Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Birthdays and The Bitches

Days 57 to 64
Sun 01 to Sun 08 Jul

A new day and a new month brings no better change in the weather. Mum, dad and 18-year-old David have come down for a holiday and seeing no advantage in staying in Dale I leave with them to a rather nice holiday cottage in Newport (the one in Pembrokeshire - there's so many of them).

The new plan is to paddle south back to Dale using the cliffs as shelter from the force five to seven (occasionally eight to nine) SW winds. However, even this doesn't work as heavy swell makes cliff-hugging impossible and aside from a brief surf on Newport beach paddling is stopped.

Instead I watch Wimbledon (when it's on between rain and wind) and remember that tennis is a poor spectator sport for me! Monday 02 July brings mum's birthday (I won't say which one) and on Tuesday my long-suffering (and ginger) girlfriend Rhiannon drivers down from Yorkshire for three days' visit.

Thursday 05 July is my 25th birthday and by now I really want to start moving again. We head through wind and rain to Newport beach to find very little surf but force six winds. Dull surfing in a bad taste shirt from Oxfam (thanks David) before heading to Newport Surf Lifesaving Club for a cup of tea where the 10-year-old kids sing me happy birthday in Welsh! Thanks all!

Rhi leaves early on Friday for the north, but winds increase to force nine at times grounding me again.

Saturday changes everything, however, with lower SW winds and blazing sunshine. We move to Solva and I paddle down to the Stack Rocks via Broadhaven and back to Solva (a lovely natural harbour, however it does dry a long way out - thank god for Kari-Tek's trolley). This is equal mileage to the Dale-Solva run and negates the need for a vehicle shuttle.

Sunday brings an early 07:00 wake-up and I'm on the water just after 08:00. Still sunny with lower winds and less chop. I reach Ramsey Sound just before 10:00 and enter The Bitches tidal gate and race. Named after two rocks in the mid channel this tidal race can cause real trouble and is great to play in. Even in its first half hour or northerly flow it pushes me to 14 km/h as I watch ganets circle.

I quickly pass Whitesands Bay (last here in 2003 surfing with the uni kayak club) and rounds St. David's Head. Turning north east I can see the lighthouse on Strumble Head flashing in the middle distance.

A quick stop at Porthgain (the Sloop Inn is apparently top notch) and I'm off again as heavy rain begins to fall, cutting visibility. I fly across the bay and as I reach Strumble Head the sun reappears lifting my spirits hugely.

Things slow down here as I lose the tide and hug the cliffs to avoid the flow. Here I see two seals and a porpoise as well as passing Carregwastad Point. This is the site of the last invasion of the UK mainland when the French landed 1200 men in 1797. They weren't up to much though - the Point doesn't really make an ideal landing site and when they saw a group of local women in red shawls and tall black hats (local dress) they mistook them for British Redcoat soldiers and promptly surrendered - D'oh!

Dodging the ferry Stena Europe as it left for Ireland I arrive in Fishguard after seven hours' paddling and 48 kilometres. After a bit of faff I find Celtic Dive Centre where Mark lets me store the boat and kindly puts me up for free in the bunkhouse.

I'm tired and sore after eight days off the water but I sorely hope that this is the last really long patch of bad weather I see - it's slowed me down so badly and I can't afford many more stoppages!

1 comment:

dan said...

Black Hooorrrrrrsssseeeee

Hey up Noel enjoying keeping track of your progress. Been a busy few weeks as I have had some spotting events to attend but I'll give you a ring one eve this coming week.

Very best wishes

Dan