Skomer July 2018 – A Perfect Day by Richard Janes

Sea kayak journey round Ynys Sgomer (Skomer)  and Ynys Sgogwm (Skokholm)

” Oh, what a perfect day”. …

(Line from a Lou Reed song applied to Sea Kayaking)


How to make the most of a sunny, warm July? Scotland seemed a good idea but with only a few days available, hungry Scottish midges breeding for the next Olympics and reluctant to endure the driving haul again, Pembrokeshire was the choice location. Especially before School summer hols and increased traffic. 


Thinking about it, what makes a brilliant paddling day? 

For me it’s great company, beautiful place, weather, wildlife, mermaids, interesting water, playtime and a beer to finish the day. 


Skomer is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. It is surrounded by a Marine Nature Reserve and is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It just happens to be an amazingly beautiful place as well!

We launched from Martins haven with a plan to use the South going stream to assist us down the West side of Skomer and down towards Skokholm.  Using transits we checked drift whilst crossing Jack Sound which passed very smoothly. And then we started seeing puffins. And puffins! This Atlantic puffin population colony is the largest in southern Britain and we passed dozens of rafts of these charming little birds and the air buzzed with their fast wing beat. Not to be outdone, we saw some Shearwater and I was amazed to find out that nearly half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters nest on the island.

The Garland stone soon arrived and marked a change in the water. Swell, sun, birds and dramatic cliff scenery merged to form a memorable experience. We even managed to get some surfing on a notable eddy stream South of the Garland Stone! 

From the Southern end of Skomer, we set off towards Skokholm. 

Skokholm is Norse for “wooded island,” very similar to the Swedish capital name Stockholm, named by the Vikings who visited the Bristol Channel. It doesn’t look very wooded now. The rock and cliffs had a pink/red hue in the afternoon sun and we aimed for the Lighthouse on the South Westerley tip.

The present lighthouse was constructed over several years up to 1915 and was officially opened in 1916. Forming a triangle of lights with South Bishop and the Smalls to protect shipping moving into and out of Milford Haven and the Bristol Channel. The lighthouse shines 20 miles. 

Every corner and headland of Skokholm carried a tide race, some bigger than others. They must have been some Seafarers, them Vikings!  The flood had now begun and very fast water was running North from the North  Easterly end of the island. We headed towards Gateholm Island and then with the flow through Jack Sound. Luckily finding surf waves and play time at the North end of the Sound! It was now a short and relaxing paddle back to Martins Haven to stretch legs cramped from no landing around the islands.

Paul and I have paddled a lot together. So many days and fun times (he really has endured his ageing friend), so it seemed somewhat poignant to finish the day by the van drinking ‘Old Peculiar’ … Or was that the comments  coming from the last of the day’s batch of Skomer visitors as they walked past? … A perfect day? We certainly ticked the boxes and I’m sure that seal looked like a Mermaid? …… But that was after the second bottle of ‘Old Peculiar’!

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