Sunday, 19 August 2012

Spring Tides Across The Bristol Channel

Myself and Eurion take advantage of the hottest day of the year, high pressure and low winds.  Both busy Saturday and work Monday we make best use of Sunday and plan for a paddle across the Bristol Channel.  A few differences to our last crossing. We will be paddling 20km further down the channel to Heddon's Mouth, a small bay about 13km east of Ilfracombe.  Today is Spring tides and there will be no overnight camp, we will be making the outbound and return trip in the same day.       
We launch from St Donnat Castle same as before.  A big high tide and swell make for a really difficult launch.  We both manage to get out with a few more scratches on our boats than were there before.
Eurion leaving the Welsh coast behind, Nash Point lighthouse in the distance.
We call in with the coastguard who annoyingly kept stalling us, calling us back to ask more questions.
Photo by Eurion 
Now Eurion has picked up a reputation for attracting headwinds.  A reputation so familiar that I wear my full dry suite on this hot day while Eurion dons a t-shirt.  After-all what could possibly go wrong today, very light winds bordering on non existent were forecast on this beautiful hot summers day
...Oh look what's that flag doing there, and what's that is that rain?  It looks as though Eurion is squinting because the rain is being driven into his face.  Ah yes it's a squall, hottest day of the year my arse.
The squall thankfully passes eventually, the wind drops and the air clears leaving us with a dramatic view of the Devon coastline capped in low cloud.
Ferry passing infront of the Lynmouth Foreland Lighthouse.  A perfect example as to why the light is not position at the highest point of the cliff. 
Just as we think we are in the clear we notice a large ferry, possibly the Lundy ferry, coming at our port side.  On our Starboard side is another squall.  Our worry was if the two meet we could end up stuck in the mist not knowing where the boat is coming from.  Luckily the ferry passes to our forward and the squall comes to nothing more than a bit of light rain.
Eurion has made this paddle previously and try's to recall the location of Heddon's Mouth.
Photo by Eurion
I'm in awe of the steep Devon coastline made all the more dramatic with the low lying mist.  I didn't realise it was like this and will definitely have to return to explore.  I don't know if it was the mist but it had a familiar resemblance to the Scottish coastline.
Out comes the tilly hat.
It's around here somewhere, Eurion still looking for the well hidden bay.  It's actually hidden in a narrow steep valley just before that headland.
We make the crossing in about 3.5hrs, that's quick.  In fact a lot quicker than planned.  Over 18 nautical miles that's averaging over 5kts.
Photo by Eurion
Wow what an entrance, navigating through the boulders that hide the entrance to the bay. 
We leave our boats at the waters edge with the tide still receding.  We head up the beach with a four hour wait until the planned leaving time.
We laze about as our kit dry's off.  There is a pub about a mile or so up a meandering path but feel lazy and decide to laze about and rest our seizing muscles for the return trip.
I left my sandwiches in the fridge so was left to feast on fruit, nuts and chocolate...mmmmm filling. 
 I take a short scramble up the cliff while Eurion scares people away with his snoring.
Great view and the sun comes out finally.
Eurion still where I left him.
The tide turns and we decide to get back on the water slightly earlier than planned.
Leaving Heddon's Mouth.
The Ilfracombe lifeboat helping out a stranded yacht.  The coastguard have been busy today.
That's more like it, sun, light winds, glassy seas...perfect.
Beautiful clear open stretch of water all the way to the Welsh coast.  We anticipate a longer crossing, one because we are tired, but also the tide is slower on the flood than the ebb.  We also left early, therefore the tide wont really kick in for another hour. 
It was really clear on the way back but I couldn't help to notice how close the yellow cliffs of Porthcawl looked after what seemed a relatively short period of time.  There was a huge swell rolling under us, making me feel a little apprehensive about the landing on the slipway.
Eurion was on a mission.  We hadn't stopped for a rest on either journey but I managed to keep up, further slowed down with my picture taking.
One last push and we make it safely to shore, a well timed landing gets us scraping up the concrete slipway.
68km, 42.5 miles, 36 nautical miles over 7 hours in total.  A brilliant time however I think a more leisurely pace over a few days next time giving us a little more time to explore.  Another fantastic achievement with great company, cheers Eurion.


Anonymous said...

nice pics, was paddling myself around penarth front when that ship [the balmoral] docked at the pier

Stuart said...

Ah the Balmoral, thought it was a bit weird the Lundy ferry, which looks almost identical, was that far up. Only ship we saw all day, worried us a bit as we just came out of one squall and the visibility was terrible.