Sunday, 20 January 2013

There's Snow Place Like Holm

           Yes Flat Holm again but a chilly day and the promise of a warm in the farm house was too tempting.  Heavy snow fell on Friday and has remained frozen in a white state since.  The wind forecast looked great for the coming week, so the plan was to paddle out to the two Holms and get a few shots of them in the snow.                          
I was to meet Gareth, Andrew and Taran, not to early for a change, at Sully.  This was our first meeting with Gareth and Andrew and their first trip out to the islands.
A few layers and two pairs of socks and we're setting off.
I didn't get this snow out there, this was from the weekend after I dug my boat out this morning.
Just past Sully Island well on our way and Andrew didn't feel comfortable in his boat.  The conditions were a little choppy out past Sully Island as they can be sometimes.  Andrew was paddling a lovely old style Nordkapp, a beautiful boat but known to be a bit twitchy.
We saw Andrew back to Sully Island and we were on our way again.  Felt a bit bad leaving him behind but sometimes it's best if your not comfortable on the water, especially in these temperatures.  
Time was pressing on so we opted for a lazy trip to Flat Holm rather than rush around both islands.  We did a lap of the island before landing on Coal Beach.  I assume the name of the beach derives from the tons of coal that were landed on the island to fuel the coal-fired braziers of the original light.  
I had informed the islanders we may be coming over today, so we headed on up to the farm house to warm our fingers and toes.
This was Gareth's first visit so we did a quick tour of the islands sights.  It was bitterly cold and my hands were excruciatingly painful.
Walking past the wind turbine it looked as if has come crashing down since we were last here, unless it has been purposely lowered for maintenance???
Oh yes the reason we came...snow...there wasn't any.  They hadn't had much snow fall out here and what had fallen hadn't lasted long.  It had been snowing lightly though on our trip out here.
That didn't stop Taran sledging off the beach...
I was desperate to get moving again and warm up.
Passing the Wolves buoy, it was a smoother return journey.
Taran checking out Gareth's rash...or cutching up to keep warm???  It looks a little whiter on Steep Holm in the distance.
We land back at Sully after another successful day on the water.
Gareth clearly hasn't got enough useless equipment in his boat.  Another great paddle with good company.  I promise the next trip won't be Flat Holm or Steep Holm.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Staying At Holm

Eurion needed a taxi so he could go out to play this weekend so he invited me along for a weekends camping on Flat Holm Island, haha.  We were up at dawn and ready to launch just before 10am to use the last couple of hours of the flood to take us up to Steep Holm.    
Conditions look better than expected.  The plan was to meet up with fellow paddlers mainly from the south west who were crossing over from Weston-Super-Mare a few hours later.
After packing the essentials we were ready to be on our way.
Eurion paddling over Sully causeway gliding over the glassy waves, shimmering gold in the low winter sun.
Eurion set his usual pace and we were sailing along making excellent progress.
The sun was out and it was unusually mild for the time of year, we were both glad we opted to leave our extra layers in the hatches.
We made Steep Holm in no time and still had at least an hour of flood at our disposal.
Eurion beneath Rudder Rock and the WWII lookout. 
The others would not be arriving for a few hours yet so we decided to carry on across the channel and leave Steep Holm in our wake....
 ...and paddle on to Brean Down on the English shores.  I think we were both eager to complete a trip to Brean after our failed attempt in November.
After 2 hour 15 mins of continuous paddling we arrived beneath the Victorian Fort at Brean Down.  The fort was built as part of a line of defences known as the Palmerston Forts, to protect British shores against the strengthening French Navy.
Whilst exploring the headland we overheard the other groups routine call to the coast guard to inform them of their departure from Weston-Super-Mare.  
We made our way slowly toward Weston, now against the start of the ebb tide, in an attempt to convene with the other group.
That's Eurion saying "come on we've come this far I want to touch it".  That's another three miles under our belts today.
It was worth the extra miles though.  The Birnbeck Peir has remained derelict and frozen in time since 1994. Originally built in 1867 the pier was once a very popular tourist attraction.  Visitors declined for many reasons including competition from the closely built Grand Pier, which opened it's amusement arcades in 1946.  Ownership has changed hands in recent years with promises of redevelopment, but all have proved fruitless.

With no sign of the others we turned around an headed back out into the channel for our decent back on to Steep Holm.
 As if the conditions couldn't get any better they did, hardly a ripple.
Ten minutes from shore and and another call goes over the radio to signal the safe arrival of the other group.  I catch a glimpse of them paddling around the far right of the island so we paddle ashore to wait for them.
We meet up with Alice, Lizzie, Claire, Mark, Chas and Richard.  We took a tour of the island whilst we waited for the tide to turn so we could make our way up to Flat Holm.
Eurion will sleep anywhere.
Anti Aircraft gun still points out over the channel.  

Rather than wait around until after dark for the tide to turn we decide to get on the water and push on against the flow, after-all the conditions were perfect.
The sun quickly dips bellow the horizon.

 Before long it's dark and we drift ever more down the channel away from our intended destination.
We finally get a little respite in the lea of the island as the tide starts to slow and make a slow approach.  We Paddle on blindly around the island almost head on into a reef before stumbling onto the beach by the jetty.
Only one slight problem, we failed to inform the staff of our intentions.  Thankfully they were pleasantly surprised at our arrival and let us pitch our tents up on the front lawn of the farm house.    
Eurion was quick to make himself at home in the warm of the farm house living room where I joined him.  Richard came prepared with two bottles of wine.  So I drank with him and remained on the sofa with the Flat Holm residents Sam, Aislinn, Yvonne and Leila, where the chat ranging from sheep to health and safety (??) went on until they kicked us back out into the cold in the late hours.
In fact it was surprisingly warm in the tent and almost enjoyed a full nights sleep until the 'alarm clock' came pecking around the tents.  Ten minutes later and I was half a pack of custard creams lighter.  
Home for the night.

 Overnight the conditions had deteriorated and the island was shrouded in a thick fog.
We said our fair-wells to Alice, Lizzie, Claire, Mark, Chas and Richard as they departed into the fog and made their way back to Weston.

Me and Eurion had a little time to kill waiting for the tide to turn.  
Which was a good thing as Eurion was clearly having wardrobe problems.
We decided to leave early and attempt to make as much progress as possible to avoid the mad rush of tankers departing down the channel at high water.   We said our fair-wells to the Flat Holm staff and left with the not so distant sounds of ships engines and fog horns, hidden within the dense fog. 
We made steady progress distantly passing Jim, Kevin, Hywel and John heading in the opposite direction.  It seemed odd they were using the tide to take them up to Flat Holm while we were using it to descend back to Sully....must have been that big eddy.
We caped off the trip with a quick half in the Captains Wife.  A great weekend with great company, fine weather and hospitality.  Thanks again to Sam, Aislinn, Yvonne and Leila for the warm welcome and putting up with us.  You can visit Flat Holm web site here and 'like' thier Facebook page here.
22 nautical miles/44km/25 miles, 6 hours 20 minutes of paddling.