Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sea-caving: a paddle round Ramsey Island.

Plans can take a while to come to fruition. Years ago I frequently chatted to fellow caver, and decent sea kayaker, Andy Freem about getting a trip sorted. 'X' years later we finally managed it! Even better was this was to be my first journey exploring the waters of West Wales with the sea kayak.....

Now I do know Pembrokeshire pretty well. Years of staying in the grandparents caravan at Broad Haven followed later by diving trips when in University, the odd work trip doing marine research work and some good long runs on the coastpath. The kayak takes all of that exploration into another dimension - another way of experiencing the power of the sea and the life of this fabulous bit of coastline.

Kayaking around Ramsey had long been a desire and now was the opportunity to experience the journey in good company and with someone who knows the waters well - an excellent chance to learn and experience these technical waters.

Thus on a sunny wednesday morning, with low winds, little swell and tides a reasonable neaps I meet Andy and his good wife Antonia at a very quite Whitesands Bay. The paddle starts by exploring the cliffs and caves on the ways to St Davids Head. For cavers some fun caves were found - long and narrow and no seals hidden at the back!

Launching from Whitesands Beach

Sea cave exploring

At St Davids head the waters become more feisty as we briefly paddle against the southward flow, before turning and enjoying the sudden turn of speed as we head for the northern end of Ramsey, ferry gliding across to the island to explore the large sea cave Ogof Velvet.  From here we break out back into the current but are soon in the large back eddy found in this area so hug the shore and explore more caves, whilst watching for nesting birds and sleepy seals!
Ramsey ahoy....

More sea caves!

...even some through trips.....

Arriving at the bitches we must be close to the change over in the area. A gentle grade one rapid is flowing southwards so we ferry glide the gaps and play in the flow for a while before heading to the southern end of the island. Seals now become very evident and we keep clear of the various small bays with numerous beached seals.

Through the Midland Gap and the waters and swell pick up. Some good large caves to explore and seals forever popping up between the boats to check what is going on, whilst around are rafts of Razorbills and Guillemots. We continue to explore and enjoy the fabulous coastline. To the West South Bishop looks tantalizingly close, but thats for another day!

And more sea caves.... after rounding the Midland Gap

Big cliffs and caves on the SW end of the island

A brief wee stop is risked at Aber Mawr as no seals or rspb warden types were evident, before rounding the southern tip of the island. The tide is now firmly running northwards through the sound and here we have some rougher waters. At Trwyn Ogof Hen Andy checks out the sea state and picks our line through the worst of the overfalls. A great ferry glide into lively water takes into the wilds of the sound and around some breaking overfalls before using the flow to hit Point St John and a break out into the calmer waters of Whitesands bay.

Entering Whitesands Bay on the return

The days was too nice to end here so we tried some kayak fishing (one pollock which was allowed to live!) and stopped at a quite bay for food and a brew. The day was finished with food and a beer at the 'Sloop' in Porthgain.

I now need a spot to camp and head to an area Andy suggested. I parked up at Pwll Gwaelod Bay, and then paddled west about half a km to a secluded little bay and set up camp for the night.

Home for the night


Morning was very calm and quite. I paddled towards Fishguard for a few km quietly exploring before turning and taking a journey round Dinas Head to Newport and back. Little tide, swell or wind - all very relaxed! Sadly the forecast was for stronger winds so I opt to head home, but via the Preseli Hills where I enjoyed a 10 mile exploratory run of this extraordinary place.