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Yacht & Sup Retreat

Posted By Dave

Retreat: 17th & 18th June 2017

We had a team of journalists booked onboard our recent Yacht & SUP Retreat to write a review on “British outdoors from a stand-up paddle board” in conjunction with Red Paddle Co.

To my delight as soon as they arrived, it was like having a group of friends on board rather than a Jeremy Paxman interview! So rather than me talking about how great the trip why not read it from a journalist’s eyes.. here’s Sam Haddad’s review:

Of course the heatwave stopped the morning of the trip. The dreamy Trinidad-style temperatures we’d grown so used to dropped by at least ten degrees, giving way to April showers and a wind that swirled with menace.

At first, the ride out into the Solent did nothing to ease my fears. The sea was all white peaks and chop, the wind gusted relentlessly, and our giant sail flapped noisily as it powered us forward into the waves. But it didn’t take long to notice how smooth the ride was. Our skipper, Dave Hartwell, explained while casually steering the ship with one hand, why things felt more stable on a catamaran, which has two hulls rather than your usual one.

He went on to explain the science of why that is but by then the blue of the horizon and the thrill of the ride were too distracting. I haven’t spent much time on boats that weren’t ferries but as I roamed about the decks trying to spot red squirrels on Brownsea Island and taking in the amazing coastline of Studland Bay from various vantage points I had no idea I would like it this much. It took all the power within me not to go full Titanic and re-enact the “I’m flying” pose on the bow (front) of the boat.

The apparent blingness of the catamaran may have helped, it felt like an oligarch’s lair, at 44 feet long with polished wooden panelling, tonnes of space to sit in and out, a kitchen and four super-roomy en-suite double cabins below deck, it felt very indulgent. The fact it was a catamaran and not a regular yacht made things much less cramped than a normal yacht.


This overnight trip was all about taking a break from the everyday and after just twenty minutes of sail-time I already felt the weight of routine and reality had lifted.

Though I struggled to see how I was going to learn to paddle board with the sea in this state. I shouldn’t have worried our skipper steered us to a sheltered by with a dramatic backdrop of Old Harry Rocks, perfect for paddleboarding.

We’re taken to shore on a small launch boat and our SUP coach Sam Ross, who gives us the basics. He tells us where to stand, how to hold the paddle, keeping one hand stacked over the other, and urges us to take a few paddle strokes on each side, rather than one and one. And most of all we should enjoy it. As if to help with that the sun starts shining.

As I get on a board for the first time I still expect it to sag in the middle like a holiday lilo but it doesn’t at all. It feels as sturdy as my surfboard, more so in fact as it’s wider, a little longer and far more buoyant and stable. We start off on our knees, and as I do my paddle in I feel like a Hawaiian warrior even though I’m sure I look like a Celtic weakling. And standing up is a breeze, these boards really are so stable, though it does feel weird to paddle facing forwards rather than sideways at first.

After a few loops and figures of eight we get a bit more advanced and practice step back turns where inevitably my hubris leads to me falling in a few times. But I don’t mind, as the water is lovely and warm. A good while later, we paddle back to the catamaran and spend some time somersaulting off the bow of the boat, before we pull up the anchor. We sail past Old Harry Rocks out to Swanage and then back past Brownsea Island to our evening rest point near Round Island.

We can’t dock in the usual spot as there are two seals chilling on the wooden platform. So we find a nearby alternative mooring point and watch them watch us with curious yet not-remotely fazed interest.
The sun has stayed out and we get set for another evening paddle. I wore a wetsuit earlier but it’s still wet and I don’t fancy putting it back on, so I decided to paddle in a risky shirt and denim shorts combo. It means I mess about less with step back turns but as we paddle towards the setting sun, with no trace of human habitation, it does make the experience feel ridiculously civilised.

We’re 20 minutes in a boat from Poole Harbour yet it feels so remote, more akin to a Nordic archipelago, as we paddle along reedy banks and up the kind of tiny river creeks you could only reach doing this or swimming or in a kayak. But what I realise now where SUP wins over kayaking it’s the unique view and perspective standing up.

It’s June so the light is awesome and it lasts well into the evening for us to manage a 4-kilometre paddle before night falls. It’s all so easy and relaxing and best of all, I manage not to fall in. Back on the boat we drink some wine and watch the stars before turning in. The beds are comfy and the spot so sheltered I barely notice I’m on a boat.

The next morning the sea seems less sheltered so we giggle our way through a slightly wobbly session of SUP yoga. But it’s easily the most beautiful spot I’ve ever done yoga and a nice way to loosen off before our last paddle and sail back to Poole.
We return well-rested and enjoyably sea-swept. Ready to face reality with a little more zing in our step. In distance terms, our journey was relatively short but it felt like a significant break. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need.


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