Sunday, 17 April 2011

Flat Holm, Steep Holm and the Wolves

With continuing high pressure and fantastic weather, today had the feeling of being a scorcher. First paddle this year in a short top me thinks!

With a fairly big spring tide and mirror like conditions Hywel and I decided we'd head out to Steepholm in the middle of the Bristol Channel.

Leaving Penarth we could just about see Flatholm through the fog. I had some unreasoned desire to go around the north of the island . . .

After a fairly steep ferry glide out towards the landing jetty on Flatholm, I finally gave in within yards. The flailing blurred paddling in almost tropic conditions was just a little bit too much like hard work. We decided to go down around the south of the island and immediately accelerated to some 5 knots without lifting a blade.

Scooting around to the lighthouse we start our second glide across to Steepholm. It doesn't take us long.

Within a short time, Flatholm seems miles away, and the mainland has totally disapeared

Arrival at Steepholm
The spit on Steepholm with Brean Down off in the fog
A very low tide
An alternative landing spot with convenient steps
High tide mark?
As we paddle around the island and hit slack low tide, Hywel mentions that his GPS is indicating an altitude of minus 8m.

Rudder Rock at low water

Hywel on Steepholm having lunch with Flatholm in the distance and nothing else
No horizon
Leaving Steepholm just as the tide begins to flood, it is noticeably eerie out here. No sound, no movement. Passing Flatholm I notice some disturbed water and something sticking out of the water. So with some more frantic paddling I try to gain ground and get closer to investigate before it is lost to the flood.

Approaching the Wolves

Wolf Rock as the flood starts increase
It is the Wolves, exposed, just. These rocks have claimed a few lives in their time.

Hywel sitting on some turbulent water before the rocks, above where we thing the masts of the wreck might appear on an even lower tide.
Hywel at the Wolves with Steepholm in the distance

The chart indicates that there are exposed masts at the chart datum.
With the high pressure and millpond conditions, we might have seen them had we arrived a little earlier. It could be the masts of the sloop William and Mary which struck the Wolves on 28th October 1817
 Her topmast remained some feet above the water, to which the crew adhered until the boat returned. Our informant saved himself by swimming, and was two hours and a half in the water, when he was taken into the boat. He witnessed the heartrending scene which took place on the sinking of the vessel. A Mr Barron, his mother, and four sisters (who had their man-servant and carriage on board) were among the passengers; the cries of the young ladies were most distressing. They all perished! They went down in each other's arms.
 54 passengers were lost, including 22 women and children. Only one person survived.
50 bodies were recovered and buried on Flat Holm.
14.7 Nm


Taran Tyla said...

Bloody Hell, I'm seriously impressed, never seen Steep Holm that low. A bit more & you could have walked to Brean Down (LOL)...

eurion said...

It was tempting to continue over to the other side - but it would have been horribly muddy.

Anonymous said...

Well done lads with excellent photos, I solo paddled from Weston super Mare to penarth, down to Barry beach,
Barry beach to steep holm to Weston. Worst part of my journey was not antipating the distance from Barry to Steep Holm. With a following sea and no skeg, breaking waves with a slight cross wind, I was fighTing to stay straigh and on Course on a spring tide, just made Steep Holm, I could of aborted Steep Holm and made for Flat Holm more easily,but from Steep Holm to Brean Down was only 2.5 miles of open sea, then 2 miles down Brean Down near to my home. the crossing of the shallow sand banks on a running spring tide off Penarth was also quite hairy.

A great memorial, tiring paddle about 2007 at 65 years of age.

John Kenneth Thorne.

Slava Sosnin said...

Super! I dream to paddle to Flat Holm from Lavernok, to camp there for one night and go back next day. Thanks for inspiration