Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Ban all Labrador Owners from Beaches!

Days 51 to 56
Mon 25 to Sat 30 Jun

A controversial start to this blog and I apologise for generalising, but for reasons that will be made clear below I feel it is necessary for the above step to be taken in order to aid Britain's cultural development.

Monday morning brought gusts up to force eight and I quickly realised I wasn't going anywhere.

Wheeled the boat up Tenby's south beach (aching arms) and paddled around the old fort cum zoo cum luxury house cum abandoned shell that is St Catherine's Island into Tenby Harbour.

With the boat stored I head to find a bed for the night. Not really a problem here with its hundreds of B&Bs and hotels. As I go back to the hardbour to sort kit I see a caravan covered in Real Radio 105-106FM stickers and a big aerial by its side.

Closer inspectiojn shows that this is the Doug & Ang Real Radio Breakfast Show Pembroke tour. A quick interview ensues pretending that it's tomorrow morning and I marvel at how artificially cheerful these people are - must be the drugs. Still, I'd like to think that I was more lively than the Pembrokeshire County Council rep!

The next morning brings a slight break in the winds so I set off for Dale, near Milford Haven. This soon slows down though as I slam into headwinds and crawl at 3km/h into the lovely sands of Freshwater East. A quick scout around finds me in the Longhouse bar/caravan park where jack of all trades Luke cooks me a gorgeous (and half price) steak whilst pouring pints and clearing up!

Intending to round St. Govan's Head before the Castlemartin firing ranges open I leave the beach at 07:00. However yet again winds slow me and I put in at isolated Broadhaven beach to await the afternoon turn of tide. From the cliff tops you can watch the infantry practise war games and hear the constant snap of their firing.

Two attempts at a breakout both fail to get me above 3km/h and conditions deteriorate, resigning me to a night on the beach here. As I cook my dinner and dry my kit over the boat I hear the house of "Come here... Heel!" being repeated over and over. Looking up I see a 50-something gent chasing a large golden labrador across the beach.

Fido, as I shall name the poor gormless beast, bounds up to me and deciding my boat warrants closer inspection starts sniffing. He obviously liked what he saw as he obligingly cocked his leg and expelled a generous amount of urine all over my dry trousers and cag.

Now I don't fault the dog - it's in his nature to irrigate things in such a manner. It's the owner - he just shrugged and walked away - who really p***ed me off. He is a prime example of a man whose pet is the intelligent one in the relationship. Please don't tell me all labrador owners are like this.

My mood remained dour until a girl in a group 10 metres away loudly announced that she had 'the world's sandiest f****.' Charming young lady - I laughed.

Thursday starts with a lovely morning (although I didn't need to see the old man swimming naked) and I leave early to avoid the ranges and a worsening forecast. Rounding St. Govan's Head it's bouncier than I expected but the speed is up to 6km/h.

Swell continues to build as the tide races in and by 08:30 it's around nine feet. Then a range boat tears by to announce the opening of the ranges. Spotting me he hoves to and informs me that the ranges open in 30 minutes. He tells me I'll be picked up and driven out.

Ten minutes later (and after a hectic scramble) I'm in a 30ft patrol boat doing 64km/h [current speed record] through what feels like the very large swell of Linney Head. The two-man crew makes me a cuppa (not easy in the swell) and drives me to the entrace of Dale Bay. It turns out the coxswain's sister was one of the oldest CF sufferers in the UK.

In Dale I'm hosted by West Wales Windsurfing staff Jane, Laura, John and Sam. Winds continue to build and the rain comes down so I retreat to the very nice Broadside B&B before dinner in the Griffin Inn. Here, local vicar Dennis is hosting an open mic sea shanty evening. It was certainly strange to watch a vicar play guitar, drink Magners and sing Yellow Submarine! Fun, but strange.

The next two days pass in similar fashion - high winds and increasing swell block the route via Jack Sound to the north. To break the boredom I take windsurfing lessons (great fun, I fall in lots and seem unable to make the board go where I want it to) and take the boat out to practise rescues. Mostly I drink tea.

Dale is a lovely little village but I'm now getting bored and frustrated only being able to stare out over Milford Haven and its huge gas/oil refineries with their large tankers coming in and out.

I'm worried about how slow the first 1/3 of the trip has been. It needs to speed up. Still, at least everywhere seems to be so windy and wet. By the look of the news I should have just stayed to paddle in Worcester.

Fingers crossed this forecast changes soon.

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