Camping and Kayaking with Aber Kayakers
As part of my plan to get back on the water I’ve been paddling a few times with Aber Kayakers. I’ve always had connections with the club but had never really been a full member as I did a different type of paddling. Once I started Quadrathlons I was more into performance paddling in the form of racing, either in surf skis or in a K1 in Haslers and such like. No one else in the club or locally did this sort of paddling so I tended to just do my own thing.
However, for the sake of safety since my heart attack I’ve been trying to do such activities with other people. So, to that end I joined the club and started paddling with them. They had a camping and kayaking weekend arranged so I decided to join them on that too. Not only would it be a good opportunity to get to paddle in some new locations but it was a chance to finally use the camper for it’s intended purpose again. It was also chance to get to know some of the club members a little better.
Off to Pembrokeshire
Despite not having used the camper for a while, it wasn’t too difficult to get it stocked up and ready to go. Most things were in place and packed so once I’d replaced some of the out of date food stuffs and made sure the battery was charged I was good to go. With my kit packed, surf ski on the roof and defib in the camper it was time to drive to Pembrokeshire. I left straight from work and arrived at a lovely, sun-soaked campsite not far from Cresswell Quay at around 5:30pm.
I pulled into a pitch with an electric hook up and that was me set up! You’ve got to love a camper van. I did uncoil and extension lead and plug in into the electric hook up but that was it. Meanwhile a few others were setting up tents and preparing their camp so I had a chat and was introduced to a few people I hadn’t met before.
The campsite was surrounded by trees and very green. The showers and indoor toilet were quite a way from where we were but there were a couple of portaloos just across a little stream. At the far end of the field was a shallow stream that led under the Cresswell Bridge and into the Cresswell River. It was the perfect spot.
Dinner was booked in the nearby Carew Inn so once others had arrived we all headed off to the pub. In total, there were 11 of us on the trip. This included Bob (who wasn’t arriving until later) and the 10 of us in the pub: Judith, Ro, Jason, Callum, Steve, Elliot, Jo, Jill, Richard and myself. Dinner was good and the staff at the pub were amazing. We didn’t hang around too long afterwards though as we all headed back to the campsite for a relatively early night.
Despite the fact that the little stream at the bottom of the campsite was very shallow, the plan was to launch from there and end up at Pembroke Dock. So, after breakfast there was a shuttle to organise so that we could get all of us and all of the boats back at the end of the day. Several of us therefore drove to the intended exit point, left our vans and cars there and then headed back in another car to the campsite.
We then got kitted up and pfaffed about for a bit. That allowed us to head over to the stream where full pfaff-mode was activated.
With the pfaffing out of the way we ran through the plan for the day, pfaffed a little more and then got on the water.
I should point out the variety of craft on display. Half of the people were in open canoes, these are a little slower, more sedate and allow the paddlers to take in a little more of the scenery. They also allow them to carry everything including the kitchen sink and therefore provide the most opportunity for pfaffing. So the canoeist were top of the class in this respect. Everyone else (other than me) was in a sea kayak. These too have plenty of storage options and places to stow kit, they are a little faster and more versatile than the canoes. They are perfectly suited for the kind of conditions we would encounter. They were the perfect balance between speed, comfort and convenience and still allowed plenty of pfaffing. I however was on a wholly inappropriate surf ski. It’s fragile, it has a fixed rudder so needs a certain depth of water, it’s very unstable, it has limited storage options and no opportunities for pfaffing. It is fast, but that was absolutely no use here.
So, as far as being a member of the Aber-Pfaffers is concerned, those in the open canoes were at the top of the pile, the sea kayakers were gold standard and I was a mere beginner.
Off for a Paddle to Pembroke Dock
We set off under the bridge and after travelling about 20 yards the river shallowed to a few inches so I jumped out and carried my ski over the shallow section! It was thankfully only a short portage and after that the river did deepen and I was actually OK even with my fixed rudder.
We headed onto the Cresswell River, passed Cresswell Quay and headed downstream. It was all at a very sedate pace and I soon realised that I needed a little change of mindset. All the paddling I’ve done has been performance orientated so as to prepare for races and competition. This wasn’t anything like that, it was all about exploration and recreation. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just different to what I’ve done. It was about effort, it was all about relaxing.
We found some interesting channels that lead to old limestone quarries so we pootled our way into them and explored their extremities.We met up with the canoeists here again. We then continued down the Cresswell as the tide turned and started to ebb. We passed Lawrenny Quay and the boats moored alongside and then headed across the Cleddau River and hauled our boats out onto the banks where we stopped for lunch.
After lunch we continued upstream against the tide for a little way, before turning around and heading downstream with the current. We were now heading into the wind though. We passed Lawrenny Quay once again and then followed the treeline along the southern banks of the Cleddau. There was another brief stop for snacks and soon we could see the Cleddau Bridge ahead of us and our landing point at Cosheston Pill.
Towards the end, Ro and I headed across to the far side of the river and then down to the Cleddau Bridge where we rounded one of the bridge stanchions and then headed back to the get out point.
It had been a lovely day on the water with sunny skies and good company.
A Rescue Mission
Back at the campsite there was word from the canoeists. They hadn’t quite made it to the get out point as they had pfaffed in almost immaculate perfection. It sounded as though they had indeed used almost every single bit of kit they had taken with them, had paddled, sailed, poled and lined their boats in every way possible and had almost managed to end up right back where they had started! They had waded through quite a bit of mud too! Trouble was, where they had started at Cresswell Quay was now little more than a trickle and worse still, their vehicles were at the get out point.
A rescue mission was launched to reunite them with their vehicles and all was good.
Dinner that night was back at the Carew Inn, followed by a stroll from the campsite to the Cresselly Arms and other than that we spent out time chilling in the campsite, playing Dobble and chatting.
A Paddle to Carew Castle
Sunday dawned, wet, drizzly and grey. No problem for Callum and I in camper vans, but not quite so much fun for those in tents who now had to pack up all the wet kit. The plan for today was to start from yesterdays get out point, paddle back up the Cleddau and this time into the Carew River.
It was still a little grey at Cosheston Pill but the drizzle had eased by the time we got on the water. The canoeists set off first. We waited around for a bit and then headed off ourselves. I set off at a leisurely pace but a little faster than the sea kayaks so I caught the canoeists, looped around them and then headed back to the kayakers before heading off to catch the canoeists again. We were going with the tide and had the wind at our backs.
We passed Lawrenny Quay again and this time turned right into the Carew River. We were out of the wind here but still going with the tide as we glided serenely along side a lovely stretch of tidal saltmarsh back by woodland. Egrets and herons fished at the waterside and gulls soared in the sky. We explored and chatted as we went and followed the Carew River until we came to an imposing wall that enclosed a lagoon. We stopped by the watermill here with views across the lagoon to Carew Castle.
Not only was this a convenient place for a break but it was a good opportunity to pfaff as we tried to get everyone together for a group photo on the water. We even managed to persuade an innocent bystander to join in with the pfaffing as we asked him to do the honours with the camera and then took ages to get into position.
As I pointed out earlier my surf ski doesn’t have much in the way of things to pfaff with so instead I tried to join in the fun by leaving my dry bag on the bank as we left so that I would have to return for it. Someone spotted it though and foiled my attempt at some pfaffing!
It was a little early for lunch and this stretch of the river might dry out quite quickly once the tide started to recede so we headed back downstream a little and stopped for lunch on a grassy bank. I did a few more loops between the kayakers and canoeists as we were once again inc lose proximity.
After lunch it was a steady paddle back the way we had come. This time it was with the tide again but once out into the main channel we were against the wind. There was some nice chop where the wind was against the tide too which livened things up for a me a little. We headed to the far side of the river and stopped once again on the banks. We could see the canoeists making slow but steady progress along the southern shores. From our final stop it was just a short crossing to the get out point where I decided to do some re-mounting practice just for fun – ruining what was left of my Haribo fangtastics in the process.
All that was left now was another slice of Ro’s delicious flapjack, a little more pfaffing as we got changed and packed up and then a drive home. All in all a fun weekend away and some nice paddling in a different location. A few more trips like that and I can see that I’ll need a new boat with at least room for my mini-espresso maker. It might not be the competitive, performance paddling that I’m used to, but I think I can add a competitive element to the pfaffing and with a little practice could probably excel!