Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sands of Time

Sea kayaking on the Bristol Channel can't get much better than this in February, can it?

I’m going to take you to a private island that will be all yours for the duration of your stay, and a sandy beach filled with sand of such fine quality that it is dredged for its renowned smoothness.

The down side of this is that the beach is notorious, nay often described as treacherous and it is not attached to the island. To maximise your stay on either you will need to visit them a few hours either side of spring low tide. But I think it’s worth the effort.

Nash Sandbank is the sandy beach, and the detached island is of course our trusty Tusker Rock.

Leaving St Donat's Bay

Adrian, myself, Jim and Richard, leave the slipway at Atlantic College on a fantastic clear morning.

Jim in full swing

And head westward with the ebbing tide.

Approach to Nash Sound from the east

Cwm Marcross

At Cwm Marcross, the eastern tip of Nash Sandbank lies just off the cliffs of Nash.

Richard finding some excitement in the slightly confused water

Shadowed by the two Nash Lighthouses, the sandbank here is marked by an east cardinal buoy. The west Nash cardinal is a further 8 miles along the sand bank and can't be seen from here, not even on a day like this.

Our little place for a while

The Mid Nash cardinal, well, is in between the two in, errr the middle.
Not all of this vast sand bank is visible at low tides, but enough on the eastern side dries out on a spring low tide to enable a brief visit.

On Nash Sands looking down the sandbar towards the west

I think it's quite impressive.

My blue boat having a rest

Strange things happen at sea

The sand bank has a history of taking many lives, most notably the disaster that occured on the 16th of March 1831. The passenger steamer “Frolic” was wrecked on the sandbank, with the tragic loss of all on board (estimated at 80 passengers and crew – General MacLeod, army officers and Pembrokshire merchants among them).

As a consequence of the public outcry that followed, in 1832, Trinity House built the two lighthouses that can be seen today.

An early etching of the lighthouses at Nash Point

The Nash lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse in Wales. It’s other claim to fame is that in 1977 a rare tuberous thistle (Cirsium Tuberosum) was discovered growing in an unploughed limestone pasture in it’s grounds. Just thought you might like to know.

There are tales of the sand bank being used to gain revenge:
In the mid-15th century Sir Harry Stradling set sail from Somerset (his permanent residence) to visit his castle at St.Donats and en route his ship was captured by the Breton pirate Colyn Dolphyn. His ransom of 2,000 marks was so high that he was forced to sell his manors of Sutton (Glamorgan) and manors of Bassalleg, Rogerston and Tregwillim (Monmouth).
A year or so later he received information that this same pirate was approaching the Glamorgan coast, probably to revictual her in one of the inlets near St.Donats. That night by the use of false lights on the cliffs, Sir Harry lured this ship on to the treacherous sandbank at Nash Point, where he and his followers captured Colyn Dolphyn. After a summary trial, for which he was afterwards severely reprimanded, the pirate was condemned to death. The method of his execution was to bury him up to his neck in the sand at the mouth of Tresillian Cave, leaving him to drown when the tide came in. It is said that his screams still haunt Tresillian.
Stradling - Legends of St. Donat's Castle
Children in the local school at Wick, re-tell the story of Colyn Dolphyn the pirate – who used to take refuge on the island of Lundy.

Adrian crossing the sandbank

Leaving these tales of woe behind we head out towards the Mid Nash cardinal with the last of the ebb, arriving at slack water.

Richard passes Mid Nash Cardinal

Glamorgan Heritage Coast at its best

We head now against the start of the flooding tide, towards Tusker Rock to stop off for our lunch break.

Tusker has it's own stories to tell

We sit and watch as the tide begins to rise and reclaim the rock. This place also has claimed many lives and vessels in the past - but I think we'll leave this for another time - enough history for one post I think.

Looking back towards Nash from Tusker

After taking our tucker on Tusker, we hitch a ride on the accelerating conveyor back through Nash Sound at a sedate 6.8 knots.

Rounding Nash Point we head on back to St Donat's Bay to finish quite a spectacular day's paddling.

14.5Nm (26km)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Two new lads - new buoy and new boy.

Reflecting in the after glow of an epic first surf of the year, I'm thawing out in front of the solid heat of a log fire, contemplating 2 trips, early start or lazy start.

Aching I decide on the later.

At noon the next day I find myself outside the Captain's Wife at Swanbridge, situated right next to Sully Island. The sun is out, fleetingly, and then decides to disappear for the duration behind the clouds of an overcast day.

My worries of being overdressed are put to rest as Hywel is intending to do some rescue practice for his up and coming 4 star assessment. We meet up with one of his regular paddling friends Rob who has 'volunteered' to get in the water for him.

Rob - wondering if this beats Sardinia as a location

It's neap tides and the intention first is to paddle up the channel to Lavernock Point and play on some rough water as the tide turns. A new play ground for me, so I'm looking forward to seeing what is on offer.

We arrive at the slab at Lavernock just in time, a little later and we would have sweated to get around. We sit and wait for the flow to build up.

Nothing exciting materialises.

We look out towards Flatholm and decide on one of the buoys out in the channel is fair game.

A nice ferry glide out. Seems to take no time to arrive, the flow has build up to just over 3 knots when we sit in the eddy behind the buoy.

This was a new buoy for me - so had to look it up on the charts when I got home (sad I know).

Special Mark Buoy

Special Mark - used to mark areas of no navigational significance but of a special nature. In this case it is the end of an unspecified discharge pipe. Does make you wonder what it is if they are not specifying it.

Rob reaches the buoy

You can just see the red Raine buoy in the distance.

Looking onto Barry - lovely innit

We paddle down with the tide, and in no time at all arrive at Sully Island ready for a little immersion - well Rob and Hywel are.

Hywel psyching himself up to roll. Flatholm in background.

I'm happy to stay in my boat and am satisfied with just a few left/right rolls.
Talk about ice cream head! That water is getting mighty chilly.

Best retreat to the Captain's Wife for refreshment. Various legends bound about this place, but it is said that before it became a pub, Sully House stood here, and was once tenanted by a ship's captain. He was in the habit of taking his wife to sea, for I'm sure he enjoyed a spot of home cooking. In them superstitious days it was considered unlucky to take a woman to sea and on one of his voyages she caught a fever and died on board. Having a corpse on board was also regarded as unlucky, so the captain stuffed her body doubled up in a lead-lined trunk in his cabin. On arriving at Sully the captain hid the trunk in the woods near the house while he could make arrangements for her coffin and burial. When he returned to collect the body, the trunk and body had gone. A ghost of a woman has haunted the site until during the 1970s when during some renovation work, underneath the area of the old stable block, a skelrton of a woman was found, doubled up. The remains were given proper burial, and the roaming captain's wife ghost was seen no more.

Not forgetting the apprés de-brief at the Captain's Wife!

Short trip today, but I'm glad we made the effort. No, really!

Not a huge trip, but nice to get out all the same