Monday, 13 July 2009

A Birthday Paddle 13/07/2009

With it being my 21st birthday yet again and the wind increasing through the night and forecast set to increase even more, my birthday paddling options were limited, unlike this time last year....

I launched from a sheltered but deserted Martin's Haven, as yet again the boat trips to Skomer were cancelled due to the high winds. I paddled the short distance to Wooltack Point in the shelter of the North facing cliffs.

On rounding Wooltack Point I was hit by the full force of the ever increasing South Westerly gale and with the tide against me as well it was a real struggle just to paddle the short distance to Tusker Rock.

It was obvious I wasn't going to be able to paddle much further so I just played around in the rough water between Tusker Rock and Wooltack Point, great fun and also good practice.

After spending a very pleasurable but tiring 45 minutes playing about I paddled the short distance back to Martin's Haven accompanied by numerous Gannets and Porpoise, but as usual, the Porpoise were more concerned with feeding than posing for the camera, and taking photos of the Gannets was a bit precarious due to the high wind, so no decent close ups there either.

It was then a matter of trying to pack the tent up between the numerous very heavy showers of rain and then drive back to Cardiff not knowing when I would next be paddling due to work commitments, but at least I managed some decent paddles over the weekend considering the weather.

I stopped in nearby Marloes to take a few photos of the Giant Puffin, this would be the last one I see until April or May of next year.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A Sheltered Haven 12/07/2009

With the tent holding up well to a very wet and windy night, I woke to a sunny but still very windy morning.

I took a short walk to Wooltack Point to take a look at the conditions around Skomer, it looked a bit wild and with the boat trips to Skomer being cancelled plus the forecast predicting strong winds all day I decided to take short drive to Dale and hopefully find some shelter in the Haven.

It was a totally different Dale since I was last here on 21/03/2009 , today was a bit of a slalom course paddling through all the moored boats.

Dale was quite sheltered until I passed the Dale Fort Field Centre at Dale Point, where the southerly wind hit me and an old landing craft heading out of the Haven was having a bit of a bumpy ride.

As I paddled into Castlebeach Bay the sea conditions again calmed. Paddling out of Castlebeach Bay the skyline on Watwick Point is dominated by the huge navigational tower.

In the shelter of the Point I watch another ship escorted by the Pilot boat. Both were having a very rough ride through the large swell entering the Haven which became apparent as I paddled around Watwick Point.

Again paddling into the sandy Watwick Bay it is amazing how the sea conditions vary in just a few hundred yards.

Paddling out of the bay I pass the remains of the jetty that used to supply the West Blockhouse Fort which is one of the forts built in the 1860's to defend Milford Haven from those Frenchies again.

I was going to paddle onto St Ann's head but there was no shelter from the southerly wind so I decide to turn around and follow the 3 cardinal buoys along the edge of the shipping lane and out to Stack Fort.

The first I reach is the East Cardinal Buoy named after the Dakotian, a cargo ship sunk by a German magnetic mine on November 21st 1940, the wreck lies about 100 metre from the buoy.

The next buoy is the South Cardinal Behar Buoy which again is named after another shipwreck, the Behar, which again was sunk by another German magnetic mine 3 days after the Dakotian sinking.

The third buoy is the South Cardinal Montreal Rock Buoy which is not named after anything as exciting as a shipwreck but a submerged rock to the north of the buoy.

As I paddle from the buoy to the Stack Rock Fort, the Pembroke Ferry passes me as it leaves the Haven on it's way to Rosslare.

Approaching the Stack Rock Fort, a marvel of Victorian construction, there is an example of modern construction in the background, the LNG terminal, I know which I find more pleasing to the eye....

Stack Fort is another of the forts of the Haven built to protect against those dreaded Frenchies. Building was started in 1859 and completed in 1871.

Stack Fort is one of the many forts around Britain's coast commissioned by Viscount Palmerston to deter the threat of invasion and were never used in anger. Hence they are known as 'Palmerston's Follies'. Today the only invaders are the protesters against the LNG Terminal!

From the fort I paddle NW into the shelter of Butts Bay and another of the Haven's navigational towers on the Little Castle Head.

Paddling over to the disused jetty at Great Castle Head, the water is glassy calm, totally different to the sea as I paddle round the headland and back into the SW wind. It is a struggle to take photos of the Great Castle Head Fort and Radar Station.

It is quite a slog paddling to Watch House Point with its jagged rocks and the small hole piercing it near the top. It is not until I get back into Dale Road and the shelter of Dale Point that I manage to get a bit of respite from the wind.

While I have been paddling it looks like Dale has been invaded, not by those damn Frenchies (luckily) but by pirates!

The nearer I get to the jetty at Dale the calmer the sea gets but with no sign of any pirates.

A paddle of just over 9.5 nautical miles in very differing conditions but at least I managed to get on the water.

It is now a short drive back to the tent where, for the first time in 3 days I can cook with the tent open and even manage an evening's walk over the Wooltack Point to watch the sun setting over Skomer. Lets hope it continues tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Puffinitis!!!! 11/07/2009

After surviving a very windy and wet night, the wind had eased and there were spells of sunshine as I wheeled the kayak back to Martin's Haven, passing numerous swallows on the way.

With the inshore waters forecast predicting S or SW 5-7, gale 8 later, I decided to paddle back across to Skomer and see how things went, if it all went pear shaped at least the wind would blow me back!
There was a bit more swell than last night but the north flowing flood tide was starting to ease off as I crossed Jack Sound.

Paddling along the east side of Midland Isle I notice a cave which I haven't spotted before, and on closer inspection it goes right through, but with today's swell best leave that one to check out on a more calmer day.
My initial plan was to paddle south through Little Sound and round into South Haven, but after crossing Little Sound to the Neck, the wind was already pretty strong and with the tide turning and flowing southerly I decided on the side of caution and I paddled along the north of the island, sheltered from the southerly wind.

Just around the first small headland of the Neck the water becomes calm again, but looking through the cave that runs right through the narrowest point of the Neck there is a large swell coming through from the south of the island.
Tucked away near the cliffs is a seal having 40 winks also taking advantage of the shelter.

As I paddle westward the number of birds increase, the vast majority were Puffins but also Guillemots and juvenile Cormorants perching on the rocks.
Also I notice numerous Gulls also on the rocks and then it becomes obvious what they are up to as I watch them mug a helpless Puffin for his hoard of sandeels, oh to have a gun..... I suppose it is only nature. As if the Puffins haven't got enough to contend with, they now have to run the gauntlet of the waiting Gulls to get back and feed their chicks.

I paddle as far as the Garland Stone at the Northern tip of Skomer and decide not to carry on any further. Though conditions weren't too bad at the moment I had that gut feeling that something wasn't right, and with the wind ever increasing, decide to stay in the shelter of the North Cliffs.

I still have a little play in the overfalls that are building between the Garland Stone and the island. As I paddle back eastward my decision was right, within half an hour the wind increases and the rain and mist comes down.

I stop in the shelter of North Haven to eat my sandwiches along with 100s of Puffins and some fluffy gull chicks, shame they grow up into such thugs!

Apologies for all the photos but the Puffinitis is really kicking in and in a few weeks they will be gone until next Spring.

Taking a slow paddle back along the north coast of Skomer, stopping on numerous occasions to watch the Puffins, I am soon crossing a sedate Jack Sound which is just starting to build at it's Southern end.

I explore the numerous arches, caves and steep pebbled beaches that are popular seal pupping beaches on the mainland coast of Jack Sound as the rain comes down heavier.

Carrying on paddling eastward past Martin's Haven, I stay in the shelter of the north facing cliffs and paddle in and out of the numerous coves and inlets up to Musselwick Sands.

It is then a paddle back to a deserted Martin's Haven through the now very heavy rain. I am surprised at the strength of the wind as I walk back up the steep road to the car park, those clfifs certainly gave me plenty of protection from it.

Time to batten down the hatches and hold onto the tent with the prospect of a force 8 approaching!