A teenage kayaker is paddling up the coast of Wigtownshire this week en route to Inverness to raise money for the RNLI.
Angus Leigh, 19, is from Aynho, near Banbury, Oxfordshire. He is currently in a gap year between school and university and hopes to study Ocean Science at either Liverpool or Plymouth University.
Angus’s love of kayaking has developed while on frequent holidays to his grandmother’s home on Loch Sween near Lochgilphead, Argyll, Scotland. He is also a keen dinghy sailor. As he and his family do a lot of boating, the RNLI is very important to him and this inspired him to plan an expedition from Cardiff to Inverness (a distance of some 900 miles) to raise funds for the charity as well as raising awareness of safety at sea. His plan is to head around Wales, through the Menai Strait and along the northern coast before heading up the West coasts of England and Scotland to Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne. From here he intends to go through the Crinan canal and up to Oban, then continue to head north as far as Fort William, where he will paddle through the Caledonian Canal to finish in Inverness. Originally, he calculated that this would take around two months. His progress round Wales was slower than expected but he has made good progress up the west coast of England so far.
Angus is funding all expenses for the trip himself, but hopes that members of the public may wish to make a donation to the RNLI in recognition of his efforts.
In his own words: “I have never been happier than when I am on a boat on the sea, and I feel that the best vessel to do a solo trip in is a kayak. Cardiff to Inverness felt like a reasonable distance, and is a trip that most people are able to picture in their mind quite easily. I also fancied doing something a bit different with my gap year.”
Angus takes safety seriously. He has researched his journey using Admiralty charts and OS maps. He consults tide tables and weather forecasts and doesn’t put to sea if the conditions are against him. Where possible, he gathers local knowledge about the coast. He sets himself manageable daily stages. He carries an ICOM M91D portable VHF radio with DSC & GPS (and he holds a Maritime Radio Short Range Certificate). He carries an Etrex GPS unit and a Fast Find 220 PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), which is registered. He carries a mobile phone for use from the coast. He carries a spare paddle. He has practised rolling the kayak and bailing out in an emergency. He uses a well fitted spray deck and wears a buoyancy aid at all times when on the water. He keeps the coast guard aware of his plan for the day.
In addition, Angus trained to improve his fitness for the trip by running, cycling and swimming. The sustained effort will probably still be quite a challenge for him but he is at least somewhat prepared for it.
Angus carries a tent with him in the kayak and has mainly been camping. However, several people along the way have been kind enough to put him up for the night and he has also spent a couple of nights at RNLI stations, when there is no local campsite.
Again, in his own words: “So far the trip is going really well. I have had lots of great support from both RNLI people and the general public, ranging from help moving the kayak to putting me up for a night, as well as providing food, advice, encouragement and support. There have been some challenging stretches of water, and local knowledge has definitely been essential in getting me this far.” Angus launched from Penarth, just west of Cardiff on Tuesday 24 June and at the time of writing (25 July), he is heading northwards from Seascale and hopes to reach Workington tonight.
A word about the RNLI: their website states that they save 23 lives a day. They work very hard to educate people, especially children, about safety at sea. When things do not go according to plan, they turn out in all weathers and conditions to rescue people who have got into trouble. Many of their personnel are volunteers and are willing to drop everything to assist with rescues. In addition, RNLI lifeguards are present at 200 of Britain’s beaches. The costs of training, equipment and rescue vessels are phenomenal (£2.7 million for a lifeboat, £33,000 for a lifeguards’ cabin on a beach, see website for more).
Angus hopes not to have to call on the RNLI during his expedition but we are all very glad that they are there. So far, he has raised over £2000.