This was my first trip out with my new Wayland folding kayak so I was very excited. This was to be an overnight trip from Brighton to Eastbourne whilst enjoying some of Southern England’s most spectacular sea cliffs.
Making my way down to Brighton involved an early rise followed by a 1Km walk to the tram station at Woodside before catching the tram to East Croydon where I picked up the train to Brighton. I had no problems with transporting the kayak on the trolley or getting the trolley on and off the train. The trolley stows perfectly in the cycle/wheelchair area in an upright position. From Brighton Station I headed straight down the hill to the beach where I set about putting the boat together. This was my first attempt at reconstructing the boat and it was relatively straight forward, although it did take around about an hour to complete (I am sure with practice I could do it in 15 minutes). On this initial trip I opted not to use the rudder or sail kit. After checking over the boat several times and then checking my safety gear I moved the boat to the water’s edge before loading the boat with my provisions. The bag and my sleeping system stowed in the fore compartment whilst the wheels and my other equipment fitted snugly in the rear of the vessel. The trolley (with the wheels removed) stowed on the foredeck.
Launching the vessel from the steep artificial gravel beach proved difficult as it was not possible to use my tried and tested plastic boat method due to the fact that the folding kayak is not as rigid and the skin could be more easily damaged than plastic. It took two attempts to launch through the small dumping waves, after which I was on my way. I was joined by a fellow paddler as I first paddled West to have a look at the old pier before turning around to start my journey towards Eastbourne. The boat felt very different from my previous boats but moved reasonably well and was responsive even without the rudder installed. Passing underneath Brighton Pier I started to get more comfortable as I headed on past the Marina and Roedean School.
After a couple of hours of very leisurely paddling I reached the Port of Newhaven. Continuing on I quickly reached Seaford Head and landed on the beach at Cuckmere Haven. After unpacking the boat and moving her above the reach of high water I enjoyed the remaining part of the afternoon. The beach was busy until late evening; I was quite annoyed to see that people had dumped their rubbish on the beach. For dinner, I headed off on foot to the Golden Galleon at Exceat Bridge where I enjoyed some food and a pint before heading back down to the boat for the night.
I set off on the last part of my journey at around 6:30AM in the morning into a beautiful sea mist. I hugged close to the magnificent Seven sisters cliff line which I could barely make out in the conditions although I could hear the waves on the shoreline. I used this opportunity to belt out a few old pirate songs in my finest South West accent before passing Birling Gap which has fascinated me since I was a child with my mother’s stories of smugglers (my great grandfather was the rector at East Dean and it was rumored that old smugglers tunnels connected the rectory all the way down to Birling Gap). Continuing on, I quickly reached Beachy Head where I circled the magnificent lighthouse which looks to be in need of a paint job. Trinity House, who is responsible for maintaining navigation aids said that it was unable to afford to pay for the painting of the lighthouse so a group has been set up to raise money for the building to be repainted. From Beachy Head the mist began to lift and I landed my craft safely on to the beach at Eastbourne in front of the old lifeboat station. (I would have continued on under the pier but the route was blocked by a large vessel pumping gravel on to the beach in front of the pier).
The last part of my trip involved carefully washing every piece of equipment down with fresh water before laying it out to thoroughly dry. I then packed up the kit and set off towards Eastbourne railway station where I caught the train back towards London. My first trip out with my folding kayak was a resounding success, the exception being that I forgot my sunscreen so ended up getting my face and arms rather burnt.