Sunday, 27 February 2011

Boat Envy - Sully to Cardiff Bay

Text off Taran: fancy a paddle around Sully Bay I've got my new boat.  Only went and bought a bloody Valley Nordkapp!  Not impressed!
 The tide was still flooding for roughly another 2 hours so we headed on toward Penarth.  The wind initially seemed to come from behind but as we rounded Lavernock Point we were straight into the force 4 head wind.
It seemed to take forever to reach Penarth, neither of us had a GPS working but I imagine we were probably only making about 2 knots into the wind.  We carried on to Cardiff Barrage before turning back for a quick stop at Penarth. 
I had a little go while he wasn't looking, although my short arse legs didn't reach the foot pegs.
Back in my own boat and with the wind at our backs we made good progress back to Sully.  A squall shower passed in front of us, someone was getting wet.  
The tide raced as usual around Lavernock Point as the sun broke through over Sully Island. 
It was back to Sully beach but not before a quick dip in the water.  I haven't done a role since the Up&Under demo day in July last year.  I soon realised why, it was absolutely freezing! I think Taran likes his boat, my turn about 10yrs!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Frolic Disaster - 180th Anniversary

It seems appropriate that as my last trip was to Nash Sands that I should do a post on the 180th anniversary of the Frolic steamer disaster of 1831.  After all it is because of this disaster, not one but two light houses were erected by Trinity House at Nash Point.

Many ships have been caught out by the shallow waters around the 6 mile sand bank, none more devastating than this one.   Not one passenger or crew survived to tell the tale, all 78-80 passengers were lost.  The steamer was on route from Haverfordwest to Bristol.  The Frolic was the first steamer to be based at Haverfordwest and regularly made the 10 hour run to and from West Wales to Bristol.  She quickly acquired a keen following, she was a pretty vessel and some what luxurious compared to the sailing vessels that have previously run these routes.  

The Frolic was scheduled to leave Haverfordwest at 7am March 15th,1831.  Due to bad sea conditions the steamer remained storm bound at Milford Haven.  Due to mounting pressure and the prospect of even more delays the captain made for Bristol on the evening of March 16th.  Unbeknown to the captain the sailing vessel Diligence had been blow ashore and wrecked further up the channel at Breaksea Point, Aberthaw.  The strong south west/westerly winds increased from gale force to storm force.  Sailing into the darkness in such conditions he somehow managed to avoid Helwick Sands, Mixon Shoal, Scarweather Sands and Tusker Rock. 

Families and friends awaited the expected arrival in Bristol.  Reports started to come in from vessels sent down the channel, a ships boiler on the sands and paddle box on the shore.  More reports came in of wreckage found all over the Nash passage.  A young woman was found on the beach with a child still clasped in her arms, the captain lashed to a spar with a young boy.  His watch stopped at 4am.  More bodies washed up along the Vale shore for months afterwards from Southerndown to Cadaxton, many beyond recognition. 

Records and graves can be found at many churches around the Vale and Pembrokeshire, some still unknown, their graves simply say 'washed up on shore, male, name unknown.  Memorials are being held at Nash Lighthouse as well as in Tenby. 

Standing on the sands last week I was completely unaware of the devastation that was caused 180 years ago.  A storey I only became aware of due to an article in my local paper.  A cold reminder that the sea is such an unforgiving place.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Nash Sands Take Two

Two kayaks side by side at the waters edge at Llantwit Major beach, unaware of the trip in front of them.  That goes for us too! Although I had an idea that as it was a big spring tide that I wanted to get back to Nash Sand Bar. 
The sea was flat and calm, lapping gently at the pebbles on the beach.  Not quite what I was expecting from the look of the swell forecast.  There was a band of mist blocking our distant view and thick cloud cover.
We breezed past East Nash Buoy about one hour before low water at around 6kts, the buoy leaning heavily into the flow. 
The steep bank of sand was easily visible in the distance, the fast flowing waters causing confusion where it met with the sand.
We paddled up a shallow gully and dragged our boats up the steep freshly laid sand bank.  The mist still clung to the shore blocking our view completely at times.
Posing for a picy!
 More posing!!

 As Taran launched off the bank I noticed this tiny sand eel uncovered by his boat.
Thanks to Taran for this shot.  We carried along the shore side of the sand bank, it went on and on and on, just when we thought it had reach it's end it turned the corner and carried on into the horizon.  I have never seen in so uncovered.
 As we followed the sands trail the shore got further and further away lost in the mist.
 Taran showing how easily walking on water can be done, I bet Jesus didn't do it 1.5 nautical miles off shore!

 Turns out it wasn't that easy after all, a small slip and a boat full of water, back to the bar to empty it.
 As the sand started to seep beneath the waves the rolling swell created some huge waves.
Taran was having fun crashing through the crests and slapping down on the other side.
We didn't seem to be making any progress, then realised the tide turned about 45 minutes ago.  We made a heading for the shore, Witches Point Southerndown.  The sun broke through the clouds, the sea now turning blue in its arrival.  A band of mist still hovered over the tops of the Vale cliffs, like hill fog clinging to the peaks.
Upon reaching Southerndown the surf didn't look to bad.  Just as we were about to make our move to land however a few huge breakers rumbled in instantly putting us off.
We opted for an easier landing in the neighbouring bay, although it has to be said I nearly took a tumble on the way in.  Same old trick, big wave lifts stern, I go sideways, high brace and lean into the wave.  I'm always surprised how effective the brace and lean is from stopping you going over, or probably more surprised I pulled it off!
With the sun high in the sky it felt warm, early spring hopefully.  It must have been warm because I didn't wear my poggies, the first time in months. 

We set off again through the small breakers, I set up my camera on my deck.  Was a bit scared I was going to damage it the way is was being smacked back.

The sun was out the sea was calm and it made for easy paddling back along the yellow cliffs.
We stopped off for another quick break, drinking too much water!
Approaching Nash point the sea livened up a bit on the previously flat sea.

Not much of a video but I love the sound of that bell, gives it a really nautical feel.  Dun-dun, du-du-du-du-du-du,dun-dun!! half expect jaws to pop up.
I looked back to find the buoy had disappeared into a cloud of mist that was approaching fast.  A slight breeze picked and and huge swell waves passed under.  Our destination ahead completely disappeared.  The sea felt big and intimidating now compared to the flat oasis it was moments before.  How quickly it can change.
Tarans red bandanna just visible.  I sat there for a moment without paddling, watching a dark wall of water loom overhead forcing me to look up.  The crest showing signs of toppling.  It passed under my boat faster than I could ever paddle and carried on toward the shore where it finally lost its balance and plowed into the rocks with a huge roar.  The power of the sea never ceases to amaze me.
On the last approach to Llantwit the mist lifted again revealing the breakers off the rocky plateau.  Once again the waves didn't seem too bad until two more huge breakers swept by dwarfing the surfers riding them.  That was enough to put me off...Taran however decided to chance his luck, setting off between the sets.  I'll let him tell you how that ended.  I made my way around the plateau to where we launched, a bit of local knowledge allowing me to land safely.
A mixed bag of conditions turned this trip into very interesting day.  I was also pleased to have landed on Nash Sand Bar again after my previously hurried last visit.  The Knap, Barry to Brean Down, on the other side of the channel next week all things being well.  Sorry Taran I wasn't getting up 4am this weekend!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Cold Wind Blows - Monkstone Lighthouse

It's been a while since I last paddled solo and I was looking forward to it.  I had planned to get out to Monkstone Lighthouse today although I wasn't getting my hopes up.  The forecast was wind force 4 or 5 backing 5 to 7 with slight to moderate seas.  The colourful swell map looked like a volcano with reds and blacks with a 5 star surf rating at Llantwit Major.
I arrived at Sully beach anyway and the sea looked deceptively flat.  I'm sure it was a different storey out there in the channel though.
I sat in a sheltered area out of the wind at the end of Sully island trying to get my GPS to work.  With the island in my wake my bow instantly drove into the first wave, the wind casting spray across my face. It  instantly became obvious that this wasn't going to be an easy challenge. 
My low brace came in handy with wind an wave coming diagonally from behind.  With no GPS to confirm my speed and heading I had to rely on a more practical approach.  Passing near Lavernock Buoy it didn't seem the tide was having much effect so I drove on directly for Flat Holm.
I could see the race on the approach to Flat Holm but it wasn't until I was on top of it I realised how big the waves were.  I was picked up on the face of a wave, driven through the confused water, my entire boat beneath the water for a heart beat.  My adrenalin was on a high, soaked through with sweat, muscles tensed and shaking.
I paddled into the calm bay and landed on Flat Holm to loosen myself up and think whether it would be wise to carry on, exposed so far from shore.  Not paddling solo for so long seemed to knock my confidence.
Leaving Flat Holm I suddenly realised my decision was already made, I'm going up the channel with the tide if I like it or not.  Monkstone was a small line on the horizon and there for the taking.
Monkstone grew in size with every paddle took until I was finally upon it.
There was no indication which way the tide was flowing, only the wind pushing me past the lighthouse.
I got my head down and battled into the wind, hard work but enjoyable, climbing and dropping over each wave crest.
I joined up the dots with the buoys, this one looked like it took a battering at some point with its top cone bent over.
The Cardiff bay boat trip speed close by.  I was a bit worried whether or not they could see me with the rise and fall of the waves.  It didn't take long and I was soon entering Sully sound again buzzing with excitement.

The sense of achievement today was great.  Only the third paddle of the year but two 'want to do' trips already knocked off the list.  One more paddle left to do on the south east coast and that is cross the channel, watch this space.
My GPS continued to play up but as it pretty much mirrored the trip done by Richard last month it was roughly 11 nautical miles.

The title of today's post is a song which aptly best described my post by the great blues guitarist Gary Moore who sadly past away last week.