Saturday, 26 July 2008

Skomer & Skokholm - With Company! 26/07/2008

This was a last minute, totally unplanned trip back down West. Following a few emails back and forth I found myself paddling out from Martin's Haven at 8 o'clock on a glorious Saturday morning with Eurion and co., the first time I have paddled with company for many years!

There was little or no tide flow as we paddled across the north end of Jack Sound. Whilst the other five made a bee line for the Garland Stone on the Northern tip of Skomer, Eurion and I paddled across to the Neck where large numbers of Puffins were floating on the flat calm water.

Paddling between Rye Rocks and the mainland of the island there were a few seals basking out on the rocks.

It was then catch up time as while we had been sightseeing the others had passed the Garland Stone and were now paddling along the Western side of Skomer.

We caught them up by the Pig Stone and we all made our way into The Basin and then into the Wick, where there are still large numbers of birds nesting on the steep North facing cliffs and numerous jellyfish in the water.

After a brief rest here it was onto the Island of Skokholm across a very calm Broad Sound. Skokholm is totally different to Skomer with dark red sandstone cliffs and dark green vegetation.

Skokholm Lighthouse is situated on the SW corner of the island, it was built in 1916 and forms the landward corner of a triangle of lights, the others being South Bishop and the Smalls, guiding ships clear of this treacherous piece of coastline en route to Milford Haven and the Bristol Channel.

We stopped for a lunch break at the small jetty in Hog Bay. Before the lighthouse was built this jetty had to be constructed in order that building materials could be landed safely; after the station had been completed, this jetty was used for landing stores and supplies, these being carried the mile to the lighthouse on two small trucks running on a narrow gauge railway.

The trucks were originally pulled by a donkey which somehow always seemed to know when a relief day was due because he would deliberately hide often standing motionless under an overhanging rock. The colour of the rock blended perfectly with the donkey's grey coat, and he would just stand there while the keepers walked for miles seeking him. On any other day the donkey would come at a call.
The pony which replaced him apparently soon learnt the tricks because he did his best to cause upsets every time he was called upon to pull the trucks, scattering coal and stores all over the place. A tractor was subsequently used for haulage, when relief was by boat from Holyhead, but nowadays a helicopter is used.

It was then across Broad Sound and back to Skomer. This was a very quick crossing as the North flowing ebb tide was starting to pick up its speed. By now Jack Sound was at full flow but with no wind was just right to have a bit of a play.

Eurion joined me and together, keeping close to Midlands Isle we paddled against the tide flow and explored a few caves.

With the best one going right through the Neck with 2 other caves coming off it at right angles to the main cave. It was in one of these caves that I came across a seal sleeping in the dark. I don't know who was started the most, me or the unsuspecting seal!
Passing through the cave we were now back on the North side of Skomer. It was now back across the rough water at the North end of Jack Sound and back to Martin's Haven.
A very enjoyable impromptu paddle covering a distance of just over 13 nautical miles (approx. 15.5m or 24.5km) with a top speed of 7.5 knots.
It made a change to have someone else to talk to other than myself, thanks to Eurion and co. for the invite.

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