Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Out with the old! 31/12/2008

After another heavy frost, New Year's Eve was a cold but glorious day.
Leaving Porthsele I paddled out around Carreg Gafeilliog. With the ebbing tide aiding me, I let it take me across to the NE tip of Ramsey Island. I followed a lone bull seal swimming on the surface for a while obviously, like me, using the tide to his advantage. It got a bit crowded for a while with a couple of porpoise swimming against the tidal flow.

After a little bit of turbulence nearing Ramsey which nearly got me wet I entered the calm sheltered water along the east side of Ramsey Island where I paddled down towards the Bitches which looked quite ominous silhouetted against the glassy flat Ramsey Sound.

With the tide flowing southwards I had to watch out not to be taken through the Bitches as it would be a long wait for the tide to ease off enough to be able to paddle back up through them.

The Bitches are quite impressive at low water and it is easy to see why they have been such a hazard to shipping passing through the Sound throughout the ages.

Paddling out along them was it was amazing as I got to the nearest Bitch to the mainland how fast the water was flowing even on such a calm day. I nearly got dragged down too far whilst taking the above photo and it was quite a struggle to get back to the slower, calmer water, the lengths I go to to take a photo!
I decided not to attempt a crossing of the Sound by here but to paddle northwards along the edge of the main tidal flow where there is an eddy flowing the other way.

On reaching the NE corner of Ramsey Island it was then a ferry glide across the Sound. As can be seen by the map, the tide took me southwards for a while until nearing the mainland.

It was then a gentle paddle back stopping numerous times to take photos of the setting sun.

A great paddle, what a fantastic way to bring 2008 to an end.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

A Perfect Winter's Day 30/12/2008

Taking an early morning walk down to Porthsele I was quite surprised to see the sand above the high water mark to be encrusted with a very heavy frost.

There was a sea bird which I think was a Black Headed Gull, I know he hasn't got a black head but apparently they lose that in the winter. I don't know what he was up to as it seemed a bit cold to be taking a bath! He wasn't there later when I went out for my paddle so I take it he was ok.

The conditions were absolutely perfect although cold once I got paddling I was lovely and warm, the drysuit proving it was worth every penny.

I padddled towards Whitesands across a glassy flat sea and over the remains of the Steam Paddle Tug the Guiding Star which was beached and wrecked here in 1885 after becoming badly holed after hitting Horse Rock in Ramsey Sound.

Proceeding along St David's Head I paddled past the sheltered beach of Porth Melgan. On rounding St David's Head the flat conditions continued.

On the previous occasions that I have been round the Head this year they have been challenging paddles with large confused swells but today it was flat with just a bit of adverse tide flow to contend with.
I paddled for about a mile and then decided to turn around as the sun was already starting to get quite low in the sky and I wanted to try and get back before it got dark.

It was an effortless paddle back with the tide aiding my progress, passing a fishing boat who probably can't believe the conditions either I don't think we have had many better days all year!

After rounding the head I decided to paddle across to Carreg Gafeilliog instead of straight back into Porthsele with the hope of seeing a sunset, but as has happend on many times this year the sun disappeared into a bank of misty cloud, still you can't have everything.

With the light fading fast the temperature began to drop, it is going to be another cold night but if the sea stays the same who cares!

Monday, 29 December 2008

A Paddle into the Dark 29/12/2008

Arriving at Pencarnan for our New Year's break just after lunch, it was a bit of a rush to get unpacked and settled in before finally getting onto the water.

With the light fading fast it was only going to be a short paddle so I decided to head out from Porthsele and paddle against the beginning of the northerly flowing tide down to the Bitches, cross back over to the mainland and then follow the coast back to Porthsele.

On reaching St John's Point I was caught up by the St David's ILB which was returning to St Justinian after being on a jolly to Porthgain. After exchanging Christmas and New Year greetings with Mike and the other two crew members they sped off into Ramsey Sound.

The paddle through the Sound and across to the Bitches was quite easy with not too much adverse tidal flow until reaching the Bitches.

On reaching the Bitches I stopped for a few minutes behind the nearest rock to the mainland for a quick drink and then started the paddle across the ever increasing tidal flow, with the daylight fading fast.

After an energetic ferry glide I was across Ramsey Sound and by now it was dark and with it being cloudy I kept pretty close to the cliffs heading for the one light at St Justinian.

On reaching St Justinian and a brief stop to experiment with the camera (the lifeboat station is to the left of the light), I continued hugging the coast back to Porthsele where I had to put my headlamp on to make sure I missed the rocks when landing.

Only a short paddle but interesting in the dark! Lets hope these conditions continue for the rest of the week!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Chicken Supreme! 14/12/2008

With the wind increasing through the night and still pretty strong I decided to launch from Porthsele with no particular plan but just to see how things went.

Like yesterday there was a large swell with the occasional sets of large waves coming through.

Paddling out to Carreg Gafeilliog, the rocky outcrop at the northerly end of Ramsey Sound, the waves were crashing quite impressively on the jagged rocks. Still not sure where to head for and after paddling one way and then another, I decided to paddle out to Gwahan, the small rock about half a mile north of Ramsey Island.

With the tide flowing southwards it was a chance to practice my ferry glides and I was quite surprised how fast the tide was flowing.

As I got nearer to Gwahan the speed of the tide increased and it was a struggle to stay on course and not get swept past the rock. The water around Gwahan was quite rough and whilst taking the above photos I was carried southwards past Gwahan and down towards Ramsey.

As Gwahan disappeared and Ramsey got nearer I had to put on another sprint so as as not to be carried around the seaward west side of Ramsey Island instead of into Ramsey Sound. Glancing at my GPS I was paddling at nearly 10.5 knots, great fun especially going through the turbulent water.

Passing Trwyn Ogof Hen the NE tip of ramsey it was now another ferry glide across the southerly flowing Ramsey Sound across to St Justinian which is very sheltered today and an ideal place to have a brief rest before the paddle back to Porthsele. Paddling out of St Justinian the sky looks pretty stormy at the southern end of Ramsey Sound.

It is a relatively short paddle back to Porthsele where, whilst I am getting changed, I am mobbed by a gang of chickens, shame they weren't turkeys what with Christmas approaching!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Porthgain, A Harbour, Ruins, Quarry & A Guinness 13/12/2008

After a good drive back down West I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions of the sea especially after last night's very high winds.

I decided to launch from Porthgain, a small harbour situated on the North Pembrokeshire coast, approximately half way between St David's Head and Strumble Head.

Leaving Porthgain I turn right towards Strumble Head staying quite close to the cliffs. There is still quite a large swell causing quite confused water around the entrance to Porthgain and the surrounding cliffs as well as quite a strong NW wind.

As I paddle round the coast I come into the bay before the massive detached stack of Ynys- Fach which has a cave running straight through it that can be paddled through nearer to high tide.

Paddling around Ynys-Fach there are numerous small coves and inlets with high cliffs. It is then only a short paddle to the rocky beach of Aber Draw with the village of Trefin a further half mile inland.

Here the swell picked up with the occasional larger wave coming through which nearly caught me off guard whilst taking photos of the arch and waterfall. I decided to turn around here and head back to Porthgain and maybe paddle on towards Abereiddy.

On reaching the large headland of Penclegyr there were large standing waves and with the tide now flowing SW I decided not to proceed any further as the tide would be against me on my return journey as well as the large standing waves.

Paddling into Porth Ffynnon a small pebbled beach with a cave at the back with the granite quarry above. It is not far back to Porthgain with a little surf into the harbour between the two walls.

A short paddle of 4.25 nautical miles (4.75 miles or just over 7.5km) but not too bad considering the heavy wind last night.

There is still an hour or so of daylight so after changing I decide to take a walk past the giant brick hoppers along the quay which used to store difference grades of crushed granite and up onto the headland looking down over the harbour.

From 1837 to 1931 Porthgain was a very busy harbour exporting slate from Abereiddy, roadstone, granite and bricks. On the top of the headland towards Penclegyr there are numerous remains of this busy period.

Returning to Porthgain it is now dark and an ideal opportunity to sample a pint of Guinness and have a warm in the Sloop Inn dating back from 1743. An ideal sea kayaking pub I am sure Douglas would appreciate this one!