Saturday, 6 July 2013

Puffins, Lions & Wallabies

The jet stream has finally shifted and summer has arrived in the UK.  With low winds for the next few days a crossing to Lundy was on the cards but was postponed for another day.  Grassholm was the next plan but the late tides meant a possible return crossing in the dark.  I met up with Marcus late Friday evening at Newgale camp site in Pembrokeshire and discussed a plan C over a few pints at the nearest pub.  We were both keen on watching the final British & Irish Lions rugby test against the Australian Wallabies.  The game wouldn't be finished until 1pm but was perfect for a trip around Skomer and Skockholm at 2pm.  Now we just had to find a pub showing the match...  
After a very expensive full Welsh breakfast we headed into Solva, which seemed like the best bet for catching the match.  It seemed a shame spending half a day in the pub when the conditions were so perfect but the match was well worth staying in for.  The atmosphere in The Harbour Inn was fantastic and with a win of 41-16 to the Lions our day was off to a great start.  It was then a mad rush to drive down to Martins Haven to meet up with Jules.
A little late but we were finally ready to launch.  For the first time in two years I hadn't donned my cag, this was going to be a fantastic paddle.  I had been to Skomer three times before, the first was my very first paddle in Pembrokeshire waters.  Previous posts here.
Jules in the red Delphin and Marcus in the White Tiderace by Little Sound Skomer
Crossing the short distance of Jack Sound we were quickly transported into the wildlife haven of Skomer Island.  Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots all flocked around in huge numbers.    
 Marcus heading toward the cliffs of Skomer
 Jules crossing Jack Sound
Puffins bobbed about on the water and flapped away when we got to close.  Some comically dove beneath the water, popping up and diving again when they realised we were still there.  Others just glided around us checking out the new visitors.
Jules face was a picture, I think he was really enjoying himself.
We crossed over the entrance to North Haven where oddly there wasn't a single seal in sight.
More puffins...

We headed along the north section of Skomer toward Garland Stone.  The tide here seemed to be flowing against us, we were late however and time was pressing on to get down to Skokholm.
Every nook and cranny of the cliffs was covered with nesting Guillemots.
Spot the Guillemots.
It was a little choppy as tide flowed around the south west corner of Skomer.
From here we made the crossing down on to Skokholm Island.
Leaving Skomer, Mew Stone in the back.
The waters smoothed out in the open waters.
Skokholm light house built in 1916.  Before the light could be erected a jetty had to be constructed.  Building materials were hauled along the mile long rail track to the lighthouse by a donkey.  The donkey quickly learned to hide on working days hiding motionless against the grey rocks while keepers walked for miles seeking him out.
Skokholm meaning Wooded Island in Norse is somewhat a more secretive island to it's neighbouring Skomer Island.  Previously you have not been allowed to land on Skokholm but in recent years there has been some renovation work taking place for day visits in the near future.
The jagged Old Red Sandstone rocks beneath the lighthouse were beautiful.
In the shelter of Crab Bay we were tempted to come ashore despite restrictions.  Around the corner in Hog Bay however two rib boats were going ashore.  I have since learned that there are wardens on the island renovating paths and buildings for future visits so I may be tempted to ask next time.
Puffins in Crab Bay
We paddle to the eastern extremities of Skokholm before making our second crossing back to the mainland to Albion Sands.
As we neared Gateholm Island on the shores the tide picked up.  A fishing vessel circled us for a bit then came to ask if we were ok because they had to rescue a kayaker stuck in the currents yesterday.  Must say that is a Bang Tidy name for a boat.
High tide and a large surf prevented us landing at Albion Sands so we followed the shore back up toward Jack Sound, just about slowing down after full flow.
Nerves were high and I got my tow rope out of the day hatch just in-case we had a swimmer.  Thankfully there wasn't much to worry about.
So we turned around for a bit of a play in the fast flowing waters.
It was a short paddle back to Martins Haven.  We all decided to head home that evening but not before one more pint at Marloes.  A cracking couple of days with great company, really enjoyed myself.
11.50 nautical miles, 4 hours, top speed 9.1 knots!

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