London to France: Stage 1 Complete

Channel Crossing - (c) David Tett

(c) David Tett

My cheeks are chapped; my neck muscles have a few knots that they didn’t have before and my fingers squeal a bit from blister hot spots when I curl them into a fist – my body knows that it has paddled from London to France. My brain definitely does and it also keeps reminding me that we did it on very little sleep. I have slept for 7 hours already today but know that as soon as my head hits the pillow it will be dreaming again.

The Channel

I am happy to report that at 0630 today Justine and I paddled in with some dinky surf onto the beach in Calais after 8.5 hours paddling through the night across the English Channel, battling with sleep monsters, cold and more rough stuff than we had hoped for. We had paddled under Tower Bridge in London 65 hours and some 110 nautical miles earlier on Friday lunchtime.

The Channel was tough. Really tough. Full of ships, it is a notoriously busy shipping lane, meaning that we needed an escort boat to trail us – and get in between us and the big cargo ships and ferries honking North and South. It was cold, dark and rather rougher than we expected. Or at least than Justine expected. I hadn’t known what to expect – I was rather tired and a bit spaced out from the effects of an upset tum, just hoping that my insides would behave for the crossing. I wasn’t exactly assured when Justine mentioned, about an hour in, that had she realised just how rough these metre high waves were that she would have veto’d the crossing that night. Having just been slammed side on by a wave that nearly toppled me, I would rather not have heard that.

Channel Crossing - (c) David Tett

(c) David Tett

Each hour we rafted up alongside each other to feed and drink, pausing only briefly as the wind was cold and the tide was pushing us further North than we wanted, notching more miles to the log.

Two hours in and I finally felt settled – I was comfortable in the boat, enjoying the challenge of the beam on seas and loving the starscapes. With each hour that passed we got tireder and tireder, alternately descending into ourselves to paddle in silence or singing out aloud to keep ourselves awake. I could only remember school songs and musicals and so resorted to making up songs myself. Anyone on the outside would have thought we were going mad and  Justine’s regular hallucinations would have confirmed that.

After five hours I was really struggling to keep my eyes open and even started questioning which way was up. Our judgement was slowed and at each food break we checked and double checked that the other was OK and that we had resealed hatches correctly.

Landing lights

As the glow of Calais on the horizon slowly turned into blobs of orange and then lights and shadows, I knew that we were on our way to ticking off the first leg of the journey. Then, as the grey dawn broke over the greyer sea, I laughed and hollered and gulped back the tears – I was really on the way now and had just ticked off the first step of the journey.


The Jolly Curgenven

It has also been wonderful to paddle with Justine – fun, interesting and useful to pick her brains on kayaking and filming matters too. I can’t wait to get back into Nelson and paddle alongside her between Russia and Japan too later this year but, meanwhile, I have some cycling to do…

The Jolly Curgenven

(c) Sarah Outen

Happy happy days indeed. It has been a wonderful few days, interesting to see how the river profile changes from city to sea, lovely to be out on the water at all hours of the day and night and so satisfying to have overcome the lack of sleep and the cold to make it in safely and still have smiles on our faces.

Hercules and I head East tomorrow, trailed for a few days by Tim, Claire and Justine in the Saab, for the sake of photos and film and checking I have everything I need.

Then it’s just me, the bike and the open road. So now I must sleep, for I have a date with the world.

The support team arrives at the coast: Support Driver Claire Rasell and Logistics Manager Tim Moss.

(c) Sarah Outen

All salty best,

Sarah & Nelson x

PS Big shout out to all sponsors of my kayaking gear and food: Rockpool Kayaks, Kokatat, Mitchell Blades, REED chillcheater, KEEN, Aquapac, SeatoSummit, Nakd, Mars Lifeventure, Julbo, Petzl, Berghaus, Icebreaker

PS Another big thank you to Royal Temple Yacht Club, Ramsgate for giving us two rooms on Sunday to sleep, rest and and pack in




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27 Responses to London to France: Stage 1 Complete

  1. Sarah, for the next 2 years plus my dogs will have to wait for their early morning walk until I have read your blog!! Already hooked and loving it! Take care, you are very much in my thoughts, and so delighted that you have safely crossed the Channel.much love, Gillian x

  2. Nick Hand says:

    Sarah, what a great start, sounded a bit scary. Good luck with the next bit, though on a bike, I’m sure this bit will be a walk in the park for you (well compared with what you’ve just done anyway). Well, I’ll be thinking of you, and best wishes for this amazing journey. Cheers Nick (I sat next to you at Al’s Adventure talk last year).

  3. Helen Outen says:

    I am so proud of you….and thankful that you had such an experienced and wonderful lady as Justine with you.
    I hope you have enough rest before you set off again. Hope the meds arrived ok .
    More hugs ………………………xxxxxxxx

  4. Christine & Kathleen says:

    Well done Sarah, Justine and of course Nelson, an amazing start having crossed the Channel. We are so proud of you too, puts us all to shame. Its great following your blogs, enjoy the next part too.

    Love C & K

  5. Lee Waller says:

    What an amazing adventure you have embarked on! It is great to see you both completed the Channel crossing successfully, and I look forward to following your blog as you continue on. You’re a real inspiration, I and wish you all the very best for the next stage and beyond.
    Have a ball!

  6. Chris M says:

    Well done Sarah. Leg 1 done. Hello the world!!

    Following you all the way.

    Chris M
    Adventure Network

  7. I wonder if you should get somebody to chuck a bucket of water over you every few kms on the bike so you don’t lose your paddling acclimatisation?

    Great start, all you need to do is keep doing what you’re doing and remember to have fun.

  8. christina watts says:

    Great news : stage one is complete –

    Love the new website everyone, especially Google Earth, that does make it feel so real, we are really traveling along with you 🙂


  9. ian says:

    hi sarah,great to hear that you made it to france ok,looking forward to hearing your reports from the road,will you be able to tune into radcliffe and maconies new show on bbc6music as you travel?

  10. awmyth says:

    Just to say, I hope to be able to follow your blogs around the world and back.

    Good luck, ma’am.
    Gentle wind and calm seas. And friendly folks.

  11. Andy McFarlin says:

    I’ve just finished reading A Dip In The Ocean and found out that you have just started a new adventure.
    I wonder whether your route will bring you through Moscow. I work in the British Embassy and myself and colleagues would be interested in supporting you (and perhaps riding with you) if you come here. Look forward to hearing from you/your team.
    Good luck
    Andy McFarlin

    • Tim (Sarah's Logistics Manager) says:

      Hi Andy,

      I am Sarah’s Logistics Manager.

      Perhaps you could drop a note to me at and we can say hello. She’s not planning on going through Moscow but your support would be appreciated.

      All best,


  12. Andrew Barrett says:

    Sarah – Congratulations of a great opener. I followed Mark Beaumont all of the way and I will be there with youto the end . Good luck for the rest of your adventure. Andrew

  13. TERRY B says:

    Hi SARAH
    Congratulations on France
    On yur bike girl ,go get em!
    Take Care & Keep Safe
    Terry B !!!!!! West Aussie !!!!!!

  14. Gary Middleton says:

    Sarah I should imagine the bit crossing the shipping lanes must have been very scary. being a keen cyclist I am looking forward to the cycling parts of the trip.

  15. Kitty and Tim says:

    Well done for the first leg completed! Great to see you off on Friday, we got some super photos. We’ll be following you all the way, hope Hercules behaves himself! Best of luck for the next stage.

  16. Toby Skinner says:

    Well Done Sarah you are doing an amazing job =) you left on Friday why did it take you so long to arrive in France? Best of luck on a long trip to Russia you can do it everyone at NBH school is supporting your track on a display.

  17. Mark Lamble says:

    Hey Sarah…

    Glad to see you made it OK – the channel can be a scary place alright! Looking forward to reading how you get on with Hercules – one of his brothers is a candidate for my replacement bike.

    Take care and enjoy!

  18. Mike Webb says:

    What a way to start. Sounds like the crossing was cold and hard, must have been bad if Justine was doubtful, but I hope you and Nelson have had some good times so far.

  19. We’re following you all the way up to our Atlantic crossing in December, your’e an inspiration to us all… keep it up!..

  20. Alex Smirnov says:

    Good to hear the first stage went well. Hope your legs are rested for the miles ahead.

  21. SHS Hallie & Elliot says:

    Hi there Sarah
    Great to hear things are going well, Elliot & I are keeping a watch, so go get it, good on yer. Gods speed.

  22. Sarah Outen says:

    Thanks for all the messages folks!
    Update from the first few cycling legs to come soon.



  23. Helen Outen says:

    You sure you haven’t got an engine stacked away there somewhere??? you’re certainly getting some miles in !!!
    Take care.
    HUGS xxxxxx Mum

  24. René Soobaroyen says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Greetings from Mauritius. You are just where you wanted to be. Hope everything goes like this throughout. As a busy photographer I wish i could find time to be in your way one of these days. I am keeping track of you. Maybe……. . cheerzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  25. Big ‘shout out’ Sarah from the Accenture team – loving keeping up to date on where you are and how you’re doing. Will catch up soon on how we next ‘connect live’ – checking with Gilly and Fiona this week 🙂 Cheers and loony grins!

  26. Tari says:


    So, I am about 1 year late in following the blog. In my defense I only knew about and met you at around Christmas 2011, but I will catch up with all the blog posts before your next departure from Choshi! You know, so I can read the next posts in a more timely manner. 🙂
    Very well written and gripping to read. I shall follow you all the way until you loop back to London and for any other adventures after that!

    Big HUGS!

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