Skomer 2014

On the last weekend in June, Izzy, Loz, Sue, Colin, Vern and Rob headed to Pembrokshire for two days of guiding / coaching with Martin Leonard assisted by Lou Luddington on the Saturday and her husband Tom on the Sunday.

We met at 9 on the Saturday to do the usual kit faff and to discuss what we wanted to get out of the weekend. The consensus was that the main objective was to get out to Skomer to see some puffins and hopefully do rough water paddling as a bonus. The wind on the first day was forecast to be NE force 3-4 rising to 5-6 later in the day, which coupled with the spring tides meant that getting to Skomer on the first day wasn’t going to be an option. A plan was therefore devised to launch at Abercastle and paddle down the coast to Abereddi which gave us the option of a couple of other get outs if the conditions deteriorated. We had a bit of a warm up in the bay while waiting for the drivers to shuttle the cars during which Lou pointed out some different species of jellyfish and we spotted a large male grey seal having a snooze on a small floating platform.


Heading out of the bay there was some swell but the wind hadn’t picked up too much. It was a lovely piece of coast with some great rock hopping opportunities which I enjoyed all the more for being in somebody else’s (plastic) boat! A few of the headlands had small tide races off them which were good for practising breaking in/out, ferry glides and using the waves to surf upstream in the race.


We stopped at Porthgain mid-afternoon for a break and discussed how whether or not to continue as the wind had been steadily increasing. By the time we returned to the boats though the wind was a steady F5 and there were regular breaking waves out in the bay. Carrying on the the intended finish would a committing 8km or so with a couple of tide races so wasn’t really viable in the conditions. We spent an hour or so doing some surfing in the bay entrance before getting out and heading back to the bunkhouse.

Sunday had a much lighter northerly wind which meant that getting to Skomer would be possible, although the strong tide meant that getting right round and back to the start point was not. We headed to Martin’s Haven, got onto the water and headed across Jack Sound to Skomer in a wide arc to avoid being taken down stream into the fast water. On landing we presented ourselves to the warden for the required introductory talk which included some information on the island’s wildlife, where we could and couldn’t go (basically stick to the paths) and relieved each of us or £10. We then had a couple of hours to wander round and explore the island. We saw large numbers of puffins and razorbills for which the island is famous. It is also famous for its Manx shearwaters; unfortunately the only examples of these we saw were numerous dead ones. The have burrows on the island and the parents take it in turns to spend the day at sea feeding, returning at night. When there is a full moon though they are easy targets for black back gulls, hence the large number of casualties we saw. The only way to see live shearwaters is to stay in the self catering accommodation on the island, something which would be good for a club trip in the future.


Returning to the boats, we paddled along the north coast to get a view of the island from the water, taking care to minimise our disturbance to the wildlife. Tom had played a key role in developing the Pembrokeshire Marine Code and was keen to stress to us the importance of minimising our impact both on this trip and in general. The website is well worth a look and contains lots of detailed specific information to different areas in Pembrokeshire as well as more general advice. We stopped just before the flow splits at Garland Rock to avoid being taken right past the island, and headed back across Jack Sound to Martin’s Haven where we loaded up the boats and started the long journey back to London.


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