Saturday, 28 January 2012

Land of the Dragon

Worms Head, from the Viking 'Wurm', meaning Dragon.  A location I've wanted to paddle for some time.  I was denied this paddle almost two years ago and haven't been back to the Gower since.  The passing high pressure this weekend seemed like the perfect chance to reclaim the paddle.
Today I was joined by Taran and Noel.  After getting up at 6am and driving west we left my van at Llangennith and drove back to Oxwich Bay to launch.  The sun was out the sea was flat, it was perfect, if only a bit on the chilly side.  A seal was lounging in the water, a good start.
Out into the bay the low winter sun almost blinds our view.
There was a bit of swell evident out in the open.
Within no time we were paddling past Port Eynon and for me at least, new territories beyond.
The sun provided a bit of warmth on our backs as we made our way further west.
We pass Culver Hole, a large sea cave whose entrance is sealed off by a 60ft stone wall.  Culver from the Old English word 'Culfre' meaning dove or pigeon is a medieval dovecote believed to date between 13th-14 century.
Steep waves sweep in all along the shore line, the thoughts of landing at Llangennith I think on all our minds.
We receive a flyby from Whiskey Oscar 99 with a friendly whoop whoop from their siren.
Paddling on I wonder why in the two years me and Taran have been paddling together we've never been to the Gower before.  The cliffs rise and fall dramatically, can only imagine the forces involved in creating such a landscape....

Like Noel have to be here to appreciate the scale of these formations.
We approach the cave where an almost complete 26,000 year old skeleton was discovered, better known at the Red Lady of Paviland.  The red lady was in fact a 25yr old male originally assumed to be a female dating back to the Roman period.
We take our time and explore every nook and cranny of this fantastic coast.
There's plenty of bird life to enjoy on the way.

The cliffs continue to rise and fall as we near our lunch stop.

We stop off at fall bay part of the Worms Head headland.
Moving on we hug the shore continuing up the neck of the head.
Deceptive waves seem to rise steeply and wrap around the end of the head as we paddle on reluctantly toward the danger.

Reaching the tip the conditions liven up slightly but the scale of the dragons head is jaw dropping.
 Gulls use the up-drafts and circle around the towering formation.  Wow what a place to be, this is the only way to view the Worm, not by foot.
Trying to get a sense of prospective.
On the dark side of the head the cliffs rise steeply from the sea, interrupted with cave arches and inlets.  Gulls, Shags and Razorbills cling to the steep cliffs above our heads.
A few seals pop up watching keeping a keen eye on our progress.
And with good reason, there are plenty of young ashore.  This small seal looks like it might have been one of this years.
We leave the shadows of the the great serpentine headland and cross over Llangennith to our final destination.  Mass flocks of birds circle around us in the open water.    
A shot of me with the Worms Head.
We land in the surf, not huge but steep fast and great fun.
We linger a little while longer enjoying the last drops of daylight in the foaming surf.
Its then a gigantic carry up the beach and over the sand dunes back to the van.
One of the best paddles in a long time, a must for all kayakers.  Thanks guys for a superb day.  

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Surfs Up!!! again

More winds, more big swells will it ever end this winter! I met up with Taran at Gileston to check out the breezy conditions with the possibility of taking the ebb tide toward Llantwit Major and on to Nash Point.  It was going to be one hell of a slog in really messy conditions so we drove on down to Barry Harbour again for a bit of surf practice. 
Very messy surf but the conditions beyond the breakers looked a lot cleaner.
Heading out through the shallows.
On the edge of the bay it was big and gusty, not ideal for a trip of any sort.  We opt for a bit of surfing in the swell.  Above Taran back paddles as he sees the big breakers rear up behind him.
I take a ride into shore and head back out taking an absolute beating on the way.
The waves were messy and bongo sliding was common.  We both took some crackers side on, I still think it's amazing how a simple brace on the wave keeps you from going over.
I go over and miraculously role straight back up.  Time for a Mars bar I think.
Taran surfs in as we take a well earned break.
Re-fuelled and back out for some more fun.  Taran heads out for the big swells while I enjoy taking a few fast rides.   
I decide to quite while I'm ahead and not press my luck any further.
I wade in to try an get a few shots of Taran coming in and then call it a day.
A fantastic day in the surf but gagging for a bit of decent weather so as to get a few miles under the boat.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Holm Of The Rising Moon

Something me and Taran have talked about for a while is a trip out to Flat Holm in the dark.  Our night trip to Penarth last week was somewhat of a warm up.  Tonight however was far from warm, but the forecast was perfect for an attempt.  Easterly Force 2, minimum swell and a clear sky. 
It was a strange feeling getting dressed into my dry suite at 7pm and heading off to the Captains Wife, Sully to go for a paddle.  Jules and Andy were also roped into a night under the stars.  We load up with enough glow stick for a night out on the town.
You have to use your imagination a bit now because long exposures don't work on the sea so the pictures are a bit crap.  Above you have Andy and Jules setting their boats on the water.  We set off around Sully Island into a very dark night, the 3/4 moon hasn't risen yet.  There is an overfall off the tip as we round the island, not that we could see it.  Dark shadows outline the waves and a cold spray livens the senses as the bow rises and falls. 
We paddle off on an agreed bearing and then rafted up to discuss our progress and re-calibrate our bearing.  The dark is very deceptive.  Lights blink all around from buoys, lighthouses, towns and other crafts.  That reminds us, we are sat on a very busy shipping lane.    
Above is Taran and the white dot in the centre is the Wolves Buoy about three quarters of the way across.  The lights to the left are Penarth and Cardiff.  It's not as flat out here as what I was expecting from the forecast, but still it's all good.  
The sounds of lapping waves and a dark outline signal our arrival.  Now this is where your imagination comes in.  Above we are arriving at Flat Holm, there is a big cliff in front of me here.
On land I can now set up a tripod and adjust the exposure.  The best shot of the lot.  The orange glow and lights of Cardiff twinkle 8km in the distance.  For those who know Flat Holm this is the beach adjacent to the beach with the slip way.  The main beach was under water with the spring tides.  
I tuck into my limited edition three chocolate Mars bar just as an orange disk rises above Weston Super Mare on the English side of the channel.  What a sight.
The pictures don't do it justice, it was truly a magnificent sight.
It's now 22:20 and we set off without delay.  The tide is already ebbing strongly through Castle Rock.  We make way, above  is Jules with the light of Cardiff beyond.
Cheese!!! me with the moon behind.  We can see a lot more clearly now with the orange glow of city lights ahead and the moon at our backs.  The sky above is littered with starts, it doesn't get much better than this, and all on our doorstep.
Every now and then you would cross paths with either Taran or Jule and get completely blinded by their camera flashes, just as I've done here.  We come against some adverse tide as we near the coastline and make our way on to Sully Island, which slowly appears out of the gloom.
We land back on Sully beach at around after 7.8 nautical miles (13.67km) and 2hr42 mins on the water.  I finally get home around 1am, unload my boat but I think I'll rinse my kit in the morning.
A fantastic paddle and a great way to practice navigation.  Great company as usual, cheers guys, see you on the next one, Steep Holm anyone?