Saturday, 2 May 2009

Skomer Island 02/05/2009

Launching from a very congested Martin's Haven, full of divers and people being taken over to Skomer Island, it was good to get onto the water for some peace and quiet.

It is only a short paddle westward before Skomer comes into view.

Crossing Jack Sound, which is a little lively today, I paddle into North Haven where I start to see larger numbers of Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills.

I was starting to get a bit worried as up until now I hadn't seen as many as usual, but the closer I paddle towards the cliffs, the more the numbers grow.

I pass two other kayakers who tell me there is a large swell on the west side of the island and they aborted their attempt to paddle round Skomer.

I carry on paddling north westward towards the Garland Stone and decide to just see how things progress, still passing numerous puffins bobbing along.

Passing between the Garland Stone and the mainland the sea conditions change quite dramatically. It is usually a bit rough here but today there was a very large ground swell.

I decided to carry on but today there would be no exploring of the numerous coves and inlets of the west side of the island.

I managed to stay reasonably close to the island until rounding the Spit and on entering Pigstone Bay I encountered quite strong adverse tide. With the large swell hitting the high cliffs up to Skomer Head I had to move further out to sea.
I made slow progress against the tide and it was definately two hands on the paddle so picture taking was suspended at least until I got around Skomer head.

I was joined by a couple of porpoise who seemed totally oblivious to the sea conditions. After what seemed like an age I rounded Skomer Head and headed back towards Skomer and paddled towards the Wick.

Although the sea had calmed considerably the Wick looked pretty wild so I gave that a miss which is a shame because this is one of the densely populated bird areas of the island.

My next hurdle would be getting around the Mewstone. I had a look at paddling around it but the tide was racing past against me so my only option was to go through the gap between the Mewstone and the Island.

I would have to time it right as there was only a small gap between the many only just submerged rocks. I ended up going sideways bracing quite vigorously into a large breaking wave, much to the enjoyment of a large group of spectators who were probably hoping I didn't make it through upright!

I could now relax as I was now entering the sheltered waters of South Haven. It was difficult to believe how the sea conditions could vary in just a few hundred yards.

In the calm waters of South Haven I could resume taking photos of the numerous Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots in the water and nesting on the high cliffs all around the Haven.

After quite a long rest I gave up on the idea of paddling across Broad Sound to Skokholm Island as there were very large standing waves blocking out the normally visible Skokholm Island.

I continued paddling eastward and then northward through a still lively Jack Sound.

Taking one last look at the North side of Skomer I then carried on eastwards past Martin's Haven and onto the deserted beach of Musselwick Sands, where I landed to stretch my legs and check the relief zipper on the drysuit was still working!

There were some quite powerful waves breaking on the sandy beach at Musselwick and after getting another soaking paddling out through it I spent a while taking photos and watching the waves break and rebound off the cliffs.

It was just a short paddle back to a still crowded Martin's Haven.

A great paddle of just over 11 nautical miles (13 miles or nearly 21kms) in hugely varying and quite challengings conditions with vast numbers of the puffins. Sea kayaking doesnt' get much better than this!

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