Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Reflecting TimemiT gnitcelfeR

Lovely calm evening, with an incoming tide, Chris and I paddled out of Southerndown towards Ogmore for a relaxing meander.

Keeping in tight to the cliffs we made steady progress against the tides flow, exploring the interesting nooks and crannies along the way.

There are two interesting caves along this section. Both have beaches deep inside, one with large boulders, the other with sand and small pebbles. This is the interesting one. Beaching inside the cave and exploring on foot, it creeps back into the depths of the cliff face. Very dark, without a torch, I edged my way forward. With a bit of excitement I saw a thin shaft of light at the back. I recall a friend mentioning a blow hole somewhere on the cliff top walk. I had never known one existed. Seems as if I had found it. Some thing to go and explore at the top of the cliff one day!

Amazing how you can live in one place for a long time and still discover excitement like this.

On our way back, we both recalled a trip we had made when we first began paddling. It was along this same stretch of coast, again paddling against the tide. On that occasion we were further out in the main stream, having a bit of a battle going against the incoming tide. Neither of us realised that if we paddled closer to the shore we would be in for an easier time.

Tonight's paddle wasn't a huge distance, but I had the feeling that over the last year or so we had come along way.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Show us your assets

Mumbles. . . Speak up lad!
No, we are in Mumbles, a place just outside Swansea.

Tide race off Mumbles Head kicking up

With a westerly F 8-9 howling outside, I am glad to be inside Mumbles Lifeboat Station.

This new station is close by the original station that housed the ill fated lifeboat Edward, Prince of Wales. On the night of 23 April 1947, this lifeboat was lost with all 8 volunteer crew while attempting to save the SS Samtampa and its 39 crew, aground on rocky ledges off Sker Point. The ship broke open and spilled it's oil and was capsised onto the lifeboat. The crew of the lifeboat suffered the most horrible end by choking on the oil. The wind worsened and increased to hurricane strength. A local farmer close to where I live can remember oil being wiped from his windows and the oil killing a number of apple trees, this is some 14km along the cost. I spare a thought for all those souls as I walk around the station.

A small group of us are here to take part in a VHF Operator's Short Range Certificate course and examination. Martin Double, coxwain and station training guru, has kindly set up the course for us wanabee radio hams. The table in front of us is laid out with a pair of DSC marine radios connected to each other by a thick length of "co-ax".

With this set up we are able to use the equipment "hands on" and transmit all manor of distress calls that would otherwise get the local boys and girls pagers going off, and their little legs running towards the boathouse. These sets can however receive all live transmissions.
In the middle of being baptised in the dark art of Digital Selective Calling (DSC), Pan Pans and Maydays, by some prearranged signal we hear a Mayday call being put out. Swansea Coast Guard (CG) pick up transmission and respond.

What followed was an insight in how not to make a Mayday call. It took a good 10 minutes for the CG to calm the operator down and to extract the first vital bit of information, the persons position, followed by enough information for them to make a decision and task the appropriate rescue asset.

Then the DSC alarm on our radio is activated by the CG relaying the mayday to all stations, followed by the voice transmission. All textbook stuff.

Within 5 minutes of the CG getting all his info the ILB was disgorged from the bowels of the room below us, and we took up our front row seats.

The ALB being made ready

Soon the ALB was launched to assist, and before we knew it Rescue 196 chopper was out (for a different shout). You can read the ILB log and the ALB log of the shouts, for the 22 June 2008.

The D-boat ILB and the Tyne ALB

A monster seagull tries to take out Rescue 169

After all that excitement we return to sit our exam paper.

Many thanks to Martin for giving up his Sunday afternoon and for arranging the live demo of all the possible local rescue assets.

We all passed by the way. Legal at last!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Holm on the (firing) Range

Disappointed that a bit of an epic trip planned from South Wales to Lundy Island had been called off due to unstable weather, a trip with a bit of a challenge was needed to use the better weather promised for Sunday. We were not let down.

Famous Five, The Secret Seven, there is a touch of Enid Blyton about both the Holms stuck out in the Bristol Channel. Interesting, intriguing, certainly worth discovering, Flat Holm (the most southerly part of Wales) and Steep Holm. Even if that does involve a visit to England!

There and Back Again

It is a challenging trip, requiring a long fast ferry glide between the islands. Just after the peak spring tide, we expected quite a full on experience, with a North, North East wind F3-4 occasionally 5 there was going to be a little wind against tide on the ebb on our outward passage. Tidal stream of up to 3.8 knots was going to be expected in the shipping lane as we crossed between the two islands. Hold on to your hats, have faith in your angle, and don't stop paddling!

Penarth Pier

Bearing out to Flat Holm (left), Steep Holm (right)

Leaving Penarth on the last hour of the flood, we made an ark out into the channel ready to drop down onto Flat Holm with the ebb. That strategy worked very well.

Dropping down onto Flat Holm

Arriving at the jetty, we made our way to pay our landing fee and begin being at the receiving end of gull guano dive bombing, a repeating theme on both islands.

The island had taken a few prisoners that morning. The ferry had been unable to pick up the previous days visitors (due to absent crew members) and so they were captured 'till the evening ferry could safely land at the jetty to extract them.

Rush of water between the two islands

The Flag and Foghorn (cool name for a pub)

A very interesting island. Attractions include a lighthhouse, foghorn, a cholera sanatorium, numerous gun emplacements built to protect the channel from invasion during the late 1800s and during WWII. The Victorian canons seem to have been literally tossed to one side to be replace by the modern weapons. And of course thousands of gulls. Marconi transmitted the first wireless signal over the sea from Flat Holm to Lavernock on 13 May 1897. Just as well he used morse code, as no one would have heard him over the screaming noise of the birds.

Canon and Lighthouse - Flat Holm

Ruins of Cholera Sanatorium

Gull Galore

The Famous Five

Sharing the water with other users

Welcome to Steep Holm

Imagine how we felt when the bared gate read "by appointment" (so inhospitable these English types), we tried to phone, no answer, must be in the garden (they couldn't be down the shops or far away now could they). Not ones to be put off, we scaled the gate (the Enid Blyton excitement got the better of us), to find Mr Maslen to arrange an appointment. It transpired that no one was on the island, so we left, by walking around the perimeter to return to the gate.

Looking back down to Flat Holm from the top of Steep Holm,
with Cardiff in the distance

Holy Buried Canon Batman!

Sunny Side Up or Over Easy?

Bofors 40mm canon with shells of a different kind

Stairway to . . . a search light

"Fish for tea love or do you fancy a Shag?"

Now bugger off or I'll Shit on you

See - I warned you

Jim enjoying a Swell Time mid channel on our return

Chris also having a Swell Time on our return towards Flat Holm

We enjoyed a few civilised pints at the invitation of the yacht club, on the balcony over looking the pier in time to watch the stranded Flat Holm visitors arriving on the evening ferry.

And as if by magic it all went calm and it's not as if Lundy Island won't be there for another day.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I have found Heaven . . .

. . . and it feels as if I ate all the chocolates in one go!

I am compelled to thrust these images upon you like a person who visits you on a Saturday afternoon bearing a leather bag and a copy of Watchtower.

Now there IS a kayak there!

You can only take so much of a good thing, and now I feel so small and insignificant I need to lie down.