Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Walk with a Difference

I ditched the dog (sorry Charlie) for the boat tonight when I took my normal stroll along the beach at Aberthaw.  It was spot on high water with an icy wind blowing in from the north. 
 With the sun hidden in the cloud it was dark and cold.  It tried it's best to break through the thick clouds that looked like they promised rain.
 I made my way out toward the water intake tower connected to the power station.
It became obvious I wasn't going to get close to the tower with the ebbing tide already curling around the lonely structure. 
I turned my boat into the flow and the view instantly changed, the sea blue and cliffs of the Glamorgan coastline glowing in the dying sunlight.
Within no time I was at the foot of the cliffs at the far end of Aberthaw.  Taking bearings off the shoreline I seemed to be moving at some pace.  I started to wounder if I would get back against the tide.
The gentle conditions allowed me to creep along feet from the shore.  The sun won its battle at last instantly warming my face and hands. I watched as waiding birds scoured the beach in search of a last minute meal before the sun died away.
I carried on back across the bay into a small sheltered lagoon which eventually gets cut off from the tide as it goes out. 
This is the new £1 million ACE2 education center at the power station.  I've been waiting for them to finish it before taking a picture, it looked promising like it would resemble the sail of a boat or something.  Apparently though it is finished and officially open, I don't get modern architecture!
 I couldn't wait around much longer for the sun to fade off so I landed and packed up for home.
Like I said not really a trip but more of a stroll down the beach with a difference.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Severn Estuary

From the second Severn Bridge to Lavernock Point is known as the Severn Estuary.  This is what we intended to paddle today.  Upstream of the bridge is known as the Severn River and downstream Past Lavernock is known as The Bristol Channel.
This was a trip we had planned a while ago, the original intention was to launch off the River Wye in Chepstow but was put off for two weeks due to the weather.  Luckily the nice weather held out till the weekend and I met up with Taran and Richy next to Cardiff barrage at  6:30am.
We loaded the kayaks onto one of the vans and drove on up to Black Rock not to far north of the second Severn Bridge.  All through the long drive I was thinking we got to paddle back all this way.
Upon arriving at Black Rock the tide was still flowing strongly in flood.  We took some snaps and waited around for the tide to ease and turn before pushing off the frozen banks just as the sun peaked in a false sun rise above a band of low cloud.

The conditions were perfect and the sea mirror like considering the forecast was force 3-4.

I couldn't help but to take lots of photos, after all the scenery for the rest of the trip was probably going drab.

The size of this structure from bellow was inspiring as it bled out in to the hazy distance.

Picture above courtesy of Tarran, nice to have a couple of photo's with me in them.
On the other side of the bridge the estuary opened out in front to reveal what looked like the open ocean.  See if you can spot the horizon in this picture as the sky blends with the motionless water.
 A faint rainbow appeared briefly followed by a light rain shower.
There was a lot of debris moving down the estuary.  A pair of birds (Water Stints? not quite sure) were hitching a lift on a gathering of twigs, and didn't seem to mind three brightly coloured boats approach them.
Our only possible landing spot came into view, and part of the reason for this journey.  This is Deny Island, it marks the boundary line between Wales and England. 
At first it's dark shape a lot like Steep Holm looked quite big in the distance.  It wasn't until we got closer we realised just how close we were and how small it was.
We had to clamp on the breaks as we realised just how fast we were traveling. 
With the prospect of being stuck in our boats all day we made an awkward landing on the lower part of the island.
At only 0.6 acres, probably smaller now it was high tide, there wasn't much to see.  A bit of green vegetation, some gull nests and a very fishy smell.  Although I bet very few people have actually set foot here.

There was what looked like what used to be a pay phone though!
We made an even more awkward launch as we set off again into the ripping tide at around 7-8knots.
After only about half hour after leaving the island we rafted so Richy could have another cheese sandwich and a fag.  From right to left: Richy, Taran and myself.

From here on it was pretty un-eventful.  We played a game of is that a buoy or a boat and whats that headland over there as objects appeared through the haze.  We were fairly far out in the channel so the delights of Newport power stations were too far away to appreciate.

Picture above courtesy of Taran
After nearly five hours of paddling or just simply drifting and chatting we arrived at Cardiff Barrage.  We had a close call as we approached the barrage walls, scraping our hulls on the mud and rocks in the shallow waters.
Due to the big spring tides the water was very low, and there was still about another hour and half left before low water.
I called up the barrage control last night but they said we weren't allowed through the locks so it was a muddy climb up the steps, not recommended!
A total 20.97 nautical miles and an overall average speed of 4.3kts even though when we could be bothered to paddle we were averaging 6-7kts.  I can't say that I didn't enjoy it because I did and time seem to fly by in good company.  Not the most scenic of trips but still something new and one that not many other people have done.  Now back home to hose down all my kit, this mud doesn't come off easily!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Flat Holm on BBC iPlayer

If you kayak around south east Wales then you have probably visited, or wanted to visit Flat Holm Island. Either way this program may (or may not) interest you as BBC weather man Derek Brockway visits the island. Is only the last half or the program and lasts about 14 minutes so well worth a look. Click the link hear HERE . Hurry you only got till 31st January.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Same S#!t Different Year

I was racking my brain over a glass of wine last night as to where I should go today. Sea state looked promising but low water about 11:30am. Was thinking of starting the year off with a bang...crossing the Bristol channel, Porthcawl to Swansea plus a few others.
But as usual I ended up at my local bay next to Aberthaw Power Station at stupid o'clock. What I didn't count on was the snow! I was hoping we had seen the last of that.

I donned my hood and battled on through the cold as it collected on my boat. I went with the flow west toward Porthcawl.

Visibility was rubbish, I could barley see the next headland. Even though I was cold and miserable and the views we equally dull I was enjoying it, it was different. Not one trip is the same! Plus there was no turning back now, approximately 3hrs until the tide turns.

I passed Nash Point lighthouse where I could barley see the offshore buoy until I was on top of it. As a new headland appeared up ahead one disappeared behind. It wasn't until I was past Witches Point, Southerndown that it was worth getting the camera back out.

Just a few weeks ago when I passed here with Taran these cliffs were glowing orange in the low winters sun. Far from that today! I still didn't know where I was going, and I hadn't stopped for a break yet.

Even though it was still snowing the Ogmore coastline was quite busy with couples walking their dogs and fishermen. The surf crashing along the shore also put me off so I turned out to face Tusker Rock. Forecast came over the radio force 3-4, 5 later, and it certainly felt it out here away from the sheltered cliffs.

I looked down to my legs and hands and realised I was shaking. I took what shelter I could behind the wreck and warmed myself by my gas cooker. Looking over the wreck the wind was picking up and Ogmore was disappearing in the fog. I didn't want to leave I was quite comfy now.

I had to leave, Tusker being a tidal island after all. Leaving Tusker I had the full brunt of the cold wind in my face topped off with face full of spray every so often. I was cold. I could see a police helicopter and lifeboat combing the shore, I hope they weren't looking for me. I carried on toward Nash Point still some distance from the shore when the helicopter hovered overhead. I gave him the thumbs up and he carried on back to St Athan.

Progress was up and down, the wind slowing me to 4kts, but passing Nash Point I managed around 7kts. About an hour from Aberthaw just past Llantwit Major I had to stop off, my back and wrist were killing me.

Back in the water the final slog seem to take forever, but I was finally back in the shadow of the power station. Just in the bay here I found a bottle with a note inside. It was a local address from West Aberthaw and seemed to be tied off to the sea bed. Weird! Just under 23 nautical miles (25ish statute miles). Here's to the new year and hopefully a bit more excitement than today's paddling!