Monday, 16 September 2013

West Wales Sea Kayak Meet

This weekend I headed out to Goodwick, Fishguard for the West Wales Sea Kayak Meet, with a few others....
Eurion and myself arrived late Friday evening after dark, pitched the tents and headed up to the local pub to meet the other's for a few quiet ones.
An early awakening at 6am after only 4 hours sleep too find Jim torching himself outside his tent. 
I finally get to see my new tent in the light of day, having ever only pitched it in the dark.
We head over to the Beaches Dinner for a full Welsh breakfast to sooth the hangover before meeting to discus the days arrangements.
I decided to join in on the Dale to Martins Haven trip, one of the last remaining trips I have left to do on the Pembrokeshire coast.
Today I get to test out to new toys I had for my birthday, my new Overboard deck bag with my new SLR camera inside.
There were 15 in total taking up this trip including familiar faces Eurion, Gareth, Sean, Paul, Simon and Chris.
Launching from Dale
Picture by Eurion
It took a while to organise 15 paddlers but we were finally on our way heading out through Milford Haven.
Milford Haven is one of the finest natural deep water harbours, the third largest in Britain.  Vessels entering the harbour navigate their way via a series of range lights.
The first we pass is a 160ft rear range light at Watwick Point, which consists of a vertical black and white day mark and a flashing white beam light which is visible for fifteen miles.
Milford handles over 29% of Britain's seaborne trade in oil and gas as is evident by the ships constantly streaming in and out of the harbours entrance.

At West Block House Point is a fort that was constructed in 1857 as part of the protective fortifications around the entrance to Milford Haven.  An earlier fort was previously built on the same site around 1539, ordered by  Henry VIII to protect the port from invasions from the French and Spanish.  The fortifications have been modified over the years to accommodate various changes in war techniques until they're closure in 1950.  The fort is now let out as a holiday home.
Beyond West Block House Fort are the front range lights.  These consist of three concrete towers between 30-46ft supporting beam lights.  The two outer columns act as leading lights and carry black square day markers with flashing white lights.  The centre column has a flashing white beam and operates as a front range, visable for thirteen miles.
At the entrance to the harbour is St Ann's Lighthouse.  St Ann's Head is the oldest lighthouse on the Welsh Coast first established in 1714.  The first attempt to provide a light in the area were made in 1662 where a coal-fired tower was formed out of a destroyed chapel, thought to have commemorated the landing of Henry Tudor in 1485.
Although now unmanned and fully automated, the lighthouse remains an operating base for Trinity House's maintenance teams.

Rounding St Ann's head we journey on north into a brisk head wind.
We cross from bay to bay, trying to keep close to the headlands to shelter from the unrelenting wind.
Skokholm, Skommer and Grass Holm Islands are all visible further north and west. 
We take shelter from the wind at Westdale Bay.  This bay would make an excellent 'get out' point if the weather is not as expected on the western coast as it is only 1km walk from Dale on the other side of the peninsular.




After a short lunch break we break back out through the surf and carry on our journey north toward Gateholm Island then onto Skomer Island where the shore takes a sweeping right turn into St Brides Bay.
The paddle towards Gateholm island becomes a slog but we gather ourselves in the shelter of the island before continuing on.
We hug the cliffs for the next few kilometres of shoreline where the rock turns from soft Old Red Sandstone to harder igneous rock, which has been carved out into some impressive structures worth exploring.
Negotiating a gully.
Every cove was strewn with seal pups and protective mothers.
This cave/arch was very impressive leading in through a huge entrance carved out of the cliff face and out the other side.

Me enjoying myself - Picture by Eurion
Another large cave with at least three entrances.
Leaving the caves behind we continued on toward Jack Sound between the tip of St Brides Bay and Skomer Island.  Here it was more exposed to the northerly wind and the stronger tides running through the narrow sound proving us with a bouncy trip back to Martins Haven a short distance away. 
We completed the 16km trip landing at Martins Haven.
With up to gale force winds and rain forecast for the following day, everyone took the opportunity to make the most of the evening with a few drinks with no intention of getting up early too paddle.
The Phoenix Centre and rugby football club where we were staying opened it's doors to us where we could enjoys a meal and a few drinks with some old and new faces.
Most were sensible got their heads down for the night after the bar kicked everyone out gone 2am.  A few of us however continued on the festivities in the warmth of one of the rugby changing rooms until 6:30am.    
A great weekend with some good friends old and new...the paddling wasn't bad either, another stretch of Welsh coast knocked off.  A special thanks to Mike Mayberry for organising the event and we look forward to next years event...if they'll have us back.

3 comments:

Sean Hurrell said...

Nice blog again, and a nice pic of me surfing, if I do say so myself.

Taran Tyla said...

I got the same deck bag Stu & a fecked Canon 5D mk2 so i'd pop it in an exped bag as well for extra security if i were you Stu ;)

Stuart said...

Thanks Sean.

Taran, that's exactly what I did. If anything it helped protect it from the drips that ran in when I opened it up on the water. Cheers