Saturday, 9 April 2011

Dusk Till Dawn

I wasn't expecting quite the vampire-ic experience of Seth and his brother Richard at the "Titty Twister" in Mexico. The only similarity in fact was that there was a Richard amongst us, it was dark and the planned duration was akin to the movie title. 

I've had it in my mind for a few years to do a there and back trip across the Bristol Channel with a twist (no titties) - crossing one way during the day to Porlock Weir and return at night under the stars. The plan had originally involved a visit to the pub followed by sleep.

Flat calm - looking out across the Bristol Channel
Conditions were right, a combination of: high pressure; forecast of little wind; it being a weekend and me just feeling "up for it". A slight variation to the plan was hatched and executed at short notice - there was to be no pub and very little sleep. Fair play to both Richard and Paul for coming out to play, Paul was given only a few hours notice. But what better way to end a paddle than to paddle in at the break of a new day!

The bay at St Donats - the sun has just slipped over the horizon
After a last check of the weather Paul, Richard and myself gathered our stuff together on the slipway at St Donats and we slipped off at 2115.

Open crossings can be very photographically boring as they tend to be, well, boring, just mainly sea and this paddle was going to be in the dark, further reducing the photo opportunity. With the twilight past, and with the tides being neaps there wasn't much of a moon. What light there was from it was being masked initially by a little bit of cloud but one by one the stars could be made out through the patches of clear sky.

A rather warm paddling at first - I was glad to have taken one under layer off before starting. It had been difficult to judge how much to wear under my dry-suit, knowing that I wouldn't easily be able to reduce the thermal layers out on the water if I got too hot, but as the cloud lifted and we were gifted with a jewel filled sky, the temperature dropped noticeably a few notches and I was now at a comfy temperature.

It was like a mill pond out there. Heading southish towards the north Somerset coast there was very little light pollution compared to the industrial light show of Cardiff and Newport, so we were treated with spectacular views of the constellations and moonlight reflecting of the few ripples. It was serene.

Landing at Porlock Weir (picture by Richard)
Three hours of paddling, at a non stop pace, we arrived at Porlock Weir.

View from Porlock Weir: The light pollution looking back to the Welsh coast is exaggerated by the long exposure.
You can just make out some of the stars, in what to the naked eye was a dark black sky.
After messing about taking photos in the dark - we jump in our bivy bags and get a few hours kip.

3am we were up packing and dragging our boats down to the much lower water line. It's noticeably darker as now as the moon has also set. 0350 we are away again. Once clear of the headland we get exposed to a little bit of a SE breeze. The return journey is not as smooth, every now and again we hear the sound of breaking water. The sea state has picked up slightly, but we keep our whits about us and plod on. Every so often we see dark objects rise to the sky from the sea, no vampires, just disturbed resting birds on the water taking flight.

Ever so gradually at first a barely perceptible lighter tint appears on the horizon as the night sky gives way to the crack of dawn. After about an hour or so there is no mistaking that a new day has dawned.

Crack of dawn as the sky goes from light pink through to orange
Still a few miles to go

We paddle in silence, buried in our own thoughts, putting one blade in after the other. It's bizarre that those last few miles seem to take forever as land fall suddenly stops getting closer and you wonder if you are actually making any progress at all.

0720 after 3.5 hrs we finally land. Just in time for breakfast!

Richard lands after a paddle across the channel with the second largest tidal range in the world, twice.
44km 6.5hrs, no vampires


Taran Tyla said...

Fab Trip & your right, not much to photograph, especially in the dark...

Stuart sea kayk said...

Next time you plan on doing something crazy like that again let me know. I could have saved you the return leg and got you picked up by the coastguard :) I've been wanting to do that trip for a while. That's two trips in a row you've done on my list for this year, don't tell me your next one will be the Scilly crossing. Well done!

Dr Blug said...

Titty Twister!
Love it.

eurion said...

Taran, a tripod not much use on a kayak for long exposures :)
Stuart, fingers crossed, I hope I never need to call on the excellent services of the orange boats and yellow budgies. I was lucky enough to cross to Scilly 2 years ago - I'm still in the process of writing that one up!! It's a must go location.
Belly - you naughty boy.