Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Islands Of Skomer And Skokholm 13/03/2010

After just over a 2 hour drive I was paddling out of Martin's Haven into a rather chilly northerly breeze with a cloudy overcast sky, not what was forecast but it was good to be back in Pembrokeshire.

Rounding Wooltack Point, Skomer Island comes fully into view and crossing a rather sedate Jack Sound and Little sound I see Skokholm Island, the second of today's objectives through the gap between Midland Isle and Skomer.

Paddling past North Haven and along the North coast of Skomer, there are large numbers of Guillemots and Razorbills on the cliffs in the air and on the water.

As I approach the Garland Stone, the clouds are beginning to break up and as usual the water becomes a little confused.

The gap between the Garland Stone and Skomer, as is usually the case, is a bit interesting, but with the tide in my favour it makes easy paddling.

There are even larger numbers of birds along the NW side of Skomer, but as yet no sign of any puffins.

Looking up at the cliffs as I paddle into the Bull Hole it is already looking pretty congested on the small ledges where the birds will rear their young over the next few weeks.

At the headland of the Table the conditions livened up a bit, ideal to try out the camera mounted on the deck bag, not too bad a result.

Paddling around Skomer Head, which today is unusually calm, Skokolm Island once again comes into view. There is also an arch at the top of the cliff before I reach the Basin.

As I paddle towards the Wick I pass two rowing boats heading in the opposite direction, we exchange greetings and a brief chat on how good the weather is. The Wick is pretty busy with birds and I see my first Puffin of the year all on his lonesome.

I approached the Mew Stone with slight apprehension as it has been a bit lively in the past, but today it is flat calm.
I even have plenty of time to photograph an Oystercatcher and a Shag, who seem to enjoy posing for me.

I stop for a drink and a snack in the sheltered water of South Haven before paddling southward across Broad Sound to Skokholm.

After about half an hour's paddle I reach the red sandstone cliffs of Skokholm unlike the volcanic rock of Skomer. Looking back at Skomer, a bank of black cloud is slowly approaching which looks a bit ominous.
Paddling SW and around Quarry Point, the island's lighthouse soon comes into view.

The lighthouse was built in 1916 to form the landward corner of a triangle of lights, the other 2 being the Smalls and South Bishop keeping ships clear of this particular treacherous stretch of coastline and into Milford Haven or into the Bristol Channel.

After the lighthouse was built a donkey was used to pull the trucks carrying supplies from the jetty to the light. He seemed to know when a delivery was due and would go AWOL with the keepers searching for hours for him, on any other day he would come to the keepers straight away!

The donkey was replaced by a pony who also did it's best to upset proceedings, he in turn was replaced by a tractor which in turn was replaced by a helicopter.

As I paddle along the sheltered south coast of Skokholm with it's various shades of different coloured rock it could easily have been a Summer's day as I was well protected from the northerly wind.I was going to paddle up to the landing jetty in Hog Bay but there were numerous seals hauled out enjoying the sun before the incoming tide reached them so I carried on northward back across Broad Sound.As I start to paddle back toward Skomer the sun disappears into the cloud and looking back at Skokholm I see the edge of the cloud slowly blocking out the blue sky.

Reaching South Haven on Skomer I am greeted by a Fulmar floating on his own away from the noise and chaos on the nearby cliffs.

Paddling out of South Haven there is a chance for me to explore some of the inlets in the Neck which at the moment are pretty bird free but in a few weeks the inlets will become more crowded.

The tide is still too low to paddle into the arch which pierces the Neck so I will have to paddle up through Jack Sound and sample the delights of it's tide race.

The video seemed to work well again as I paddled northward through Jack Sound where I bump into 2 other sea kayakers also enjoying the delights of Jack Sound.

The above video is the stretch of water between Tusker Rock and the mainland where the standing waves were starting to build up helped by the wind against the tide.

I know it is cheating slightly but the above photos are taken from the video but they have come out pretty well.After a bit of a play in Jack Sound it is only a short paddle back to a still deserted Martin's Haven to end a cracking day's paddle.

A paddle of nearly 14 nautical miles (approx 26km) through a mixture of flat calm seas and fast tide races with plenty of bird life and also the first Puffin of the year, in fact 6 in total at various locations around the 2 islands, in a few weeks there will be 1000s more, I will have to return soon.


stoney (Martyn) said...

Now that looks like a journey worth doing.
Nice as it is around Anglesey the colours and the beauty combined with the ruggedness of Pembrokshire just cannot be bettered.
Hopefully will arrive early on your last Sat at Easter, will try and get out!

soundoftheseagull said...

Great video clips an interesting stretch orf water

Richard said...

It is a cracking trip with plenty of bird and animal life, fantastic scenery and some very strong tidal races in various locations around the island, would definately recommend it.