Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Stage 5 - Aberystwyth to New Quay

There are times when you know you're pushing the liimits, and we certainly did that in Aberystwyth. Setting off at 8am, in the first attempted launch off the beach the rear cockpit filled with water and almost rolled us.

The second attempt was more successful but almost broke the rudder. When we broke through the breakers though, it levelled off. So we thought. With a gusting 24mph wind whipping around the harbour walls and the ebbing tide, the waves were furious. Our highly skilled paddle-boarding companion for the leg, Andy Campbell, was the closest thing to a human gimbal we've ever seen. Riding four foot waves stood up is no mean feat!

But sitting or standing there was no escaping the enormity of what we'd got ourselves into. As we got out into the unprotected waters beyond the harbour we were hit broadside by a monster wave which cleared both our heads by two foot. This was it, we were going in. And with little chance of self-rescue, a coastguard call would have been one  of very few available options.

And this is exactly what happened. But we were spectators when the coastguard did arrive. As was reported later in the day, two men were knocked out of their powerboat and swept out. One was left in serious condition in hospital, the other wasn't so lucky.

Eery crewless boat with inshore lifeboat chasing

The reality of sea we had just faced hit home very hard. The Aber Kayakers met us on the harbour and as we watched the drama with helicopter and in-shore lifeboats in action, the paddling day was at an end.

Later though, the wind died down and we still had three hours of the ebb left, we took to the water in Aberaeron, heading for New Quay with Andy. A fantastic paddle followed. We were joined half way by fellow kayaker Tim Richards of New Quay Yacht Club. It was a glorious end to what had been a very scary day.

With Andy and Tim after landing in New Quay

Today we set off for Newport Sands, with Tim and Ali Davies of NQYC accompanying us with kayak and RIB respectively. This should be a spectacular paddle.

Stay tuned!
Ben and Tom

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Stage 4 - Barmouth to Aberystwyth

Anticipation is everything, especially when you're expecting to get a 15mph southerly wind to the face. Add in the knee-knocking prospect of the open water passage being an hour more than the tide window, today's solo launch was tense to say the least...

The plan for the day was getting to Tywyn to meet Oak, fill up with pasty, have a leg stretch and move on to Borth. Borth never happened. With the headwind, we were forced into the cover of Tonfanau headland before getting to Tywyn, making about 3 knots headway - less than half our average of the previous day!

Post-Barmouth selfie

Then, after passing the unpredictable chop of the fast-flowing Dovey estuary and losing a GoPro in the process (sorry Ed!), a glorious sight... Aberystwyth, we thought. Then we got closer and Aber's seafront edifices seemed to have shrunk. Salty-eye can do strange things to a man's vision!

Having passed Borth(ystwyth), we headed for the Aber actual. But by this time the tide had turned and it felt like we were going backwards. But then, an even better sight, the amusement arcade on the pier. They have the best 2p slot machines in the west there.

By this stage though, 7km from Aberystwyth, having battled through 10km of the flood tide against us, fatigue was really setting in and it was do or die...possibly, literally.
As we edged closer we could again see Oak's van on the shore. We've never been so pleased to see that man or his van or the Belle Vue Royal Hotel.

Tomorrow a potential force four looms so we're in for an early start to meet Andy Campbell, a local kayaker met through Sea Kayaking Cymru, and half a dozen members of Aber Kayakers at Llanystryd, en route to New Quay.

Dear Derek Brockway, please send good news...
Stay tuned!

Ben and Tom

Monday, 29 August 2016

Stage 3 - Abersoch to Barmouth

This was always going to be a challenge, and today's paddle was certainly worthy of the label. Starting off in Abersoch at 8am with Stuart of Sea Kayaking Anlesey fame and some gigantic box jellyfish for company, we were greeted bit glassy water and no wind to speak of. Ideal conditions for a paddle. Except this was no ordinary paddle, we were attempting to cross from Abersoch to Barmouth - a potential 10-hour nonstop crossing! Thankfully sense prevailed...

We decided instead to hopscotch and handrail (one of which is an official kayakers' term) our way to Barmouth via the picturesque Shell Island. At which point we were joined by Tony "Pebbles" Gardener - partner to Kylie who joined us on the first day from Caernarfon to Trefor.

Tony Pebbles in his Stratos

It was great to see Tony again at Shell Island after obliterating the largest pasty this side of St. Ives, paddling the surf with him into Abersoch, to be greeted by Kylie, son Tom and Pebbles the very enthusiastic Jack Russell.

And just to add that extra bit of shine to an already glistening day, we were met on the beach by Sam, secretary of the Merioneth Yacht Club to meet their wonderful president, Wendy who served us both with two bottles of Madog's Ale which we happily absorbed while taking in the spectacular view over the other bar.

Bar view from Merioneth Yacht Club

Tomorrow is possibly the biggest challenge so far - Barmouth to Aberystwyth in a seven-hour tide window and zero landing spots past the 2/3 poin at Borth. Oh, and another 10-15mph southerly in the offing. Brave pills at the ready..!

Stay tuned!
Ben and Tom

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stage 2 - Porth Oer to Abersoch

Sometimes changable weather can work in your favour. From what was predicted to be a force three in the long range forecast was much more gentle in reality but gentle comes on a long sliding scale when the words Bardsey Sound are thrown in the mix.

Paddling past Bardsey was quite an experience with back currents whipping the sea up which was even better with dolphins in the distance and the background woops of Geth Roberts who had joined us for the second day, this time with his friend Richard.

We paddled as a foursome until the edge of Aberdaron Bay where Geth and Richard made their way to land while we took on the bay at Hell's Mouth.

Geth and Richard departing in Aberdaron Bay

The bay took the best part of three hours, while doing battle with a 10mph southerly wind and a decent swell before we got to the seemingly neverending headland into Abersoch, peppered with rampant jet-ski types, where we were incredibly grateful to catch sight of Oak's van ready and waiting to load our trusty steed. From there it was off to our night stop at the Victoria Hotel in Pwllheli for some much needed R&R and patching up of skinless shoulders.

Next, the mamouth crossing to Barmouth, with our pal Stuart from Sea Kayaking Anglesey to guide us on what could be a 10-hour non-stop paddle!

Stay tuned!
Ben and Tom

Stage 1 - Caernarfon to Porth Oer

What an incredible start to the journey around Wales, with 31 testing miles under our belts and seeing a sight which is a once in a decade for even seasoned kayakers like Geth Roberts who we were very glad to have with us to experience the day.

After a lovely night with Mo and John from the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, we were met outside the Anglesey Arms by David Southern and Kylie Matthews from Sea Kayaking Cymru to start our epic leg - which turned our to be more than 30 miles! Dr David and Kylie joined stop in Trefor where we were met by our trusty road crewman, Oak and the the lovely Southern family.

With Geth at Porth Oer - 8pm finish

Leaving David and Kylie at Trefor, we went onto Nefyn with Geth Roberts, stopping for some much needed flapjack. With the seas still glassy we decided to make hay and made the final three-hour push to Porth Oer, where, we saw one of the rarest sites on these shores - a pod of Risso dolphins!

What a day that was. Today we are joined by Geth for the next stage from Porth Oer to Abersoch. We can't wait.

Ben and Tom

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Escape Watersports: Making it all possible

Why did Escape Watersports sponsor Ben and Tom?

Back in November 2012, my daughter Morgan was born 10 weeks prematurely weighing in at just 2.3lb.

Fast forward two years and Morgan is having tests to see if her development was 'normal'. During these tests we found out that she has mild cerebral palsy which affects her left side. 

We are very lucky, you may have to concentrate to spot her disability but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to maintain her movement in a 'normal' way.

Gus and Morgan out for a paddle

As part of our journey through diagnoses and treatments, we were lucky enough to be accepted on to an intensive treatment block with Bobath. 

Bobath has given us the confidence, skills, and care pathway to monitor, treat and progress Morgan's movement.

As a business owner in the recreational sector I have received many sponsorship requests, and I'm afraid to say that we are unable to support most. 

However, Ben and Tom were different. They made the effort, were determined and had a solid plan in place.

As the charities being supported and the challenge was something we had been involved closely with before, it was an easy decision to make.

Tom and Ben have worked very hard not only with the paddling side of things, but also all the bits that go on behind the scenes which take up most of the time.

My wife Claire and I wish you both all the best!

Boss - Escape Watersports

 Please donate, just £1 could make a difference!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Dream big and full of ale

Every now and again we all experience moments in our lives that dramatically shape our futures. No, I’m not on about the time I witnessed Ben fall 6ft through some stairs and smash a chair to bits, or about the time that I stopped him from doing a Jimmy Hendrix and subsequently put his phone through the wash. 

The moment in question came about as a result of a conversation Ben and I had about purchasing a fishing kayak... 8 pints and two bottles of wine later and we had decided that we were going to kayak around Wales!

The day after most drunken conversations people either don’t remember the conversations they had, or they choose not to remember them. For Ben and I this was different. We realised that we both had the same goal; to do something—anything—to promote disability enablement and equality. And what better way could we do that than to partake in something that would challenge us both to our limits, on an equal basis, not as individuals but as a team.

We are now just days away from setting off on our trip and it is simply staggering to think how far we have come. We have learnt to kayak in a pool, reservoir and on the sea. We have learnt to roll and self-rescue, undertaken radio and safety courses, learnt about coastal navigation, set up and updated numerous forms of social media, sent thousands of emails and created our own logo and events. And much to my displeasure we have both spent countless hours in the gym over the past 6 months. 

This trip would not, however, of become a reality if wasn’t for the kindness, generosity, and selflessness of a number of very special people. Wales' kayaking and sailing communities have truly stepped up to the mark with offers of sea support, accommodation, fundraising and even promotion. They have helped inspire us with their unwavering enthusiasm and made us believe that this was all possible, even when we doubted it was. A couple of groups deserve a special mention though. 

This trip would simply not have been possible without the support of both Escape Watersports and Croesyceiliog Canoe club. 

Both Croesyceiliog and Escape have provided us with lots of equipment, hours of expert advice and backed us from the very beginning. They have somehow managed to turn us into something resembling credible kayakers who also, on occasion, actually look quite good doing it.              

The last, and most important person to mention in all of this, is Ben.

There have been times over the last 18 months where he has driven me mad with his general stubbornness and highly speculative ideas, but he is the ultimate example of disability enablement. 

At no point in this trip, or in his life, has he ever let his disability define him and I have never heard him use it as an excuse. Ben doesn't have it easy, but he'll never tell you that. Going in to this trip he is fitter than me, physically stronger than me, and more determined to succeed than anyone I have ever met.

There is not anyone else (disability or not) who I would rather be doing this challenge with.
It goes without saying that when we launch off Anglesey on Saturday we will be apprehensive and full of adrenaline. 

We know it’s going to be hard but we will also know that just by getting to the start line we have already won our race. 


 Please donate, just £1 could make a difference!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

There's a map for that

It's now officially one week and some days until we set off on the big paddle from Anglesey to Cardiff! So this seemed like a good time to share the map of the trip with markers (tastefully pixelated) and notes for each stage.

We are looking for backup support on stages 9 to 11 particularly so if any experienced kayakers, sailors or amphibious car owners want to join us on those or any other legs, we would be glad to hear from you.

Here are some details for each day of the trip with possible exit (and entry points) along they way - which are accessible by car for anyone wanting to join us for part of a stage.

Anyone who wants to get involved can get in touch on Facebook or email

Route plan:

Stage 1 – August 27th
Newborough to Nefyn
Estimated launch time: 10:15 am
Tide: High water at 5:51pm. Against one knot tide
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Dinas/Morfa (5.3m)
·         Exit 2: Clynnog Fawr (9.2m)
·         Exit 3: Trefor (11.6m)
Notes: Weak tide against us. Land in Morfa Nefyn, second bay

Stage 2 – August 28th
Nefyn to Abersoch
Estimated launch time: 6:00am
Tide: Ebb tide between 6:30am-12:30am.
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Porth Towyn (3.1m)
·         Exit 2: Porth Oer (10m) Make weather judgement, not a lot of stop offs after
·         Exit 3: Aberdaron (17.5m)
·         Exit 4: Hell’s Mouth (25.2m)

Stage 3 – August 29th
Abersoch to Barmouth
Estimated launch time: 8:00am
Tide: High water at 6:40am. Flood through Barmouth at 12:51pm for six hours. Finish leg by 6:41pm.
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Pwllheli (5.5m)
·         Exit 2: Cricceth (14m)
·         Exit 3: Harlech (18.6m) big beach

Stage 4 – August 30th
Barmouth to Aberystwyth
Estimated launch time: 11:00am
Tide: Two knot ebb tide near springs starts at 11:37am
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Tywyn (11.3m)
·         Exit 2: Ynyslas (16.8m) Make weather call at Borth

Stage 5 – August 31st
Aberystwyth to New Quay
Estimated launch time: 9:15am
Tide: High water at 6:42pm. Ebb tide at 10:24am
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Llanystryd (7m)
·         Exit 2: Llanon (9.3m)
·         Exit 3: Aberaeron (13.7m)
·         Exit 4: Cei Bach Beach (16.4m)
Notes: Meet at beach off Pen Yr Angor Road. Milford Haven tide times start at Aberystwyth. Not many alternative stops


Stage 6 – September 2nd
New Quay to Fishguard
Estimated launch time: 10:45am
Tide: Ebb starts at 11:30 approx.
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Aberporth (10.3m)
·         Exit 2: Poppit Sands (11m) Club to join?
·         Exit 3: Newport Sands (26.4m)

Stage 7 – September 3rd
Fishguard to St Davids
Estimated launch time: 11:30am
Tide: Ebb starts at 12:15pm.
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Abercastle/Tregwynt (11.6m)
·         Exit 2: Porth Gain (24.4m) switch for club
·         Exit 3: Abereiddy (17.4m)

Stage 8 – September 4th
St Davids/Whitesands to Dale
Estimated launch time: 11:00am
Tide: Ebb starts at 12:15pm
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Caerfai Bay (7.8m) possible start
·         Exit 2: Newgale (13.2m)
·         Exit 3: Broad Haven (18.5m)

Stage 9 – September 5th
Dale to Tenby
Estimated launch time: 9:00am
Tide: Ebb starts at 9:18am
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Gravel Bay (6.4m)
·         Exit 2: Bosherston (17.4m)
·         Exit 3: Freshwater East (21m)
·         Exit 4: Lydstep Beach (27m)


Stage 10 – September 7th
Tenby to Rhossili
Estimated launch time: 1pm
Tide: High tide at 10:05am. Tide with us at 3:00pm
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Saundersfoot/Amroth (5-6m)
·         Exit 2: Pendine (11m)
·         Exit 3: Pembrey (20m)
·         Exit 4: Hillend (26m) best landing spot, possible camp?

Stage 11 – September 8th
Rhossili to Porthcawl
Estimated launch time: 8:30am
Tide: TBC
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Newslade Bay (6.5m)
·         Exit 2: Port Eynon (11.4m)
·         Exit 3: Oxwich (14.5m)
·         Exit  4: Mumbles/Langland Bay (24m)

Stage 12 – September 9th
Porthcawl to Barry
Estimated launch time: 8:00am (possible launch at 5:00am)
Tide: TBC
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: Southerndown (4m)
·         Exit 2: Atlantic College (10m) Halfway stop

Stage 13 – September 10th
Barry to Cardiff
Estimated launch time: 9:15am
Tide: TBC
Stop options:
·         Exit 1: St Mary’s Well (5m)
·         Exit 2: Penarth (7.5m)

Come and join us on the water, on the road or at the celebration party on September 10th at the Lookout Cafe, Cardiff Bay!

More updates coming soon. Stay tuned!

Ben and Tom 

 Please donate, just £1 could make a difference!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Event on the horizon

One month can seem like a long while. When you're knee deep in overdraft and yesterday was payday or you have carob in your advent calendar. But when there's four weeks until you plan to have paddled around a country, a month seems very short indeed. 

But that's exactly how long we have until we'll arrive back in Cardiff Bay after navigating our way around the Welsh coast. 

Planning for the trip is now in the final stages and thankfully, with the support of kayaking, sailing and rowing clubs all the way from Caernarfon to Cardiff we have the support boats we need to make the trip a reality! Without the kindness and generosity of the many, many volunteers who have come on board to lend a hand all this wouldn't be possible - thank you all!

With the weather on our side we will be complete the 13 stages north to south on September 10th when we'll be arriving at the Lookout Cafe in Cardiff Bay for considerable amounts of refreshment and we would like to see as many of our supporters there as possible.

Tickets are £5 - 100% of which goes to the three charities! There will be live music, a raffle, a bar (obviously), the World of Boats exhibition and we may even be hijacking a barbecue. Check out the Facebook event page, come and help us celebrate, we'd love to see you there! 

In the meantime we would be glad if any more experienced boaty types would like to join us on one or more of the stages of the trip. Join us on the water, at the party or both. Route map coming soon...

Stay tuned!

Ben and Tom

 Please donate, just £1 could make a difference!