To read this epic and brilliantly written tale, you must visit the SurfAid website. It is your choice to donate or not, but I reckon you will feel better if you do! Just one click for the satisfying feeling of helping out people in the Mentawais.
Total Distance: 65km
Total Time: 13hrs 6mins 11.58secs (the 58 100ths could be important for record claims!) And we claim the WORLD RECORD for a circumnavigation of Abu Dhabi…
Injuries: 11 blisters, lost feeling in finger tips of left hand, (slowly returning, and hopefully not a stroke beckoning) and general soreness all over. (What a surprise!)
Every other time we have been to Le Meridian, we have had little trouble in finding a park. You would expect at 1.45 in the morning this would be even easier. But no, it was packed and we had to park quite the walk away. It felt a bit strange to walk past a 'pumping' nightclub full of revellers while we were on our way out into the night…
We set off at about quarter past 2 yesterday morning. At that point the (quarter) moon was only just beginning to rise, although there was plenty light from the surrounding areas for us to see reasonably well. The first obstacle was a bridge between reclaimed land to the Reem Island development. The last time I was at the hotel, it was a wide open waterway. While the bridge itself wasn't an obstacle, a floating trash barrier certainly was. The first one had a gap we could push through with a bit of effort, while the second required a dismount into waist deep water and sinking ankle deep into silty mud.
It was a bit a bit breezy, so we stuck to paddling in the lee of the shore as much as possible on the first stretch up to the Saadiyat Island Bridge. Once we turned out to go under the bridge we felt the wind in our faces for the first, but definitely not the last, time. The tide was slack, (like a student I once knew!), and we made reasonably good time until we hit the more open part as the channel mouth opens past the new Louvre. It was a bit lumpy, bumpy and disorganised, (like a teacher I once knew…)
The water conditions in themselves probably weren't all that bad, however the fact the lumps and bumps were coming out of the pitch black meant you could not see them before you felt them. We had a short break in the lee of the outside breakwall to prepare for the real open water. We headed off around the corner sitting on the boards and using kayak paddles. There is a part of me that wanted to be 'traditional' about the trip, but sometimes you just have to be practical. As I tell my students, "sometimes tradition is a ay of explaining things that really don't make sense". And it is still a paddle, it's not like we strapped on 150hp outboard motor is it?
It was a slog. Wind over the right shoulder, waves coming from the right at a 45 degree angle and then bouncing back off the breakwall and hitting us from the left. I suspect the tide was also pushing against us too. It certainly didn't help much if it was with us. I was fighting trying to keep my board heading away from the breakwall because of the luggage box I had strapped to the front. It is about the size of a milk crate and covered in mesh, which acted like a mini sail pushing the nose towards the breakwater. While my troubles were countered by a stronger left hand paddle stroke, Harold was dealing with other issues.
He was paddling my board which has some different characteristics. It doesn't track so well, meaning that it is tricky to keep going in a straight line in normal conditions. In these conditions it was skating around all over the place. The other factor is that the nose is wide and blunt. This means that on-coming waves that hit it literally stop it making forward progress. This was pretty much the only time on the whole trip he was behind me.
In the dark, the only thing we could see on the water was our navigation lights. I'd paddle until I couldn't hear his paddle hitting the water, then slow up, check for his light, wait for a bit and offer words of encouragement ("Hah, you call that paddling"). I didn't actually say that. Now, it seems the sort of amusing thing that you could say to relieve the stress. At the time it could have resulted in being hit over the head with a paddle…
We made a left turn around the western end of the breakwall heading towards Lulu Island. To our great joy we were able to get some run with the waves without the backwash and zipped across the channel in short order. The view of the city from this angle at night is amazing. The buildings are dressed up for National Day. For those who don't live here, almost every building along the Corniche is draped in lights making the UAE flag, sparkling like diamonds and just generally looking, well, amazing. If anyone is interested in a leisurely night paddle while the lights are up, let me know!
I'd like to say I impressed Harold with my navigation skills in hitting the edge of the wall in pitch black. The actual event took place like this. "There should be a breakwall here somewhere. Oh, there it is!" Best of all we didn't have to paddle any further than we had to. Straight lines are best when paddling and with my 'skills' we hit went straight to the exact right spot. Ta dah!
By this stage, 2hrs into the trip, I had been hit by 3 garfish and Harold had one flapping on his deck. That's about enough for a decent breakfast! The trick is, in not squealing like a girl when a fishy missile comes out of the dark and hits you. One of the Piscean terrorists made a valiant attempt to swim up board shorts resulting in the most of those afore-mentioned girly squeals.
Folding the kayak paddles away, we took advantage of being out of the wind and zipped up to the Marina Mall end of the island for a short break at about 5am. Then it was in and around the giant flagpole and under the causeway. The bridge has a pipe across the water which we only just scraped through and I mean scraped. My backpack was touching as I lay on my belly. We hugged the shoreline out to the right and then went across, thankfully comparatively mild, open water in front of Emirates Palace to the Musaffah Channel. I was a bit disappointed they had turned off the laser light show. It would make a pretty spectacular sight from the water I suspect.
As we turned in to the channel, I was cutting the corner and the front half of the board got caught in an eddy, and pulled to the left, while the back half was in the current and kept going straight and to the right. So it was a less than dignified entrance to the next phase of the journey as I flapped about trying to stay on top of the board rather than swimming. At this point we were hitting waypoints right on my predicted timings. With the wind at our backs, the tide pushing us and feeling fresh we were flying along at about 9km an hour. It was also at this point I got a bit scared. It was about here that I asked Harold about paddling the Molokai Channel in a dragonboat and found out he was also a member of the Canadian Dragonboat team…
Here I am with half a brain and a hare-brained scheme, thinking it would be nice to have someone with "some paddling experience" come along. I would have had an excuse to slow down and cruise along a bit. Now I find out I am on the water with a paddle monster! I thought I would be able to give him a few tips on technique and cruise along. At this point, I had a good look at his style. Smooth, minimal, fluid and powerful. The dude has skills and I ended up adjusting my technique….Page : 1 | 2
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