Thursday, 20 September 2012

Year 3 Round-Up

Another year of kayaking under my belt and I am now into my fourth.  Here are collection of pictures from some of my more memorable trips of the year.  I kick off from last September and my annual Skye trip.  I remember Taran sodding off for a few weeks so I was left to paddle solo.
We had a late summer so October and November were really nice.  I did a couple of local paddles around the usual routes.  The above picture was from a paddle where the cliff had only hours before been a lot further away from that caravan in Porthkerry near Barry. 
The weather then took a turn for the worst through December, strong winds and big big swells.  We didn't let that spoil our annual Christmas Eve paddle out to Flat Holm.  The year before we were almost knee high in snow.
Throughout the following month the weather continued to deteriorate.  We continued to paddle every weekend what ever the weather.  This picture was taking within Barry harbour during a very strong squall.  We were lucky the wind was onshore and we got blown ashore.  With all this rough weather paddling my confidence hit a peak.
We thought we would try out a couple of night paddles, this one taken at Lavernock outfall on the way to Penarth.
Then we did a night paddle out to Flat Holm.  It was a great experience and seeing a huge orange full moon rise above the horizon when we got there just topped it off.
We finally made it out to the Worms Head, The Gower, a long awaited trip.  This one probably marks very high as one of my favourite paddles.  Although it looks sunny it was still January and was bloody freezing.
A lot of surfing, rough water paddles and a few local trips followed.  I sold my beloved Venture Easky and finally got out for a few paddles with Eurion after knowing him 'on-line' for quite some time.  Then a brief spell of settled weather approaches in mid February.  We take the opportunity to cross over the Bristol Channel and spend a night on the English shores in near freezing conditions.
The spell of settled weather lingers long enough to welcome a couple of other 'on-line' friends, Mike and Steve from Pembrokeshire.  We manage a paddle out to Flat Holm and Steep Holm from Penarth.

During March I test my map skills and paddle out to Tusker Rock in zero visibility, which made what would be another 'same old same old' paddle all the more interesting.   
Finding Nash east cardinal in the mist wasn't an easy task, listening for the bell seemed to do the trick.
We finish off the spring with a trip out to Pembrokeshire and meet up with Martin in our finest fashionable kayak gear.   
Myself and Taran undertook a massive trip covering the whole of North Pembrokeshire in a day from Dinas Head, Fishguard to Porth Clais, St Davids.
A very memorable night this was...water got into my kit bag and I spent the whole night in sopping wet gear.
The seal encounters the next day made up for it however.
 I spent most of April building my boat while huge seas battered our shores, it's really not turning out to be a good year.  So we kick of May with another paddle out to the Holms with a night stop over on Steep Holm.
A very comfortable night it was to...mmmmm.
But once again the experiences more than made up for it.
June was spent doing a lot of this...some would call it surfing I would call it getting battered by very big messy cold waves, or rolling practice!

This memorable experience was taken in February.  Huge and I mean huge swells bombarded the shores of Southerndown.  After paddling from Llantwit we, no Eurion decided to land.  Prior to this I had always been nervous about a surf landing.  After I knew it could only get better.
During July more unsettled weather meant I spent most of my time catching up on my boat build, still yet to be completed.  The deck is glassed and the hull is ready to be glassed.  
A rare spell of settled weather greeted us in August so I met up with Mike again for a paddle in Pembrokeshire...
Out to the Smalls.  A huge achievement to the small island 20 miles off St Davids Head.  We believe we are only the second to paddle out to Trinity House's most remote lighthouse.  
Seals on The Smalls.  Writing this I've come to realise I've only made three trips out to Pembrokeshire this year.
The following weekend I found myself doing another 40 miler across the Bristol Channel, this time to Heddons Mouth with Eurion.
We managed to cross back over that same afternoon in just over 3 hours each way.
During a family trip over to the other side of the country in Kent I manage to squeeze in a paddle with some local paddlers.  I finally got to use my tow line on this one...yes I think I am definitely a stronger paddler after that one.
I end the year not as expected.  I should be in Skye in this one but I'm stuck on my local stretch on Nash Sand Bar.

If I had to describe the year I would say...'unsettled'.  Not a great year weather wise but I feel all the more experienced, stronger and confident for it.  Skye has been pencilled in for the Spring and our expedition across the Irish Sea is also been postponed until early next year.  I'm looking forward to a good winters paddling now and too see what adventures the new year will bring.  See you out there..

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Here I Go Again On My Own...

Another very brief spell of high pressure meant I was able to get out for a quick paddle this weekend.  A front was due to come in around 1300 bringing strong winds.  For now the forecast was force 3-4 slight in the east, veering 5-6 becoming moderate.  Another drab looking day however.
First school boy error, I took the tide times from the wrong tidal port and I was rushed and a bit behind time.  I arrived at Llantwit Major about 1.5hrs before low water.
So far the forecast was correct, slight and a bit of a head wind.  I got a little bit anxious here, should I go on knowing the conditions are going to deteriorate.
To late I was rounding Nash Point, no turning back from here even if I wanted too.  I figured the wind will be with the tide on the return journey so even if it did whip up it would be on my back.
And there's always plenty of beach to escape too, mind you I wouldn't fancy the walk.
Witches Point, Southerndown half hour before low water.  I decide to take my lunch here on the more secluded east side of the head.

I went off to explore the caves up on the cliffs.
Small crab.
First cave, great view from up here.
Second cave a bit bigger.
The rock here has been worn smooth and almost looks like it's flowing.
I sit under the overhanging cliff with my lunch looking out over the Bristol Channel to the north coast of Somerset and Devon.

Retracing my steps back on the water the wind and tide pushes me nicely along.  Nash Sand bar is clearly visible and with no sign of the wind picking up I venture out. 
Never feels quite safe standing on what was once the sea bed only an hour ago, but a privilege only us kayakers can enjoy.
The sea swirls and breaks as it brushes up against the shallows of the sand.  Back on the water and my speed drastically rises as I'm taken past the end of the bar....   
7.7 knots the top speed for today.
 The wind does pick up and the swells rise as always around the tip of Nash Point.  It's a good following sea all the way back to Llantwit Major.
Only a short paddle today but a long walk back to the car park.  10.52 nautical miles/19.5km, 4.4kts average and 2:27 hrs total time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Holm Alone

Our annual trip up to Skye has been postponed until the Spring but with a brief spell of high pressure this weekend I was going to make the most of it.  With my van loaded last night all set for Pembrokeshire I had to make yet another cancellation due to weather. 
I was determined to get out once this weekend so decided on a trip to my usual hot spot Flat Holm.  Southerly force 2-3, smooth to slight, it was perfect.  Visibility was poor, could only just make out Flat Holm on the horizon through the early morning haze.
Through the usual race off Sully island an I was on my way.  I was picking up all sorts of traffic on my VHF, apparently due to high pressure.  A lot of coastguards way down south around Plymouth and the Isle of White.  I had quite a bit of French conversation come over and a missile firing down around Guernsey and Jersey.  Kept me entertained anyway.
The sun was trying it's hardest but the haze and cloud didn't relent.  There was about 2 knot of flow and I was steaming along well over 6 knots.
A dark shape looms out of the haze also steaming along, quite glad I didn't set off to Steep Holm.  I reach Flat Holm in half hour from leaving Sully.
I paddle around the east side of Flat Holm and explore, it would be rude not to.
Arch not quite big enough at Castle Rock.  I suddenly realise it's very quiet, not a single gull in sight!
I land very briefly to get my lunch out of my hatch and move it to my deck bag before setting off again for Monkstone Lighthouse.
Not before ringing the Mrs to say morning.
Monkstone just visible through the haze on full zoom.
I use the last of the flood to take my straight up the channel.
My intention was to tie off the boat and have lunch up on the tower but the tide was still flooding quite strongly.  My boat was being dragged around the back of the tower and I didn't fancy getting in a tangle or risk not being able to pull my boat back around.  I managed to get out and have a a quick climb up the ladder though.
I made my way back to Sully, starting off against the tide, linking up the shipping buoys on the way.  Cardiff Spit.
Keep your eyes peeled these things have a habit of keeping up behind you.
I can never remember which one this is, it doesn't have a name?  At this point I stopped for a bit of chocolate, the GPS was showing 0 knots, no drift whatsoever.
By the time I reached Ranie buoy there was 1.8 knots of drift.  Lavernock outfall buoy in the far left.
I hit some moving water just off Lavernock.  Through the rough stuff and over the eddy line and I was home dry with barely no tidal assistance.
A tall ship heading up the channel.
The orange cliffs of Sully.
Back at Sully after a 2.5hrs round trip, and the sun comes out.  I sit up on the beach dry off my kit and have my lunch before heading home.
That's my battle scars, Monkstone Lighthouse paint from trying to tie off.
Even though I wish I was up in Skye or out in the turquoise seas off Pembrokeshire, it was really nice to be back on home waters in such pleasant conditions.