We headed off to Cardiff this afternoon to take a 1 hour speedboat ride in Cardiff Bay. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous – the semblance of summer had returned just for us as if it was part of the booking for the ride. The water was blue and didn’t look too choppy. I was looking forward to the experience with nervous excitement.
The two people on shore organising and giving us the safety talk couldn’t agree on the number of people actually taking part. Was it 12 or 13. It was 13 and they laughed it off, saying ‘we’ve never lost anyone yet’. Of course, they may well have done so and just got the count wrong. We donned the lifebelts (‘they’ll inflate automatically. But if they don’t…’) and were told about the life raft (‘it’s a 12 man life raft… er… but they can take more than that’). Then we were led along the floating pontoon to the boat.
It was a large inflatable/rigid boat (‘even if the inflatable part punctures, it will float’) with 12 seats (two people had dropped out and one had been added since the count – spookily we were now 12 as predicted by one of the counters). It was impossible to guess where to sit to guarantee staying dry, and I chose the seat that would take mots of the spray. I didn’t know that at the time, though.There were no seat belts and the advice we’d been given (‘hold on to the bar and push yourself into the seat’) seemed inadequate.
Then we were off, slowly, gently leaving the berth and heading out past people relaxing in waterside cafes and restaurants. Seagulls and ducks reluctantly floated out of our way. The water was smooth, the blue sky had a few white clouds. Everything was…
The acceleration was tremendous and without warning. Suddenly we were blasting out across the water of the bay, bouncing over the tiniest of waves, banking into turns and watching the spray pass close by. We jigged and jinked around the water for a few minutes and abruptly slowed to a crawl again as we approached the lock gates. This short burst of speed had only been a warm up. The open sea beckoned. We shared the lock with a couple of sailing boats and waited a few minutes for the water levels to equalise before sirens heralded the gates opening.
Then we were off, slowly at first as we negotiated the buoys out into the Bristol Channel. Then the engines kicked us forward again and we were off. The water was much more choppy now and the boats slammed down after each wave. It felt like someone was hitting the bottom of the boat with a sledge hammer. We shot forward, heading away from Cardiff and towards Steep Holm and Flat Holm. The skipper was skilfully manoeuvring the boat around to give us the best experience of speed and excitement. As Steep Holm neared, we crossed currents and bounced around on them.
We turned sharply, heeling the boat over until I thought I was going to fall in to the sea and test the lifebelt’s automatic inflating mechanism. We headed back the way we came and each wave of spray landed on me. We turned again and circled the island before seeking out the roughest parts of the channel.
Then we were heading back towards Cardiff Bay. The combination of speed and sun had dried me out and the skipper, spotting this, made sure I got another couple of drenchings. The we were racing a couple of Jet Skis and despite our full load of passengers, we were outrunning them as they were struggling with the waves. We did a number of figure of eights around a buoy close to the beach and then we headed back to the lock gates. We waited there for 10 minutes or so as the lock filled up with sailing boats. A brief blast across the bay signalled the end of the trip and we drew to a gently halt at the pontoon again.
It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to go again. The photos here don’t do it justice.