St Davids: Seals, Waves, Bishops and Sea sickness

 Will and the Bishop againLighthouse on north bishopview from whitesands

Me and Dinny, after much deliberating in the weeks running up to this trip, decided to do the classic sea paddle, the “Bishops and Clerks.” Reading the guidebook it shows you a pretty red line, which way to go and a few comments along the lines of “a committing paddle“, “if the sea looks bumpy when you can see out past Ramsey then turn around” and “it can take from 4 hours to a 14 hr epic.” hmmmmmm. Also, it has icons to illustrate choppiness of the sea: it shows Ramsey sound as flat, and way out at sea between south bishop and Ramsey as extremely choppy. Anyone who has seen Ramsey sound on a normal day can understand why we were both excited yet cautious of what awaited us way out at sea.

Saturday morning arrived so much so 6am came round far too quickly after a good way of preparing of too much beer and staying up chatting until 3 sat am. Both me and Dinny got ourselves ready and breakfasted, which I promptly decided to feed to the badgers, sending Dinny reeling to the safety of his tent to eat the remnance of his breakfast.

We arrived at the beach with a sense of satisfaction: our parking will be free as nobody was there to collect our money, darn what a shame 🙂

Looking out to sea, we could see some waves breaking on North Bishop but not too big to cause worry. We stretched  and boarded our vessels and made for the open sea ahead, deciding to try and get North Bishop to get a bigger tick than the book said you could. After passing the safety of St Davids Head, the swell increased and it was not long before we lost sight of each other, as big rolling water of about 6 ft came rolling through.

Will and the BishopEdge of the bishop

Keeping our bearing North Bishop  gradually got closer and closer. Upon arriving at North Bishop  we had one last obstacle, which was a fast bouncy overfall to cross. Dinny got it spot on and disappeared around the point to the seaward side of the Island. I was still feeling delicate, and after a near dunking, missed my line and had to pull in on the nearside of the island. Feeling separated, I suddenly felt rather exposed. I tried getting through a gap to the other side of the island to meet Dinny, but the current was too strong. I decided to try and find another gap further along to see if i could get through, as I didn’t know where Dinny was, and knew he didn’t know where I was – all he would know is that I missed the glide to follow him.

A scary little channel inside North Bishop

While picking my way along and I had started to chill out a little I started to look at my surroundings. After all, I had just paddled 1hr and 1/2 to get here, might as well enjoy the view. The safety of Whitesands beach seemed a long way away beyond some bouncy swift moving water, the coastline of the North Bishop offered nowhere to land as it was all rocky cliffs and the sea was breaking on the rocks. On the rocks, I suddenly noticed they were full of seals enjoying the early morning sun and were unaware of my presence, there must have been 20 at least from young to old. I opted to try and pass un-noticed as  have startled a snoozing seal in the past and didn’t want to recreate that experience, but that’s another story.

I finally found a way through where the current was less than anywhere else, and decided to go for it. But here was guarded by a large bull seal sleeping on a rock next to the channel. I decided I had to go for it, just as I drew level with this huge beast it must have got whiff of me, (I didn’t think I smelt that bad) thus causing him to bellow at me and then belly flop down next to me. This had a great effect on motivation as I soon increased paddling pace and passed through the channel with ease.  No sign of Dinny, I concluded he must have continued down to the far end of the island and was probably waiting there, I decided it was probably better to go back past the seals and meet Dinny at the end just-in-case he decided to start paddling up to see where i was, upon retracing my tracks i saw him bobbing around at the far end.

 Once we had regrouped and Dinny confessed he thought i was probably a gonner but was happy to see me still paddling even though it was more shaky than usual. We decided to make our way out into the Atlantic Currents and head for South bishop which was constantly appearing and disappearing on the horizon.

Clerks in the background

On the crossing it soon became apparent we were moving very swiftly and the sea was being kind, we were getting over-confident, (well, I was, anyway) that maybe the sea was not as bad as the guidebook suggested. Another 1/2 hour went by and the other Clergy had sailed by, Whitesands was now fully excluded from view by Ramsey, and the sea started to flex its muscles a little, the swell started to increase again we both lost sight of each other due to the mountains of water moving between us and my confidence was taking a little bashing as the silly thoughts of what-ifs started going through my mind, all of which made you realise that if one of us swam it would be a while before the other noticed and the speed of the flow would mean we would be carried far out to sea which could be problematic, with those chilling thoughts in mind i found myself gripping harder onto my paddle and started paddling with greater purpose. The same as at North bishop, there was a viscious overfall guarding our approach to the sanctuary South Bishop, without a word of a lie, Dinny hit the 1st wave and as his boat climbed it he was what seemed from my angle almost vertical he was at least 6 ft from the trough of the wave and the bow of his boat was still not even touching the crest, bearing in mind he was in a sea boat of around 15ft long maybe you might understand why i suddenly felt a little timid as the bad thoughts from before started to be almost screaming in my ears, As Dinny went out of sight and i started to climb this beast I just closed my eyes and PLF’d.

Oh look, Will’s in an overfall

We both arrived at South bishop both completely wired from adrenaline coursing through our bodies grinning like idiots where our grins slowly turned to frowns as we realised we could not land. Also we had to wait here for 1hr 1/2 to let the tide slow down towards slack so we could make the crossing back to Ramsey. Dinny decided to try and land, but ended up going upside down. Part of me was screaming swim ya bugger, the other screaming roll, to my relief yet also disappointment he rolled up again 🙂

 After a while we were getting impatient as we both secretly wanted to get out and stretch our legs but were unable to do so and the choppy sea made a Fiona-raft seem impractical.  We made our crossing with ease, as the apparent swift current seemed to be crossed with ease, the size of the water had eased and upon rounding onto Ramsey sound we finally spotted a beach where we could land. After disembarking we both found somewhere to settle down and grabbed 1/2 hour or so’s sleep, then a quick feeding fetish. 

Haven on RamseyNow its my islandWe did it

I set about trying to persuade Dinny into continuing as the tide must have turned and we could head back to the beach, however Dinny was initially adamant he was not moving until the floating birds we could see in the channel were leaving Skid-marks rather than just bobbing. After a little more “sales patter” he made for his boat and we were on our way, the current around the corner was in-fact moving much faster and Dinny agreed that if we had seen birds floating there that the skid marks they would have left would have been more than adequate 🙂

The return journey passed swiftly and we were soon changed and in the Cafe enjoying a brew with a sense of satisfaction we had pulled off a greater tick by getting North Bishop in as well, as the Guidebook had suggested this was not possible.

Dinny is looking at an Irish sea crossing, I think i will go for a Lundy Island circumnavigation before committing to anything silly 🙂

The obligitory two-kayaks-on-a-beach picture



4 Responses

  1. Yay, great report!
    Its not “seasickness” when you lose your breakfast before you even get to the sea…..

  2. Very true, but Dinny was feeling delicate when we got back to Ramsey

  3. Can you even call it breakfast? more like a post beer snack in the early morning.

  4. […] trips on Saturday, Crab fishing and teashop flitting on Sunday, and some sunny surf on Monday. See Will’s report on Bishops and Clerks sea trip and Si’s photos Helen […]

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