Archive for February, 2014

Top Trip

February 2, 2014
Cobra Expedition

Cobra Expedition

Were my eyes deceiving me?The weather chart showed the briefest of  gaps in the relentless succession of winter storms. A forecast of light winds, and coinciding with a day off! No need to cower up an estuary or cringe in a culvert.Time to head out into the open sea. And clock up a good healthy mileage in an effort to shake off the slovenliness of what I term the ‘Beluga’ months….the tendency to become pale and lay down  blubber during the winter. No disrespect to Belugas.

Falmouth docks

Falmouth docks

So it had to be my favourite day-trip in the whole of the southwest. From Loe beach at the head of Carrick Roads, round to Nare head on the east side of the Roseland peninsular (and back). Five miles in the relative shelter of the ‘roads’, then seven along an exposed coast punctuated with three superb sandy beaches. And the promise of the best sea duck viewing in Cornwall.

Big Rig

Big Rig

It was as calm as the forecast had promised so I paddled right up the middle of Carrick roads, towards a gigantic floating rig.

Fantastic, first major wildlife sighting of the day was a raft of about fifty black-necked grebes (can the observant among you spot the single Slavonian grebe in there as well?).

Black-necked Grebes, Carrick Roads

Black-necked Grebes, Carrick Roads

I stopped for breakfast just before the lighthouse after St.Mawes.Not five Weetabix because we’ve run out. It had to be Muesli which is slower to chew but I wasn’t in any hurry. A couple of thumping great ships were leaving Falmouth.

The next bit was quite lumpy with the swell bouncing back off the rocks but it became flat again as the waves exhausted themselves on Porthbeor beach. Just round the corner from Porthmellin Head I kept offshore so as not to disturb the half-dozen or so seals that always hang out on the rocks there but they were in spooky mood so hurled themselves into the water anyway.

Towan beach (on a sunny day)

Towan beach (on a sunny day)

On past Porthscatho I was wondering whether to turn back when I saw a rather smart looking Stealth Pro Fisha , armed with a couple of rods, sitting on the sand of Carne beach about to be launched. I thought I would surf in to say hello but did not create a particularly professional impression as the wave I caught swamped the compartment containing my ‘day’ gear and the entire contents  got washed into the sea.

Tim, the Pro Fisha paddler, kindly help me rescue the thermos, gloves and lunch box that were bobbing about in the surf zone.

Tim with his impressive Stealth Pro Fisha

Tim with his impressive Stealth Pro Fisha

It was great to meet another dead-keen paddler who likes a kayak with a turn of speed, has a quiver of other speedy yaks at home, and is loyal to Sit-on-tops. I suppose it’s their fishing capability that swings the balance but we did muse, as we paddled together out past Nare Head, that we probably wouldn’t be doing such a trip in the middle of winter if we were in Sit-ins. Just too risky.

Tim headed off to the offshore islands to fish while I turned south and pointed towards Porthmellin Head five miles away.

Tim departs to fish around Gull rock

Tim departs to fish around Gull rock

And  then had one of my best ever kayaking wildlife encounters. For some reason I glanced over my right shoulder and saw what I first thought was a crisp packet blowing across the water. I turned to investigate and soon caught up with what turned out to be a very small plump seabird with virtually no neck…..a Little Auk! OK you probably have never heard of it but it just happens to be one of my very favourite seabirds precisely because they are so small and easily overlooked and a bit goofy…and very rare in the UK.

Little Auk in Gerrans Bay

Little Auk in Gerrans Bay

I drifted closer to the little chap to get a good photo expecting it to get a bit worried, but my jaw dropped when it swam deliberately up to the side of my kayak and circled the entire craft, include swimming underneath my legs, as if looking for a way to get on board! Little Auks clearly do not have a genetic code for wariness of Homo Sapiens. Or maybe they do, but it didn’t think I was one. Wouldn’t be the first time.Or more likely it just has never met a representative of humankind,probably originating from somewhere in arctic Russia (the auk, not me…..I grew up in Reading). P1100769

I nearly tipped out of my boat with startlement when the Auk then jumped onto the side of the kayak, hopped into the water of the footwell and made himself (herself?) at home, even searching under the surface for a possible snack. Seemed a bit disappointed with the dregs of the muesli.

Little Auk on board

Little Auk on board

It then took a minute or two of time out resting on one of the hatches,  then flapped itself back into the sea and carried on with whatever it was doing (like being seriously lost).

Chilling out

Chilling out

Absolutely astonishing.

I had a great paddle back fired up by this encounter as well as the hugely varied coastline, which makes this such an entertaining paddle. Beaches, cliffy bits, a quaint fishing village (Porthscatho), a lighthouse, a scenic town (St.Mawes), a major port (Falmouth), and a superbly scenic inlet, with loads of moored ships if that’s what floats your boat (ho-ho).

St.Antony's Head Lighthouse

St.Antony’s Head Lighthouse

And I encountered more kayakers today than ever before. In late January! A couple were exiting the ‘roads’ as I passed the lighthouse and another chap with a radical-looking black Rockpool Taran was getting out as I arrived back at Loe beach.

Top trip indeed.

p.s. Sorry Foxy, you didn’t even get a mention.

Peek-a-boo Foxy

Peek-a-boo Foxy