Friday, 31 October 2008

A Lifeboat, Seals, Wind and Waves 31/10/2008

First a big thank you must go to Sian and Alan from Pencarnan for the fireworks and the great hospitality last night, a great time was had by all!

With the shipping forecast being NE 5-7 decreasing 4 or 5 later we decided to take a short trip to St Justinian, home of the St David's Lifeboat. The boathouse was open so it gave us a chance to have a good look at the Tyne Class lifeboat Garside.

It was also a good vantage point to see the seal pup which is now looking a lot healthier and having a snooze in the sunshine whilst it's mother was being hassled by an amorous bull trying to have his evil way.

With the surf a lot bigger than yesterday and the wind showing no sign of easing it was 15 minutes of hard paddling and one unplanned roll before I managed to get out through the pounding surf!

Once out past the break line I decided to paddle into the wind towards Whitesands and St David's Head, hopefully into more sheltered waters.

On reaching Whitesands, which is less than a mile from Porthsele, I couldn't believe the difference in the sea conditions. Whitesands is one of the best surfing beaches in Wales but today it was flat calm, very different from Porthsele.

Paddling out along St David's Head the sea got even flatter and the sun even felt warm now I was sheltered from the NE wind. It was amazing to see the difference in the sea when looking out towards Ramsey Island and South Bishop Lighthouse where there were very large standing waves out in the main tidal stream caused by the wind against the ever increasing flood tide.

It was then a very easy quick paddle back to Porthsele where the only problem was getting through the surf as well as trying to avoid the numerous rocks either side of the narrow channel of sand to get back to the beach.
Yet again another short paddle of only 3.5 nautical miles (nearly 4 miles or approximately 6.5km) but at least I managed to cover a little distance (and practice my rolls) in hugely varying sea conditions.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Paddling into the Proverbial Brick Wall 30/10/2008

After a very windy night as promised by the shipping forecast, the forecast for today was not much better with a promise of NE winds force 5-7. I guess I wasn't going to be paddling very far again.

It was low tide so this meant that the sea was off the rocks at Porthsele leaving just sand which makes it ideal for playing about in the surf.

Although not very big waves they were very close together and with the wind blowing almost straight into the beach it made for good practice of paddling the kayak in windy, choppy conditions.

I didn't cover any distance but had a great time and got a good soaking.

Thanks to my better half for braving the relentless icy wind to take the photos.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A Window in the Weather....At Last! 29/10/2008

Today's inshore shipping forecast....NW4 or 5 backing S or SE 6 to gale 8 later. I decided to get on the water sooner rather than later.

Leaving Porthsele I paddled across Whitesands Bay and out to Porth Melgan, the small beach half way along St David's Head. It was relatively sheltered until reaching Porth Melgan where the NW wind was funnelled down the small valley out into the sea.

Carrying out along the headland I was again sheltered until paddling just past St David's Head where I hit the NW wind and the southerly flowing ebb tide.

Toying with the idea of carrying on around the head I decided to take the easy option and paddle south towards Ramsey Island with tide and wind in my favour. I made fast progress reaching a top speed of just over 7 knots with very little effort soon reaching the southern end of Ramsey Sound.

Southern end of the Sound looking Northwards

Deciding not to carry on any further southward I paddled across to the sheltered waters of St justinian and back along the coast to St John's Point where again it was a paddle against the wind back into Porthsele.

Another short paddle of 6 nautical miles (approximately 5.25 miles or 8.5km) but good to get back on the water after a few days off.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Milford Haven Seal Hospital 28/10/2008

With the wind still showing no sign of easing we decided to take a trip to the Milford Haven Seal hospital which is situated in an old refinery storage tank at the entrance to the Milford dockyard.

Inside there are 2 pools and numerous heated cubicles. Today there were 6 pups of varying ages and I guess if this wind keeps up there will be more additions.

The volunteer staff do a fantastic job and the centre is run entirely on donations. It is well worth a visit especially this time of year.

On returning to Pencarnan I took a walk to St John's Point and here are a few photo's looking out into Ramsey Sound.

No paddling today again, never mind tomorrow's another day.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

That's the end of that then.... 26/10/2008

Last night the clocks went back to GMT and British Summer Time officially ended, some might say it never really started! With the onset of Winter nothing much had changed, even though the weather was sunny there was a cold strong NW wind forecast to possibly reach force 8 later.

I decided to paddle out from Porthsele and round to St Justinian, home of the St David's lifeboat, and see how it goes.

The stretch of water between Carreg Gafeilliog and the mainland can become quite interesting, especially with conditions like today when the wind is against the tide and creating quite rough water.

On reaching St John's Point and the adjacent headland of Penrhyn Dalar. I now hit the main tide flow of Ramsey Sound which runs right close to Penrhyn Dalar and with the tide against me it was a bit of a struggle to get around, but once I did the water became a little more sheltered and on reaching the small headland of Porthyn Hyfryd there is a counter eddy flowing the other way which aids my progress into St Justinian.

Here it is sheltered from the wind and I have a rest and a chat with Tim from Venture Jet who has just returned from a trip around Ramsey Island. You can definately tell winter is on the way as there are very few boats moored here compared to a few weeks ago.

There is a seal pup on the beach which is apparently having a bit of a struggle but I kept my distance after a slightly heated discussion with 2 photographers about the pros and cons of taking photos from a sea kayak.

The paddle back should have been relatively easy with the tide but the increasing wind was against me and made things quite interesting in places. At one time it looked like there might be a sunset but as has happened quite a few times this year the sun disappeared into a bank of cloud.

Only a short paddle but with the prospect of a Force 8 approaching, all I hope is that conditions improve for the rest of half term week!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Flat Holm & Monkstone Lighthouses - The Tale of the missing Camera....12/10/2008

With the shipping forecast a lot more promising than last weekend I decided to paddle from Penarth out to Monkstone Lighthouse, approximately 3.5 miles out in the Bristol Channel, and let the ebbing tide take me down onto Flat Holm Island.

There was a slight sea mist but Monkstone Lighthouse was just visible, so paddling on a course to the left, or should I say port of Monkstone to allow for the tidal flow, I set off on a flat calm sea.

The course I was paddling saw me heading for a ship which as I got closer turned out to be the Arco Dart, a dredger, which is often out in the Channel. Sensing a photo opportunity I went in my deck bag to get out my non waterproof camera.

I use two cameras, a Sony waterproof camera which I keep in a pocket in my buoyancy aid and a Samsung with a zoom facility which is kept in a dry bag and only used when conditions are calmish and dry! The only thing was, it wasn't there, I then had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, another look in the deckbag, unclipped my spraydeck, not inside the kayak or in my under deck bag, it must be in the day hatch. Off with the cover and a quick fumble around, nothing!

That horrid feeling got worse as I knew I definately had it when I loaded the kayak on the side of the road back at Penarth, I now had vision of a lucky passerby finding it!

It was now a matter of trying to forget about the missing camera and try and enjoy the rest of the trip as the tide was quickly taking me to Monkstone Lighthouse.

Today with the tide already quite low a lot of the rock that the lighthouse was built on was exposed and it was clear why some sort of warning marker is needed as it is almost smack bang in the middle of the Bristol Channel between Penarth and Weston Super Mare.

Monkstone Lighthouse was built in 1839 and was largely unaltered until 1993 when the original iron top was replaced by a red glass fibre solar powered one.

After doing almost a complete circuit of the lighthouse I let the tide take me down to Flat Holm which, at the moment, was shrouded in mist. I made good progress and was soon at the Natural Arch by the landing jetty.

I paddled around Flat Holm in a clockwise direction passing the deserted cholera hospital, the lighthouse, the fog horn station and the four gun emplacements built in the 1860's and reused in WWII.

The island first had a lighthouse in 1737 after numerous shipwrecks, in 1929 it was converted to a rock station and fully automated in 1988.
On rounding the westerly end of the island the mist came back down and the coast of South Wales disappeared, but I could still see the South Cardiff Cardinal Buoy so setting a course for that I started on my return to a now invisible Penarth.
On the way back I was aware of a yacht behind me getting closer and closer, surely the visibility wasn't that bad, that would really round the day off nicely.

They had seen me and were just checking that I was out here alone in the fog of my own accord! I assured them I was ok, thanked them and asked them if they had seen a camera.

On reaching the South Cardiff Buoy the fog began to lift and my destination of Penarth came into view in the distance and with the ever increasing tide aiding my progress I was soon landing after completing a paddle of 11 nautical miles (approximately 12.5 miles or just over 20km). I also had a nice surprise when I opened my front hatch, there was the missing camera, don't ask me how it got there!!!