Cetacean City

Day 81 – New Quay to Dinas Head – 9th Aug – 25.8 nm

We left the bustle of New Quay last night in search of a campsite. It took a while to find one but eventually we happened across a friendly and peaceful place. The first good night of sleep for a while went down well. So this morning’s start seems not so oh-my-god-it’s-early, just here-we-go-again early.  Things are reasonably positive in the van as we roll down the hill to arrive once again in New Quay.

As is the british way, everyone wants money, New Quay is no different. The car park charges are not funny any longer, a trip like this should be a memorable adventure but much of the time it just brings home what a greedy, grasping, money-grabbing little country we live in. Rant over now, time to go canoeing.

It’s early morning quiet, there are a couple of ubiquitous dog walkers out, and as the Newsagents opens a lone figure arrives for his breakfast newspaper. Otherwise New Quay is still deep in slumber, which makes the frolicking, leaping Dolphin display in the bay even more piss-takingly ironic. Signs all around the waterside town advertise dolphin-watching boat trips, you can't walk without tripping over one. We sit and watch the pre-breakfast display with glee, and no-one else around. I can’t help but feel that the watery-mammals know exactly what they are doing, truly taking the mickey.

It’s a breezy grey day once again. The wind is strong but blowing slightly off-shore for much of the route, there isn't much swell. So it is going to be a day of staying in close and working from outcrop to outcrop, headland to headland.

On the water for 08:30 isn't too bad and I watch the continuing dolphin display as I head out, but soon the route turns left around New Quay Head and goes SW once more. It’s windy a few metres out, but not bad along the bottom of the cliffs, random downdrafts and sneaky, wind-funnelling gullies demand attention though. The boat is keen to drift offshore in the stiff wind, but progress close-in is hood-up and daydreaming good.

I stop at Ynys-Lochtyn for the first breather. There is a dolphin watching boat drifting a half mile off-shore. I sit by the rocks and look out, hoping he’s delivering the goods for his punters and marking a spot of dolphin activity for me. There doesn't seem to be much going on, most of the spotters are squeezed sullenly under the canopy, sheltering from the rain. As I gaze out, a pod of 4 dolphins appear 5-6 metres to my right hand side. These dudes really are taking the piss.

Team Manager is up on the hill to keep an eye on me, making sure I don't catch a bus instead, so I give her a call and soon she’s in a cetacean-watching binocular frenzy. In a moment of charity I call over to the boat to let him know too, but I just get a condescending go-paddle-your-little-boat-little-boy reply. Such is life.

Rather impatiently I can’t be bothered with ‘contouring’ around again and so take a straight-line towards the headland at Aberporth. And once again I pay the price for my impatience and complacence as it becomes a splashy, forward-beam-wind-slog across the bay. Not soon enough the shadow of the cliffs gives welcome shelter, various range bits and pieces clutter the rocks above. But Aberporth range is off on summer holiday and so life in Cardigan Bay is a welcome step easier for the long distance paddler.

I venture around the end, the wind is strengthening now and drifting more westwards. I'm really hugging the cliffs now, seeking any shelter there may be. It’s a lonely stretch of coastline, suddenly a bus load of tourists appear on the tops, above the enticing beach at Mwnt, a sharp Gore-Tex contrast to the grey skies. The wind teases and rain falls as they shuffle along the path.

I've had lumpy outings before around Cardigan Island, so the approach is a little wary. But it goes by smoothly, if a little draftily.  However it is sharp bouncy passage in the outer reaches of the bay as Taran turns towards Poppit Sands, the end of the first shift. More car-park-admiring tidal-waiting will follow.

We hope to meet Uncle Geoffrey here, but mobile phone coverage works against us. The car-park fills with August Sunday beach goers, the numbers tempered under the grey, windy skies. The beach is full though, as the Poppit surf life saving club hold a training session. The youngsters put on a display of impressive, fun-filled dedication, in a glad-I-wear-more-kit-and-am-not-out-there sort of way.

In the scale of things, the next stretch of coastline doesn't look too much on paper. But I've paddled this stretch a few times and I remind myself that it really needs to be treated with respect. It’s committing, tidal and somehow just seems to annoy the wind and swell. I have an idea what to expect, but still go anyway. Oh why don’t I listen?

Daylight is limited so we decide to head out at 17:30, before the tide is ebbing, any later and we may not make the landing before dark. Hopefully this will also dampen conditions on the end, with a lack of wind-over-tide to worry about. 

 Another tentative headland rounding follows the paddle across the bay; the 5 hr break seems to have replenished and stiffened muscles to the same degree.

Around the corner it quickly goes lumpy and then unpleasant, it is a strong SW wind now. Not much further down the coast and things get upgraded to sub-nasty. I take a brief look at Moylgrove for a landing, but I don’t fancy the look of it, and so that’s it - to Newport, still 6 nm to go. Onwards and upwards.

Newport Bay provides welcome shelter, behind Dinas Head. It’s still windy but the waves don’t make it far in here. I have to head out a touch coming into the bay, where the rebound gets a little stroppy, but further into the bay things are more relaxed.

I land at the tiny settlement of Cwm-yr-Eglwys as dusk falls. Team Manager has arrived on the opposite side of the headland though, and she can’t find the road around. Do I want to paddle around?  I’m not too inclined to go around the end in the dark. No, I’ll wait if you don’t mind.

She arrives, rather stressed, after suffering the narrow lanes and some unpleasant language from the locals. It’s a pretty spot, but as is the way, there is nearly always someone on hand to spoil it for you.

We head back up the narrow lane, where at the top of the road we wait for a very apologetic man to have his car unloaded; he broke down near Llangollen and it’s taken all day to get him, family and damned vehicle back home. It’s no problem to wait, I don’t envy his day.

And then it’s further up the hill and along to a scruffy, cramped campsite. Food is a hurried concoction, created in the dark and eaten inside the damp of a resolutely low-hanging cloud.

It’s a gloomy end to the day. Not a brilliant one. It would be nice to be lifting long days now, so close to the end - but on the other hand 25 nm into a shitty headwind isn't so bad. It is what it is.

The weather doesn't look too good ahead.