Sunday, 21 March 2010

Where To Go? 21/03/2010

With the wind dropping a lot since yesterday, I was up and on the water early to take full advantage, as it is forecast to pick up again later today. The only thing was I didn't have any idea where I was going to paddle.

Paddling out from the Sully YC slipway I knew I had the last hour or two of the easterly flood tide so maybe I could paddle to Monkstone Lighthouse but at the moment it was hidden in a bank of early morning mist.

I decided to paddle out towards Steep Holm and let the tide take me past Flat Holm and then hopefully down to Monkstone Lighthouse if the tide hadn't turned by then.

As I paddle I am overtaken by the See Stern, an 83 metre long General Cargo Ship on her way to Newport. I pass well south of the Lavernock Spit South Cardinal Buoy with the large caravan site above St Mary's Well Bay in the background.

Although flat calm the GPS showed I was averaging a speed of just over 5 knots as the tide took me down towards Flat Holm. As I got closer to Flat Holm the amount of Gulls began to increase and more annoyingly so did the noise!

Before I knew it I was swept past the lighthouse and disused gun emplacement at Lighthouse Point, all the time surrounded by the incessant gulls, whose numbers have increased hugely since I was last here only 2 weeks ago.

I stop for a quick drink underneath the lighthouse and the now derelict Cholera Isolation Hospital and watch the Arklow Rainbow another General Cargo Ship this time on the way to Bristol.

The tide is still flowing eastward so I decide to carry on the two and a half nautical miles to Monkstone Lighthouse taking a last look at Castle Rock and the island's landing jetty.

I stop about half way to the lighthouse for another drink and take a look back at Flat Holm, I think the tide is starting to ease off as my progress is starting to slow but it's not too far now.

It didn't take too long to get to the light and as I thought the tide had turned and was starting to flow westward so just right for my return paddle. Monkstone Lighthouse was built in 1839 on a small area of rock that dries out at low tide.

The lighthouse has remained virtually unchanged since it was built until it was converted to solar power and it's original iron tower was replaced by a red GRP one in 1993.

As I leave Monkstone the tide is already starting to pick up speed and I decide to follow the line of three buoys which should take me nicely back towards Sully YC. The first buoy I reach is the Cardiff Spit red port buoy.

The second buoy is the South Cardiff Cardinal Buoy and the tide is really picking up speed as I cruise past at just under 6 knots.

The last buoy I cruise past is the yellow special marker buoy marking a discharge pipe, this has been an effortless paddle back taking full advantage of the ebbing tide.

I am soon paddling into Sully Sound, the narrow stretch of water between Sully Island and the mainland When I near the slipway there are numerous sailing boats from the yacht club also enjoying the near perfect conditions.

A quick tide assisted paddle of 12 nautical miles (22kms), not bad considering I didn't really know where I was going today.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

An Alien In A Cave 14-03-2010

Although it was a lovely sunny day the wind had increased through the night and as a result I had to change my plans to paddle around Ramsey Island which would have been the third Pembrokeshire Island of the weekend but at least I am on the water.

I decided to paddle out to St David's Head straight into the northerly wind and then let the ebbing tide take me down to Ramsey Island.
The paddle out to St David's Head and into the tide stream past the head was quite interesting with the wind and tide creating a few areas of standing waves and confused water.

The paddle from St David's Head to Gwahan, the small rock to the north of Ramsey Island, was also pretty interesting and I made good progress even though it was mostly against the wind.

The sea around Gwahan as usual was worth a play with the NE corner having some reasonable standing waves.

As I paddle into Ramsey Sound and along the eastern side of Ramsey Island I am sheltered from the wind and the sea conditions calm right down. The sun overhead silhouettes menacingly the jagged line of The Bitches as they jut out across Ramsey Sound.

Paddling into the numerous small coves and inlets on Ramsey there are large areas of exposed kelp as the tides at the moment are pretty low building to the spring tide on Thursday.

In Rhod Uchaf there are more large exposed kelp beds and numerous Fulmars starting to nest on the cliffs all around.

In Rhod Uchaf there is a cave which runs straight through the headland but today the tide is too low so I will have to paddle the long way around.

As I paddle out of Rhod Uchaf there are good views northward of the Ramsey coastline with the St David's Head peninsula in the distance. A small fishing boat is also taking advantage of the ebbing tide to aid their progress through the sound.

Paddling around the headland and into Rhod Isaf the Bitches look even more ominous as I get nearer.

As I paddle into Rhod Isaf I notice a small cave just big enough to squeeze the kayak in. On the cave wall on my left is a very strange looking thing which I haven't got a clue what it is. I half expect it to fly off the wall and latch onto my face like something out of the film Alien. I have been trying to find out what it is but so far no luck. If anyone can help identify please get in touch.

I pass the other entrance to the cave which goes between Rhod Uchaf and Rhod Isaf but the tide is too low to get anywhere near it so I paddle down to the Bitches.

Again there are large patches of kelp exposed around the large jagged rocks and the tide is flowing quite fast through the gaps between the rocks that make up the Bitches.

I manage to position the kayak on a little shelf to take the above photos of the water pouring through the gap in the rocks. In a few hours these rocks will form the main surfing wave as the tide starts to flow northward.

I paddle along the Bitches to the last rock then paddle northward for a while before starting to ferry glide across the southerly flowing tide flow back to the mainland.

For a moment I thought I had misjudged my ferry glide but after putting on a spurt I was out of the main flow and paddling along the coast to a deserted St Justinian, which in a couple of weeks will start to fill up with the boat trip RIBs.

Rounding St John's Point I lose my protection from the wind and the conditions liven up a bit on the rest of the paddle back to Porthsele.

A paddle of just over 7 and a half nautical miles (14 kms) in some quite lively sea conditions, a cracking way to end another great weekend paddling in Pembrokeshire, Aliens and all!