How would you feel?

With apologies for the rudimentary editing and any foul language, we have put together a small selection of our thoughts as we reach 21 days and over 400 miles into our expedition. Enjoy !

 

 

Do keep sending us your questions about our trip. You can post them on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/goldenarcexpedition or email us at goldenarcexpedition@gmail.com.

 

 

Capella Marigot Bay

After making good progress in recent days, having caught up on the delay due to Matthew, we were unable to leave this morning due to an unexpected storm. Just a little one, but enough to create 21 knot gusts and 2m high waves that would be hitting us side-on as we attempt to cross to Martinique. While we struggle with our little delay our thoughts go out to everyone who has been so severely impacted by Hurricane Matthew since it developed after nudging us nine days ago.

We have though, been somewhat well looked over the past two nights. Our eternal thanks go out to everyone at the Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina. After a difficult day (another supposed rest day that turned incredibly tough) where we capsized early on - see George's account below - and spent the next 15 miles battling against wind and current, it was a huge relief to kayak into the sheltered Marigot Bay and paddle straight into the Resort's marina where we berthed the kayak and where overwhelmed by the frozen flannel and arrival cocktail presented to us. 

Arrival cocktail and burger after a testing first ten days

Arrival cocktail and burger after a testing first ten days

Marigot is one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean. The high hills surrounding the water make it incredibly sheltered; many ships use it as a hurricane shelter, and it has been known to be a getaway hideout for escaping pirates, who would sail into the bay and hide their ship behind the palm-studded sand spit of the bay. With sails dropped, the ship would become virtually inconspicuous. More info here.

We felt like we were escaping from the seas too after the morning escapade......

The Capella Marigot Bay Resort is incredible. Everything is presented with stylish precision and the customer service is 100%. They have everything and anything that is not to hand your personal assistant will sort for you. It seemed like within moments the whole staff team knew our names all have taken a huge interest in our expedition. We are staying in one of the fantastic Resort View Rooms (with a hot tub), which has all the bells and whistles including big TV and dvd player, expresso machine, complimentary minibar restocked daily, aircon (most important), and great free high speed wifi. Check out the different accommodation options here.

Our kayak steals the show at Capella Marigot Bay Marina

Our kayak steals the show at Capella Marigot Bay Marina

Happy birthday George

Happy birthday George

We would thouroughly recommend the all inclusive package - what more could you want!? The resort has four different restaurants and bars to eat at, including a swim up bar next to the pool, and the options of private and in-room dining. The food is fantastic and waiting staff, again, generous in their service They even presented George with a belated birthday cake at dinner!

Chef Shawn blocking the view of the breakfast buffet

Chef Shawn blocking the view of the breakfast buffet

Perhaps the greatest attraction is that there is so much to do in the local area. Unfortunately we have not had the time to try the spa and fitness centre, the rum tasting, sport fishing, sailjng, diving, tours or any of the other fantastic activities and attractions on offer. Luckily we have our own adventurous activity to contend with.

Staying at Marigot Bay has given us the opportunity to get our kayak repaired after a crack formed in the foredeck, right above the forward 'watertight' hatch that keeps it afloat. Imbert, local handyman, has done a fantastic job for us not only patching up the crack but also reinforcing the foredeck so hopefully it will not happen again! If you are ever local and in need of a job doing the Marina Office will put you in touch.

Imbert working on our kayak

Imbert working on our kayak

So there we are. One day behind but the weather is looking like we might be able to set off first thjng in the morning. We've still got a very long way to go and more challenges and discomfort lie ahead. Have a look at this map... after 10 days of hard paddling it looks as if we haven't even started...

Feeling 22

What did you do on your 22nd birthday?

 

 

George's went something like this...

 

 

After waking at 00:30 we packed up our soaking sleeping bags and ponchos and readied the boat to leave by 1am. An early start for the big day that lay ahead. The previous evening (our last night in St Vincent) had been an interesting one... After being turfed out of the RVA Hiking and Diving Centre we were left to camp on the local beach in front of a makeshift camp of local fishermen. Worryingly, though, we had been warned against camping in the North of St Vincent, or even being out after dark, in case we were to run into any of the local 'farmers' who turn to opportunistic crime to boost their revenues. Tourists - or two young white guys with a load of expensive electronics gear - are obvious targets.

We find it hard to know who to trust. Perhaps we have just been lucky so far, however we have actually been overwhelmed by how friendly everyone we have met has been, especially the locals. Most are fascinated, albeit speechless, when we tell them what we are doing. Most have never seen a sea kayak before and many never left their island so our adventure is mindboggling to them. "Wooooo... *pause*... *deep breath*... You err veeery very breeve mon" is their usual response. 

Nonetheless after a short night bivving on the beach and a number of unexpected downpours we collapsed camp and pushed off into the dark sea. This was the first time paddling at night for both of us and what a treat! All was good; a clear sky full of stars, a smooth sea, a light breeze on our beam. We made quick progress and were soon joined by scores of flying fish shooting in all directions. The numbers would increase dramatically when we turned on our lights to scan the coastline for outlying rocks and to spot breaking waves over shallow reefs.

We were setting off for Owla on the North East corner of St Vincent mainland where we would come ashore, break and have breakfast before setting off to cross to St Lucia. This crossing, The St Vincent Pass, is renowned for its rough water and strong currents. We were told that out of the last four kayak expeditions to attempt the crossing, two turned back due to rough water and one was pulled in by the coast guard. We were feeling optimistic...

This is George feeling optimistic

This is George feeling optimistic

Then...  THWACK! A rather large flying fish shot straight into Will's side. A solid bar of muscle plummeting through the air. One cracked into the side of the boat... and another one on the back deck... then  George was hit. It was a bizarre scene where nature seemed to be fighting back. We had planned for stormy water, strong winds and difficult currents.. but not a bombardment of bloody fish. They were drunk - I am sure of it. Or maybe the farmers got the better of them.

Anyway we made it to Owla at around 4am, had an Extreme  Adventure Foods dehydrated meal for breakfast, chatted to some local fishermen about the crossing ("know it innya hart mon, ye joost goote belieeve it mon, bless" was the advice), did a final weather check then set off at 6. 

 

And everything went very well. ..

For the first five minutes... 

Then it started raining... 

 

Happy Birthday George indeed! We felt it was going to be a long day.

The rest of George's birthday was rather uneventful... we mostly just spent the next nine hours sat in the same position paddling hard while aiming the boat for Switzerland to offset the current. And to be fair, I think we did pretty well...

Track across the St Vincent Passage 

Track across the St Vincent Passage 

By the end of the day we were tired, hungry and dehyrated. Too tired to appreciate the epic leg we had just paddled... or really to take much notice of the crack that appeared on the front deck (we are working to find someone to blame for this..).

Crack in the boat!

Crack in the boat!

Nonetheless, all became good when we were welcomed to stay in a cottage on the Balenbouche  Estate. We were welcomed in like long lost war heroes (we felt like it after the crossing) and after a quick shower we were sat down on the verander of a beautiful cottage in the woods of the estate with a pot of tea in front of us, quickly followed by a big plate of quinoa and curry. Uta, Anitanja and Verena took such great care of us - we are so unbelievably greatful for their support and generous hospitalty.

The estate itself is an old sugar plantation, complete with 18th Century sugar mill, historic plantation house and grounds, which include fruit orchards, pastures, lily ponds and nature trails. More information on the history is available here. If you are ever in St. Lucia we thouroughly recommend you pay Balenbouche a visit, be it just for the day, to stay, or just to say hi to the Lawaetz family.

Balenbouche Estate plantation house. See more photos  here .

Balenbouche Estate plantation house. See more photos here.

Admiring the 18C sugar mill

Admiring the 18C sugar mill

One of the old out buildings, now employed as a yoga studio

One of the old out buildings, now employed as a yoga studio

After our fantastic night at Balenboughe it was back on the water at 6am to head up to Marigot Bay... seperate post to come on this!

We were, though, lucky enough to pass the Pitons as we went...

Paddling past The Pitons

Paddling past The Pitons

So from here it will be an early start and we are off to Martinique! Another tough crossing and a very long day ahead but we are looking forward to the challenge. If you like what we are doing and enjoy following our progress, please consider sponsoring us to help us raise funds for the Get Exploring Trust. Click here to donate through Virgin Giving

Every donation, whatever size (and we really mean that!), makes a tremendous difference to our morale. It gives us a big boost to know people are following and supporting us!

You can also donate by text....

Please sponsor us and spread the word!

Please sponsor us and spread the word!

Hot Fuzz

Thank you customs officer... we enjoyed our extra 10 miles very much

Thank you customs officer... we enjoyed our extra 10 miles very much

Anyone wondering what exactly was going on yesterday when we decided to spend our (supposedly 9 mile) rest day paddling 17 miles up and down the coast of St Vincent would have been as confused as we were. The plan was simple... paddle from Buccament Bay to Chateaubelair, clear out of the country with customs and immigration, kayak on for a further mile to the Richmond Vale Hiking and Diving Centre where we would relax for the rest of the afternoon and prepare to leave at 3 am for the North coast and on to St. Lucia. Unfortunately customs had other ideas... 

We thought we might be spending this time writing about our troubles with the relentless heat or the difficult task of relieving yourself while at sea and stuck in a cockpit the size of a small coffin - and no we do not feel good about this analogy. However, despite all this, it is the idle chumps down at customs that are causing us the most grief. 

After arriving at Chateaubelair and pulling up on the beach in good time, Will was left to handle the mob of locals who surrounded the boat while George went off to tackle customs, which so far had been nothing too strenuous. Unfortunately, the customs officer decided he did not want to work today and so after a 15 minute conversation with the immigration officer we were told we would have to head to Wallilabou 5 miles South. Given most places close at 4pm, and it was already 2.15pm we had a back-breaking run against the wind to get to Wallilabou. Incidentally Wallilabou was the film set for Port Royal in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. Captain Jack Sparrow got through a little easier than us though...

Of course customs was not open here either and we were duly informed that there is in fact only one customs officer for the whole island. So slightly disheartened that we would have to delay our crossing to St. Lucia for a day we headed on to the Richmond Vale Hiking and Diving Centre where we spent the evening with the kayak secured in their boat shed. 

This morning we were driven back down to Chateaubelair where customs was due to open at 8am... we left at 11.30am having found out our elusive friend was still in Kingstown on the other end of the island to us. We will head back down this afternoon...

Thank you Allison and Aaron for a fantastic stay!

Thank you Allison and Aaron for a fantastic stay!

Before this little episode everything had been going well following the local passing of Hurricane Matthew. We set off from Carriacou with a send off from Allison and Aaron and made our way to the North of the island for our first night out. We found a great beach with a small three-sided hut for shelter and made ourselves at home. Short of water a dramatic thunderstorm allowed us to fill up... and Will took a shower...

Using a poncho to collect water during a thunder storm.

Using a poncho to collect water during a thunder storm.

The next day we kayaked via Unon Island (a great place to clear in/out) to Canouan where we had to camp in the hillside jungle that lines most of the coastline. Here our Hennessy Hammocks came into their own and we quickly had them slung up looking out into the bay in an area where it would have been impossible to pitch the tent. Sorry for the poor photo.. we have had some technical difficulties which we are working on sorting out asap!

Hennessy Hammock on Northern coast of Canouan

Hennessy Hammock on Northern coast of Canouan

Our longest crossing to date from Canouan to St Vincent brought some brilliant highs and some not so brilliant lows. See the mid-crossing update from Expedition HQ here.

The favourable wind direction allowed us to release our (now not so secet) secret weapon, our 1.5m2 Falcon Sail. Suitably named Silly Sally after our friend and host in Grenada Sally Stalker.  After making considerable progress for the first few miles we quickly realised that the sail, although giving us an extra knot or so, had drifted us rather dramatically to the West. We were heading for Mexico. A sharp change of bearing and a strenuous 10 mile paddle against wind and current brought us to the lovely island of Bequia.

Using the mini sail.......... following in the James Hunt tradition, unapologetically in Wellington College colours.

Using the mini sail.......... following in the James Hunt tradition, unapologetically in Wellington College colours.

Dehydrated, hungry and tired we were treated to some conch fritas and coke from a kind gentleman, whose name has escaped us, sat at a local beach bar we entered hoping to fill up with water. An hour or so later and with renewed strength we were back on our way to St Vincent! All in all, including our not so fun detour, we paddled around 42 miles!

So we are waiting now for the chance to clear out of St Vincent with the hope of edging further North this evening before embarking on our crossing to St. Lucia at first light. Hopefully our issues of linking go-pros and cameras to tablet will soon be resolved and we can upload some better photos and video clips!

Update from the UK (10:30hrs, UK Time, Tuesday 4th Oct)

the non-technical explanation of todays plan for those of us less well versed in the ways of sea and sail

the non-technical explanation of todays plan for those of us less well versed in the ways of sea and sail

During the night the team paddled 15 km from Wallibou on the West coast of St Vincent to the North Eastern tip where they've been since about 2am. This start point will give them the best crack at the crossing to St Lucia across the St Vincent Passage. The problem here is a 2 knot East to West current which means they have to 'aim off,' a considerable distance to hit St Lucia. If they miss the island paddling back against the current will be a formidable task. The next land is Nicaragua some 2,600 km to the West. We understand that of the last four attempts to kayak the crossing only one has been successful. It is just about first light and they are about to set off. It's going to be a long day. You can follow them here.

 

Bridget or Bequia?

A brief Saturday update from the UK.

The guys are currently paddling through the Grenadines from Canouan toward St Vincent on a 30 mile hop. Right now, Mustique lies about 15 miles to their East and they will pass Bequia, (what a great island that is), also on their starboard side. They are making very good time so far and are kicking on at a fair old lick. All being well should reach St Vincent mid to late afternoon.

No new photographs unfortunately. They have been out of touch, (apart from the Satellite texter), for 48 hours but hopefully we can expect an update from them later today if they can access wifi on arrival in St Vincent. In the meantime the live map is updating every 10 mins or so and may be found here.

Meanwhile, back in the bosom of domestic bliss that is my life, I'm being dragged off later to see bloody Bridget Jones. I'd rather not, obviously, but Deepwater Horizon was a non starter given her little cherub is bobbing up and down in the ocean far away. Bloody Bridget Jones....... I can't help thinking it's all gone wrong somewhere. I'm with you in spirit though lads............

"Extraordinary Sea Journey"

So for lack of a better story the Grenadian news company GBN have run a two minute feature on our trip that went out across the Caribbean a couple of nights ago. "An extraordinary sea journey" was how they described it! It was strange having a camera in your face at 0630 in the morning while still out of breath from carrying a 45kg kayak down the steepest hill in Grenada. There were definitely points for both of us where we ran out of words, or even knew what we wanted to say but our mouths decided no, we will not function today. Well that is our excuse for the tongue-twisted performance - enjoy...

After our fantastc stay with Annie and Phillip at Petite Anse we left mainland Grenada and it's friendly faces behind and pressed on for Carriacou. On this crossing we got our first taste of big(ish) waves (although we don't think the gopro footage does it justice) and we got to feel our kayak, a Seaward Passat, in rough water for the first time...

 

Particularly amazing over the past few days have been our Celtic Pro Sea and Touring 650 Paddles. They are super lightweight, efficient and powerful... we will post a few videos of our kit, equipment etc. over the next few weeks but for the moment you can see some of the awesome stuff we need to get us to Miami here. Most importantly our hands are doing ok.. only a couple of small blisters so far.

Tropical Storm Matthew over the Windward Islands

Tropical Storm Matthew over the Windward Islands

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Matthew is making it's way past just North of us and it looks like we will have to sit out for another day tomorrow. No danger to us though as we have the kayak safely secured in the Carriacou Yacht Club's boat shed and we are being very kindly hosted by Allison in her storm proof concrete house. Althouh just a few miles north in St Lucia they are experiencing 80kmph winds and 5.5m high swells! Allison in fact runs tours on the island and the surrounding area. She is currently fundraising to expand her project and is looking for support here.

TS Matthew and it's predicted course

TS Matthew and it's predicted course

 

Finally a massive thank you to everyone who has shown there support and become founding sponsors of the Get Exploring Trust by sponsoring us on this expedition.

GET Going!

Where's the sea then...........?

Where's the sea then...........?

Will and George have started their epic adventure, (this brief update is coming from Exped HQ in the UK), and are currently on their second day of paddling, having traversed the West coast of Grenada yesterday, and are en route to Carricou to the north.

You can track their latest position which updates every 10 mins here.

The decision to go or not today was the subject of some debate with a heavy storm rumbling in from the Atlantic but the latest satellite weather maps suggest the storm should just miss Grenada and Carricou although there will still be plenty of wind and rain from this evening onward.

Petite Anse Hotel; Great location with outstanding hosts.

Petite Anse Hotel; Great location with outstanding hosts.

The boys stayed last night with the delightful Philip and Annie Clift at the Petite Anse Hotel in the North of Grenada and who have kindly pinged photographs from this morning over. Local sponsors and supporters of the expedition are critical to it's success. When considering a holiday to Grenada do please bear Annie in mind! (email here). 

Also, a big shout for the indefatigable Sally Stalker who has provided the guys with massive local support, helping unwind initial administrative problems and who helped them navigate their way through the local Customs process. Without her help they would probably still be in the Customs shed trying to figure out where the kayak was....... (and thank you for covering some of the expenses Sally... we do love you).

so, I'm guessing that's the back then.......

so, I'm guessing that's the back then.......

if you are wondering that Grenada isn't looking it's best.... the picture was taken straight after first light!

The team should arrive in Carricou at around 8-9pm UK time tonight. After they have squared away their kit, fed and watered I would expect them to add to the narrative and update us on the weather system. Worst case they'll have to rest up until the storm passes through, best case is they'll be able to crack on tomorrow if it completely misses the area. It is worth noting, although the worst of the storm may miss their planned route it will inevitably impact wave height locally which is a consideration in itself. 

Donations continue to roll in and we're a shade under £7,500 currently so grateful thanks to all for your kindness and messages of support which are all warmly welcomed.

funny old thing...... the kayak suddenly doesn't look so big......... 

funny old thing...... the kayak suddenly doesn't look so big......... 

Hard Landings

So after months and months of preparation we are finally out here in Grenada!

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After both arriving on Thursday and negotiating the delights of airport customs - for some reason George created a bit of a stir with the customs officers when he turned up with his 7 bags of equipment - we have since been unbelievably busy getting ready for the off.

Friday morning was spent collecting the kayak from Grenada's commercial port. This involved being bounced from enquiries, to security, to customs, to brokers, to more customs, back to security, and finally to the port storage warehouse. Here, after many stomach churning blank responses from the managers as we asked for what we could only assume would be a fvcking great big box, we finally found our vessel tucked nice and inconspicuously out the back.

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A bemused truck driver helped us deliver it back to our poor host's house, aptly named Hard Landings after his career in the RAF. Since then it has been hard at work sorting, prepping and packing our kit and testing our equipment. Check out some of the kit we are using here:

http://www.getexploringtrust.com/kit-list/

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This morning we spent time customizing the kayak and adding our sponsors details to make it look like a proper expedition boat. Check out some of our sponsors on the website here:

http://www.getexploringtrust.com/sponsors/

And this afternoon, finally, we got out on the water for a paddle. The Caribbean is average. But we think the kayak looks cool... 

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The plan is to set off in a few days time. We have more preparation to do in the meantime and have been told Grenada's national news want to interview us tomorrow!?.. Monday is the proposed date of departure, although this may slip to Tuesday. Our only concern at the moment is the depression developing over the Atlantic heading our way - these things often turn into tropical storms, in which case we will have to batten down the hatches for a few days and wait it out.. 

More to follow! Check out our new Instagram account: goldenarcexpedition

The 20 Q's

The 20 Q's

We've loved hearing your interest about the expedition. To feed your hunger we've put together 20 of your most common questions. Enjoy! 

1. Is the expedition supported by a support boat? 

George: 'Nope, although it would be incredibly reassuring having a boat along side us for anything that goes wrong, I personally think it would completely defeat the months of planning that have gone into the trip. We've taken the responsibility of our safety and that's just one element of the challenge! 

The sea is also a part of nature that makes you feel incredibly small. Although it can be bloody terrifying and it's incredibly important to respect it, it's a real thrill to be so cut off from the madness of our daily lives!'

Will: 'No safety boat, no support boat.. madness eh? We will be fully equipped with everything we need to look after ourselves, including appropriate safety kit in case a bad thing happens. A huge part of the challenge is being self-reliant and being able to deal with any event on our own. That said, we will be stopping off on land most nights and passing small villages / towns / and marinas for repairs and supplies. We will also have a tracker and communications with our support in the UK so will not be completely cut off from the world!'

2. How long do you think it will take? 

George: 'Más o menos 3 months. We don't want to put a set end date. 

We plan to finish before Christmas but if we don't then Santa will have to find our kayak bobbing around in the sea to deliver any goodies.'

Will: 'We will be going as quick as we can - 2000 miles is a considerable distance and at times we will be at the mercy of the weather and sea conditions. We would rather delay big crossings than take unnecessary risks to reach the end by a certain time. George has booked a flight home for the 21st December... I haven't risked it!'

3. What do you plan to eat? 

George: 'Good question. Your average Jack or Bob needs to consume about 2,500 kcals a day. We'll need about 5000. Otherwise we'll end up like this. 
 

We've been kindly sponsored by Adventure Nutrition who have offered us a substantial discount on their variety of dry and wet meals for the expedition. Huge thanks to them.' 

Will: 'We will be working off a selection of dehydrated meals from Adventure Nutrition and fresh food bought locally throughout the expedition. We will look to resupply every 4 or 5 days to keep ourselves going. The biggest challenge will be eating lunch on the kayak!...'

Lunch at sea while training around the Dalmatian Coast with Outdoor Croatia

Lunch at sea while training around the Dalmatian Coast with Outdoor Croatia



4. How many hours a day will you paddle? What will be the longest crossing? 

George: 'On average we'll be paddling for 8 hours a day. It'll mean very early starts so that we can reach land before the darkness descends' 

'It's no fun to try and land a sea kayak in big surf when it's dark'. 
 

 


5. Talk us through the boat

George: 'Our fabulous Seaward Passat G3. 22 feet long, constructed out of fiberglass and reinforced with Kevlar (yes the stuff they make bullet proof vests with)

We hope she'll provide some stability when the big waves come in and is also agile enough to quickly eat up big miles' 

Will: 'The kayak is currently on a big ship somewhere between Canada and Grenada.. hopefully it will arrive for us to start on time! We will post a video tour of our super craft as soon as we can when we're out there!'



6. What's your biggest fear? 

George: 'Urgh. Probably sharks. Or actually maybe a storm.

Dark in a city like London and dark in the middle of the ocean is obviously a completely different story. There is 0 artificial light in the middle of the ocean. 

The idea of a shark having a nibble in complete darkness or a huge storm nestling in is not my idea of fun. 

Will kindly explained waves to me when we had a little chat down the pub. (Obviously over a glass of water). When you're told potential for 10 - 15ft swell, I thought phfff that's alright. He then told me to sit down against a wall and reminded me I was 6ft tall. I encourage you all to sit down against a wall somewhere (maybe not public) and imagine over double your 6ft friend stood over you. Not that fun is it, especially not being able to see the horizon.'

Will: 'Two things - firstly getting delayed by bad weather, and secondly the heat..

We have put considerable thought into assessing the risks of the expedition, eliminating or reducing them where possible and developing contingencies for most eventualities. However, some things are out of our control and the weather is one of them. It is more than possible we might get stuck for a couple of weeks for conditions to be suitable enough for us to kayak - waiting around would drive us crazy and eat into our limited funds we have to last us the expedition.

I believe the heat is the biggest threat to the expedition. Spending 12 hours working hard in the relentless sun, amplified by its reflection off the water, will make this hugely challenging. The risk of heat exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration cannot be underestimated and will create big problems for us if we get it wrong. That said, we are fully focused on this and have the right protection in place to succeed if we are careful enough.'



7. What are you most looking forward to post expedition?

George: 'Ah probably a beer. I gave up alcohol in July so by the time we finish it will be about 6 months. In other words, watch out for me at New Years' 

Will: 'No more fvcking emails... the amount of work over the past few months has been incredible and the email flow relentless. I will be slightly relieved when it all quietens down a little!'


8. Who wears the trousers in the boat? 

George: 'Umm probably Will. It's a running joke amongst my friends that he does all the organising whilst I twiddle my thumbs.  I can assure you this isn't the case ….

I'm sure we'll have some tough decisions along the way in the boat so it'll be interesting to see what happens'.

Will: 'No comment.'

 

9. Its clearly a pretty big challenge to attempt, being the first British people would be an incredible feat. How do your parents feel? 

George: 'No comment'

Will: 'Undoubtedly nervous and would probably rather we had taken up ballet or something but I know they are supporting us all the way and hopefully they are convinced by our preparations.'


10. What will motivate you at 1am when you've been paddling for 12 hours, can't see your paddle in front of you it's so dark and you have another 24 hours to go? 

George: 'Fortunately I've always found it relatively easy to motivate myself. Friends and family of course but the charity will also play a huge part. 

I genuinely believe we have a huge problem forming in our society. Having spent the last 6 weeks in Mexico it has simply reassured me that it's not only a problem in the UK but all over the world. 

I had a really interesting chat with a work colleague in Mexico. He told me that more and more of the younger generations simply aren't getting into the outdoors enough. Whether they don't have the opportunity or they'd rather sit inside and play PlayStation. He thinks it's a huge issue responsible for a whole host of problems. 

I believe that it's in everyone's human nature to get outside, explore, push their limits and enjoy nature. It not only has a huge range of physical and metal benefits but it's a great way to develop people's character, learn to interact in teams and have those exciting experiences. 

What are you going to chat with your grandkids about? The time you beat your mate on Fifa or the time you took a road trip around Scotland and got lost climbing a mountain?' 

Will: 'Good question - if you want to help motivate me, sponsor us here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving/team/goldenarcexpedition

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving



11. Just over a month to go. How are the nerves ? Scale of 1/10? 

George: 'Probably a 5/6. We've worked seriously hard and it's completely taken over our lives for the past 6 months or so. I think it's getting close to the stage where the organising is done and we're just excited to get going'. 

Will: 'It changes every day.. whenever we discover a problem or have a set back it shoots up to about 10/10, but usually we have fixed it the next day when it returns to a solid 5. I think (hope) the nerves will disappear when we are in Grenada with the kayak and all our kit and a good weather forecast!'
 


12. Let's talk wind, weather and hurricanes. There's two tropical storms brewing in the Atlantic and many more to come. Meteorologists have said this could be an extremely active hurricane season. What's the approach? 

George: 'Weather is without a doubt our biggest problem. We're really fortunate to have Karel from Kayak Weather supporting our trip with extremely frequent weather updates but there's just nothing we can do about the weather. If a storm forms while we're out there then we could be delayed for long periods of time. 

It's just going to have to be a waiting game and I'm sure our patience will be tested along the way. That's just part of the trip and we're not willing to take unnecessary risks to head out in a storm. It's a waiting game'. 

Will: 'Squalls will be an unpleasant inconvenience for us - they can appear out of nowhere and bring heavy rain and strong wing - it's just a matter of riding them out. Fortunately the big storms are not as much of a concern as we will have a good warning and will find somewhere to batten down the hatches on land until it passes.' 
 


13. What safety measures are in place? 

George: 'Ah where to do we start. The boys toys. Well we've got some great VHF radios, the survivtec group have helped us out with two Personal Locator Beacons which I personally won't let out my sight, we will be carrying a DeLorme Explorer that lets you track our movements on the Internet and then we have our buoyancy aids, flares, whistles, reflective mirrors etc etc

I must also mention Sharkbanz who have supplied us with two fantastic banz. No nibbling shall be occurring (hopefully)'



14. How has the support been so far?

George: 'From corporate sponsors to kayaking companies to friends and family it's been incredible how much support we've received so far. Anyone with any connections has been offering help left right and centre and we're very grateful for all the help! 

Obviously we've just launched our fundraising page and thank you to anyone who has donate already.  We're keen to keep that flowing'.

Will: 'Apart from the optimistic few who have said we are mad and it's an impossible trip, the support has been fantastic. In particular the really generous support from various companies who have supplied us with kit or discounts. Please check out our sponsors page here and follow the links to their websites.'



15. When is D-day? 

George: '25th of September. Watch this space'
 


16. What island are you most looking forward to? 

George: 'Hmm. If I'm honest I'd happily go on holiday to all of them! I'm sure they'll all display their dark side with hidden currents or unexpected reefs but for now they look great!'

Will: 'There's so many to choose from - the Caribbean is made up of over 7000 islands! Here's a list of where we will be passing through (Some parts will depend on the final route selected, which is dependent on the conditions at the time):'

Country List

Country List

 

17. In terms of organisation, is this a pre planned event for you by a company? 

George: 'Nada. Absolutely everything has been organised by Will. 

Or me. 

From bringing in corporate sponsorship to buying sun cream it's all been us. Luckily we've had great advice from some very experienced people.'

Will: 'We have organised everything ourselves, which makes the expedition all the more rewarding. George has in fact been brilliant... I don't know where the rumour of his lack of contribution came from... perhaps his spending the past six weeks on a jolly in Mexico...'



18. The longer crossings, presumably you will sleep during the 36 hours? 

George: 'Again no. We simply can't afford to stop and rest as the current will drift us too far off target. The longer crossings will be fuelled by adrenaline and energy supplements.

It's going to be really important that we stay switched on and focused. It only takes a second for something to go wrong and we're both very aware of that. We've heard some amusing stories about hallucinations when paddling in the dark for such extended periods of time. We'll keep you updated how we deal with it!'

Will:  'Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get on with it...'



19. How do we know where you are and if you are sinking? 

George: 'We have a fantastic tracking device that'll update regularly and you'll be able to see us plodding along. 

We'll release the link closer to take off.'

Will: 'Sinking? Well that's a vote of confidence! You can track us as George mentioned and we'll be updating all our social media regularly.. like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for all the updates! (You can also send us messages of support as we go!...)'

Find us on Twitter... at the moment we have 4 followers, which is good, but maybe we could do better?

Find us on Twitter... at the moment we have 4 followers, which is good, but maybe we could do better?

 

 

20. You're both now founding directors of you charity, congratulations. What's the motivation behind the Get Exploring trust? Where can I donate?

George: 'Indeed we are, thank you. I've probably said all I want to say about the charity for now in my previous answer about motivation. It's extremely important to us though'. 

Will: 'You can find out all the details about GET here. We will be launching the charity properly after the expedition with the first grants going out to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in time for next Summer. We really appreciate all your generous support and are grateful for your kind donations. Don't stop at donating yourself, please pass our link onto friends, family, grandparents, uncles etc. who would like to support our charity: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/goldenarcexpedition.'

 

Incentives!

Well we've been a bit slack recently at keeping you all up to date with our progress, probably because George buggered off to Mexico and Will to Germany... but we are getting back on top of our social media now. 

We have, though, reached the nice £1000 mark on our Virgin Giving page (thank you Chris Mak for that!). We really appreciate the support from all you generous folk who have sponsored us and shared the page.

And thank you Vicki for the added incentive! 

If you would like to, you can sponsor us here. Please pass onto friends and family who may like to sponsor us.

We have also had some brilliant corporate sponsorship... we are really excited to be working with a whole host of companies and kit suppliers who have supported us with some really fantastic items from charts from here and here to dry bags to expedition hammocks. We will be having a look at it all in due course.. 

Get Exploring Trust

What on earth drives two young blokes to cast away from sunny little England, great friends and cool beer gardens to spend three months working hard day in day out in the extreme heat with no shade during the day, enduring salt rashes, physical and mental exhaustion, large swells, reefs, sea sickness, sharks and large open water crossings?

Good question.

In fact, we have started to wonder the same thing!

Fortunately, we have a fantastic motivation that is pushing us forward with our planning, fundraising and ultimately the paddling. The Golden Arc Expedition is the launch pad for our fundraising to start the Get Exploring Trust (Charity reg number: 1166901).

GET aims to inspire young people from all backgrounds to get into the outdoors, to test themselves in different environments, and to push their limits. We want to help people develop their character through exposure to challenging, exciting and inspiring experiences. The Trust offers small to medium size grants to individuals who need financial support in order to achieve this aim.

Moreover, we want to support individuals who have engaged in outdoor pursuits in using them to enhance their CVs, have the confidence to discuss them in interviews and maximise their experiences to develop as characterful and employable individuals.

We passionately believe in this aim and hope that you will buy into the idea too. In an age when it may be most needed, adventurous training seems to be dropping further and further down the list of priorities. The potential for GET is vast, however it starts at a very basic level. It may be as simple as a grant to buy a pair of walking boots, train tickets to Scotland for a navigation course, or even a place on a British Exploring expedition to Greenland, the Himalayas or the Amazon.

More information about GET can be found here.

How can you help? I hear you cry! 

Well thank you very much, I am glad you asked. We will be open to donations on our Virgin Giving page shortly. We are currently just waiting to receive our HMRC number from Mr Taxman so we can claim gift aid on generous donations. In the mean time, please put a couple of quid, or more, aside so that when we are up and running we can go full throttle and raise a bit of cash. If 3 months and over 2000 miles of pain and suffering in a kayak isn't worth a few bob then please let us know what is and we will see if we can fit it in next year!

Big Mamma's House

After computer troubles have deleted my draft three times, here is the abridged version before it crashes again!

This particular day taught us just how difficult the expedition is going to be. It is not that anything particularly bad happened, or we faced any unexpected circumstances, it is just that 30 miles is a long way to kayak in the scorching heat even with only a slight wind. I invite any readers who believe our trip to be nothing more than a glorified holiday to try for themselves - there is nothing glamorous about the monotonous strokes, blisters, salt rashes, sunburn and dehydration among strong doses of physical and mental fatigue.

On this day we set out to kayak 30 odd miles (30.4 or so according to a rough track on google earth), which we will need to average more or less every day for over 10 weeks to complete the expedition*. This makes each day an expedition in itself - in fact 30 miles is equivalent to kayaking across the the English Channel, which no one would argue is a small feat...

* We have of course factored in a margin for rest days and set backs due to adverse weather or injury.

We set off in the morning after practicing rolls in the bay and set off for the 15 mile crossing from Prapratno on the mainland to Polace on the island of Mljet. We were lucky to have calm waters and just a slight wind from the North West, which was welcome to combat the blistering heat of the Croatian sun. 

 

After 5 hours of paddling and growing blisters we stopped for a couple of hours to ride out the hottest part of the day in the shade of Polace, where we enjoyed a pasta lunch and a restock of food for the next couple of days. Before long we set off again to cover the second half of our day - paddling around the national park (strictly no camping allowed) and out the other side to Ropa. We had no idea what to expect at Ropa, just that we had been advised there was a campsite there. We set off...

 A common question we get is how do you go to the loo during the long crossings.....

Well, now you know.

Anyway the day went on, the hours went by and the miles ticked along. We made steady progress but as the afternoon rolled into the evening the wind picked up and the growing waves made the going difficult and slow. The Croatian coastline is rocky with jagged cliffs that the waves crash against with fierce force meaning there are very few places to land and alight a kayak. Eventually, although we were still a way out from Ropa, the sun started to go down. And a terrific day was looking like it might start to go horribly wrong.

What a gorgeous photo I hear you say.... not when you are stuck out to sea with no lights on the boat...

Nevertheless we battled on and with the sun falling ever closer to the horizon there was a small inkling of oh f***ing s**t w**k c**k, what have we got ourselves into!  On the Golden Arc Expedition we will be prepared and on some crossing plan to spend the night at sea... on this occasion, though, we were not.

Ropa is in a small inlet atop some high cliffs that are scaled by a small path used by fishermen to get down to their boats at the bottom. As a result you cannot see it until you are right up close. The thought of padding in the pitch black with no lights was far from appealing. We were now physically knackered from a long day of tough paddling, mentally exhausted from negotiating the rough water and hungry, very hungry. As we approached the inlet where we expected to see the beckoning lights of Ropa, there was just darkness and doubt started to prope and then engulf both of us.

The sense of relief when we saw the small landing stage was overwhelming. Alas we landed the kayak at 9pm with little more than 10 minutes of light remaining. And tired and hungry made our way up to the small collection of houses that make up Ropa. No shops. No hotels.  Apprehensively we knocked on the door of a house signposted 'camp' and awaited the fierce welcome of someone dragged away from their quiet evening. 

Fortunately, Croatian hospitality is incredible. We were welcomed as long lost children - "MAMMA MIA" big mamma kept saying whenever we answered a question about the kayaking. She sent her husband and son - who were into their second bottle of homemade vino and slightly unimpressed (but no one argues with big mamma) - down to the cliff bottom to ensure our kayak was secure and help us with our kit. And after showing us where we could pitch our tent she prepared us a knock up dinner of soup, meats, cheese homemade bread and homemade wine. Relieved, happy, knackered...

Quite frankly big mamma saved the day.

(unfortunately I missed the chance to take any photos of the evening except for of the remnants of breakfast....)

Meanwhile, preparations are still going well. The route is almost finalised and construction of the kayak is in full swing over in Canada - it is currently being reinforced with kevlar... make it a little more challenging for them sharks, eh.

Back on land!

Well we've made it - back on the mainland after 5 days kayaking between the Dalmation Islands. We've seen the good, the bad and almost the ugly, but learnt a huge amount to help us in our future training before heading out to Grenada at the end of September. 

 

Stories, photos and videos to follow. In the mean time...

The sun dropping behind the craggy coastline of the Croatian Adriatic seems a dream holiday scene, but not so welcome when you are still out at sea with nowhere to land the boat and nowhere to stay. Nice photo though...

It wasn't all bad

It wasn't all bad

Still...

It is always refreshing when the GPS shows no sign of land...

Better signal in the middle of the sea than at home!? 

Better signal in the middle of the sea than at home!? 

This is what having lunch in the middle of the Adriatic looks like... 

  

Lunch at sea. Mexican Tuna Pasta - what a treat! 

Lunch at sea. Mexican Tuna Pasta - what a treat! 

Looking forward to what EasyJet will treat us to on our return flight tomorrow.  

Always a Delight...

image.jpg

18:50 Scheduled take-off time.  

 

18:57 Still boarding....

18:58 Engines started 

~ read easyJet's fascinating Onboard Food and Shopping - Bistro and Boutique

 ~ £3.20 for maltesers!!??...

19:02 Ground crews spot a leakage from the left engine. Delays imminent...

image.jpg

19:10 Confirmed ok and safe to fly. Pushed off from stand and everything seems fine...

 

Everyone relaxes, content in the idea of a comfortable flight from here.

In fact An overwhelming feeling of relief filled the plane.

 

Unfortunately, 30 seconds later so did the smell of burning...

 

19:11 And engines off again.

Just need to run some basic checks. Simple you say!... EasyJet have other ideas...

         1. Cabin crew check the aircraft and give diagnostics. 

         2. Ground crew check the aircraft and give diagnostics.

         3. Fire crews check the aircraft. 

 

Final decision: quickly pull the plane the 25ft back onto the stand for more in depth tests..

         4. And amazingly the team that pushed the aircraft off the stand are not qualified to pull it back on.  

~ oh and btw,  £5.60 for a g&t!...

 

19:38 back along side the stand... "Cabin crews, please disarm doors for arrival."  great...

19:42 fire engines 

19:50  fire engines leave

~ refused a g&t until we are airborne.  

~ read EasyJet's 'Traveller' magazine.  

19:58 More checks

~ Still no g&t... 

image.jpg

20:04 Engineers confirm everything is ok and safe... 

20:06 Let's change to another aircraft anyway... 

~ g&t seems to be getting further away.  

 

Latest update.... 

21:12 Still sat in the departures lounge waiting to re-board a new plane.   

Thanks EasyJet.  

image.jpg

Bridges, Cranes and Traffic lights …

We thought it was about time we gave you an insight into what we’ve been up to over the Easter break. Aside from the looming prospects of exams, which we definitely won’t discuss, our kayaking has been progressing nicely. Our gym sessions take place 4 times per week and we kayak a further 3 times per week. One session focuses on technique in the swimming pool, spending the majority of the time capsizing and rolling back up (similar to being in a washing machine) and the remaining sessions are on the Thames, setting off from Putney Bridge. 

George has been spending some time on the Thames ... 

The mixture of rarely finding yourself sitting in a sea kayak in the middle of the Thames combined with the sheer insanity created through revision led me to getting slightly carried away on Thursday, taking pictures of pretty much everything I saw. I hope you enjoy them. The London waterbus is something that has provided a fair bit of humour over the last few of weeks. It turns out to be pretty terrifying when it comes shooting past, so we’re looking forward to seeing how the Caribbean cruise ships treat our arrival. I quickly found out the other day that the wake created from the waterbus tends to rebound against the banks of the Thames and leaves you being tossed around in a whirlpool of waves for a good 5 minutes. I was far from impressed. 

Fortunately the wake of any boats we pass in the Caribbean will not rebound against us, although we may be facing just slightly rougher conditions than going for an evening paddle on the Thames. In any case we're having a great deal of fun learning all the tricks and techniques, despite the organisational stresses, we are thoroughly enjoying our pre trip preparations. As we head back to Durham in the coming weeks give us a shout if you see us paddling along the river, we’ll try and wave back without capsizing. Finally we’ve got loads of news coming up including talking you through our sponsors, some of our equipment, naming our boat, our summer plans and the release of the much anticipated charitable donations page so please watch this space! 

Heading back to the boathouse at the end of our paddle 

Heading back to the boathouse at the end of our paddle 

Best of luck to everyone taking part in the marathon next Sunday! Despite the pain it's a fantastic experience and we'll be there cheering everyone on!  

A crane, captured in action for Michael Hemmings 

A crane, captured in action for Michael Hemmings 

Support

The "Worlds Greatest Living Explorer" (The Guinness Book of World Records), Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE, has kindly commented on our expedition saying:

"The Golden Arc Expedition is a reflection of the ambition and passion for adventure which is manifest in the next generation of explorers. Will and George will be tested throughout their extremely physical, mental and technically challenging expedition.

They have created a great opportunity to make a significant impact by raising money to start the Get Exploring Trust to enable more young people to access the outdoors. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to tracking their progress. Please support them."

 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE in 2015 at the Marathon des Sables - the toughest footrace on earth where competitors complete 6 marathons in 5 days under the 50degC Saharan sun.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE in 2015 at the Marathon des Sables - the toughest footrace on earth where competitors complete 6 marathons in 5 days under the 50degC Saharan sun.

After a career in the Army and Special Forces Sir Ranulph, adventurer and prolific writer, has completed a mind-boggling catalogue of expeditions, including summiting Mount Everest (oldest Briton to summit), climbing the North Face of the Eiger, to the first 7x7x7 (seven marathons in seven continents in seven days), the first to circumnavigate the world around its polar axis, and the oldest Briton to complete the marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert last year to name just a few.

His spirit, skill and endurance is of huge inspiration to us.

 

The aim of this expedition is to raise funds to start the Get Exploring Trust, a charitable fund that aims to inspire and enable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into the outdoors, to test themselves in different environments and to develop their character through exposure to challenging, exciting and inspiring experiences. This is a mission we passionately believe in that is founded in the personal benefits we have gained through the expeditions and challenges we have been fortunate enough to experience.

The Golden Arc Expedition is set to be a phenomenal challenge - we are paddling further than the distance from London to Moscow through difficult seas in a demanding environment with an extensive list of challenges beyond the physical exertion. However, it will will kick-start our fundraising efforts and set an inspirational foundation for the Get Exploring Trust to succeed and make a very real, and very significant impact on some young peoples lives.

Thank you to all those who have kindly offered to donate to the charity and sponsor us for the pain and misery we will endure. We will post a link shortly with details of how you can donate if you would like to.

We are looking for sponsors!

In the meantime, we are still looking for sponsors to help cover the cost of the expedition. If you are, or know, someone in a suitable position or owner of a business - however small or large - we would love to get in touch and explain how sponsoring us will benefit them. More details can be found on our Support Us page here and our Sponsorship Proposal here

Please contact us at goldenarcexpedition@gmail.com

On the water...

Well, last night we had our first canoe lesson on the water. I think it went rather well....

With our experience of kayaking limited to flatwater lakes and rivers in comfortable holiday destinations such as the West Coast of Scotland and white water rafting in Iceland we were advised to start with the basic techniques before committing to the open seas. Wise advice.

So yesterday evening we duly set off with the Durham University Canoe Club to Darlington's finest Dolphin Centre Swimming Pool and spent the evening learning the basic paddling strokes and rolling, which the team took to with great and unquestionable success. Needless to say the aim will be not to capsize until we have had a few more lessons!

First kayaking technique lesson. (Credit: Victoria Stockbridge)            

First kayaking technique lesson. (Credit: Victoria Stockbridge)            

On the expedition we will be kayaking an average of 30 miles a day with the longest days up to 90 miles! Paddling without a support team we will be island hopping around the Antilles from Grenada all the up to Miami. Just to make sure it is an enjoyable trip we will be paddling during the tail end of hurricane season, the whole rainy season and into the beginning of the trade wind periods. Who said the Caribbean would make it easy for us!?

Welcome Party - "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat..."

When we asked for a welcome party in Miami, this isn't quite what we had in mind....

10,000 sharks have migrated to the Florida coastline! 

According to Stephen Kajira, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, the sharks are very attune to temperature, following a precise band of water between 21 and 24 degrees centigrade. Fortunately, he predicts they will disperse around April, not returning in these numbers again until next January, a month after we have finished our expedition.

More details can be found here.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat..."

"We're gonna need a bigger boat..."

Meanwhile we will be doing our best to get our hands on a shark shield from these guys!

Back at home, training is still going well; we are four weeks in and getting used to our early morning gym routine and progressive training programme. Although we are still not too happy about getting up in the dark when it is -2 and snowing! More information coming soon. 

Heading down to the gym at 6.30 in the morning. 

Heading down to the gym at 6.30 in the morning.