Sunday, 14 March 2010

Self indulgent behaviour

It's Mothers Day today.
I had been warned, however, that there would be no paddling next weekend, as fatherly duties would be in order. But today was a free paddle day.

With the proviso I called in to see my mum at some point with it being mothers day an' all. As if I wouldn't!

Nobody else was about for a longish paddle so this was incentive enough to try something different. After recently reading a description of Stuart’s trip out from Limpert Bay at Gileston, I wondered why I hadn’t set out from here before. After all it is just a few minutes drive away.

I do know now though.

It is a horrible place to launch from at low tide when you are on your own.
Best described as a long carry out to the water over a natural obstacle course. Steep pebble boulders followed by a tiny bit of sand that quickly changes to a muddy silt covered sand. The silt varying in depth from a scant covering to ankle deep horrible patches, as well as seaweed covered rocks.

It is a long way out at low water, I said that didn’t I. Yes it’s a long way out. And when you get on the water the reef seems to go on for ever before the deep water is found. A note for the future – or in a glass boat – float the boat out quite a way first before launching, your keel will be happier with you!

Limpet Bay, with Aberthaw powerstation, a very very long horrible solo carry

It doesn’t have the most picturesque of backdrops either, Aberthaw power station imposingly looms over the bay. Just as well it will be out of sight, behind me, for the first half of the trip.

In a similar vain to last weeks forecast, the reality was different to the predicted. Force 2-3 predicted, locally more like a 3-4. Windfinder was spot on again.
I was going to be in for a bit of an exercise paddle today.

I launch, eventually, and get out beyond Breaksea Point, the southernmost point of mainland Wales (Flat Holm Island being the most southerly, but it's errrr, an island), and head down the coast.

Fishermen at the southernmost tip of Wales, on Breaksea Point,
with the powerstation water intake on the horizon

Getting on the water 40 mins before low tide, I had a fresh head wind to contend with on the outward trip. With an open day ahead of me, the plan was to paddle as far as I wanted, or could, against the wind and the soon to turn tide, stop for a bite to eat and then come back with the flow, with the wind on my back.

With the tide so far out there would be no opportunity to do any rock hopping or swell riding - there was no swell at all anyway.

That little white speck in the middle is Nash Point lighthouse

Mentally I set my lunch stop and turning point at a small beach just before Traeth Mawr, the other side of Nash Point. The incentive was to get there before the tide had built up enough to stop my rounding the point.

Tresilian Bay, with Reynard's Cave on the left (scene of the execution of pirate Colyn Dolphin). The tide not high enough yet to go and explore

Given the conditions, I was maintaining just over a fairly respectable 3 knots. That was until I passed Nash Lighthouse and went around Nash Point. Just beyond the opening of Cwm Marcross the waters quickly kicked up a state of confusion as they passed over the rock ledges.
I was quite surprised how confused they were so close to the shore. My speed here fluctuated wildly, between 2 and 3 knots. I was glad to see the back of the overfalls and headed for the first sandy spot as a prize.

Looking back along the beach to west side of Cwm Marcross

I was pretty tired after just over 2hrs of constant paddling. It was a welcome rest stop and time to have hot soup and some lunch to recharge. I was going to pay for this I could tell, as my muscles cooled down and stiffened up.

Normally I would stop every 30 – 40 mins for a drink, allowing the muscles a little rest, but today I was more concerned about making as much headway as possible before the flood tide had a chance to pick up any opposing flow. Any stopping would have had me going backwards with the wind and tide.

The view the other way towards Traeth Mawr

Pulling the kayak up the sandy beach, I could relax, and take in the view. Time was a little on my side now, the tide would be building up to its peak flow, so my return trip should be a breeze.

When the tide reached up to the boat, lapping at it, trying to draw it in, it was time to leave my rest spot. Muscles were aching a bit as I got back in, and not being in the grove so to speak I was bit apprehensive being drawn immediately through the melee of confused water. The battle was swift, and at 7 knots it wasn't going to last very long. It was a bit of relief to get out the other side and get on the conveyor belt home.


It took just over an hour to paddle all the way back. My speed seemed to be around the 6 knot mark for most of the return.

Looking down and out across the Bristol channel to England
from the southernmost tip of mainland Wales

Arriving back at Limpert Bay, the tide was quite a bit further in than when I had first left, so the carry out wasn't quite so bad, except that the boat now seemed to weigh a ton on my aching shoulders!

Limpert Bay is well known for fossils, but not for me today, I feel a bit of an old fossil myself limping up to the car.

At the top of the beach there are left overs from coastal defences laid out during the second world war.

Remnants of WWII coastal defences

At the going down of the sun . . . still a reminder

Looking back from Gileston, at the water intake and the concrete blocks

After leaving a bottle of bubbly with my mum, I couldn't wait for a nice hot bath with some relaxing bubbles of my own and a big glass of red wine.

Today I felt I was in need of it.

Lying in that hot bubbled-bath water, I couldn't move without groaning, but I felt indulged to the max.

12.8Nm (23.7km)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Kayaking – a matter of discipline

Nige reunited with a sea kayak after 4 years.
Not sure if that is apprehension on his face or not.

Chris and I wanted to return the experiential swapping sentiment to our river paddling friend Nige. After Nige had looked after Chris and myself so well on the Ogmore, we thought we could do no less than to oblige him when he wanted to return to the salt air and denser waters of the sea after a four year leave of senses.

The inshore forecast however looked as if it could be interesting.
Wind: Easterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first.
Sea State: Smooth or slight, but moderate for a time in southwest.
Weather: Fair.
Visibility: Good.
Going with an ebbing tide, the wind on our backs and a get out plan should things not be to rosey, we decided to set up the shuttle and check on the actual situation on the ground (or sea even).

Nige Chris and Jim at Llantwit Major. I have no idea what Chris is trying to do!

The more local wind forecast, which tends to paint a far more accurate picture of what to expect, was painting a more optimistic situation, a max top end of F4 and this was reflected in the conditions that met us.

Jim and Chris at Col-huw Beach - think Jim is saying no photos!

Plan then, was to leave Col-huw Beach and use the ebb to head west towards Southerndown taking in the east Nash buoy on the way.

Jim meets up with us at Llantwit and we are soon all set to go.
We are on the water about an hour after high tide.

Thanks to the combined wind and tidal stream, it seems we are at Nash Point in no time at all.

Nash Point

Jim just passing Cwm Marcross

We zip past the East Nash cardinal at a tad under 7 knots. The sun is out and the wind has all but gone.

We enjoy the paddle along the glorious heritage coast to arrive at Southerndown just as the tide is approaching the rocks to land on the last of the sand.

I think Nige even enjoyed it.

Could that be a smile on Nige's face?

A short but enjoyable 6.2 Nm (11.5km) trip.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Please . . . just a Small Miracle

Today is Saint David's Day. St David is the patron saint of Wales and today is the feast day we remember his death in 589. David was a bit of a miracle worker in his time, the most noted being the one he produced when he was preaching in Llanddewi Brefi. A crowd of people gathered to hear him preach but those at the back couldn't hear him, so he laid a handkerchief on the floor to stand on, and the ground beneath him rose up, those at the rear could now hear him.

I had hoped for some sort of miracle myself, with the weather today being windless and sunny (does that count as a miracle in itself?), but fatherly duties came first and I just could not wing a day out sea kayaking. The children all get dressed up in national costume and get packed off to school, I went to work and sulked like a bid kid.

And then a glorious shining light appeared . . . stop it . . . sorry . . . getting python silly.

Looking back towards Dunraven Bay

It's starting to stay lighter later in the evening now, so this evening I decided to take advantege and escape to the sea just before sunset. Leaving Southerndown the sun was already heading for the horizon.

With the sun down low on the horizon I was treated with glorious golden light that brought the cliffs alive.

Our very own Mount Rushmore - almost?

That last bit of deep red light as the horizon is kissed

I paddled along the coast against the slowing flood tide towards Ogmore. As the sun slowly dropped I was treated to wonderful natural sculpture bathed in its warm light.

"And a glorious shining light appeared!"

I was so glad to have made the effort to get out, even if it was for a short paddle. Miracles do happen.