Friday, 25 June 2010

Lost confidence but a paddle at last

The weather might be utterly predictable at the moment but the sea has been quite different. It has been glorious sunshine for weeks now but every time I check the coastal forecast it has been force 4, 5 and sometimes 6. It seems it drops to a force 2/3 when ever I can't get out! I attempted a short paddle from Llantwit Major at low tide.

Forecast was a force 4 and there were plenty of 'white horses' and waves breaking all over the place. Since my swim in The Bitches quite a few weeks ago now I have been more aware of the danger of paddling alone and completely lost any confidence I had. I didn't get anywhere this day.

Next were a few evenings at my local bay next to Aberthaw power station. One evening was once again force 4 and there was a bit of a swell. So I practiced paddling with a following tide and picked up a bit of speed. I chickened out of a performing a role though.

Next was a short paddle out from Aberthaw to Llantwit Major in much better conditions. After a long walk through the mud and seaweed at Aberthaw I headed out to the water intake tower for the power station. A race forms off here as the current rushes around the tower. I paddled up an 's' shaped eddy that formed behind the tower.

The other purpose of the paddle was to try out my new dry trousers that I bought after nearly getting hypothermia during my swim at The Bitches. They are brilliant at keeping the water out but in this weather I was socked from the inside, sweating buckets!

Thursday night I went for a paddle out from Llantwit Major again this time at high tide. I only had an hour before picking up the kids so it was just a confidence booster in some rough sea. I headed over toward the caves toward Tresilian bay. Upon reaching the caves it was clear I wasn't getting anywhere close. The waves were breaking quite far out.

Heading back once again feeling uneasy an orange rescue helicopter flys overhead. He doubles back and hovers overhead, seemed to be checking my condition. Once again there were plenty of white horses and it was a bit difficult to lift my paddle toward the wind.

I got in early from work this afternoon and checked out the forecast for the weekend. Force 2/3 this afternoon and tomorrow morning then back up to 4. That's it I'm going. It was mid way between a flooding tide which made Aberthaw a perfect place to launch from.
Heading east from aberthaw the conditions were almost perfect. In fact only a mill pond could beat this. Heading once again toward the tower off Aberthaw I paddle directly into the race. I glanced down at my GPS and I was doing 8.1kts!

Passing Rhoose I noticed a stone circle has been recently built just off the coastal path, well I've never noticed it before. That's one way to baffle the archaeologists of future millennia. Maybe neolithic man had the same idea.

When I reached these cliffs off Rhoose I could here loud screeching from what I guess was a nest of Peregrine Falcons. I was buggered if I could find it though. Typically as I looked back after paddling away one was hovering in the up drafts above the cliffs.

Paddling past Porthkerry viaduct and into The Knap bay there was a pretty strong back eddy occurring. So much in fact it slowed me down to a 2kt slog.

Flying past the fixed buoy at Barry docks I paddle around in to the eddy behind the rocks off the headland. The fast tidal flow around the headland was kicking up a bit of rough water so I had a play about to gain some more confidence.

Waiting in the bay of Barry Island for the Mrs to pick me up on her way home from work the conditions were perfect. Another kayaker paddles out in the bay with Steepholm in the distance.

I practiced a few good roles and some handling maneuvers in the race off the headland before landing on a very busy beach. Not far but good to feel comfortable in my boat again. Fishguard next weekend for a week can't wait! Fingers crossed for the weather holding out.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Porth Clais to Solva 05/06/10

My mum was on her way down to look after the kids for the night and the Mrs was off to work so I left for Pembrokeshire for the afternoon. I headed straight for Caerfai Bay in St Davids to Caerfai Farm Campsite. This camp site is literally on top of the cliff. There was some good surf down on the bay so I headed on down the road to Porth Clais harbour for an easier launch.

Out of the bay I turned left and headed for the islands of Green and Black Scar. There was a slight Westerly wind and a fair bit of a swell.

The first bay I paddle into is St Non's Bay. It is apparently the birth place of St David and is named after his mother. I made my way into this cave cautiously and just as I was at the entrance the water receded steeply exposing the rocks on the bed. I knew what was about to happen so I frantically paddled backward. The wave passed under me, broke and smashed through the cave. That was a close one!

Next I paddle around into Caerfai bay where my tent is perched up on the cliff to the left.

This stretch of coast is littered with caves and rock hoping opportunities but frustratingly I couldn't get anywhere near them. The swell wasn't all that big but every now and then two huge waves crashed in completely submerging the rocks up to the high water mark.

I found shelter around Penpleidiau outcrop into Caer Bwdy Bay where the swell had little effect. This bay has a disused quarry which once provided the stone for St David's cathedral.
I was even able to explore this cave.

There are also some amazing rock formations which look as if the rock has simply melted and rolled into the sea.

There were plenty of climbers all along this coast.
Somewhere around here there was a small narrow bay with an impressive arch at the end. I tried to paddle down but as it narrowed the swell was breaking and flushing a torrent of white water into the cliffs.

Around the headland and past Black Rock which marks the entrance to Solva Harbour I was glad to get into some calmer water.

Looking back out of the harbour (left to right) The Mare, Black Rock, Green Scar and Black Scar.

I only noticed the Tango can spoiling the picture when I got home. I stopped here for a bite to eat. The water here in the harbour was only a foot or so deep so I had a little play about with the wavelets coming in before heading back out. Even with these tiny waves you can pick up a bit of speed.

Leaving the harbour I paddle directly into the sun which seemed to come out from behind the dark clouds that lingered on the way here. The water seemed to look like a mirror.

I like this picture, I looks more like the west coast of Scotland at a distance. It is of course the peaks of Ramsey Island and the islands that reach out off every headland.

Turning back the sun really lit up the cliffs now and the swell seemed to have almost vanished.

Still a bit to much movement in the sea though to risk paddling through here.

It was about 8pm when I got back to Porth Clais and with low water at 8:30 I had a long carry back to the van. It's an easy walk mind compared to some. I played in the shallows for a bit putting off the long walk to practice my turning and paddle strokes after purchasing Gordon Brown's DVD last week.

I got in the van and took a drive up to St Justinian's where there is a life boat station and of course a fantastic view of Ramsey Island. The water in the sound looked deceptively calm.

I highly recommend this camp site if you need somewhere in the area close to the sea. The walk down to the beach isn't all that bad as long as you don't mind punching your way through the surf to get out.

Not a huge paddle only 9nm or 17km. Disappointed I had to view the cliffs from a distance, some off those caves look brilliant. I woke the next morning to a cloudy start which turned into rain and a bit of fog. The swell seemed to have dropped but the wind had picked up a bit. I'll be back in a month!