Sunday, 14 September 2008

MV Balmoral & The Cardiff Buoys 14/09/2008

On arriving early to an unusually busy Penarth and chatting to some of the many people heading towards the pier I found out that the MV Balmoral was picking up at the pier on it's way to Lundy Island.
The Balmoral is one half of the Waverley excursions with the paddle steamer Waverley running trips in Scotland, the Irish Sea, the South Coast, the Thames and in the Bristol Channel.

The Balmoral was built in Southampton in 1949 and was part of the Southampton Red Funnel Fleet for 20 years. She then moved up to the Bristol Channel with P & A Campbells' White Funnel Fleet. They ceased operating in 1980 where she was moved to Dundee as a floating restaurant. This is where she gradually fell into disrepair. She was rescued by the friends and supporters of the Waverley and returned to service in 1986. In the winter of 2002 she received new engines and currently operates her main summer season in the Bristol Channel.

The passengers didn't take long to board and before I knew it she was disappearing into the mist aided by the fast flowing spring tide on her way to Lundy.

I then paddled over to Cardiff Bay Barrage. The Cardiff Bay Barrage lies across the mouth of Cardiff Bay between Queen Alexandra Dock and Penarth Head. The concept of a barrage was first suggested in the 1980s as a way to help regenerate Cardiff's largely disused docklands.

Two of the sluice gates open releasing fresh water into the sea

The barrage would create a large freshwater lake intended to attract investment into the docklands. The bay was part of the Bristol Channel which has the second largest tidal range in the world. As a result, for half of the day, the bay was empty of water, leaving large unappealing mudflats exposed. The barrage was consequently seen as central to the regeneration project.

Paddling almost easterly from the Barrage I reach the innermost starboard buoy marking the Wrach Channel which is the entrance channel to the Queen Alexandra Dock and what is left of the once massive Cardiff Docks.

The Inner Wrach buoy in the distance

The Inner Wrach Buoy with the Barrage in the background

Paddling southward along the edge of the Wrach Channel the next buoy I reach is the Inner Wrach buoy which as usual for a starboard marker buoy is cone shaped and painted green. When looking at the chart for Cardiff it is clear to see how important these buoys and the lights on the barrage are as the Wrach Channel is only just over 100m wide at the narrowest point, no problem for a 17.5 feet sea kayak but a different proposition for a large ocean going ship!

I then paddle across the channel over to the Penarth Head port marker buoy which is red in colour and cone shaped.

Again crossing the channel and heading seaward I reach the last Wrach buoy which is the west cardinal Outer Wrach buoy. Cardinal buoys use the points of the compass and this one shows the Wrach Channel is to the west of the buoy.

It is then a matter of dodging the numerous sailing boats back to Penarth. Only a short paddle but quite an interesting one.

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