will have one or two trips which are only possible on a couple of weekends a year to ensure they are perfect. These are penciled in and as the weekend draws close it is just look out for the weather forecasts to hope it will be perfect. If it is, then I know it's going to be a kayak trip of a lifetime, if not, then I'll wait until the following year for perfection.