We returned to the mainland on Sunday evening having paddled relatively few miles, we’d kept on stopping to say hello to the puffins!
On Monday morning, deteriorating weather and work commitments had driven away most of the folk pictured above, just leaving Chris Wheeler, Heather and I. We were keen to visit Skokholm Island; via a combination of wishful interpretation of the weather forecasts, and some rather dubious tidal calculations, we decided to make a dash around the island before the worst weather closed in.
We battled into the W/SW wind through Jack Sound (with only the wheeling and diving gannets for company) and down to the island – incidentally, calling the CG to outline your trip plans whilst in the middle of a tide race isn’t the best plan. Arriving at the striking red rock shores of Skokholm, we said “hello” to the seals and had a quick hop ashore to pee, before heading off along the south coast – we were in a hurry as our ‘window’ was closing fast. We slogged into head wind and building swell beneath amazing sandstone cliffs, before reaching the lighthouse…
…where things were rather manic indeed. Contrary to our half-baked calculations the night before, the tide hadn’t yet turned in our favour. Instead, we were faced with the choice of turning back the way we came, or of surfing the wrong way (i.e. against the flow) up a huge breaking tide race around the headland. In text, this probably sounds a lot more enticing than it actually looked from the bottom of the cliffs, exposed in the middle of howling wind and cold drizzle. We were three very experienced white water paddlers however, and we were individually happy with what we saw. We stuck our necks out.
As we surfed our way out far enough into the race to avoid the ‘boomers’, I kept losing sight of Heather for long seconds, but every time she reappeared, she was in control and happy; last month’s Californian whitewater paid off! The possibility of being surfed into and dashed to pieces on the rocks was fairly real, but we all made it to the north side of the island intact and exhilarated, but also cold, wet and ready for a cup of tea. All that remained was a very rapid surf back to the mainland, often totally losing sight of Wales behind the swell. Exciting stuff, not that excitement is necessarily a good thing on a sea kayaking trip … generally, we prefer to restrict excitement to our river paddling.
Anyway, a memorable end to a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend. That should keep me happy until the Isles of Scilly in a few weeks …
Not all puffins are cute. This one was genuinely terrifying.