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!!!

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