Saturday, 31 May 2008

Skomer Island in the mist 31/05/2008

I left Pencarnan for the drive to Martin's Haven with everything shrouded in a dense sea mist, which cleared for a while on reaching Haverfordwest, but then descended again as I travelled back out towards the coast.

I paddled out into the mist hoping that as the day progressed visibility would be improved once the sun rose higher, as it often does. Almost immediately I was awe struck by the number of sea birds that I encountered bobbing along en masse enjoying the relative privacy that the mist gave them.

It took me a while to paddle to Wooltack point as I was continuously stopping to admire the puffins, razorbills and guillemots. They were not intimidated by my presence at all, and let me float in quite close amongst them.

Wooltack point is where the island of Skomer first comes into view but today I couldn't even see Tusker Rock which is a small rocky outcrop at the entrance to Jack Sound. All I could see was a wall of mist, good time to see how good my navigational skills are and use the old compass!

I had to be careful as the tide was running southwards through Jack Sound and therefore could take me through it and past Skomer.

After a slightly worrying 10-15 minutes Skomer finally appeared through the mist. Once I reached the island I paddled close to the cliffs passing huge numbers of sea birds on my way.

Eventually Garland Stone came into view. This is a large rock just off the northern tip of Skomer. Often large numbers of seals can be seen basking on this rock, but today I could see bugger all!!!

Along the north west side of Skomer there are very high sea cliffs with a huge variety of nesting sea birds perched precariously on the ledges.

The next point of interest is 'Bull Hole'. This is an inlet with more high cliffs both sides and large boulders at the back.

On leaving the Bull Hole there are, again, huge numbers of nesting sea birds. The quality of this photo is not so good due to the ever lingering mist.

On reaching the Spit, a narrow headland jutting out to sea, there is a crack through the cliff, which is just about wide enough to paddle through.

This part of Skomer bears the brunt of the prevailing southwesterly wind and swell and even on calm days there is usually a bit of rough water as can be seen on the photo below approaching Skomer Head.

Passing the Basin and entering the Wick the sun finally started to burn off the sea mist and give me my first clear view of the island.

The Wick is a long inlet with steep cliffs on one side and a sloping face of rock on the other which has been caused by a line of weaker rock that has been eroded more rapidly than the surrounding rock. This is one of the best areas on the island to see the puffins taking off and returning to their burrows.

On passing the Mew Stone and entering South Haven the mist totally lifted leaving a clear blue cloudless sky.

I stopped for a quick snack and drink and looking back at the Mew Stone the mist was still lurking ominously threatening to return once again.

Here again there were large numbers of puffins now enjoying the warmth of the sun.

I paddled through Little Sound, a stretch of water between Skomer Island and Midland Isle, to be greated, once again by a bank of sea mist. By now the tide flow in Jack Sound had changed direction and conditions got quite interesting.

Even with the reduced visibility this was a very enjoyable paddle made even better by the huge presence of the puffins and other sea birds.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Ramsey Island #2 27/05/2008

Conditions were a lot calmer than yesterday so I decided to paddle from Porthsele down to the southern end of Ramsey Sound, cross over to the island, and hopefully carry on around.

Even though the north flowing tide was against me I was able to paddle quite a way out from the coastline due to a south flowing counter eddy achieving an average speed of four knots, which was quite strange because a couple of hundred yards to my right the tide was flowing in the opposite direction quite quickly.

On reaching Pen Dal-aderyn the fishery protection vessel entered the sound, obviously coming to check up on Adrian's new lean mean fishing machine!!

It was now a matter of paddling like crazy out into the tide stream and ferry glide across it in to the calmer waters, hopefully above the Bitches.

Today the crossing was a lot easier than expected with no danger of being dragged down onto the Bitches. After the brief sprint I had a leisurely paddle down to Penrhyn Twll where there is a natural arch through the headland.

The next point where rough water can be encountered is 'The Devil's Hole', which is between Ynys Cantwyr and the Midland isle, this then leads into Bay Dillyn. The conditions at this point were very tame and I didn't even manage to get wet!

Taking full advantage of the unusually calm waters I kept very close to the coastline and decided to explore many of the caves and inlets. There were many birds nesting in the Cathedral Cave entrance so decided to keep my distance.

Paddling around Bay Dillyn I reach another inlet with a central upstanding rock and a pebbled beach.

Proceeding into the inlet there are two solitary black rocks jutting up out of the beach, not knowing much about geology, don't know why or how?!

On rounding Trwynmynachdy I enter another large bay with the pebbled storm beach of Porth Lleuog in the far corner. There is a large interesting cave which I would have liked to explore but unfortunately it was guarded by two large bull seals who were adamant that I would not be allowed entry!
They escorted me out of the bay, following behind, constantly splashing and snorting, making sure their presence was known at all times.

The next stretch of coastline are the high sea cliffs where numerous Guillemots and Razorbills are currently nesting. After passing Trwynllundain I enter Aber Mawr, the largest beach on Ramsey Island.

Paddling towards Trwyn-drain-du there are two caves, Ogof Organ and Ogof Tywod. The first cave, Ogof Organ, was once again guarded by one bull seal and his missus! I was, however, able to enter Ogof Tywod, unaccompanied.

This is a large cave with plenty of room to turn the sea kayak round, thus being able to take photo below looking out of the cave entrance southwards at Carnllundain.

Passing Trwyn-drain-du I then encountered the remnants of yesterday's swell as I paddled along the north edge of Ramsey and across Ramsey Sound back to Porthsele.

This was a surprisingly easy paddle around Ramsey Island considering yesterday's stormy conditions.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A Bit of a Surf! 26/05/2008

Once again the wind was even stronger than yesterday so didn't even waste my time trying to paddle any great distance but decided to blow the dust of the old Palm Ultimate surf kayak and do some surfing.

Porthsele is not reknowned for it's surf, but there are the odd days when conditions are not too bad if the wind is blowing in the right direction. Although they were not perfect surfing waves, beggars can't be choosers!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

A Day of Varying Conditions 25/05/2008

Conditions much the same as yesterday, if anything the wind was stronger today than Saturday. I paddled out from Porthsele again without any clue as to what I was going to do. There was a large swell coming straight in caused by the North Easterly wind as you can see below.

The wind nearly took my paddle whilst taking this picture! (Don't worry dad I've got a spare!!). After this little incident I decided to head into Ramsey Sound and hopefully, for a change, more sheltered waters.

On rounding St John's point it went from one extreme to another, the Sound was flat calm aided by the tide being in the same direction as the wind. I used the last remnants of the Southerly flowing ebb tide to take me down to Penmaen Melyn. I looked over at the Bitches and they seemed quite tame so I paddled across.

There was still a small amount of tide flow so I played about in the white water for a while before taking the photo below looking through the Bitches towards St Davids Head.

Next I paddled through the channel between the Bitches and the small bay of Aberfelin, and through the arch to the North side of the Bitches. The wind was being funnelled through the arch and I had to put a little sprint on to get through.

After a short break out of the wind in the Island's harbour I paddled Northwards along the East side of Ramsey Island where the conditions started to liven up a bit. On reaching Trwyn Ogof Hen I met the swell that I had earlier left behind.

I then carried on across Ramsey Sound back over to St John's point where, by now, the flood tide had started to flow and with it being against the wind, large standing waves were starting to form. Now the fun begins.

I paddled in the tide flow towards Carreg-gafeiliog where large overfalls had now formed. Here I reached a top speed of 10 knots (approx 18.5kmh). This got the old ticker working overtime. I didn't risk taking any photos at this point due to my earlier mishap with the paddle.

I then had quite a hard paddle back to Porthsele through very confused water. Once again only a short paddle of 5.25 nautical miles (approx 9.75 km) but quite exhilarating.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

St David's Head 24/05/2008

After listening to the shipping forecast, which confirmed my worst fears, NE 5-7 increasing gale 8 later, my paddling options were limited. I chose to paddle from Porthsele out to St David's Head and see how far I could paddle round the peninsula knowing the tide and wind would be against me and therefore aid my return if need be.

After rounding the Head I was hit by the full force of the North Easterly! and with the tide against me, progress was very slow. I had to concentrate very hard and not lose focus as the water was very confused with the waves crashing against the cliffs and bouncing back out causing clapotis.

Looking at my GPS I was only travelling 1.5 knots, getting nowhere fast and starting to get tired, and with the thought of a force 8 looming and the headland of Penllechwen in view, where large overfalls can form, I decided to cut my losses and turn around. It was quite a risk just taking a photo at this point due to the size of the swell.

Now things really started to speed up as I had the tide and wind behind me and I was able to surf the swell. Before I knew it I was back at St David's Head with Ramsey Island in the distance.

After a brief rest, out of the wind behind St David's Head, I decided to carry on in the main tide stream down to Gwahan, a small rocky outcrop half way between the Head and the north end of Ramsey Island. It was on this stretch that I achieved my top speed of 8.5 knots.

I was tempted, for a brief instant, to carry on around the Western side of Ramsey Island but again thoughts of the threatened force 8 came to mind. I ferry glided across a surprisingly calm Ramsey Sound into St Justinian and then along the coast to St John's point, where the wind hit me once again. I then had quite a hard paddle back to Porthsele.

This was only a short paddle of 6.75 nautical miles (approx 12.5km) but quite a challenging one in very varying conditions.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Weekend off 18/05/2008

No paddling this weekend, but not through choice. I have a bad case of Tennis Elbow, which is absolutely fine when I am paddling, but not so fine when I am working (good reason to retire early I reckon!) Had to have a cortisone injection on Friday, which was no problem, but as the time went on the pain got worse and worse, far worse than before the injection. Was thinking I had made the wrong decision in having the injection for a while, but am pleased to say that the pain is now easing and hopefully elbow will be back in full working order ready for the trip down west on the weekend.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Flat Holm & Monkstone Lighthouse 11/05/2008

I left early on a glorious sunny morning from a deserted Penarth beach and paddled SE on a flat calm Bristol Channel towards Ranie buoy which marks the extremity of the rocks and sand spit off Lavernock Point. Here I encountered a bit of adverse tide but a short ferry glide took me out of the tidal flow and into the calmer waters on a course to Flat Holm.

Just before Flat Holm I encountered more adverse tide over the Flat Holm shelf but again a slightly longer ferry glide and I was into the shelter of the landing jetty.

I paddle in a clockwise direction and soon the lighthouse comes into view. The Flat Holm Lighthouse was established in 1737 after a ship was wrecked near the Holms with the loss of 60 soldiers. There are the remains of 4 gun emplacements which were built in the 1860's and were also used in WWII.
On returning back to the landing site I had a quick break and then preceeded to paddle on a course for Monkstone Lighthouse, my third lighthouse of the weekend. The tide was in my favour so it wasn't long before I reached Monkstone.

Monkstone Lighthouse was established in 1839 and was changed to solar power in 1993, note panels.

I now had a leisurely 5km paddle on glassy flat calm waters back to Penarth. It was on this paddle back that I had a close encounter with a Garfish..... paddling along, minding my own business, I was viciously attacked!!? by a Garfish, it leapt out of the water and slapped my hand with it's body, then went on it's way still leaping as he went. Frightened the life out of me at the time as I was in a world of my own!

Arriving back to a very busy Penarth after a paddle in idyllic conditions, I covered 10.5 nautical miles reaching a top speed of just over 6 knots.