Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mumbles - Pwlldu, Sunday 8 September 2013

Paddling out of Mumbles for a round trip to Pwlldu is a sea trip I undertake quite often but it struck me that I hadn't done it in 2013. When John N. e-mailed asking if anyone fancied a paddle on Sunday the trip came to mind. I checked the wind forecast: XCWeather seemed to suggest a Force 3 from the south west, though the MetOffice's inshore forecast wasn't quite as good: F3-4, possibly F5 later. The tide was a Spring but with low water around 14.40, I reckoned if we got on the water around 12.30 we wouldn't have to wade through mud and we'd get to Pwlldu around LW so would have the wind and tide with us for the return trip.

Anyway, John and Rob G. bought this story and so we went for it. We got on the water around 12.45, still having avoided the mud although a bit later than the master plan. The put-on at Mumbles (Knab Rock car park) is nicely sheltered when the wind is from the south west or west so we started in very calm conditions. As we approached the light house though we could see some breaking waves on the outside. No problem, they weren't big and we were paddling into them and into the wind which was around F3 at that point. As we went on though the wind was variable - as was the rain! When we started to pass Caswell, the wind picked up to a stiff F4, maybe F5, as the next big black rain cloud came in and it became a hard slog to get to Pwlldu. Arrive we did though, in the end, more or less on schedule, around 14.15. As soon as I landed I got my bothy shelter out as the conditions were so miserable (and I was keen to use it as I've had it for years and never had cause to use it before). The three of us got under it - for a bit: John decided rather than peering through 3 inch square blurry plastic to see if he'd pulled his boat up far enough, he'd be better off outside. As the rain had stopped Rob and I shortly joined him.

We launched for the return leg around 14.45. Typically, the wind had now eased so we didn't have as much assistance from it as we expected. Paddling with wind on your back and a following sea is generally a bit trickier than paddling into the wind, so having a weaker wind wasn't all bad. As we went on the waves got a bit bigger as the tide picked up but we all seemed happy enough.  I started surfing a bit at the head of the group. As we passed Langland though a shout went up and I turned to see John in the water and Rob a fair way back. Back I went for a rescue, in proper sea conditions of course - cliffs on one side (though a decent distance away) and waves. Rob rafted up with us once he'd rescued John's hat and I'd got John back in his boat to give support as John pumped some water out and then struggled to get his spraydeck back on. Then we were off again.

Unfortunately, we hadn't gone very far when John went over again, after having put in some frantic splash strokes and low braces. At least this time he was just in front of me so I got to him a bit quicker. A touch more excitement this time as after I'd emptied my boat John pointed out that my spray deck had come off. He kindly offered to stay in the water before trying to get back in his boat, wisely spotting that it might get interesting if my boat too filled with water. As we were making a bit more progress towards the cliffs this time John didn't get as much time as before to pump his boat. Off we went again then though with John a bit wobblier again, and me shouting instructions at him - mainly just to keep paddling and to avoid putting in low brace support strokes if possible (they kill your speed and make you wobblier again). He made it around the lighthouse into the calm water (leaving me to be caught for a wetting and short bongo slide by a breaking wave).

Rob found this all so exhilarating that he suggested we should practise rolling/rescues. He'd shrewdly spotted that the water was really rather warm and guessed that if we didn't practise on this trip I'd be more likely to nag him on our next trip when the water would most likely be much colder. As he was wearing a dry suit, and I wasn't, he'd also spotted he had another advantage. So, Rob attempted a roll, failed, and so let me practice another rescue. Then it was my turn, but I discovered I could still roll, so no fun for them this time. John wasn't keen to get wet again at this point but he was persuaded by the time we got back to the take-out. Unfortunately, his roll failed but he wasn't having us rescue him again and walked to shore this time. No mud again, around 16.30 if I recall correctly. Good planning Hywel.

Although I'd had 6 days paddling in Scotland just the week before I really enjoyed this trip: rescues (as long as it's not me in the water) are fun, at least when the water is warm. If it was February, the story might have been a bit different. Finishing at Mumbles means you can have an ice-cream or coffee at the end of the trip. We went for a coffee this time. Very civilised.

Thanks to Rob and especially John for a good day out. We were all paddling sea kayaks by the way: don't think of doing the trip in river boats.


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