Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bishops and Clerks - West Wales Day 3

This has been a trip I'd like to do for a little while now, so was quite pleased that the weather and sea conditions looked conducive to being able to pull it off. The idea of this trip was to paddle around the small group of islands that lie between one and two miles offshore, west of Ramsey Island. Collectively they are called the Bishops and Clerks.

The principle is fairly straight forward - time the paddle to drop down with the tide to arrive at the South Bishop for slack water, and then come back up with the flood. Easy right? 

As I stop to take a photo, Richard rapidly disappears as I'm swept away from him,
during our ferry glide across to North Bishop
Richard and I paddle out to Saint David's Head, arriving about two hours before the north going stream start. We manage a 4.5 km ferry glide against the south flowing water maintaining a fairly respectable 5 knots across to North Bishop. 

Carreg Rhoson, with the South Bishop and it's lighthouse in the distance
As our transit starts to slip we engage a bit more umph and finally start to gain ground and make it across to the North Bishop.

Richard with North Bishop to right and Carreg Rhoson to left

Going down the west side we experience a bit of swell coming in from the Atlantic - it must get quite serious out here on a rough day. Looking at the chart you can see why as the water depth shallows quite rapidly causing large areas of overfalls.

Seals on North Bishop, with St Davids in the far distance

North Bishop
In the calm eddy behind North Bishop looking down through Carreg Rhoson and South Bishop in the distance
South Bishop and it's lighthouse gradually get bigger as we drop down onto it
Arriving at  South Bishop
Tempted as we both were, the swell was a little bit to big to make for a safe dry landing
 We have a good look around the rock, and then with the little bit of time we had of slack water make our way east towards Ramsey. Within about half a nautical mile off the rock the north going tide suddenly kicks in like a switch had been flicked and we go from just under 3 knots to maintaining a good 6. 

Daufraich in the background as Richard goes to play in some waves just north of South Bishop
Fairly rapidly we are at the north end of Ramsey and repeat the eddy riding trick to get back to the mainland across the Sound, to arrive back at Porthsele, well satisfied. Could have done with a bit more sun though, but that's being picky.

13.2 Nm 24km in 3.75 hrs

Monday, 29 August 2011

Ramsey Circumnavigation - West Wales Day 2

It's Bank Holiday Monday, and a wonderful hot sunny day is promised. While we wait for the tides to come into alignment with out intended circumnavigation of Ramsey Island, Claire, Ian and I head off to the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddu. Claire and Ian swim around to the abandoned quarry, while I take the easy option and paddle around.

Ian takes to the water in the Blue Lagoon
The lagoon isn't quite the sun trap we had hoped for, with still quite a breeze blowing in.
This young chap seems to have found a little sheltered spot though.

Bank Holiday's are made for for lazing in the sunshine!

Returning to Porthsele to launch, Richard takes us around Saint John's point towards Ramsey Sound. The north going flow causes a big back eddy that starts near St Justinin, which we utilize to take us down to the southern most tip of the mainland. It is quite strange to be paddling easily with the back eddy going south and seeing the main flow moving rapidly north just a few feet away from you. Water flow is seriously on a grand scale here as the water flowing in from the Atlantic is constricted through the Sound as it begins filling St Georges Channel between Wales and Ireland.

At Pen Dal-aderyn we begin a ferry glide across the sound, losing ground rapidly and watching The Bitches getting closer as if sucking us in for a good tossing over. We make it of course over to the east side of Ramsey without incident.

Looking back across Ramsey Sound to the mainland
Here we explore the caves and arches and get followed by numerous seals. 

Approaching Ynys Cantwr and the Midland gap - this is our point of no return, as once entering the gap there there is no returning and we are committed to going up around the island's west coast. 

Continuing up along the west coast we get to explore various caves, cracks and play with a little bit of the swell.

South Bishop lighthouse - though not today's destination . . .

South Bishop lighthouse appears below the clouds

Looking out westward toward Grassholm on the horizon
It really was quite a mellow evenings paddle. The tide now taking us fairly swiftly north.
Rounding the northern tip of the island we continue paddling now against the tide using the back eddy to take us some way into the sound. This gained ground we've "banked" in order to lose as we cross over the main flow, heading back to the mainland.

Thanks to Richard for the "Introduction to Ramsey Sound Back Eddies - easy conveyor belt seakayaking".

Circumnavigation of Ramsey Island

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Chick'n Bitchin' - West Wales Day 1

Long weekend paddling pass - rare has hens teeth and rocking horse dung - but I GOT ONE. The tides are on BIG springs so there should be fun to be had somewhere.

All the usual suspects seem tied up doing other stuff, but Richard is "Down West" and I hope to catch up with Claire for a paddle too.

As the weather is blowing quite a hoolie I'm in no mad rush to make it down to West Wales, so take it easy and arrive late Friday afternoon. Richard and I go for an evening surf just south of Whitesands and are treated with a fantastic sunset. Let's hope the wind dies down for some decent sea paddling.

Sunset over St Brides Bay towards St David's- after a good surf, does it get any better than this?
The next morning isn't so brilliant initially with respect to wind, but having taken a walk along the cliff top and looked down onto Ramsey Sound it's looking a bit sheltered from the wind, so we decide on a little jaunt to the Bitches. The sun however is out, lovely.

Leaving Porthsele beach we head out towards St David's head crossing Whitesands beach - which seems absolutely packed with holiday makers.

Cliff top walkers enjoying the Bank Holiday sunshine near Porthsele

Packed out Whitesands
From Saint David's Head we drop down with the tide to the little rocky Gwahan on our way to Bae Ogof Hen at the northern tip of Ramsey Island.

Approaching Bae Ogof Hen (Old Cave Bay) - North Ramsey Island
The tide in the sound has just started moving north so we use the back eddy on the eastern Ramsey shore to take us towards The Bitches.

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 We pass through the cave that burrows through one of the outcrops approaching Aberfelin.

At The Bitches the wave is beginning to build and I watch as Richard has a great time playing .

Richard with a big smile on his face
This is only the beginning of the build up of the wave, and for some odd reason I just don't fancy jumping into it. I just sit back and watch for a while and chicken out before going to play on the waves that emerge from the cave that is under the cliff near the Ramsey jetty.

Ramsey Sound building up nicely

We cross into the main flow of the tide which will take us up north through the sound. Massive, I mean, massive, boils are here 50 feet wide at least and confused water (with dragons and sea beasts and everything living in the submerged caves below), I'm not concentrating and lack of experience crossing one of these massive (did I say that before) eddy lines I err capsize rather embarrassingly. Glad to say my roll was fine.

We speed along at some ridiculous 10 knots passing Horse Rock before sweeping up to Carreg Gafeiliog to play on some of the rather big waves that are forming there.

We return to Pothsele glad to have been able to get out on the water.

Thanks to Richard for my induction to the Bitches. Hope to get back sometime to play on it properly :)