Saturday, 25 February 2012

Welcome Holm

I arrive at Penarth waterfront early.  Our destination, Flat Holm and Steep Holm, float in the early morning mist.  It feels like late spring, the sun is out and the sea is like a duck pond.  
Today myself and Eurion are welcoming Mike Mayberry and Steve Bunston from Pembrokeshire to our home turf, and what a perfect day for it.    
Eurion and Steve leaving Penarth
The tide are just coming out of springs and it's roughly mid flow, when it's at it strongest.  It was going to take a big ferry angle to make this one.
Eurion and Mike
We make steady progress into the flow, with a bit of a push I reckon Monkstone lighthouse could have been a possibility.
Our big sweep out into the channel has brought us directly above Flat Holm.  We stop for a short break making the most of the calm conditions.  
Back on the move we make a easy 6-7 knots dropping right on to the beach.
First steps on to Flat Holm for Mike and Steve.  We sit up on the beach for lunch and a coffee in the warmth of the sunshine.  Surley doesn't feel like the end of February.
The tide is flowing at some pace so we make a wide decent onto Steep Holm.

We land on the only beach on Steep Holm just over an hour before low water.
Mike and Steve are keen to explore so we hike up the steep path leading to the top of the island with impressive views over the channel.  
Steve poses with the WWII anti-aircraft gun for his new face book profile picture.  
The only bombs dropping today were from the gathering gulls.
View of the landing beach at low water.
Back on the water and we head clockwise around the island...
Mike and Steve under Rudder Rock.  
We keep to our steep bearing leaving Steep Holm passing a dredger mid crossing.  The wind picks up, and against the tide provides a lumpy return journey.
Progress is slow into the tide so I suggest slackening off the angle of approach and let the tide take us up to Penarth.  Even thought the tide will pick up, by the time we pass Lavernock outfall the tide should slacken off sheltered by the point.  
Sure enough the tide has little effect behind the shelter of Sully Island and Lavenock Point.
The sun dips lower in the sky as we make the last approach onto Penarth.
A perfect end to a perfect day.   15.15 nautical miles, roughly 6 hours in total.
It off to the Captains Wife for a few pints and to discuss more kayak related topics to the delight of Hannah and Shelley.  Another great paddle out to the Holms and great to meet up with Steve, Mike, Shelley and Eurion.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Me, Myself & The Sea

Feeling frustrated and lack of motivation at work I gave up and loaded the boat up on the van.  A quick scan of the forecast and I made my way down to the Knap, Barry.
There was a strong westerly force 4 blowing across the bay, visibility was poor.  The tide was on neap and about 4 hours into the flood.  It felt slightly warmer today than it has been for a while.
It was very messy out on the water but my confidence was on a high and I was up for a challenge.  I made my way east with the flood with the wind and waves at my back, making an easy 5-6 knots.
Approaching Barry breakwater the size picked up, the waves to the right above are easily a couple of feet above head height.  It made for some great surfing, a few touchy moments however reminded me I was alone today.  
I was aware on the turn of the tide the conditions were likely to pick up (wind on tide).  I landed on Sully Island about half hour before high water.  The forecast over the radio confirmed strengthening winds so I decide to get some some food down me and head back.  
Straight out of the causeway and the strengthening head wind tries to push me back.   No further pictures from here on out, head down and hard paddling all the way.  I needed the fitness anyway.  My predictions proved to be correct, there were some monster waves around the heads.  Nells Point Coast-watch station picks up a max gust of 29 knots (force 6) at 14:14 just as I left Sully.
A final slog and a very carefully timed landing between sets of dumping waves called this trip to an end.  Good to get on the water as this weekend I'll be spending some quality time with the family.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Crossing The Bristol Channel

This has been one of those paddles we have talked about many times over a cuppa coffee after a paddle but never got around to doing.  Thankfully Eurion gave us that little push we needed to get off our arses and do it. After all the the two day forecast looked perfect for an attempt to cross the channel...
I met up with Taran and Eurion at 12:30 Saturday at St Donnats Atlantic College to load up the kayaks.  By 13:30 we were ready to go. 
We let the coast guard know our plans and set off into the low winter sun.
England was shrouded in haze barely visible on the horizon.
Picture by Taran - leaving the Welsh coast behind, Nash Point lighthouse behind.
 Nash point light house now to the right of Eurions shoulder.  
Apart from a quick stop to check the charts and to take a picture it was heads down all the way.
We were making excellent progress between 4-5kts passing a lone fishing boat mid channel.
Nearing the English coast it starts to become clearer.
We get a fly by from three Gannets who have found themselves unusually far east.
The last of the light disappears behind the steep English coast line and with it the temperature drops.
Eurion seems pleased we are nearly there.
The last slog always seems to go on forever.
An exciting and beautiful moment nearing the shore as the sun dips out of sight.  We make the 12 nautical mile crossing in just over 3 hours.
Picture by Eurion - Approaching Porlock Weir
The low tide wasn't helping the carry up the beach with fully laden boats.
Looking back on the Welsh coast now lost in the haze on the horizon.
We set up camp for the night while the frost settles on the wet boats.
We make use of the local amenities and have a lovely pint in front of a warm open fire.  Eurion settles down for an early night while me an Taran have a coffee on the beach watching the lights on the distant Welsh coast while planning future trips.  We settle into our warm sleeping bags (so glad I spent a little extra for a four season) when the locals decide to have a fire work display on the beach.
Morning at Porlock - After a sleepless night interrupted by fireworks, cars, owls and one really persistent pheasant, not forgetting the minus freezing temperatures it was soon time to get up.

Boats loaded back up we departed around 8:30am.
Nearing high water it was now possible to paddle out from the small harbour this time.
The forecast for the return journey looked good but cloud cover and a chilling wind made for a cold paddle.  Soaking wet kit didn't help matters.
The paddle back was uneventful, I think we were all keen to get back on Welsh soil.  Mid crossing we came across two cardinal markers, the location of a wreck.  The Sea King rescue helicopter also made a flyby as we approached the shore.
Picture by Eurion.
We seemed to cover good ground all the way so we slackened the angle of approach.  We ended up paying for this as we approached fast moving currents closer to shore.  The last leg was an arduous ferry glide  but aided by following waves and wind we managed to avoid being dragged down into Nash Sound.

The plan was....paddle out on the last two hours of the ebbing tide allowing for a four hour crossing.  We should reach mid channel at slack water before making up the ground lost with the first two hours of flood tide.  As it happened the crossing took less time than predicted, meaning we were about three quarters of the way there before the tide turned.  In total over the two days we covered 26.18 nautical miles (30 statute miles or 48.4km) over 6 hours 37 minutes with an average speed of 3.9 knots.
A brilliant paddle guys and another one marked off the 'to do' list.  Thanks to the Atlantic College life boat crew for the coffee and warm after the paddle.  Cheers Eurion and Taran.