Sunday, 31 August 2008

A Rock called Horse and an Alien Sculpture....31/08/08

With this being the last day of my week down West I decided to take advantage of the very low spring tide and seek out the infamous Horse Rock.

Horse Rock is a cathedral sized spire of granite rising from a depth of 66 metres to the surface in less than half a mile and as a result, with the powerful tide streams in Ramsey Sound it creates a dangerous piece of water full of large waves and whirlpools.
It is situated in the middle of Ramsey Sound in a line between the white farmhouse on Ramsey Island and the Lifeboat Station at St Justinian.

The rock's location, bang in the middle of a seemingly unobstructed stretch of water has caused many a ship to come to grief. One of those was the British Steam Paddle Tug the Guiding Star, which in 1885, whilst towing another vessel, hit the rock and became badly holed.

Releasing the other ship, the Guiding Star sped as fast as she could to Whitesands Bay where she ran aground at the southern end. The crew were able to get ashore, but the ship became covered with sea water and was abandoned as a wreck. A part of her superstructure is still visible at low water.

A group of Fulmars near the Bitches

After leaving I paddle across to the Bitches which now looks very menacing. With it being low tide it is now almost a continuous line of jagged rocks half way across the Sound. It is amazing to see them close up and to see where yesterday I was paddling over most of these rocks submerged by white bubbling water.

I decided to paddle on through one of the narrow channels between the rocks and carry on down to Ynys Cantwr at the southern end of Ramsey. Today the weird shaped outline of rocks in the vegetation is clearer than normal.

It is hard to believe, but this sculpture is not man made and it is even rumoured that aliens and UFO's are to blame! I won't say what the shape reminds me of as my wife thinks I am crazy, I will let you make your own decisions!

Using the north flowing counter eddy to aid my progress, I then paddle back up to the Bitches which looks even more menacing silhouetted with St David's Head in the background.

On reaching the Bitches I encounter a small problem, the tide flowing against me through the rocks. After a brief struggle I get through and again, use another north flowing eddy near the island to take me up to the north end, with then a ferry glide across the southerly flowing ebb tide to St John's Point.

Only a short paddle but a good way to end another great week's paddling down West Wales, hopefully it won't be too long before I return.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

7 Metre Bitches 30/08/08

My initial plan today was another trip around Ramsey Island, but on reaching St John's Point the northerly flood tide was already flowing very fast and it was quite a struggle to get around the next headland of Penrhyn dalar as the tide flows right up to the rocks.

Just managing to get around I am now almost sure I have left it too late to do the island but I thought I would carry on and give it a try. If I didn't make it I always have the option of going over to the Bitches and checking them out as they should be quite interesting due to the 7.1 metre tide.

Paddling on I stay quite close to the cliffs to stay out of the main tide flow which doesn't really kick in till I reach Penmaen Melyn by the disused copper mines, this is also where I get a good view of and also can hear the Bitches, they already sound quite intimidating.

It is another quite hard paddle from here again staying close into the cliffs until I am about 100yards from Pen Dal-aderyn when a counter eddy aids my progress to the southerly end of the sound. I meet the full force of the tide flooding from St Brides Bay in through the narrow entrance of Ramsey Sound.

I paddle as far up to the tide flow as I can and then paddle as fast as I can into it. Straight away I am swung around 90 degrees towards the island. For a while I think I am making progress across but in a cruel twist, the tide seems to pick up again and I finally give in and let the tide take me down towards the Bitches, very very rapidly, where another counter eddy takes me in the opposite direction into the outermost rock of the Bitches.

It is then a matter of paddling across the foaming white water from rock to rock to the large rock by the top wave to the relative slack water where I can have a well deserved break and take some photos.

By here I must paddle like crazy against the flow and hopefully get above the wave and drop back down onto it for a play or, if you don't you get dragged into the white messy stuff behind!

Today there is no swell and little or no wind which is ideal conditions, it really is an awesome sight. I then have a leisurely paddle back through the Sound with the tide in my favour.

Only a short paddle of 5 nautical miles (approximately 5.5m or just over 9km) with a maximum speed of 10 knots, but a very exciting, adrenaline pumping journey. It is then a quick change of kayak and more kayak practice for the boys in the mill pond conditions.

Friday, 29 August 2008

A North Bishop and a Great White Bird... 29/08/2008

Today conditions were much the same as yesterday with little or no swell so I decided to paddle straight out from Porthsele heading towards North Bishop and see how things went.

Approaching North Bishop

With the tide still ebbing and flowing southwards, if anything I would be taken down to Ramsey Island rather than round St David's Head. The wind increased a little the further I paddled out but not enough to make much difference to my paddling or to the sea conditions.

Head and chest of 'The Bishop' lying down

Legs of 'The Bishop'

As can be seen from my route map, the tide, even though not that apparent at the time, did take me away from North Bishop, which by the time I made up my mind to head for North Bishop I had been taken quite a way off course and had to really struggle to get as near to the group of rocks as I did.

Carreg Rhoson viewed from North Bishop

Ramsey Island viewed from North Bishop

I decided to give in to the tide and let it carry me down towards Carreg Rhoson. Still it was a good learning exercise and I got pretty close and as I hadn't planned to go there it wasn't too bad.

South Bishop viewed from Carreg Rhoson

Arch through Carreg Rhoson

Passing some feeding porpoises on the way and as usual soon as I got my camera out they went AWOL.

Progress was rapid down to Carreg Rhoson where whilst stopping for a well deserved rest I spotted a white bird fly onto the most easterly rock of the Carreg Rhoson group. Click on the photo's below and above for larger image.

I paddled closer towards the rock with camera at the ready where, getting nearer, I realised it was a Shag or Cormorant. On consultation later with John and Marion of the Pembrokeshire Bird Group it was decided it was a Leucistic Shag. Apparently leucism is a condition caused by reduced pigmentation in animals, unlike albinism it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment not just melanin.

It caused a bit of interest amongst the boat trips and the local bird watching fraternity and hopefully he/she manages to survive okay though when I saw it, it seemed to be coping well and mixing fine with the other birds.

North Bishop as seen from the North end of Ramsey Island

It was now back across to Ramsey, I was thinking of continuing southward but on reaching the island the tide had changed and was already flowing pretty strongly northward so I decided to go with the flow and paddle around the north of the island, back across a flat calm Ramsey Sound and back to Porthsele.

This was a great paddle covering a distance of 9 nautical miles (nearly 10.5 m or 16.5 km) almost making it to North Bishop was great as I hadn't planned to go there with the highlight of the trip was seeing the white shag. Once again thanks to John and Marion for all their help and information.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

A Wrecked Tug Boat and a Turbulent Horse 28/08/2008

The wind has finally dropped and the shipping forecast was looking good so I decided to use the last of the south flowing ebb tide to take me through Ramsey Sound and out into St Bride's Bay.

The Arch through Carreg Yr Esgob

On reaching Carreg Yr Esgob, the large rocky outcrop in Porthlisky Bay, I paddled straight across to the site of what remains of the 3 tugs wrecked in October 1981, more info click here, as the tide was coming in and they would soon disappear beneath the waves.
The tide was a little higher than when I was here last month, although not as much of the wrecks were visible it meant I could get nearer to the bow and also behind the engine block.

On paddling eastwards back along the coast I decided I will have to paddle here again soon and spend time exploring a bit more as there are many inlets and caves, but today I am on a tight schedule as the boys have been wanting to go out in their new kayak and today is the first suitable day we have had for a couple of days.
The next point of interest is the purple sandstone cliffs of Caer Bwdy Bay. Rocks were quarried from these cliffs and the neighbouring Caerfai to provide stone for construction of St David's Cathedral.

Passing Caerfai Bay and entering St Non's Bay ,the St Non's Retreat and St Non's Chapel overlook the rugged coastline. St Non's is traditionally regarded as the birthplace of St David in 462 during a great storm, but a light is said to have miraculously shone over the spot.

The Holy Well adjacent to the retreat is said to have healing powers particularly for the eyes. The present chapel was built in 1934 shortly after the retreat and was constructed in the style of earlier chapels. The cliffs in St Non's Bay are very rugged with varying colours and formations.

Purple Sandstone mixed with Granite

Natural arch in St Non's Bay

Almost vertical layers of rock near Porthclais

Approaching Carreg Fran, the rocky outcrops before Porthlisky, I start to pick up the flood tide which increases the nearer I get to Ramsey Sound, you can hear it long before you can see it.

Ramsey Island and Pen Dal-adeyrn from Porthlisky

As I fly past Pen Dal-adeyrn the roughness of the water increases and it is here that I reach my top speed of 9.5 knots.

There is a small stretch of calmer water and then the turbulent water around the infamous Horse Rock comes into view.

Normally this is to be avoided but today as there is little wind and swell I paddle straight through it, brilliant fun.

After Horse Rock, the Sound seems relatively tame but it doesn't take me long to reach Porthsele where it is a quick change of boats and some paddling tuition for the boys.

This was the longest paddle of the week so far covering a distance of just over 13 nautical miles (approximately 15m or 24.5km).