Sunday, 12 February 2012

Crossing The Bristol Channel

This has been one of those paddles we have talked about many times over a cuppa coffee after a paddle but never got around to doing.  Thankfully Eurion gave us that little push we needed to get off our arses and do it. After all the the two day forecast looked perfect for an attempt to cross the channel...
I met up with Taran and Eurion at 12:30 Saturday at St Donnats Atlantic College to load up the kayaks.  By 13:30 we were ready to go. 
We let the coast guard know our plans and set off into the low winter sun.
England was shrouded in haze barely visible on the horizon.
Picture by Taran - leaving the Welsh coast behind, Nash Point lighthouse behind.
 Nash point light house now to the right of Eurions shoulder.  
Apart from a quick stop to check the charts and to take a picture it was heads down all the way.
We were making excellent progress between 4-5kts passing a lone fishing boat mid channel.
Nearing the English coast it starts to become clearer.
We get a fly by from three Gannets who have found themselves unusually far east.
The last of the light disappears behind the steep English coast line and with it the temperature drops.
Eurion seems pleased we are nearly there.
The last slog always seems to go on forever.
An exciting and beautiful moment nearing the shore as the sun dips out of sight.  We make the 12 nautical mile crossing in just over 3 hours.
Picture by Eurion - Approaching Porlock Weir
The low tide wasn't helping the carry up the beach with fully laden boats.
Looking back on the Welsh coast now lost in the haze on the horizon.
We set up camp for the night while the frost settles on the wet boats.
We make use of the local amenities and have a lovely pint in front of a warm open fire.  Eurion settles down for an early night while me an Taran have a coffee on the beach watching the lights on the distant Welsh coast while planning future trips.  We settle into our warm sleeping bags (so glad I spent a little extra for a four season) when the locals decide to have a fire work display on the beach.
Morning at Porlock - After a sleepless night interrupted by fireworks, cars, owls and one really persistent pheasant, not forgetting the minus freezing temperatures it was soon time to get up.

Boats loaded back up we departed around 8:30am.
Nearing high water it was now possible to paddle out from the small harbour this time.
The forecast for the return journey looked good but cloud cover and a chilling wind made for a cold paddle.  Soaking wet kit didn't help matters.
The paddle back was uneventful, I think we were all keen to get back on Welsh soil.  Mid crossing we came across two cardinal markers, the location of a wreck.  The Sea King rescue helicopter also made a flyby as we approached the shore.
Picture by Eurion.
We seemed to cover good ground all the way so we slackened the angle of approach.  We ended up paying for this as we approached fast moving currents closer to shore.  The last leg was an arduous ferry glide  but aided by following waves and wind we managed to avoid being dragged down into Nash Sound.

The plan was....paddle out on the last two hours of the ebbing tide allowing for a four hour crossing.  We should reach mid channel at slack water before making up the ground lost with the first two hours of flood tide.  As it happened the crossing took less time than predicted, meaning we were about three quarters of the way there before the tide turned.  In total over the two days we covered 26.18 nautical miles (30 statute miles or 48.4km) over 6 hours 37 minutes with an average speed of 3.9 knots.
A brilliant paddle guys and another one marked off the 'to do' list.  Thanks to the Atlantic College life boat crew for the coffee and warm after the paddle.  Cheers Eurion and Taran.


stoney (Martyn) said...

Well,you've done it. In Febuary! With Frost! Well done to all!
Makes my weekend seem pityfull. Although to be fair, I took a risk with the weather and came off worst.

Jules said...

Excellent stuff Stuart - great writeup. Would have loved to have joined in the fun!

Stuart sea kayk said...

Cheers guys.

Martyn you never have much luck with the weather, at least you got on the water. Happy Birthday by the way!

Jules I'm sure we will do it again. Will be nice to go over for an extra couple of days and do a pit of exploring while we're over there.

Deansmth said...

Nice to find your blog with valuable information.

x said...

Well done lads ! in Feb as well. I came accross your blog cos I have land at Watchet, and am looking at land at Llantwit Major. Wondering if there was any chance in hell of a regular crossing. If you do it in 3 hours in a kayak there must be other boats that do it.
Congratulations on your effort ! Sarah.