Saturday, 22 May 2010

Port Eynon to Mumbles Head

With a giant high pressure covering the UK this weekend and minimal wind I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do the Worms Head trip from the Welsh Sea Kayaking guide book. I've wanted to do it for ages but have been waiting for perfect conditions as this area of the south east coast of Wales can become quite exposed.
Little stow away
Up at 6am, kids already up! Don't they sleep. Aim to get down to Llangennith beach for the start of the south east flowing current. All the beaches in this area of the Gower are known for surf and as I catch the morning weather report there was a mention of a good swell today for surfers. I arrive at Llangenith and take a trek down to the beach (I mean trek it is miles away over sand dunes!) and the surfers are dwarfed by the waves. I head around to Broughton Bay and it's pretty much the same storey. It didn't look like I was going to find a bay west of Worms Head so I flick through the guide book and head down to Port Eynon.

Great no surf and not to far to walk to the sea. £4 parking mind! I think I'll do the Worms Head trip backward if I come here again and launch from here and take the north west current.

I go west anyway around Port Eynon Point to test the current and arrive at East Helwick buoy. The current is flowing about 1.5kts which is about right and will only get stronger in the next hour.

It was very hazy and I could just make out my intended destination in the distance. I double back out of the eddy behind the buoy and rocket off at 5kts heading east.

No I have not landed, this is foam. There were miles of this stuff stretched right out along the coast in long streams. If anyone knows what causes this can you let me know. I always thought foam was caused in rough conditions.

I make a bee line from the buoy to Oxwich Point.

There are hundreds of these common moon jelly fish just floating bellow the surface. These jelly fish are not dangerous to humans, they have a sting but it can't penetrate our skin.

I sail across Oxwich Bay for Pwlldu Head past Three Cliffs Bay. As I reach Pwlldu Head I am greeted by a Porpoise. Porpoise are a lot shyer than dolphins and have a rounder beak. It was happily surfacing just ahead of me, I tried a few shots but every time he surfaced the swell got in the way. I have a blurred shot but not worth up loading.

Around the headland I decide to take a break to stretch my legs. Pwlldu Bay is just around the corner but as with all the beaches around here it was pretty packed. Another pair of kayakers pinch a small beach just around the headland. As I make my way to the bay I notice a very small beach behind a rock completely deserted, that was until a family had the same idea. I land here for a stretch.

I got to be honest the Gower hasn't really appealed to me, it's very beautiful from the shore but out at sea it's not very eventful. There are not many dramatic cliffs and caves to explore, it has loads of long sandy open bays and the wildlife doesn't match what you get out west.

Today completely put me off the area for kayaking. If your idea of sea kayaking is dodging speed boats, the smell of diesel from noisy big yachts, cans, bags and anything else you can find floating in the water, and rammed beaches with barely any room to land then this is the place for you. I much prefer paddling out into a quite clear blue sea with no sign of life apart from the odd ship on the horizon and deserted bays apart from the odd seal or sea bird cut off from the hustle and bustle of sun seekers.

I usually pick out any litter I see floating about in the sea, but I would have had to have a trailer in tow with the amount of rubbish out there today. And as for the close calls with yachts, speed boats and jet ski's, it was like all the boy racers and BMW drivers had all descended on the sea.
Enough of me moaning I head on past Caswell and Langland Bay in to the watchful eye of the coast guard station and light house at Mumbles head.

At the Pier the beach was packed so I head off around the small islands off the head for a quieter landing spot. At high tide there wasn't really any place to land so I head back to land just off the Pier.

A quick bite to eat and the blood flowing again in my legs I make my way back. I realise the difference in speed as I sail effortlessly past kayak after kayak. There were loads of sit-on-tops but I didn't see any sea kayaks about. I make a steady 4-5kts all the way back, keeping well out from the coast line in to the main flow.

At last I arrive back at Port Eynon, much busier than it was this morning. Landing on the beach my legs cease to work. I don't know if it was the distance or the fact it was in the mid 20's but I was knackered. It was a heavy carry up the beach as I had loaded my kayak this morning in an attempt to improve the handling. I also had to side steep sun bathers and kids as I almost decapitated a few with my stern. A round trip of 20.51 nautical miles or 38km or 23.6 miles and paddling time of 5hours 20mins.

Quick tip: if your going to put sun tan lotion on do it before you get in your boat. Getting a grip on your paddle otherwise is a nightmare!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Evening at Gileston

I met my neighbour Ian at our local bay at Gileston for a quick half hour paddle Sunday evening. Ian had recently bought his new Ocean Kayak sit on top and has been itching to get it out on the water. We had hoped to paddle out to Tusker Rock in Porthcawl earlier on in the day, but the wind and rain put us off.

I was kindly sent these stunning pictures taken by a gentleman called Mark who happened to get these shots of us as we were coming in.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Glam Boaters in West Wales - Day 2 09/05/10

I got up around 7am to a very quiet camp site. The cans and bottles around the BBQ a reminder of the late night before. I warmed up a can of all in one breakfast and then went for a walk down Newgale beach.

Looking West toward Ramsey

Looking down on Newgale Beach

Back at the camp people are just starting to get up.
Leaving Porth Clais
We headed down to Porthclais the idea being to take a short paddle to Carreg yr Esgob, a small island just off the mainland east of Ramsey Island, and paddle back along the cliffs at high tide for a spot of rock hopping.

Paddling through the rocky outcrop of Carreg Fran

At Carreg yr Esgob, Andrew eyeing up a narrow short cut through to the other side of the island.

Not quite big enough

Whilst everyone beached themselves upon an awkward rock for some lunch I headed around the island to explore.

Around the other side

This arch didn't quite go all the way through, there was a pretty large boulder at the other end.

Once back at the landing point everyone was just about ready to leave and head back along the cliffs to Porth Clais.

Andrew who started the club a few years ago and who is also a competent sea kayaker agreed to take me out to Ramsey. After a short but slightly bumpy ferry glide and we landed next to the jeti on the East side. The Northerly wind was blowing quite forcefully down the sound.

After a quick bite of my sandwich and a drink we headed back out of the harbour into an eddie behind a large rock.

View from the harbour of Ramsey, the wind against the current causing crests on the waves.

View from behind the first eddie looking out to The Bitches
It suddenly dawned on me that we were at The Bitches. The water was a bit rough on the way over to really notice my location.
The water was flowing through the rocks at an immense rate causing rapids into the oncoming Northerly wind. The force of the flow causes backward eddies (currents going opposite way to main flow) immediately behind the rocks. It was still quite difficult to stay still in these eddies and I managed to almost beach myself on the rock taking this photo. This photo being the last one I took!

We started off from the first eddie and the idea was to quickly paddle like a mad man to the next eddie all the was across the sound. First one, and made it. The rapids were flowing north but the wind was causing wave crest in the opposite direction. My boat was getting banged from left to right.
Next one, Andrew said be confident and if you go over remember your roll. Off we go and instantly our boats turn with the current as we paddle up the sound. Paddle, brace paddle, oooh nearly, brace, paddle and over I go. I thought I was in luck as I nearly got flipped back over, enough time to take a breath at least. I make one attempt but there was no chance in this water, so out I come. Bits of my kit were floating around as I feel my boots fill with water and slip off my feet. My boat is full of water. Within seconds Andrew is by my side and performs a well practiced rescue, timing it at the right moment between waves. At this point we have been pushed quite a distance up the sound.
I look on to the next set of rapids, my boat still slightly filled with water. I am now bricking it, and I can't feel any part of my body from the cold. Andrew sets off instantly forced up the sound. I edge my way into the rough water but chicken out and end up in a weird calm confused looking water in the middle of the sound. As Andrew gets further away I thought there's no way out but to go for it. I made it across unscathed but all I can think about is getting to the shore. We rested in a little cove while I pumped out the remaining water from my boat. Heading back a couple of seals popped up but I really couldn't care less at this point, my legs were shaking like mad and my hands were white. Paddling over the bay to Carreg yr Esgob the wind really makes paddling strenuous but warms me up.
Back at Porth Clais it's now high tide and with no boots I leave my boat at the waters edge and hobble back to the van. Probably as I get more experienced I'll look back and it wont seem half as dramatic, but that was one experience I wont forget. I must thank Andrew, I would have been in big trouble had I been on my own. Back at the van I check my GPS and discovered a new speed record of 9.6kts! I'm off to practice my rolls this weekend and to make a pair of dry trousers my next buy. Oh and a new pair of wellies!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Canoe&Kayak Magazine

Check out this months (May 2010) issue of Canoe&Kayak magazine for a good write up on the club I go to Glam Boaters and also an article on the new white water center in Cardiff. I was going to up-load the whole article but it's taken me almost an hour just to do this, any longer and my PC is going to end up on the pavement via my window. So here's my claim to fame, well not really just a photo of me looking half cut.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Glam Boaters in West Wales - Day 1 08/05/10

I had a call Thursday afternoon from Andrew at Glam Boaters
to say they were heading across to West Wales Friday for the
weekend. So I headed down early Saturday morning with the
view of coming home in the evening to go to a birthday party
that night. A quick look at the tide times and forecast suggested
it was going to be a windy weekend, force 4 or 5 possible 6 or 7
with gales.

Not long after I arrived at the camp site at Newgale Sands
near St Davids we were heading down to St Brides Haven
where I camped a few weeks ago. The plan was to take a
short trip out to Stack Rocks and back along the cliffs.

The group consisted mainly of river boats which struggled
to make much headway into the wind. Some of the group had
never been at sea before and it wasn't long before people were
in the water swimming.

As I was helping a member of the group while others were
performing rescues on a few that had ended up in the water
I was caught out by a wave that hit me side on. It was one of
them moments where your to far gone and think bugger it,
and I rolled into the water. Whilst underwater I was more
concerned about loosing my hat than rolling. I made one
attempt and failed, second attempt my knees popped my
spray deck off and I was also swimming with the fishes! After
that turn of events we turned back to the shelter of the bay.

Exploring a cave and rock hopping near St Brides.

Wet and cold and my tail between my legs in shame of capsizing
we headed back to camp. Not happy with the lack of miles under
my boat today I decided to stay the night. I had brought my sleeping
bag in case but nothing else, no change of clothes or food for the next day.
Luckily my van doubles as a sauna with the heating on full blast to dry
my sopping wet gear.

That afternoon the group headed over to St Non's Bay for
a bit coast steering. I headed on to Porth Clais to launch and
follow the group to take some pictures. The boy levitating above
is only 12 yrs old and was his first time. To be fair he did really
well considering the water was absolutely freezing!

Hopeless, they never would have got a part in the film Titanic!
"save me Jack!!"

Whilst they were throwing themselves off cliffs I paddled across
Caerfai Bay where there is an impressive cave and natural arch.

Porth Clais. The water floods through this natural harbour at
high water which is convenient, but a long walk at low tide.

Back at camp later that evening for some charcoal food poisoning.

After cremating the sausages and burgers we decided to cook

Stuart's at the point of the night where he has had enough
to drink to juggle hot coals!
And Nicks at the point where it's time for bed!
Hopefully the weather will be a bit better tomorrow with
the idea of paddling to Ramsey looming.
On a separate note Glam Boaters is featured in this months
Canoe & Kayak magazine with a good write up about the club.
I even managed to get a picture in there. When I get a copy I'll
try to upload it in a post.