Saturday, 27 July 2013

Holm Buoys

I had set myself up for a paddle across the Bristol Channel, along the east Exmoor coast and hop back across the channel before darkness.  I was in a battle between my heart and head.  The latter was concerned about the forecast.  Southerly force 3-4, gusting 5-6 in the evening with heavy, thundery showers.  It would have been a long day on my own so put it on the burner for another day.  

Meanwhile I needed a short local paddle now to fill my day.  High water was about 1130 so I opted for a trip out to Flat Holm for the second time this week but taking in Monkstone Lighthouse also.  
Again big tides ferried me along at an easy 6-7 knots.  I had to fight the tide as I neared Flat Holm to get around to the east side of the island and under the lighthouse.
I parked up on Coal Beach and relaxed in serenity with my breakfast.  I simply sat around enjoying the view for a good hour, something I rarely actually do.  
From memory I allowed myself 30 minutes to paddle across the two miles to Monkstone Lighthouse.
 From the lighthouse I followed the line of buoys back to Sully.  First Cardiff Spit....
Then Cardiff South....
 And finally Ranie.  The tide increased considerably with each buoy.
I left out the Lavernock spit buoy which would mean heading back out off shore.  The Wolves can also be seen set against Steepholm.
It's been a while since I last did that trip and it was great retracing my steps once more.  As I packed up my kit the heavens opened and I couldn't help thinking if I had gone with my original plan I would have another eight hours to go.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Evening At Flat Holm

High water was at 2030 so a late paddle out to Flat Holm seemed to be the perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening.  The crossing usually takes under an hour so it would be perfectly timed for a sunset on the return journey.  I was joined by Chris and Gary tonight.  
We departed from The Captains Wife Sully and were easily travelling 7 knots on the big spring tide.
The water was definitely flowing underneath us in a confused state.  There was a a following breeze that would likely cause a bit of chop against tide on the return trip.
I brought along my hand line in the hope of catching something for the first time, it was not to be.
The tide was really flowing on approach to the island foiling any plans of a anti clockwise circumnavigation.
So we paddled on through the easterly race and on to Castle Rock.

I don't think I have seen the tide this high on Flat Holm before, and there was still another half hour before high water.  The beach and slipway were well underwater so we went onto Coal Beach which is a little higher.

Just enough room to park a kayak but the tide was still rising.
This was Gary's first visit to the island so we took a short walk up top.  There were young gulls everywhere and grumpy parents.  Time to leave before we get splattered.
Back on the water and through Castle Rock dead on high water.

Looking down at the GPS the tide didn't seem to be taking us yet.
There was a thin line of cloud blocking a full sunset.  The tide finally kicked in about half way across causing some choppy water as predicted with the opposing wind.  Glimpsing down at the GPS I noticed we were veering slightly off course so increased our angle of approach.
Behind a huge 'super moon' rose beyond Flat Holm.  This was my poor attempt of catching it on film whist trying to brace against the race off Lavernock.
We arrived back at the Captains Wife in the last of the days dying light.
Looking back at our GPS track you can see where the southerly tide was at it's strongest.  Combined with our relaxed approach it almost pushed us off course.  An enjoyable evening on the water making the best of the settled conditions.  It seems it's all change as of next week with heavy rain and wind forecast.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Lifeboats & Helicopters

Lifeboats & helicopters, add fire engines to the mix and I have one very happy son.  Zakk loves anything to do with rescues so when I found out the RAF Sea King and Penarth lifeboat crew were performing a display at the Penarth Summer Festival this weekend I thought Zakk and Connor would love it.
Here he is in the Penarth Lifeboat station.
Penarth Lifeboat crew launching.
Arrival of the RAF Sea King with Flat Holm and Steep Holm.
RAF Sea King, Penarth Lifeboat and Flat Holm.
Zakk loving the display with his own Sea King.
The next day I took Zakk out for another paddle but the sea was a little more unsettled that last time.  This time I took him to Llantwit Major beach.  Kitted out Zakk was ready to go.  I connected him to a short tow in the event that if we should come out he would be connected to me.
 Zakk was loving it once again.  I paddled a short distance to Tresilian Bay where there are some cave but it was a bit risky to get in close to explore.  Youngsters were jumping and swimming in the sea as they normally do around this area at high water on a nice summers day.  We paddled back into a surprisingly stiff headwind.  Small waves broke on my bow sending spray in to Zakks smiling face.
We landed back at Llantwit and took off our wet kit just as a mayday sounded over the radio.  "Any vessels within the area of Llantwit Major beach able to assist three swimmers being taken out to sea".  I jumped up but couldn't see anyone in the water.  I was about to get us back in the boat when a fishing vessel just off shore responded to the mayday.  The swimmers were quickly found and aboard the fishing vessel awaiting the Porthcawl RNLI vessel.  Me and Zakk sat on the beach watching and listening to the rescue unfold.  They were found in the exact spot from where we just came so can only assume it was the same youngsters.
Zakk was excited to see the lifeboat again.  After they returned the swimmers to shore they did a quick sweep of the beach, waving to Zakk as they went by.  As I write this Zakk is now playing with his new lego rescue helicopter and lifeboat he had for his birthday.  It seems someone may be catching the bug that draws all of us to the sea.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Waves & Wheels

Another weekend of settled conditions were promised and I wanted to fill the gaps, the south coast of Pembrokeshire was my next target.  We finished our last paddle along the south coast at Stackpole Quay.  The tide was flowing east to west through Caldy Island sound at around 0940 so a trip from Tenby to Stackpole Quay was formalised.    

Jules was the only one keen to join me and it seemed silly to take two cars just for a shuttle.  Jules suggested cycling and the thought had passed though my mind also.  I wasn't keen on leaving my bike chained up while we spent the day on the water but what other option was there? 

Our carefully laid plans were almost foiled however.  Upon driving to Stackpole to drop off the bikes we noticed road closure signs.  It just so happens a marathon was being held from Tenby and the surrounding roads were due to be closed for most of the day.  What was plan B? We didn't have one...sod it! So it was a race to get back to Tenby before the race started.    
Our next hurdle was parking.  One reason I put of this trip off for so long.  None of the car parks would allow a van for whatever obscure reason.  We eventually found a van friendly car park right on the beach. We quickly packed up our boats and were finally on our way.
We launched from a busy South Beach and took a slight detour north east to St Catherine's Island.
There is a cave passing through the middle of the island I remember from spending my school summers here on the beach as a kid.  There was a current already picking up speed through the cave.
From here we decided to aim for the east corner of Caldey Island and paddle clockwise around the island.
Jules with Caldey Island, St Margaret's Island and Giltar Point.
We brushed along the north east corner of Caldey and around on to the south of the island.  We were already thinking about lunch when the lighthouse came into view, after all we had breakfast about five hours ago around 5am.
 Horse flies were a constant problem along the shores of the island.
We stopped off at Sandtop Bay at Caldey's western corner for a brief rummage of the snack rations.  
Re-fuelled we left Caldey and headed straight for Lydstep Point keeping an eye our for cetaceans, or as I like to call them, dolphins and stuff.
Heading for Lydstep Point
I have heard the waters around here can get quite lively with wind on tide.  It was lovely and calm on a day like today but the tide wasn't half moving.  The limestone cliffs beyond Lydstep Point rose vertically from the calm waters allowing us to explore the caves and arches.    
Paddling around Caldey Island we noticed the island was clearly in two half's in regards to it's geology.  Even to the untrained eye there was a clear contrast between the grey Carboniferous Limestone in the north of the island and the Old Red Sandstone in the south.  This was also the case for most of this section of coastline.
This map shows the different rock types, the darker green being the Carboniferous Limestone, here we found impressive caves, crevices and arches.  The lighter green is the Old Red Sandstone, from the south of Caldey and along the final stretches of our trip today.
So we continue to explore the cracks and caves in the Limestone cliffs.
This cave had a collapsed roof and an entrance at the rear also.

Paddling through an arch.
From Old Castle Head the rock turns from Limestone to Old Red Sandstone, beautiful but not as exciting to explore up close.  So we cut across many of the sandy bays passing fishing boats and.....Jet Skis! They had been a constant nuisance on this trip, another reason I've put this trip off for a while.
We consider stopping off at Manorbier but the beach was packed from end to end with sun seekers and more jet skis.  So decide to push on to the next bay in search a quieter break and land at Swanlake Bay.
After a quick bite to eat we push on toward Stackpole Quay.  We swap some Lycra for some more Lycra, lock the boats to a pretty sturdy bench and hop into the saddle to return the 13 miles back to Tenby.
It was a bit hot with a few steep climbs but all in all it was a pleasant ride through rural Pembrokeshire.  We got to Tenby just as the last two stragglers were finishing the marathon and opening the roads.  
We made it, all that planning and faffing about and we pulled it off.  15 miles by kayak and 13 miles on the bike to complete a circular trip of 28 miles over about 6 hours.  Thanks Jules for the company, really enjoyed that trip.
Well for me that only leaves one more section between Martins Haven to Freshwater West before I complete the Pembrokeshire Coast.  Then there's the two open crossings between Porthcawl and Mumbles and Gower to Tenby to link them all up.