The challenge- Complete a speed circumnavigation of Irelands biggest Island - Achill.
This is a challenge I have wanted to take on for a while. Its got it all when it comes to performance sea kayaking. Strong tidal streams, long exposed sections and a demanding distance for even the fittest paddler.
On the 9th of September last myself and Tim Healy were lucky enough for a few important factors to line up for us to give it ago. An Indian summer provided us with perfect weather conditions, little or no swell and light winds. The Harvest moon provided big spring tides that also allowed us to start and finish within sociable hours.
Given our desire to complete this circumnavigation in the fastest time possible it was important that we took full advantage of the strong tidal streams that run both in Achill Sound and around the Island. These can reach 5 knots at some points and are key to any successful circumnav. Our timing worked out nearly perfectly and seen us gaining some great assistance along the route. The conditions were better than we could have hoped for and on the most exposed section between Saddle Head and Achill Head it was amazingly calm. We steamed along for the first 4 hours before stopping briefly at Keem where we stretched and refueled.
We left Keem feeling good and made our way to Achill Beg and the final leg of our trip. As we motored up the south entrance of Achill Sound the adrenaline of a potential sub 6hrs 30min finish fueled us along but it was not to be. One thing we had neglected to considered in our planning was passing out the tide as we got back to within a kilometer of our starting point at the swing bridge in Achill Sound. I was aware that the tides met on the mud flats but I didn't realise it dried out completely. This left us with no option but to carry the kayaks until we could get back on the water about 100 meters from the finish.
Needless to say this was absolute torture after paddling for over 6 hours and charging hard for the last 5 kilometers.
Finally we managed to get back on the water for a short sprint against the filling tide to our finishing point. The Garmin read 6hrs 52min for the 67km which we were happy with considering the portage.
An absolutely fantastic challenge and one I hope others will try. It would be great to see this type of performance sea kayaking growing in Ireland and other challenges and times put out there to take on.
Planning for the next adventure is already underway. Watch this space!
Kayak: Kayak Pro Nemo
Paddles: Orka Outer wings
BA: Kokatat Ronin
Kayak instructor, athlete, business owner and outdoor enthusiast from the west coast of Ireland.
Paddle & Pedal Blog HERE