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Andrew Hill

Irish Sea Crossing By Kayak

Total raised so far £0.00

Target £0.00

Total plus Gift Aid: £0.00

Raised offline: £0.00

My story

[p]North Channel - Irish Sea Crossing - Scotland To Ireland By Kayak[/p][p]My colleague, Vincent Haywood and I are aiming to cross the Irish Sea by Kayak this summer 2020; subject to us surviving our training and a good weather window... with a calm sea state. [/p][p]The date will be sometime in July or August as we have recently attempted and failed on the 2nd October 2019. This is subject to change and a favourable weather window, but we hope to have it completed by then.[/p][p]It is 22 miles across the Irish Sea and the two charities we have chosen really mean a lot to us. [/p][p]Wooden Spoon is a great charity that really helps children with local projects: [/p][p][i]"[/i][b][i]Wooden Spoon is a charity that changes children’s lives through the power of rugby. Each year we fund around 70 projects, from community programmes and specialist playgrounds to medical treatment centres and sensory rooms. Since 1983, we’ve distributed over £26 million to more than 700 projects, helping more than a million children."[/i][/b][/p][p]Get Exploring Trust, enables people to get out there and take on challenges that they wouldn't be able to do without support. In fact, without Get Exploring's help we would be unable to complete this challenge. For their support and help, we will be eternally grateful:[/p][p][b][i]"The Get Exploring Trust was founded in 2016 to offer small to medium size grants to young people from difficult financial backgrounds to help them access the outdoors, adventurous training and the remarkable character, physical and mental well being benefits these experiences can offer."[/i][/b][/p][p]We aim to raise as much money as possible and split the funds 50/50 between our two chosen charities.[/p][p]Please give generously. [/p][p]I have calculated our joint media reach on FB, Linked in, etc. and if everyone we are connected with gave only £10 we would smash over £2k+. [/p][p]Please help us in some small way to change young people and children's lives.[/p][p][b][u]Update!! Ok We Are Set July or August 2020!![/u][/b][/p][p]Now Covid 19 rules and restrictions are relaxing; Vinnie and I are aiming to smash this challenege either in July or August weather permitting and believe me we will be keeping a very close eye on this after our last debacle. [/p][p][b]If you have given before... thank you so much and would you give just a little more this year please? [/b][/p][p]If you haven't then believe me it is worth it, it's like investing in our personal downfall, so it must be worth the money... even more so if you don't like me! Come on guys dig deep for our two awesome causes. [/p][p][b][u]We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat! [/u][/b][/p][p][url=https://youtu.be/rTMxZxI7-SQ]https://youtu.be/rTMxZxI7-SQ[/url][/p][p][b][u]Update - Irish Sea Crossing Attempt By Kayak 03/10/19[/u][/b][/p][p]So, we arrived at Portpatrick at 0134hrs yesterday morning 02/10/19 ready to head out and smash this challenge we had set ourselves. We decided to get our heads down for a couple of hours and get up to pack kit etc. at 0400hrs. After Vincent Haywood finally stopped messing with his car alarm (we kept setting off the sensors moving around in our sleeping bags looking like big green maggots) we got off to sleep.[/p][p]Alarm rudely woke us up on the dot at 0400hrs and after much protestation from me demanding another 5 minutes and refusing to believe I’d even had a couple of hours sleep; we got up and started packing. I say “we” but in reality Vincent was doing much of the sorting out, while I took care of the real essentials; namely making a brew and cooking up some army ration (I had earlier purloined from a quartermaster friend still in) beans and sausage to make sure we headed off with full bellies.[/p][p]“We” checked – rechecked and packed kit, then took the kayak down to the beach whilst we finished off our brews and breakfast. It weighed an absolute ton. The kayak...not our breakfast 😁.[/p][p]I mentioned to Vince that it looked like a mill pond out there; to which he replied “Andy we are in a harbour… it is supposed to be like a xxxxxxx mill pond!” Oh… how we laughed![/p][p]I thought it prudent to do a last-minute weather check. Here in lies the lesson! The shipping forecast (which as the name implies relates to the sea state for shipping, ships being somewhat larger than your average Kayak) stated “moderate to rough.” I then went on to the maritime meteo-consult to check the weather and sea state, as only a few hours earlier conditions had looked perfect and that is what had prompted us to go up and make the attempt in the first place. (see screenshot in the pics)[/p][p]Earlier we had predicted 0.2m waves and calm wind no more than 6km/h. The wind had dramatically changed within a couple of hours. It was now forecast for 16-26kmh winds which worryingly were highlighted in red; it had occurred to us that the colour red usually means danger or certainly not a good thing. Or was that just in accounts? We shrugged and cracked on.[/p][p]We walked to the harbour wall and looked out to sea. We could see the lights of Belfast Harbour and the entrance to Belfast Lough. The sky was clear and our destination with Donaghadee / Copeland lighthouse alive, well and warning ships off in the distance was clearly visible; but close up we couldn’t see much more than our hands in front of our faces. The tide was going out quickly, which we wanted to take advantage of; but we made a decision to sit tight until we had a little more light and make an informed decision later on, which we though would be best made at around 0600hrs.[/p][p]After checking and re-checking all our safety equipment again, sat phone check, flares check (not sure my trousers would save us but there you go) marine two way radios check, life jackets check, dry suits check, it was time. Do we go, or do we withdraw?[/p][p]We knew we had little more opportunity to get this challenge done before winter set in and we had an awful lot of people supporting us and willing us on. We didn’t want to let anyone down nor did we want to wait, we had raised a lot of money and our confidence was high. Coastguard were given our tracker details, route and ETA in Donaghadee. We go![/p][p]We paddled out of the harbour in darkness and headed out of Portpatrick just as the first signs of light were breaking over the mountains behind us. We were confident the sea at this point was calm and we had no qualms if it remained this way that we would achieve our mission.[/p][p]I was navigating, and Vincent had his GPS on his phone. We needed to follow a bearing of 188 degrees for the first hour to take advantage of what was a strong Northerly ebbing and spring tide to keep us on course. I had a major job on controlling the rudder with my feet as the tide was pulling hard on it trying to push us North towards Iceland (not the supermarket!). As I braced my leg hard (almost sending me into an instant cramp which I considered wouldn’t be sustainable for the whole crossing) and pushed down on the rudder pedal; we did pretty much head where we needed to go. The outgoing tide helped us along and we were rocketing along at a good 6-7kmh. All good so far.[/p][p]A couple of miles out to sea with Portpatricks harbour lights dwindling in the distance and Northern Ireland not looking much closer the wind picked up as did the seas choppiness. We would now have to concentrate. We dug in deep and paddled a bit more intensely; both of us wondering if perhaps the shipping forecast was appropriate to us. As we were actually on the Irish sea…we guessed it probably was![/p][p]We pressed on and as the sun came up the reality of the sea state was becoming more obvious, by now waves were at our shoulder height…mmmm this could get interesting. As we were making good progress and we were happy we could take the current sea state, we paddled on quite content albeit with a bit more purpose i.e. let’s get this done before it gets worse. As we left the relative safety of Scotland's coastal waters we said an abrupt hello to what we now know is the back end of Hurricane Lorenzo and the start of today 03/10/19 Northern Ireland's yellow storm warning. The wind hit us sideways on...blowing North to South like a wall of cold air and whipped the sea into a maelstrom (I googled the word and it is perfectly apt 😊). Waves by now were reaching well over our head and breaking on the tops. We couldn’t see beyond the walls of water around us as we were pitched up 20ft only to be abruptly dumped 20ft lower into a deep trough of sea water just seconds later. This was getting really interesting.[/p][p]It occurred to us that the Irish Sea and unpredictability were not often unrelated. Things were actually getting quite serious now. We could see a ferry in the distance on one of the occasions we were actually lifted up 20ft; heading into Belfast Lough and both of us were secretly thinking, that was probably a better mode of transport for this crossing.[/p][p]Vince said “I’m not comfortable Andy” to which I replied “I’m not comfortable Vince” we were now bobbing up and down like a very tiny cork in a very large and very cold jacuzzi! Vince said “let’s head back we need to can this” to which I replied “I’m not turning around in this wind Vinnie…I’ve seen Moana...you know what happens when she heads beyond the reef!” After a little deliberation we decided this was not meant to be today and I Laid almost on my back and slammed my left foot down on the rudder to bring us about. The kayak turned very slowly 180 degrees as I pushed down on the pedal until my foot went into spasm. I yelped like a small puppy and my left knee smashed into the underside of the deck as I tried to undo the painful muscle cramp. As we were performing this miraculous feat of naval maneuvering a wave which would not have looked out of place being surfed in Hawaii, hit us and propelled us forward at great speed, spun us and turned us over. We were now upside down with our backsides welded to a kayak hull in the middle of the Irish Sea, looking for all intent and purpose like washing on full spin!! Hurricane Lorenzo’s name belied his seemingly aggressive nature. We pulled our spray decks off and swam out from underneath the kayak. We surfaced, looked at each other and laughed. Well this was a challenge. Now...How do we get back in? First we had to right the kayak. We swam underneath to the opposite side and pushed upwards until it was the right way up. All the time buffeted by these huge waves. At least the sun was out. We discussed our predicament coolly and realised we had to get back in our now water logged kayak and start bailing. Easier said than done! I managed to blow up a float and attach it to the end of my paddle which made a decent leverage point to get back in. I was in.[/p][p]I looked at Vincent who was still in the water, elbows in cockpit holding on for his life. He had his phone in his hand being alternately lashed by waves and kayak. I asked what he was doing and he said “I’m just letting Zara (his wife) know we are turning around.” We started laughing at the irony of this comment and I replied with “come on you need to get in.” He was struggling because of the waves and swell and after many repeated attempts we realised this was getting ridiculous. I meanwhile was trying to bail out the kayak using all available means. Each time I emptied; another wave would come crashing over and fill it back up. The situation was dire. I looked at Vinnie and said ”we aren’t getting out of this without help...get on the tracker and push the button; whilst you’re at it...DO NOT...under any circumstances accidentally face time your Zara… or we are both in very real trouble!” Again the crazy irony of that comment made us laugh even harder.[/p][p]Vinnie contacted the coastguard via the marine radios (which very handily float) and as he pressed the SOS button on the tracker (which went to the Texas international distress centre in the US; who then in turn, directly called the Belfast coastguard) he continued to text Zara. Once he had finished texting he now had a tacker in one hand and a radio in the other. All whilst still in the water. I meanwhile had made a makeshift outrigger out of a float and a paddle which kept us stable....albeit still full of water.[/p][p]Another huge wave hit us and Vinnie lost the tracker. At this point anyone following us online...lost us (apologies now for any panic caused) and the tracker went to a watery grave having fulfilled its purpose magnificently. Vincent gave our location to the coastguard who immediately dispatched the Portpatrick lifeboat to our location.[/p][p]I surveyed the scene. Hats, clothing from our (we now realise are not as advertised) dry bags littered the scene. Had we actually been torpedoed? I could swear I saw Leonardo Di Caprio pass me on a floating door.[/p][p]We sat there for around half an hour being lashed by what we now know is Sea State 5 waves (even expert and seasoned kayakers which we are not, do not go out beyond Sea State 4 by the way) The lifeboat asked us to launch a flare (so now I had to lose my trousers!) and as Vinnie reached for them on the front of his cockpit, we were lifted up again by a wave some 20ft high. I saw the Trent class lifeboat powering towards us and raised my paddle which was promptly blown out of my hands, so I continued waving, feeling quite self conscious at my damsel in distress persona! They turned and headed our way. “They have seen us Vinnie!” I squealed like some kind of RNLI groupie “and they are heading over.”[/p][p]The lifeboat was being tossed around like a kids bath toy so they dispatched a rib off of the back of it. They picked Vinnie up then lashed a line to the kayak and I jumped in and swam to the returning rib. The lifeboat towed the kayak and a chastened Vinnie and I were welcomed aboard the boat by the RNLI coxswain.[/p][p]A big, bearded, dour Scotsman who not only looked like he was issued lemons to suck for breakfast by the RNLI...but who also undoubtedly knew what he was talking about with all things maritime (he wouldn’t have looked out of place with a treasure chest and a parrot) when he asked “What are you two silly English xxxxx doing out in this?” Before we had time to answer he said “I want to give you a right xxxxxxxxxx, but to be fair you have the right kit, you had a good plan and you did ALL the right things. “We came straight to you...no bother!” (I think it was actually “nae bother” but I digress) “You done well” I looked at Vinnie, and commented (like a chastised schoolboy) under my breath…“Did he just thank us....or give us a right xxxxxxxxxx?” After much banter from the whole crew aimed predominantly at us “fae being English” and “stupit” (I think that is Scottish for brave 😊) they made us a nice hot brew, were generally amazing and we arrived back in the safety of Portpatrick Harbour where we were met by the Coastguard, who also thanked us for planning so well. I was starting to think we had actually benefited all of them, rather than the other way around. After much thanking of the crew, the coastguard and a fella called Wullie and his Labrador who happened to be passing, we went on our way. One of the lifeboat crew passed his card on (enterprising fella) telling us to come back in July or August; but to ring him first to get the local weather forecast and he would then shadow us in his boat; which incidentally...is much bigger than even the lifeboat that got us out of the problem… they all (Wullie and Labrador aside) then promptly headed out to recover a dead body (humbling moment and it really put things into perspective) whilst we headed off to the beach and then car park, to dry off and pack our kit for the 5hr drive home.[/p][p]After a lot of phone calls to let everyone know we had failed; but we were ok. We drove South feeling quite deflated but also determined we would return and kick the Irish Sea right back in the xxxx.[/p][p]We are not put off. We are however, much wiser and more experienced.[/p][p]At no point were we ever scared.[/p][p]We had confidence in both our abilities, the kayak and the emergency services including the Coastguard and the RNLI.[/p][p]We remained at all times, cool under pressure. We now know not to push it EVER. If the gut feeling says don’t go... no matter what the internal turmoil is....just don’t go! It is too late to back out once your in it all and committed.[/p][p]We understand a lot of people donated to our cause. Of course we didn’t finish it and we understand completely, if you would like your donations returning which we of course will do... just pm us.[/p][p]We will train harder, plan better and we will do this in summer next year. We will get local knowledge and support and we will achieve it. To that end, I will keep the charity page open and keep updating accordingly. Thanks again for all your fantastic support. We have raised over £2000 for our charity.[/p][p]RNLI lifeboat coxswains comment on parting (which I must pass on to you all) is “Experience is something you get...5 minutes after you needed it![/p][p][url=https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fuk.virginmoneygiving.com%2FAndrewHill64&h=AT1257mzmGfRASeudffj1WM6G4mlkiyARJl-7bEpsJQcT0AondXqtAoXGoo6v7zUdamukx2Ywagn7IaH69mk1vBBK4MsmgZPmP7ur7TSSNB_9TAt9N3oMF66JeaSmjqXGJ7IJyTc7EDDZdM11GsEtaETYxr2AUVW1g]https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewHill64[/url][/p][p][b][u]Update 30/09/19![/u][/b][/p][p]It's on. We have a weather window. So we aim to head out of Portpatrick next Wednesday morning at 0500hrs (weather and tides permitting).[/p][p]We figured we needed to get out in the sea kayak Friday 27th September on sea conditions; so my boss was kind enough to allow us an hour or two Friday morning to achieve the Trent river and Humber estuary. The caveat being that one of our branch managers was to deputise for me on an important con call....more on this one later.[/p][p]We set off at 05:00hrs from the Normanton office. High tide in Hull was 05:22hrs which would make our entry into the water much easier if we arrived about 06:30-07:00hrs. Side note - We had tried this a week ago at low tide using the sit-on-top but when we looked at the 40ft drop, we didn't really fancy an abseil down the river bank with it, only to hit 1ft of water 😁[/p][p]We arrived at our designated launch point on the Trent just up river from the Humber estuary at 07:00hrs. I had no idea how poignant using the words launch and point were to be at this time! Once we had the marine radios out, life-jackets and wet suits on (and yet again we had no idea how poignant the words wet... and suit were to be) we were all good to go.[/p][p]We realised that there was a good 5-10ft from the top of the bank to the water which sits around 20ft deep at this point. We figured after a brew that the only sensible (oh how wrong we were) solution was to get in the kayak point it down the muddy slipway and inch forward like two dogs with worms to get the kayak going.[/p][p]Cue Vinnie and I doing some sort of weird "oops up side your head" dance in the kayak; albeit moving slowly forward. Of course gravity is a wonderful thing and as we gathered momentum, we hit a LOT of mud and the kayak took off like a Polaris Missile...with two grown men in it, screaming like kids on a ride at Alton Towers; we hit the water and continued a dive which was akin to a WW2 U Boat under air attack and submerged our whole front end (bow for you naval folks).[/p][p]Luckily we surfaced abruptly (thank god) but just a bit too abruptly and we started to roll (see capsize for the real definition). Vincent managed to put out a paddle in quick time, which righted us... but my head and shoulders were at this point still under water. I came up soaked, spluttering and vowing that next time we would just hike for charity. All good and we moved on.[/p][p]Vincent had pulled some sort of weird rib muscle he swears "is a thing" keeping us upright; but off we went with the tide and the river current to Hull and no doubt we would reach Holland around about tea-time.[/p][p]I didn't want to miss the con call so we pulled over into a sheltered bay underneath a sluice gate and I dialled in via skype good signal! Call over, we set off again and then decided at the mouth of the estuary to paddle back to our (now aptly named) launch site; where all that had been missing earlier was HM The Queen and a bottle of champagne smashed on our deck.[/p][p]After a good couple of hours, we managed to reach the slipway, which by now... as the tide had gone out significantly, looked like the North Face of the Eiger and some 30ft climb uphill. Vincent got out first and held the kayak for me to get out. As soon as I stood up my mind refused to believe I wasn't still on the water ("getting your land legs" I think its called...well it is now) and I started to fall back in towards the river. Vincent flipped the kayak his way, which propelled me on to the slip way at speed but saved me from a swim. My head wasn't having the dry land though and from momentarily standing still, I promptly fell over and rolled, skidded and swore myself down the slip way and into what was a surprisingly warm River Trent. It was meant to be! Vincents made up rib muscle was now giving him some serious pain due to his hysterical laughter at my predicament! That'll teach him.[/p][p]Once we had a brew and packed up; we had a chat about our chances of surviving the Irish Sea. We assessed them as "fair to middling" and got in the car pleased with the day and in particularly the kayak. It is a very sea worthy beast, but the Captains leave a lot to be desired. If we are not in Donaghadee by 1100hrs Wednesday morning please either call 999 or better still perhaps the US coast guard on 911 as we may be passing the Statue of Liberty later on that month.[/p][p]It's pay day guys, please give what you can for our charity cause. I promise our write up after the event will be even more entertaining.[/p][p][b][u]Update! 16/08/19[/u][/b][/p][p]So...last night Vincent Haywood and I decided to get a bit of practice in with a 7 mile paddle on the River Trent (not the Irish Sea I know, but good to build up the arms). After a bit of a late start we set off down river...NB down river. It had occurred to us both that the going was extremely pleasant, easy indeed and the sunset was beautiful. We admired the passing scenery, livestock, wildlife and the Nottinghamshire countryside. [/p][p]We reached the bridge which was our half way point within half an hour. 3.5 miles in half an hour! Awesome going. The Irish Sea will be a doddle... we thought. We then turned under a large bridge and began our paddle back up river. Yes up river....we were now paddling against the river current. [/p][p]The sun was setting and neither of us relished the idea of a paddle in the dark so we thrashed the water to a foam trying to make head way, only to see the countryside going past us in the wrong direction. We were being carried down river with the current. Not a good look for any passing bystanders or perplexed sheep! [/p][p]We managed to find some slack water closer to the bank and made progress. Along the way night set in and we became something more akin to shipwreck survivors than Kayakers. We picked up a few hitch hikers. For some reason to add to our misery fish decided to jump into our kayak! One even managed to find it's way down the back of Vincent's life jacket. I may have helped it along the way by throwing it at the back of his head, but shhh.... don't tell him. [/p][p]In the end after another hour and a half we made the slip way and our original starting point. Cold, wet, tired with unwanted fishy passengers but never the less motivated and ready for this challenge. 7 miles and half of it paddling against the current on a swollen river. Another couple of these sessions and we are ready for Windermere and our target of the Irish Sea next month. Please give generously and I will keep regaling you all with our intrepid tales! [/p][p]Thanks all. [/p][p]Andy [/p][p]P.S. I smell like a river.[/p][p][br][/p][p][br][/p]
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Personal Challenge Date

31 Aug 2020


Jul 6, 2020

David Mason

Good Luck Andy and Vince, you'll need another bottle of Scotch I reckon,... working on it ... :-)

£30.00 plus £7.50 Gift Aid

Jul 1, 2020

Craig Sno

£5.00 plus £1.25 Gift Aid

Oct 9, 2019

Mark Brook

Braver than me pal!

£10.00 plus £2.50 Gift Aid

Oct 7, 2019


Better luck next time Andy. Let’s hope for better weather.

£20.00 plus £5.00 Gift Aid

Oct 5, 2019


Excellent effort, well done to all involved


Oct 3, 2019

Gary Moore

£10.00 plus £2.50 Gift Aid

Oct 3, 2019

Craig White


Oct 2, 2019

Cheryl Mark

Good luck Vin!

£10.00 plus £2.50 Gift Aid

Oct 2, 2019

Steve Eley

Good luck guys.


Oct 2, 2019


good luck. BLUE RED BLUE

£100.00 plus £25.00 Gift Aid