Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cardiff Harbour Festival

With the weather not really suitable for the sea today with a forecast for gales I didn't plan on going anywhere. Hannah and the kids were off to a kids party in Cardiff so I dropped them off and headed down to my usual launching spot on the River Ely. The Cardiff Harbour Festival was on this weekend so I went for a nose.

A few more restrictions that weren't here last time - 'launching of vessels is prohibited' sign and a large gate and tunnel leading to the landing jeti. I trod down a muddy path to the edge of the river to get in.

I paddled around the edge of the bay toward the festival as there were exclusion zones in place and yellow authority boats everywhere. Maybe if I stick to the sides they wont see my 15ft bight orange sea boat!

I paddle across the inner harbour past the tall ships and was approached by a patrol boat. A very nice gentleman explained there were exclusion zones in place as there were demo's on but if I want I can paddle over to the side and watch from there.

Even though I was in the sheltered waters of the bay the wind was still whipping up so I clung on to the old harbour timbers and watched a rescue dog performed some tricks. The patrol man came over again and said the Sea King rescue helicopter was about to come in an do a demo so sit tight and don't move. The RLNI crew also came over for a word and said stay where you are.

Still clinging to the timber the helicopter approached extremely close. Too close in fact as I was engulfed in a cloud of spray from the down drafts. The force of the drafts was amazing, I wouldn't like to be directly under it!

I let go of my support and let the drafts blow me back to the edge of the bay.

The helicopter did a few fly byes before heading off. An amazing experience to be up so close, and I felt a bit privileged to view it from the water.

I left my place after the helicopter flew off and carried on around the edge of the bay. There was a parachute jump next.

I crossed the bay back toward the Ely and Taff dogging various boats which were waiting for the event to finish before docking, one of which ignoring the patrol boats before being ushered back.

I'm glad I made the trip, being in such close contact with the Sea King was an amazing experience and one I hope I wont have to experience again for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Steep Holm

The weather looked a bit more promising than yesterday, and with no plans I had a look at the tide times and forecast to see where I could go. I wounder if I could get to Steep Holm? Weather looked promising and if I was quick I could catch the tide. I packed up and got a lift with the Mrs down to Penarth.

At the edge of the slipway I look out across the 6nm (11km) past Flat Holm to Steep Holm. The water was glassy and calm. I've wanted to get to Steep Holm for ages having been to Flat Holm many times previously.
I left two hours before the start of the flood tide to allow plenty of time to get to my destination. After a quick 40mins I was at Flat Holm. I didn't plan on landing on Flat Holm but my bladder thought differently. Forecast came through on the VHF "possible force 7 gales later", hopefully "later" I'll be at home with a cup of tea!

Paddling to the far east side of Flat Holm my destination comes into view 2nm (3.7km) ahead. I felt a little apprehensive... will I be dragged too far south with the current? what if a ship comes up this busy shipping lane? All these questions playing on my mind.

No need to worry though, half hour later I was at Steep Holm. Makes me think why I haven't bothered to make this extra 2nm crossing previously. There was a slight race on the eastern side of Flat Holm but apart from that a completely smooth journey.
I land on the stony beach and with about forty minutes until the tide turns I have lunch. Sitting here I realise England is now a lot closer than home (obvious I know). I can clearly make out the pier, the big wheel and even windows on the buildings at Weston Super Mare.
I climb up on a rock just bellow this spooky old building and have lunch when I notice a RNLI life boat approaching. I walk down to the beach as a crew member swims ashore. He came to see if all was ok and if I was aware of the force 7 gale that was coming in soon.
With all the gates locked leading up the path on to the main part of the island I decide to leave not long after not to be caught out in a gale.
Looking back at Flat Holm

Western Super Mare
Steep Holm as it's name suggests rises 70m above the sea. It has been occupied by 12th century monks, WWII soldiers and now is home to two wardens. As with Flat Holm the island is covered in various fortifications as part of a defensive chain of the Bristol Channel in the 1860's. Unfortunately I will have to leave any exploration until next time.

Rounding the southern end of the island I reach Rudder Rock, named as the parallel plates of rock resemble a rudder. Once again pictures like this don't do the size of these rocks justice.

Around Rudder Rock and I can just make out the stadium and tall city buildings of Cardiff beyond Flat Holm.

Looking back at the steep cliffs with the second largest tide mark in the world.

The shipping buoys between the two islands remind you to look out for these!

Once again in line with Flat Holm I am quite far south of the island. As I left slightly early the tide took me slightly south which isn't a big deal because it'll soon pick up in the next hour of paddling taking my back north toward Penarth.

I landed at Penarth after an hour and a quarter with the tide pretty much where I left it.

A total 13.18nm (24.5km) trip in perfect conditions, although perfect is starting to get boring if I'm honest. That force 7 gale turned up today! (Monday). A brilliant trip and an achievement I've left too long.

It was a trip to the park on top of the hill for Zakk and Connor before heading home for a well deserved rest.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Whitesands Bay 15/08/10

After much discussion we decided to simply take a paddle out from Whitesands at the camp site and paddle around the bay. With another strong northerly wind our options were again limited. The tide was now flowing at full pace through Ramsey sound at spring tides so there was no chance of getting through. There was only four of us today, just a quick morning paddle before heading home.

We paddled south toward the top of Ramsey Sound before paddling back to the small rocks of carreg-gafeilliog.

There was a small race just between the rocks.

A bit further out from the rocks the tide was whipping up some massive waves as the water rushed out from the sound into the oncoming wind.

We had a little play with the small standing waves before paddling across the bay toward St David's Head.

Paddling into the wind we rarely got above 1.5 to 2kts but with a bit of a following swell we made headway.

Landing at the stunning secluded beach of Porthmelgan we stop for a stretch.

I have previously noted this bay as a possible camp site on my map and I think I will definitely do that one day.

Paddling out from the bay we head back around toward Whitesands beach taking in some impressive caves on the way.

Unfortunately my camera battery died here but probably for the best, I get a bit trigger happy sometimes. We went into one cave only just wide enough to get a kayak in, but it went back miles. We slowly paddled in until it was too dark to see any more and we still didn't reach the end! Will have to come back with a torch.

Only a short trip to finish off the weekend before traveling home. A nice weekend in all, cheers everyone. Next the isle of Skye...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Blue Lagoon 14/08/10

After pitching the tent back at Whitesands we headed on up to Abereiddy to catch the last hour of sunlight. The rest of the group donned their wet suites for a bit of coast steering. I opted for a dry paddle and meet them in the Blue Lagoon.

The sun was just dipping down behind the headland when I got to the entrance of the lagoon.

The entrance is marked by the old quarry buildings. The Blue Lagoon is an old slate quarry which has been opened up and allowed to flood. It gets it's name from the algae that grows here. During the lighter hours it appears more blue than when I arrived.

I land on the slate beach at the far end of the lagoon and scale the cliffs to watch the others making their way around the cliff.

I then paddled across the lagoon and hauled my boat up on the rock to explore the remains of the quarry buildings. There is no gentle slope in to the sea here it just goes straight down, which made it a bit of a challenge getting in and out of my boat.

Stuart decides to launch himself off what would be the high jump but as the tide is so high it wasn't a big as it should be.

In this video I paddle back out of the entrance to the lagoon and land at Abereiddy bay. I managed to avoid going over as the surf turned my boat before landing on the rocks. I folded my camera down at the end in the fear of turning my boat over on the rocks.

Back at the car the sun disappears behind the horizon and the moon comes up glowing bright orange (photo of the moon wasn't very good). It was then back to the camp site for a couple of beers and cremated chicken breasts and marshmallows on the BBQ.