Sunday, 10 July 2011

South West Sea Kayaking Meet 2011 - Day 2

You have to laugh really.

Partaking, whole heartedly, in the socialising facilities at the Greyhound ale house amongst like minded paddling folk, Richard and I have the intention fixed in your mind of doing a very sedate paddle the next morning, probably after second breakfast.

We wake up in the morning to the reality of being asked to paddle most of the Purbeck coastline.

How could we refuse?, it's after all what we came down here for. We all assemble for the morning briefing, ours is a trip from Swanage Bay heading west along the coast to Durdle Door to return and end up at Kimmeridge Bay.

After the briefing no one seems keen to sign up (not sure why), but at the last minute Huw, from Pembrokeshire steps up. Our very own Welsh armada rapidly assembles gear and heads off to Swanage tout de suite to take on the South West.

Swanage Bay
One slip and there's venison for tea
Approaching Durlston Head we catch a glimpse of deer grazing on the very steep slopes of Durlston Country Park.  As we head around the coastline takes on a more rugged character.

Huw passes by the diving fisher birds - shags at a punt
I can never remember the difference between a shag and a cormorant (queue crude joke), but there were plenty of them about. Along the coast between Durlson Head and Anvil Point we were treated to puffins and roosting guillemots.

Small floatiila of Puffins
Huw is dwarfed by the cliffs

Anvil Point lighthouse

Grand scape - sure feel quite small

The cliffs take on a remarkable brick like patterning. Rock was quarried extensively around these parts in the 18th and 19th centuries and as far back as Roman times.

Weird troglodyte homes appear to be left behind from some distant history.

Approaching Kimmeridge Ledges we hear over the VHF that the Little Spirit - 37 foot yacht - had run aground. Some lat and long co-ordinates were spouted off. I didn't take much notice of it . Then Kimmeridge Ledges was mentioned and my ears pricked up and we all started to look around. We could see a yacht a few 100 yards away with people waving their arms at a fairly large speed boat that was making it's way towards them. We responded to the coast guard that we may be able to help and made our way over.

As we approached the yacht could be heard bouncing up and down on a rock ledge and a line had been thrown from the yacht to the motor cruiser, and missed. A swimmer had been dropped in to pick up the line for it to be passed to the cruiser. The towline failed and as the cruiser went to collect the swimmer I retrieved the tow line and prepared to pass it back to cruiser while the yacht crew joined the other end to a longer line attached to the top of their mast.

By this time the coastguard helicopter had started to hover over us and was standing by.

Coastguard keeping a watchful eye on proceedings

The cruiser then pulled the yacht over almost to 45 degrees, quite impressive, while the helm motored the yacht off the rocks with much noise.
That sorted out the problem and the drama was over. The boat hadn't suffered any damage and all 6 crew were fine - we packed our supermen T-shirts back in the hatches and went back to the paddling.

We headed into Kimmerage Bay for a quick lunch stop. Kimmerage has an oil field below it, and in the bay there is a "nodding donkey" oil pump similar to those that you might associate with in Texas. It's been pumping oil continually since 1961, and as such is the oldest working pump in the UK. Oil production has now dropped from 350 to only 65 barrels a day.

By now the wind had picked up quite a bit and we are in for an exciting and hard paddle as the sea gets quite confused by Warbarrow and towards Lulworth.

Durdle Door
Finaly we make it to Durdle Door and hang around for a few pictures before turning tail back to Kimmeridge.

Spectacular Glad Cliff near Worbarrow
We head out away from the cliff bases to pick up some of the fair tide and get a different perspective of the magnificent cliffs. We arrive again at Kimmeridge to end a very satisfactory days paddling.

This is a trip to make you feel small and insignificant.

Quenching our thirst overlooking Corfe Castle before the retreat home to Wales

We return to have some grub and drinks overlooking Corfe Castle, and raise a glass to sadly the last SWSKM.

Richard does the trip far more justice with his photos of the trip and some of the yacht being hauled over.

Our "relaxed morning" trip. Well worth the effort!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

South West Sea Kayaking Meet 2011 - Day 1

The informal South West Sea Kayaking Meet (SWSKM) that spawned from the original launch of Mark Rainsley’s South West Sea Kayaking Guide Book back in 2008 has become a very good annual excuse to come and meet like minded paddlers and explore some of the great coastline that the south west coastline has to offer.

It has been held, up 'till now, over in Dorset, at it’s southern most tip at Prawle Point. Evening entertainment in the form of talks by kayakers has been hosted in The Pigs Nose fueled allegedly by jars of ale. It's always been a great weekend.

This year it’s been centered at Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck. A bit misleading to call it an island, as it is surrounded  by water only on three sides. You get the impression though, when you get down here, that it may as well be completely cut off as it is so wonderfully unspoilt. A real hidden gem.

Mark’s book has been hugely successful (now in it’s second edition) and no doubt has inspired many a trip to the sticky out bit of the southern west of the British Isles. Flicking through the latest version I realise that bit by bit over the last few years I seem to have covered quite a portion of it by now. The Purbeck coastline has some of the finest, dramatic, day paddling coastline with the opportunity to put in a few wild camps, making it a fine long weekend destination for the discerning paddler

Richard and I arrive on a Friday evening and set up camp early with the intention of finding a flat cow pat free area before going out for an early evening paddle. 

Looking out from the Purbeck Hills down on to Saint Alben's Head overfalls
  With the winds blowing fairly high the paddling option open to us is probably the same paddle on the agenda for tomorrow with the promise of less wind, so we unanimously decided to visit the Greyhound Public House situated by the historic walls of Corfe Castle, to test it’s suitability as a venue for our weekend’s patronage. Hard decision I know.

After a few swift pints of Doom Bar on tap, we decided it would only be fair to venture into another hostelry for comparison. The Fox – a nice cwtchy kind of place, similar to front-room shebeens found in Wales that sprung up after the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act 1881 was passed, that banned the sale of alcohol in Welsh pubs on the Sabbath. These shebeens were literally someone’s front room where one could purchase a tankard of illicit ale.

My good friend Addlestones Cider was here, but I have to admit, it seems to taste much better closer to its origin on the north coast. My conclusion is, that like real Guinness, it doesn’t travel well.

We returned to the Greyhound to chase more Doom Bar.

Setting the scene

Saturday morning dawned and, under the shadow of the 1000 year old castle, we awake to a field of congregated kayakers.

Good Morning Campers - get up it's briefing time
After a short briefing we head on down to Studland Bay with the intention of paddling out towards Handfast Point to see Old Harry, and The Pinnacles.

On the beach at Studland looking accross to Handfast Point
Approaching Old Harry
Old Harry and his wife
 With the tide low, we paddle right out and around the point, and come face to face with the magnificent view of The Pinnacles. Made even more striking with the sun shining down on them.

Stunning bit of coastline! 

Sticking our noses around Ballard Point, the wind is a bit stiff, we turn tail and head back to Studland, stopping for lunch on one of the white chalk stoned beaches.

A few of the group call it a day and stop off for ice cream, tea and a lounge in the sunshine, while the rest of us head out towards a windy Poole harbor.

The chain ferry that is pulled across the harbor mouth using 2 sets of chains

Turning tail here, we go full steam back to Studland. 

The evening is topped off with a BBQ on the beach followed by a retreat to the Greyhound for "cold squash and ginger beer", not!

Richard took some cracking picks of the trip, you can see them on his blog

The days trip, short but very sweet

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Six Cardinals of the Severn

Setting out from St Donats
Combination of a spring tide, the prospect of another gift day for sea paddling, and a wonderful understanding wife, were the ingredients to go play on the Severn Estuary.

The proposition was to just ride the Severn tide down for most of the day and back again, just to see what happened. Richard was interested. So we left St Donats with approx. 3 hours left of the ebb.

To add a little interest and to break up the monotony a bit we came up with the idea of following a line of cardinal buoys that seemed to have been placed in a perfect position just for the job, that also led us to a fairly large sand bank (nice place to stop for a bite to eat we thought).

Heading past East Nash along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast

East Nash Cardinal taking the strain at Nash Sound

Sticking our noses out towards Nash Point we are making a good 5 knots towards the Sound without dipping a paddle in. We clock up about 8 knots as we paddle past the East Nash Cardinal.

Next up is the Mid Nash South Cardinal.

Richard a few miles offshore at the Mid Nash South Cardinal 

Mid Nash South Cardinal
This trip now becomes a case of joining the dots, as we head on a bearing from buoy to buoy. Each one is approx. 4 nautical miles away from the other so to begin with we can't see them. We head on a bearing to where we think they are. It becomes a bit of a game to see who can spot the next match stick on the horizon first. At about 3 nautical miles away one of us normally spots them. Then we have something to aim at rather than paddle on a wish. At about 3/4 mile the head markings normally become clearly visible - this is with the sun behind us on a perfectly clear day.

Richard spots a single gannet up in the sky, and then below it a porpoise.

We sit and watch as it trawls for fish.

Magic to watch.

Porpoise trawling the Bristol Channel
Before very long we arrive at West Nash cardinal.

West Nash Cardinal
Next hop is over to the South Cardinal at South Scar.

South Scar Cardinal at Scarweather Sands

This is where we had planned to stop for our lunch. There is no sand bar to be seen. We have made good time and the tide has not turned yet. We see plenty of waves breaking over the sand bank and decide to take a closer look.

Seeing some interesting rough water we decide to head over to the waves breaking over the sand bank
The mast/tower thing is or was a monitoring site for an offshore wind farm which has now been shelved.
Some very tasty waves are seen and we have a little play in the rough water.

Surf spot some 5 nautical miles offshore - no boardies out here to drop in on

I can only imagine that this spot must be the gateway to some neptunous hell on a rough day!  Some 100m further on and all is back to an oily flat calm sea . . .

Given the good time we have made and we still have an ebbing flow, we decide to continue on towards the West Weather Cardinal.

West Scarweather
We stop here for a lunch break. Slack is approaching. While munching away I notice on the chart that there is one more cardinal, the Ledge South Cardinal, a few nautical miles away. A pity really to have come this far and not bag that one as well. So we decide to give it a go. We put our backs into it and manage to reach it despite the tide having turned.

The Ledge South Cardinal - time to go home
We both look at the chart and think it's a job well done. Only need to paddle all the way home now.

With all the sights taken in, we don't bother to stop on the way back. Just make a B-line for Nash Point.

Passing Nash Point lighthouse before the final slog around to St Donats
For what could be regarded by most as a pointless boring paddle, this has been quite an amazing days paddle.

37 nautical miles (69 km) covered in just over 7.5 hours - channel riding at its best!

69 km round trip