Monday, 29 August 2011

Home Waters

After a weekend break with my wife Hannah in London for both our birthdays, I was far to tired to work the bank holiday.  So I took the day off (for a change) and joined Taran, Scott and his dad Haydon for a late afternoon paddle from Llantwit Major to the Knap Barry.
It was good to get out with Scott and Haydon as I have sort of known them for a while now via Taran, the club and of course blogs.
It was spring tide and it was kicking up a bit at Llantwit Major which is usually the case over the reef.  As we made our way further east it continued to flatten out however.  These huge hay bales looked rather odd on the edge of the coast. 
We round the massive water intake tank opposite Aberthaw power station at a rate of knots and into the confusion that followed. 
Heading around Rhoose point I head inland too where the tide flows in a huge eddy around the Knap bay.  Here the flow actually flows in the opposite direction to the main flow and can kick up some very tasty waves, which it did today.  I got a bit to preoccupied playing whilst the other three carried on and got left behind.  I had to break out of the eddy and head off shore to join back onto the main flowing tide before catching them just as they were landing.
A one way trip today with a kind offer from Scott to drop us back to Llantwit.  After the recent paddling out west it was quite nice being back on home waters again.  Whilst I was in London I got to meet another sea fairing folk, apparently has a fleet of old galleys, he certainly looked the part...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Glam Boaters Weekend

SATURDAY 20th AUGUST

I haven't been to the club for quite some time now but I decided to join up with Taran and the rest of the gang in Pembrokeshire.  I arrived at Newgale camp site early Saturday morning, it was wet and windy, typical Glam Boaters trip weather.  There was a strong southerly force 5-6 wind blowing so the decision was made to head on up to Newport sands out of the face of the wind.
The sea state of the sea looked much more slight up here, still gusty but much flatter.  Dinas Head was barely visible through the rain and low cloud.  The group consisted mainly of novices some not yet ventured out on to the sea before today.  The plan was to head along the cliffs of Dinas Head taking in some caves and rock hopping.
We launched from Parrog, which previously served as an active port which supported the shipbuilding industry during the 19th Century.   The old port dries out at low water but it is possible to paddle or walk your boat up through the shallow stream.
 There was a mix of sea boats and shorter river boats, Richard here is in Tarans old Piranha.
Before long we were at the foot of the cliffs making use of the swelling conditions.  Andrew the club founder and coach teamed me and Taran up with a group each to lead through the caves and rocks. 
Taran who is currently doing his coaching qualifications and in the process of starting a kayaking tours business was more at home with this.  I don't think I am one of those people who are 'leaders', I wouldn't say I was one who 'follows' either.  I just like to get on with my own thing.  Don't get me wrong, I love helping out help out I'm just not a very vocal person. 
Before long the decision is made to turn back, which was a shame as this has to be one of my favorite trips rounding Dinas Head. 
We land on a small shingle beach for some lunch and take a rest.
Nearing what is now a wide expansive beach the surf could be seen from quite a distance.  On the approach the surf looked quite big with the wind whipping off the tops of the crests.  I was one of the first to make my way in, mainly to get it over with and so there wouldn't be anyone on the beach watching me when I go tits up.  Anyone who's read my blog before knows I'm not a fan of surf.
I wasn't alone, most paddles have never paddled on the sea yet alone landed in surf.  Even through the waves were quite big it wasn't as bad as it looked.  Everyone managed to make it through unscathed simply letting the waves pass under the boats.
In fact we all enjoyed it so much we all spent the next hour playing in the waves.  
Everyone drags their boats in on the beach as a rainbow appears above their heads.  We're all exhausted by now.
It's a long walk back to the cars but shortened some what by the stream for the final leg.

SUNDAY 21st AUGUST

Another day and the sun is out and the conditions seem to have lightened a little, F3-4 south westerly.  We make our way to Solva where it is buzzing with people and kayaks.  The wind blows up the narrow harbour channel which doesn't vouch much for the conditions on the other side.
Big swells and blowing winds at the mouth of the harbour.  After a look into the caves inside the protection of the natural harbour I was quite looking forward to the tasty conditions.
We take the group around Black Rock that marks the entrance to the harbour and under the cliff on the far side of the harbour out of the wind.  I was hoping we would at least get the group out to the Scars or even just around the corner and through the arch we visited a couple of weeks ago.
It was decided it was best not to risk an all in rescue with so many novices so we pondered around the harbour in an out of the caves before landing on the pebble beach at the far end. 
I was itching to get out an do some paddling so I ventured out of the harbour and around the cliffs to either side of the entrance while the group sat and had some lunch on the beach.  I was tempted top paddle back to the camp site at Newgale on my own but didn't fancy the surf landing.  Oh well Scotland to the Isle of Skye in a couple of weeks so I'm sure I'll get enough paddling done then.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Blustery Day To Be Paddling Skomer

Morning arrived and the outlook looked grim.  It was already spitting with rain and a scramble up the embankment to catch the forecast on the VHF reveals more of the same.  Westerly force 5 to 6, Occasionally F7 , F4 for a time, squally showers, sea state moderate becoming rough.  Not really the weather to be exploring the western reaches of Skomer Island. 
 We headed out anyway with hoods donned in to the wind and rain, there's no harm in looking.
 Normally I would bin photo's with splashes on the lens but it was inevitable today. 
Crossing Jack Sound it was a little lumpy but nothing drastic, the tide had been running north for about 45 mins at this point.  We pass an Australian sailing boat on the way through, I wouldn't like to be navigating through there in a boat.
We passed through Little Sound on the far side of Midland Isle for a wee look at the conditions on the southern side of the island.  Well they were 'swell'!
We decided to turn back, more for the fact that Jack Sound would be picking up a bit of pace now and in these conditions it could get a little on the risky side.
Thanks to Taran for this picy.  It was great fun riding the waves back but the weather seems to lighten up a bit by the time we reached Little Sound.
No one home.  The burrows are all empty now and the Puffins have probably all but migrated.  Completely missed the breeding season this year.
 With no swell on the northern side of Skomer Taran takes the opportunity to get up close to the cliffs.
While I try to make friends with a seal.  Very tempted to get close this one.  Still yet to have one come up on my deck.
Continuing on we spot three stragglers rafted up together, the slight swell has hidden the other two.  That'll probably be the last Puffin sighting this year. 
We paddle on into North Haven, it's unusually quite with hardly any bird or seal life about.  It then back onward to Jack Sound, the state of the sound forever playing on both our minds.  We managed to spot the waves from quite far back, the nerves were running.
We make it through unscathed, although I'm pretty sure I may have been over if I was in my Easky.  It brought back memories of my first experience of the Bitches.  The waves look bad enough then as Taran paddles in up front you realise just how big they actually are.  I took a video but as I was ferry gliding most of the action was behind the camera. 
Not a very long paddle so we stick around Martins Haven for some rolling practice. 

As you can guess I didn't come up.  I also had a hard job getting back in, I remember Martin mention his new boat was a bugger to get in.  The bow and stern are so thin and long on these Tahe's!  Since then I've been in a rolling rut, I haven't managed a single one!  I have managed a few clambers on deck though.

Back in the van and dried up we make for home after a fantastic weekend on the water.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Sunset Over Skomer

After Taran's speciality chili from a tin we packed up the van and parked up on the other side of St Brides Bay at Martins Haven.  To see Skomer Island and it's neighbour Skokholm you need to take a short walk up the hill that blocks the view from the car park.
 Wild horses looking out to St Brides Bay and Stack Rocks beyond.
 Silhouette of Wooltack Point
 Skomer Island center and Ramsey Island in the distance to the left from Wooltack Point
 The Bishops on the horizon
Skomer Island with Mew Stone as the sun sets on the horizon over cows grazing on top of Wooltack Point

The sun remained hidden until it kissed the horizon, I don't think I have ever seen the sun so big.  We headed back to the van to plan the mornings outings...

Solva to Ramsey

We awake to gulls noisily fighting it out over the harbour and a lone white egret fishing in the shallows.  Taran puts the porridge on the hob while we wait for Martyn and his dad to arrive.  It's nearing high water as we set off but due to the complexity of the tides the water will be running north through Ramsey sound for about another five hours or so.  The aim was to take our time, explore this rugged stretch of coat line between Solva and St Davids and paddle up through the sound and end at Porthselle where Martyn and his family were camped.
Most people see my boat and go "Tahe Marine" how do you pronounce that?  I've never seen another and then like the buses two come along at once.  That's Martyns orange Revel Mini, essentially a 15ft mini me version of my boat.
We head out of the harbour and to our first cave just at the entrance.
It's then out to the Scars for another visit.
Not as much swell as last night but still provides a little bit of interest.

Optimus Taran!  Taran tries out his new waterproof camera bag, the resulting shot shown bellow.
We then head back to shore to explore the hidden treasures.  This is the arch we found last night but was too dark to photograph.

Paddling beneath the colourful shades of Cambrian sandstones and shale's.
Last night we found a great rock hopping run.  A bit like a game of chicken, it was a long gully between the cliff face and some protruding rock, with the swell raising over the rocks into the cliffs.  Taran having the only plastic boat gave it a go... 
Starting off...
Here comes the swell...
Swept into the cliffs...
A face full of water...
And a big cheesy grin to finish.
The geology in this stretch is fascinating. 
Ship wreck.
The rest of the boat.  I'm going sideways into the cliff to take this shot, very close to having a hole in my keel!  Sometimes it's a gamble between pushing the shutter and getting the paddle back in the water.
Never mind the geology look how clear the water is! I miss this place, quite a difference to the murky brown Severn.  It's a quick pit stop at Porth Clais before continuing on westward.
Heading toward Carreg yr Esgob another small rock out crop, I'm more interested in the black clouds looming behind.
Martyn's dad and myself pass through the gap on the left, Taran and Martyn pass through the arch on the right.  I take a nose dive on the way back through leaving a white mark on the cliff, not used to the extra three foot yet!
Moving on the cross Ramsey sound the it seems the squall might just fall behind us.
Ramsey Island up ahead.  This particular summit on the south of the island is 72 meter high.  I believe the main summit is 128 meters.  That makes for some pretty steep cliffs.
We catch the tail of the showers as we cross paths with one of the Ramsey ribs.
This cave is absolutely huge.  Not a bad place to shelter from the rain.  A curious slightly bad tempered bull seal had the same idea.

Trying to get some sort of scale of the size of this cave.

We have a little nose around Bay Dillyn at the south side of Ramsey but decide it was a bit too choppy to go exploring the west of the island.  It was also only about another 45 minuites before the tide turned.
Still keeping a watchful eye over his ladies.
We head on up toward the Bitches which thankfully are tame enough at present.  Quite nice to actually go through and touch the famous rock.
Tame for now but I still get shivers looking back at them.
Martyn and his dad hug the towering cliffs while me and Taran pass through the Bitches.  They disappear behind a large outcrop so I went around to catch them at the other end only to find them paddling up a long narrow cave that passes through the cliffs.
Back around for another go so I join them.
The entrance, wouldn't even have know it was here.
Wow what a place.

We carry on up to the north of the island for a short ferry glide against the flow that has now turned to cross back over to the mainland.
The rain starts again and the wind gives us a little push around the St John Point into the quite calm of Porthselau.
Me and Taran take up the offer for a lift back to the van rather than paddle back to save the arms.  I believe Martyn forgot to mention the carry up the steep cliff to the caravan though!  A nice warm cuppa to comfort our damp acing muscles (can't believe it's summer!!) and then it's back to the van for Tarans speciality chili and rice and another warm brew.