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.

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