Friday, 16 April 2010

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it

With Iceland's volcano Eyjafjallajokull (easy for some to say and entertaining listening to those that try) spewing ash into the air, British air space has been closed down and life on planet earth has taken a bit of a breather. No plane trails in the sky and wondrous sunsets are becoming the norm each evening.

Jim Krawiecki got in contact to ask if I fancied a paddle while he was down visiting God's Country. A paddle around Gower was in the offing, and almost the last bit of the South Wales coast I haven't yet paddled. It didn't take long to decide what to do.

I owe Jim a great debt. He co-wrote a book, with Andy Biggs, called Welsh Sea Kayaking - 50 great sea kayaking voyages. I was fortunate to pick up the book when I started to sea kayak. It provided inspiration and importantly the bits of information that made it possible for someone new to the sport to have at their finger tips the bits of information that can be used to plan and execute a successful trip. I have been steadily notching up each of the trips in the book - sad I know.

We meet at Port Eynon after work. The plan was simply to head out towards Worms Head, west, for a short paddle along the coast with the anticipation of watching the sun go down.

Jim taking pics of birds - he is a fountain of feathered knowledge

And I thought curlew's lived only on the marshes

Leaving the bay, just around Port-Eynon Point there is an odd inlet called Culver Hole.

If you don't look, you might easily miss it

Culver Hole

It's odd to see a blocked up cave in this area of unspoilt coastline. There are tales of it being a smugglers cave with an underground passage to the salt house at Port Eynon bay.

We could paddle right up to the base of it where there is an entrance. We didn't land to explore, leave that for a different trip. Culver Hole was most likely used as a dove cot to provide meat and eggs for the gentry.

As we move on around the coast the sun heads down, and the sky begins to fill with a vibrant orange. We are on for a show, the Icelandic dust is doing its scattering best.

Worms Head

Watching the sun going down I think of all those folk around the globe not being where they want to be. As for me, I'm quite content watching our star disappear over the horizon.

The sun put to bed, we turn to paddle back as the clear night sky turns dark and the stars begin to show themselves, the moon just about there. Out of this world.

Only downside was that sadly on returning in darkness to the beach we found that the fish and chip shop is closed.

We retire to the bar for recompense and the evenings entertainment begins in earnest.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Caves, Cliffs and Kayaks

Newton is a sandy beach sitting just east along the coast from Porthcawl. At this time of year you can park right close to the slipway that takes you down to the sand, and access to the water is easy. Paddling here there always seems to be a little bit of agitated water near the point. I'm paddling with Adrian today with the intention of going up the Bristol Channel with the flood tide through Nash and to finish up at St Donat's.

We make a beeline over the bay towards Ogmore and paddle up along the coast to east of Black Rocks. The tide is not too high yet, but high enough to get access to get to explore some of the caves.

Some of the rocks at the base of the cliffs provide a playground for a bit of rock hopping.

This section of coast between Ogmore and Southerndown always offers something different depending on the state of the tide and swell.

There is a tiny bit of swell and I get rock hopped onto a ledge when caught by the rogue wave in a set.

There is a definable pattern of surf sets building up, this is a pleasant surprise as we thought it would be fairly flat today. Gradually we make our way towards Southerndown at every opportunity looking in every available nook and cranny.

We stop for a bite to eat on the exposed sandy beach at Southerndwn. Follow this up with a bit of surfing. We have the surf all to ourselves as the unexpected sets haven't attracted any of the regular boardies.

Traeth Mawr towards Nash Point

Continuing along Traeth Bach and Traeth Mawr (the Welsh for little and big beach).
Just before we round Nash Point to play, it's nice to spot a seal in the water off Cwm Marcross. After giving us a few stares, he doesn't follow us as I guess he's busy feeding in the shallower waters.

Nash Lighthouse

We have a bit of excitement on the lively waters around the point and head on towards St Donat's under the shadow of the two lighthouses at Nash Point.

Great afternoon paddle.

(9.4Nm just over 17km)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Purple Haze. Not quite Hendrix, but still an experience

I really enjoyed the late evening paddle last night. The high pressure and calm weather are still with us, so decided on a repeat of the trip out from Southerndown beach to the Mid Nash buoy to catch the last of the day's rays.

Leaving at about 1900 the water was like a mill pond. With no wind to talk about I'm at the buoy within 40mins.

More Black Yellow Black Cardinal Buoy than
"White Boy Black Boy Blues"

It's not until you get to the anchored buoy that you have any idea of the speed of the water flow that you're traveling over.

Golden Brown texture like sun . . .

There is a lazy hazy feel about the evening. No sound at all other than when I'm paddling. It's bordering on the transcendental.

I see wind

You can see the light breeze on the water. It's dancing in front of your eyes, the pattern it introduces to the water reveals its intention, you can anticipate the moment it touches you as it approaches.

The sun heads on down and the sky turns colour and the offshore wind begins to play with the mirror finish as the balance of heat changes from land to sea.

The Purple Haze

The sun disappears over the horizon, and I turn and head on back to dry land.
As I said, not quite Hendrix, but still an experience.

5.9Nm (11km)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Kayak, Still sea, Nash and not so Young

I think a high pressure system may be sitting over the top of my house. The weather has been glorious all day, there is no wind, the sun has been out and it's Friday evening. It's getting late but I'm in need of some paddling, really quite fancy a dusky excursion.

Driving down the road to the beach I can see out across the flat calm Bristol Channel and spy the Mid Nash buoy way out off the coast and the Somerset coast beyond. That's it then, a paddle out to the buoy and back before dark.

The tide has started to ebb and we are on neaps. The navigation on this is going to be a bit suck and see, the buoy is directly off the coast so some sort of ferry glide is in order. Leaving the, now exposed, sandy beach at Southerndown I head out towards the middle of the Bristol Channel. Keeping the buoy on the down stream side, I use some dips in the hills on the backdrop as transit points and paddle out towards the Nash sand bar. It's very calm, almost eerie out here on your own.

Crossing over the sand bar and approaching the deeper waters the transit points are moving and I have to adjust my ferry angle as the tidal flow really starts to become apparent. The last few hundred yards I have to work hard not to miss the buoy. But I make it.

Mid Nash south cardinal buoy

3 miles off the coast and starting the return trip, I decide to let the coastguard know that I will be returning to shore and arriving at dusk. I didn't want the embarrassment of looking up at the Porthcawl lifeboat. Jim and Neil had that pleasure last year on a dusk paddle when they were helped out by a 999 call from a walker on an evening stroll.

After the normal questions of "what colour is your boat?" and "what's your ETA?", I'm rather amused by the question "what life saving equipment do you have on board?". I thought better of the reply that I would just nip below decks and check. Visions of defibrillators were going through my mind, so I asked politely that I didn't quite know what she meant. Lifejacket was what she was after. I didn't like to tell her I was already wearing it, just in case she got the wrong impression and thought I was expecting to go down.

The trip back towards the shore is a nice relaxed paddle, the sky begins to dim as the sun slips behind some low grey clouds that have materialised. The smell of bar-b-q smoke and fire lighter drift on the offshore evening wind playing with my nose and the flicker of the orange flames come into view on the approaching beach.

I land as the sun finally slips out from behind some clouds and starts doing that wonderful trick of turning into a fiery orange disk as it slips over the edge. Rock on the summer.