Saturday, 10 April 2010

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

I awoke at 5:30am to the clanging of fishermen going out
for an early catch. I say awoke, I don't think I slept. I now
know why I haven't camped since I was a teenager! I attempted
to get another hour kip but gave up and started my all in one
breakfast in a can.

I planned on leaving for Skomer around 10:30am so I could
ride the last of the ebbing current down to Skokholm. I was
far to early so I had a nose around the medieval church.

St Brides Castle used to be a hospital for TB patients but is
now a holiday mansion.

9am I couldn't wait around any longer so decided to leisurely
paddle down to Martins Haven.

Just approaching Nab head with Skomer and Martins Haven
in the distance.

I could tell this morning wasn't going to be as pleasant as
yesterday. The wind was blowing up from the south an
there was a hefty swell out in the open water.

Ah-hoy there's land!!

Uh no it's gone! see what I mean.

I landed at Martins Haven as I planned on spending the
remainder of the day in my boat, so I took the chance to
stretch my legs before I set off. There was a long queue
of people on the Jeti waiting for the boat trip out to Skomer.

Setting off again, a bit earlier than planned I made my way
across Jack Sound, which seemed fairly settled.

I'll apologise now for the amount of photo's, I got a little
trigger happy. This is only half of them!

As I arrived in North Haven the boat was unloading its
passengers, it seemed like a busy day on the island.

Seals on the beach. I wasn't sure how close I was allowed
to approach this bay and with so many people watching me
I didn't want to get a telling off. I crept my way up to the
'no anchor' buoys and took these zoomed in shots.

Garland Stone, North of Skomer.

I made my way through the small race going through the
small outcrops inside the Garland Stones recommended in
the guide book as the north of the stone can get a little

I was wondering where these guy's were hiding. There
were loads of groups of Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots
quite happy for me to paddle up to them.

Apologies for the poor cammera man work, I'll be sacking him!

There were literally hundreds of birds all along the cliffs
getting ready for the nesting season.

Looking back on the Garland Stone.

The cliffs were exposed to the swell around this side of the
island so I couldn't get to close. As I hit the West side of the
island the conditions got a lot worse as I was exposed
to the southerly wind, which was blowing against the southerly
flowing tide. Combined with the huge swell made for
some pretty scary water. Because I was early setting off
the current was almost in full swing so there was no turning
back as I reached over 7kts. I got knocked about a bit and
seriously thought I would be calling the coast guard. I was
way out of my comfort zone. I just padded through it hoping
the conditions would ease in the coves to the south.

Coming around to the south with Mew Stone in view the
conditions eased off. I just wish I had a hands free waterproof
camera to film it all. Got to be honest probably the scariest
moment of my life!

I thought that was enough excitement for one day and left
Skokholm for another day. Although as I reached Mew
Stone I could clearly see the race through the gap was
traveling my way. I made a detour around the outcropping
rocks only to be nearly sucked back through the race on
the other side. Looking down at my GPS I was going 1.5kts
yet paddling my arse off. By this time I had had enough I just
wanted off this island!

I made it into the shelter of South Haven which was like a
completely different world. It was calm and full of life.

Skokholm, maybe next time.

In the bay coincidentally named Seal Hole I was approached by
two very friendly seals. I stayed to watch them play around
my boat for around 20 mins, glad of the rest. I thought I saw
a jellyfish go under my boat but turned out to be a Tesco
carrier bag. I pulled it out of the water before a seal got the
same idea, 'every little helps'.

leaving South Haven I look back on Mew Stone. I headed
up through Little Sound and ferry glided back over to the
mainland into Martins Haven for some much needed lunch.

In no ruch to get back I followed the shore line around and back
to St Brides.

Stopping off breifly at my own personal beach cut off from
any paths at Musselwick if only to sort out my jammed skeg.

The sea state was almost perfect again as I made my way
past another kayaker to Nab Head.

A 15nm trip with a mixture of some of my best and worst
experiences in a kayak. Planning my next trip already.


Richard said...

Looks like you had a great day, the west side of Skomer can be quite a learning curve but all good experience. I bet you had a pretty good feeling of achievement when you finally made it back to dry land.

L F-A said...

Lovely photos & an interesting tale. Glad you made it back to dry land safely. My great grandparents & their children lived on Skomer Island as my g. grandfather was a gamekeeper. Would love to visit one day. Happy kayaking :)