Sunday, 28 September 2008

"Due to on going industrial action there will be no weather . . ."

Getting to the launch site was reminiscent to the moors scene in An American Werewolf in London. The fog was thick, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Sherlock Holmes himself had popped up.

We weren’t anywhere near London but at Llansteffan.
This is a little place sitting below a 12th century Norman castle on the Towy River just before it enters Carmarthen Bay.

But, today, we couldn’t see the river let alone the castle.

Steve wanted a long paddle. So myself Adrian and Richard have turned up to take advantage of the calm weather suddenly bestowed on us. We have a long paddle planned today - go to Tenby across Carmarthen Bay with the ebb, wait for the tide to turn and return on the flood. The challenge on this trip is to navigate out through the deep channel without being caught high and dry or stranded in a lagoon as the tide ebbs, rapidly. There is also a sand bar to get over. So we intend to paddle out a few miles off shore before heading across to Tenby.

“Good Luck” is the parting call from a group fishermen as they gather their tackle and try to keep up with the rapidly departing water.

I do like my Garmin GPS 72, it is a very basic waterproof type, has all the buttons on the front for easy deck one handed operation.
Maybe one day I will advance to not need to use it, but not to day! Today it is going to earn its keep.

Even when the sun does try and break out, the visibility is poor, and then worsens again.

The sea state is very calm, no noticeable wind, there is an eerie stillness to everything.
It's fantastic.
The water only plays a little as we pass over the sand bar, and head further out into the bay. We then change our bearing towards Tenby, it all gets glassy calm again.
Every now and again the radio bursts into life disrupting the silence with the coastguard letting us know that due to on going industrial action they will not be broadcasting the weather.

After a few hours of this we are disturbed by a local boat that crosses our path as its crew disgorge some form of fishing contraptions marked by orange buoys.

During this time someone suggests that instead of waiting on the beach at Tenby, we could continue on to Caldey Island. We all agree, so change our course towards Woolhouse Rocks and Caldey Sound.

Three and a half hours of paddling in the fog we see our first bit of land, Woolhouse Rocks.

Woolhouse Rock

It is populated with a few seals, who we regrettably we disturb from a morning slumber, as they enter the water to take a closer look at us.

Underwater shot of the starfish.

We are amazed to find that the rocks underneath us, through the clear water, are covered with hundreds if not thousands of starfish of all sizes and colours.

Woolhouse Rock South Cardinal comes into view as the fog begins to lift.

We hang around this little bit of un submerged rock exploring for a while.Well it has been a while since we've seen some solid rock! The fog begins to burn off and we head off in the direction of Caldey Sound.

Entering Caldey Sound - Tenby just there on the right

Flat calm Caldey Sound just as the flow changes - perfect timing

We enter the Sound as the flow begins to change direction, encountering some interesting water effects as we close in and around Margaret's Island.

Margaret's Island

The sun now has well and truly burned off all the fog and produced a glorious afternoon as we head around Caldey Island.

Snack Food

Caldey lighthouse

Seals follow Adrian off their patch

Private Beach

Our lunch spot on Caldey Island

After a little lunch stop on a lovely small beach, we head out on the long crossing across Carmarthen Bay towards the river mouth.

Our way back home

We have the interest of seeing land as we approach the estuary on our way home.

Llansteffan Castle

Llansteffan Castle commanding a great position at the entrance to the river.

Followed shortly by our final destination at the beach in Llansteffan.

Llansteffan Beach

Over 60km (32.8Nm) in 8.5 hrs on the water with a 45 min lunch stop.
Not a bad days paddling.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Cross your legs while crossing . . . Relief

A nice forecast loomed for the weekend. A quick barter for a free pass in exchange for a day of shopping sans children was made and Friday evening had me hastily putting together the plan to revisit the Bristol Channel Crossing. Hywel made a not too dissimilar transaction. It may have been hasty but it was thorough. Getting there was sorted, but our return the same day, to fulfill “the bargain”, posed a problem with tide times producing lack of daylight and at 2am with my brain going to sleep, my vectors were not checking out and I still needed to pack. Too many lemons and not enough oranges. One way trip it had to be.

Goodbye Nash

Setting off at 8.30 into the fog there was no sight of the other side and before long after seeing the last of Nash Lighthouse, there was no sight of land to our rear.

The fog heightened our awareness of crossing a shipping lane with this sort of viz. Every chug of a motor seemed to be coming directly towards us and those dark silhouettes of large vessels were appearing out of the fog in my mind at every turn. It made me feel very small and vulnerable indeed.

3 hours after departure the first sight of land . . . just

Then the sun breaks out as we cross Porlock Bay

4 hrs since leaving Welsh soil we enter Porlock Weir and are soon supping Somerset Cider in the glorious sunshine.

Entrance to Porlock Weir

14.4 Nm in just about 4 hrs would have been reduced
had I not needed to . . . well you know

There is a stark deviation to the very nice curve of the crossing near the English coastline at Hurlstone Point. Well I learnt that it is one thing to be prepared with a bottle for ones relief when away from landfall but without a zip or the means to gain access . . . well I put it off for as long as I could, and when I came close to the first bit of land I paddled like a man possessed against the tide and deviated for my own relief.