CSCC Reports 2009: Barton's Point to Hole Haven and back -  August 2009

The publicity for the latest leg in the Thames Source to Sea series may have put people off ("a long and committing trip") or it may have been that August offers lots of alternative attractions, but only I joined Chris to paddle from Sheerness to Canvey Island and back.  It was indeed a long trip (over 24 miles in total), but this gave us a chance to improve our forward paddling technique and with glorious weather and lovely warm water it was very enjoyable.  This part of the Thames has lots of beautiful wildlife.  We spotted terns and oyster catchers as well as the usual cormorants.

We launched at Barton's Point at Sheerness.  On the outward journey we had both wind and tide with us and the river was almost like a mirror.  We paddled along the Kent side of the river to begin with, but there was no danger of meeting any motor boats or ships, as the river was only a foot or two deep.  The fort guarding the entrance to the Medway must be the one of the ugliest buildings in the country.  When we came to a demolition area marked with enormous warning buoys we moved further out from the shore, but we heard no explosions.  

All Hallows seemed to be almost exclusively made up of fixed caravans.  In the distance we could see Southend and its pier.  Shortly afterwards we crossed to the Essex side of the Thames on what was described on our chart as being the recommended crossing point for small craft.  The odd big ship was passing along the shipping channel so we made sure that we got across sharpish when the coast was clear.  As we neared the round oil storage tanks of Canvey Island we encountered an overfall (Chapman Shoal) and noticed the first significant waves of the day.  These waves turned out to be a taste of things to come.

After paddling under the jetties near the oil storage tanks we landed easily at Hole Haven.  It took exactly three hours to get there, as Chris had predicted.  Just in case the tide rose any further (it was springs) we heaved our boats up the steps and over the sea wall.  In doing so, we encountered an unfortunate drunken father "negotiating" with his wife for custody of the children on his mobile phone.  We spent the next two hours in "The Lobster Smack" where we had reserved a table for lunch.  The attractive wooden exterior proved a bit misleading, it turned out to be a fairly ordinary, but friendly local.  

The return journey proved more challenging, as the wind was now against the tide.  The waves were quite large near the confluence with the Medway which was also ebbing leading to a very fast current.  It took the best part of an hour to cross the Medway and this sapped my energy somewhat, but eventually we made it back to Barton's Point in just over three hours.  My second longest trip ever - safely completed!  

My thanks go to Chris for organising this trip. 
Chris's photos

P.S. I was wondering what a lobster smack was.  One of my colleagues sent me this link which explains-

What a great name for a pub!