Saturday, 21 March 2009

Milford Haven - Big Ships, Forts and Tales of Shipwrecks 21/03/2009

Launching from Dale, a small village in the NE corner of the entrance to the Haven. This is an ideal place to launch out of season but gets very crowded during the summer.

I paddled straight out heading towards the East Cardinal Dakotian Buoy. The buoy is named after the British steamer Dakotian which lies about 100m from the buoy. She was sunk on November 21st 1940 by a magnetic mine dropped from a German bomber and is a popular dive site. All of the crew were rescued except for one, which boats spent the night searching for him, only to find out that he had swam ashore, hitched a lift to Milford where his family lived, enjoyed a good meal, a bath and sleep, forgetting to inform anyone of his safety.

I then paddled southward to the North Cardinal Angle Buoy. Whilst there I noticed the pilot launch and 2 large tugs heading out to sea.

The pilot launch then makes a sharp u turn and heads in my direction, they ask where I am heading and warn me that a large ship is soon to be entering the Haven and could cause a large wake so would be a good idea if I vacated the area!

I thank them for their advice and have a hasty paddle eastward to Thorn Rock East Cardinal Buoy and then southward again out of the Haven hopefully to sheltered water by Rat Island where I should be far away to watch the ship entering the Haven.

Listening on the VHF the ship is the Australian Spirit, they inform Port Control that they are now committed to the Western channel so I guess you wouldn't want to be in it's way!

The Australian Spirit is a Crude Oil Tanker, built in 2004 and is 255 metres long and 44 metres wide so pretty big!

Paddling SE around Sheep Island, it was here that one half of one of the worst shipwreck disasters in West Wales occurred.

In April 1943 two experimental landing craft were on a voyage from Belfast to Falmouth. Running into rough seas LCG15 hit rocks off Sheep Island throwing all onboard into the cold stormy waters. The Angle lifeboat could not launch due to engine repairs and by the time the St David's Lifeboat battled towards the scene LCG16 had also capsized and sank. Only 1 man was found alive in the sea and 2 managed to make it ashore, the death toll that night was, sadly, 78.

Carrying on towards the vast expanse of sand at Freshwater West, I get as far as East Pickard Bay when I decided to turn back as the wind had increased, so staying close to the clifffs I tried to stay out of the northerly wind as best as I could.

Passing Guttle Hole, a jagged natural arch, I am soon approaching Sheep Island and the impressive curved rock formations on the mainland.

Rounding Rat Island I return back into the Haven and head towards Thorn Island Fort which was built in the 1850's to guard the entrance to the Haven.

It was here in 1894 that the sailing ship Loch Schiel was wrecked. She was carrying a cargo of gunpowder, beer and cases of whisky, which came ashore. Most were never recovered hence the description Wales' "Whisky Galore". All the crew were rescued but it is reported that two local men drowned whilst trying to get a keg of whisky ashore and another died from alcohol poisoning.

Turning eastward I catch my first glimpse of the LNG Tanker Tembek.

I continued paddling eastward till I reached the Angle Lifeboat Station which has just taken delivery of their new Tamar Class boat which is tucked away in the boathouse. Their old Tyne Class boat, a relief boat, the RFA Sir Galahad, is at anchor just offshore.

I now decided to paddle northward across the Haven towards the Tembek which is moored at the new Liquid Nitrogen Gas terminal. This is even bigger then the Australian Spirit, 315 metres long and 50 metres wide, in fact, it's bloody massive!

Passing the Tembek I head out to the Stack Rock Fort which is another of the forts built between 1859 and 1871. It is adorned with protest banners against the LNG terminal. I don't know much about it but all I do know is that there was a constant droning noise which could be heard back at Dale!
Continuing Northwards away from the fort and the industrial part of the Haven I soon reach Sandy Haven, a sheltered inlet, but with the tide ebbing there is no point paddling up the cove, so I carry on westward. Rounding Little Castle Head I decide to stop in Butts Bay to stretch my legs and have a brew.
It was just off Great Castle Head, to the west of Butts Bay that on November 24th 1940 the coaster Behar also fell victim to another German magnetic mine, she was carrying cable and at the top of the beach are the remains of what looks like a cable reel, so maybe this is part of the wreckage.
After leaving Butts Bay the temperature dropped and a sea mist came down, amazing how quickly the conditions can change. Approaching Monk Haven the mist lifted and I stop to watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons feasting on the carcass of some unfortunate bird, and typically the battery of my camera with the zoom decided to run out, so no pictures!.
At the east side of Monk Haven are the remains of what looks like another watch tower but it is a Victorian Folly. The castellated wall that runs at the top of the beach are part of the Trewarren Estate from back in the 1700's.

Paddling southwards towards Dale Fort on Dale Point, which is now used as a Field Studies Centre I then have a short paddle back to the slipway, finishing a paddle of 16 nautical miles (approx 18.5 miles or 29.5km) with numerous points of interest, a great day.

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