Friday, 30 October 2009

Take a Rest Bay Surf

My friends Mark and Maria came over from England for a few days to do a little exploration of the Glamorgan coast.

Today there was a little bit of a swell running and an offshore wind to hold up the face of the wave. Inevitably today, getting out and landing, would involve surf.

This was to be Maria's first time out through surf, and it was to be a baptism of fire. With the tide flooding we intended to ride the incoming tide from Rest Bay and head up the channel towards Southerndown, where a sandy landing could await us.

Rest Bay: Mixing it up with the boardies
(Photo: Maria)

Rest Bay is a prime surf beach. On arrival the surf looked manageable when we looked down on the beach. It just got bigger as we made ready to launch. Maria put on an exceptional show of determination but decided after being ejected a number of times that she would stay on the beach and take photos. This made me feel really rather guilty as Mark and I enjoyed ourselves out on the waves.

That little yellow thing on the left is Mark
(Photo: Maria)

Mark coming in to land. Phewww!

Mark about to catch the wave

Luuurverlee offshore wind

Bring on the next one then!

Out Beyond the Break

Yeee Haaa!
(Photo: Maria)

(Photo: Maria)

You'd never think he'd seen a boat before
(Photo: Maria)

Go Go Go!

Taking a breather

In the pocket?
(Photo: Maria)

Perhaps we should have gone for an ice cream? Next time.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Port Eynon Mumbles

May 1884 saw the first lifeboat at Port Eynon, ‘A Daughter’s Offering’, put to service.

By 1906, her 22 years of toil had seen her save 39 souls and she gracefully retired.

Her replacement, ‘Janet’, was not to be so lucky.

Her tragic story began on New Years Day 1916. ‘S.S. Dunvegan’, dragging her anchor in Oxwich Bay, was in danger of wrecking off Pennard Cliffs. Putting out through heavy seas and a gale the crew, together with the lifeboat from Mumbles, rowed out to offer their assistance, only to find it not required. Turning to head for home she was hit by a huge wave that capsized her. By design she self righted. One of the crew had managed to stay aboard while the remainder were thrown to the sea. One crew member never made it back aboard and was drowned. While the others scrambled aboard ‘Janet’ was caught broadside by another roller and went over again. Two more members of the crew were claimed by the storm. The crewmen aboard the Mumbles lifeboat passed by, but in the gale they were unaware of the unfolding tragedy. The ‘Janet’, now oar less, drifted with the wind. 30 hours after launching she arrived at Mumbles with the remnants of her crew suffering from exhaustion and exposure.

Following this tragedy, the RNLI closed the Port Eynon lifeboat station.

Copies of news articles on the Disaster can be seen on the wall of the fish and chip shop at the top of the beach.

Memorial in the graveyard of Port Eynon

Driving down into Port Eynon, you pass a church on the last bend towards the beach. It is very easy to miss the lifeboatman that looks outward from the graveyard.

By coincidence our trip today has the same start and end point as that of the tragic tale of 1916, Port Eynon along the coast, crossing Oxwich Bay to end at Mumbles lifeboat station.

Hywel, Adrian and Chris on Port Eynon beach

Horton across Port Eynon Bay

Heading out across Port Eynon Bay to Oxwich Point

Caswell Bay

Langland Bay

Mumbles Head Lighthouse

Mumbles lifeboat station


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Taking notes on River Running

The conflict of interpretation and opinion between river anglers and river kayakers gains heat and interest as the Welsh Assembly discusses access to water issues,

It was rather timely, then, that I was invited by Nige to go kayaking on the river Ogmore. My sea boat would be a little out of place here, so he kindly provided me with something small and plastic that floated.

The anglers on this river are gaining or should I say retaining a reputation for their take on who can partake on this (their) waterway.

Chris and self are the numtys on this trip, but looking forward to it. Having gone a short way down the river we pass an angler who shouts something at as and whips out his mobile to begin a conference call. Are we expecting trouble? I think positive vibes.

Chris enjoys the calm and tranquility

Onwards we venture. Chris then realises he has left his keys in the car. Not his car, which is at the get out, no, he has left them in one of the cars at the get in. He and Rhys walk back to fetch them. After what seems like ages they return with the key and a couple of notes that have been left on the windscreens.

Lies, damn lies and interpretation

The signed up for excitement is yet to come.
Paddling down the picturesque river, we go over some small weirs and even do a bit of surfing on a river, how crazy is that! Yayeee.

Nige captured some of our short trip with his Spielberg skills

Rhys counts the number of numptys getting back off the river safely

It was an enjoyable day all round which started a bit of additional topical debate.

Thanks to Nige and Rhys for being our warrior leaders. I hadn’t been on a river and had such entertainment since my early teens. I remember paddling down the Ogmore from Bridgend all the way to the seashore, and recall being followed by a green clad man along the river bank who purported to being a bailiff. It seems I was paddling faster than he could trot and I don’t recall what he was saying. The atmosphere doesn’t seem to have changed in 30 years.

I’m thinking rivers now and am reminiscing of a crazy paddle trip in fiberglass ‘snipes’ down the tiny river called The Thaw from just above Cowbridge to as close as we dared get to the sea, at Aberthaw, before we thought we'd get consumed by the cement plant – I’ve just google earthed it and it looks as if we could make it all the way! Sounds like a plan to me . . .

Friday, 12 June 2009

South West Sea Kayak Meet 2009 - day 1

Taking the day off work I share a lift with Richard to get down to East Prawle on the south coast of Devon to partake in a weekend of paddling, entertainment and scialising. Mark Rainsley, after the successful launch last year of his guide book on paddling the South West, decided to run an informal gathering of paddlers to take in some of this wonderful coastline. The only problem is that when we arrive at East Prawle in the afternoon we can't see very much at all. The fog is so thick you can hardly see 50 feet in front.

Unperturbed, Richard and I pitch our tents and head off to find an early evening paddle before the main event starts tomorrow. Launching from the pebbled Blackpool Sands beach we head east into the fog towards Dartmouth, rock hopping and exploring on the way.

Memorial near Meg Rocks 
We came across this memorial cross fixed to the rocks, but didn't get close enough to read the inscription. Neither of us have been able to find any information about it yet.

Kingswear Castle at the entrance to the Dart

Richard took some photos of the interesting little finds we made on the way.

A fairly short little paddle but none the less was a good appetite whetter - that ensured a thirst needed satisfying at The Pigs Nose . . .

Sunday, 3 May 2009

"What... is your name?"

Finishing a lovely (and well deserved) pint at the Newport Boat Club in Parrog I dart across country from Poppet Sands to arrive at the Lobster Pot Inn at Marloes. Preparations are to be made here for a second day’s paddling down in Pembrokshire.

I meet up with a merry band of paddlers to indulge in a few beers, late tucker and to browse over maps and charts, before paddling proceedings begin in the morning– a trip out to Skomer Island.

The last time I was here, apart from being filled with anxiety over Jack Sounds reputation, I was also a little late to take in the ground tunnel antics of the nesting puffins at close hand. Not so this time, on both accounts. This time it’s earlier in the season and I expect to see the puffins up close and personal.

Morning sees myself, Claire, Mark, and Chris launch from Martin's Haven. I'm trying out a glass version of my trusty plastic Capella. Shiny and rigid, I quite like the feedback that the boats stiffness gives me.

We go down with the flow of the ebbing tide, through the Sound, before crossing over to the south side of Skomer. This way we have by-passed the more confused larger water of the tide race, and begin to explore the base of the cliffs.

Plenty of different bird life to observe and get close to on the water.


Puffins taking off and landing are most comical to watch

It's not long before we reach Seal Hole, where we quickly become the observed, and followed.

Grey seal in pursuit - at a distance

Mew Stone

Once we reach the Mew Stone, the ground swell that has been building up over the last day makes its presence known. We decide not to go around to face the brunt of the Atlantic and return in the relative sheltered water.

Paddling through the cave on the east side of The Neck will take you from the southern shore to northern side at the right state of tide and with some lucky timing. (This explains the little 'overland' track on the gps track - was in fact underland.)

Climbing up the steep path from the jetty to the top of
Skomer I saw the sight of a man running at full speed to intercept us.
The man now stood at the top of the winding path like the bridgekeeper from the Python’s Holy Grail - Bridge of Death scene. . . . the comedy of it, I half expected
What . . . is your name? What . . . is your quest? and What . . . is your favorite colour?”
No such thing, it was the resident warden, receipt book in hand, demanding our landing fees. Some extortionate price was mentioned. . . good grief, didn't he know we had just taken our life in our own hands and paddled here. . . from the mainland as well - for gods sake do we have to pay? Neither of us had any cash. Diplomatically Chris put the warden at ease - negotiated our payment when we returned to Martin's Haven. So on trust we were let onto the island. Our puffin quest now unhindered we meet up with the remainder of the group who had taken a leisurely trip over on the boat, and go to watch the comical puffins come in to feed their young.

For puffin good photos

The trip track