Friday, 19 August 2016

The Stacks from Porth Dafarch - 15th August 2016

After the Skerries paddle with Alan we said goodbye and then started to think about where to spend the night. I had brought bivvy gear and was contemplating a wild camp, but it was getting into the evening now and being a bit tired I couldn't face the hassle of re-launching, so I chickened out at camped at Anglesey Outdoor.

Bivvy gear
Holyhead Mountain sunset
The following day dawned bright with light winds. Neap tides gave a lot of options, but I decided to go for the classic trip of visiting North and South Stack from Porth Dafarch.

I was parked up fairly early, and the beach only had a few people milling around and a small fishing boat getting ready to launch. With the warm sunshine I paddled in a rash vest and no cag, so nice to avoid the "boil in the bag" drysuit.

The trip was pretty much a repeat of the journey I had made a few weeks earlier and again I enjoyed exploring all the channels and caves of this wonderful stretch of coast. It's hard to tire of this spectacular area, and this must be my favourite part of Anglesey.

 On the return leg near South Stack I saw a dolphin/porpoise fin break the surface a few times, but wasn't quick enough on the camera to catch it.

Arch near Penrhyn Mawr
South Stack come into view shortly after Penrhyn Mawr
Approaching South Stack

Climbers on Gogarth

North Stack flowing, but in friendly mood

Lunch stop in Abraham's Bosom

When I returned to Porth Dafarch it was very crowded, with many small boats in the area. I carried my boat up to the car and then enjoyed a very welcome ice cream in the afternoon sunshine.

19km round trip.

The Skerries from Bull Bay - 14th August 2016

A more settled forecast saw me head to Anglesey for a couple of days paddling. On the first day I met up with Alan from the Macclesfield club. We fancied "doing something a bit longer" so given the timing of the tides (low tide at Holyhead at 2:40pm) we decided to do a round trip to the Skerries along the north coast.

With the tidal assistance you can cover "ground" fairly quickly, so we left the cars at Bull Bay and headed out into the westward ebbing tidal flow. The Skerries were 16km to the west but it only took us about 1 hour 40 minutes to get there.

On the way out I was treated to the sight of a dolphin/porpoise completely breaching out of the water. I was talking to Alan and looking his way, and the mammal jumped out of the water about a hundred metres behind him. He looked around and only saw the splash.

With weak tides the trip out to the Skerries was a relatively simple navigation excercise - we got ourselves into a position E/NE of the islands and tuned our course appropriately.

The Skerries were bustling with boats - kayaks, sailing boats, speedboats and jet skis. The benign sea conditions had brought everyone out.

Not much room on the beach!
We ate lunch below the lighthouse. The last few Terns were still nesting on the island, so there were lots of signs asking people not to leave the main path so we didn't do any exploring.

We set off back again around 1:45pm. In theory the "flood" flow should have started around 2pm, but we didn't seem to be picking up much assistance, so the initial crossing back towards West Mouse was a bit of a slog.

West Mouse
West Mouse resident
Luckily as we neared Harry Furlong's (or Furlough's) Rocks we started to get some benefit from the tide and we were going at a more reasonable pace.

It took us about 2 and a half hours to return to Bull Bay.

35km round trip.

Cemlyn to Bull Bay - 7th August 2016

It would be nice if the club trips could coincide with some decent weather! With a forecast force 6 from the south west, we opted to paddle in the relative shelter of the north coast of Anglesey and to head east.

Cemlyn Bay
We sorted the shuttle out, leaving a couple of cars at Bull Bay. As we left Cemlyn Bay we picked up some of the wind on our backs and it created some lively conditions on Wylfa Head. Once round the headland conditions moderated and we could enjoy the scenery a bit more.

We stopped for lunch in the ruined brickworks in Porth Wen. By now the sun had started to show itself, and in the shelter of the wind the beach became a pleasant sun trap.

Suitably refreshed we re-launched and leisurely paddled around the bay rock hopping. As we made our way back to Bull Bay we passed through the natural arch and cave that are tucked away in the cliffs. The arch isn't that obvious when you are paddling away from the cliffs, and it is only navigable towards high tide.

Journey end at Bull Bay
A fairly short paddle, but enjoyable all the same. Given the conditions there were not many other options.

12.7 km paddled according to my GPS.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Stacks - 20th July 2016

With an excellent weather forecast I made plans for a mid-week trip to Anglesey. Warm sunshine and negligible winds coupled with neap tides meant I headed for Holy Island with a target of paddling around North and South Stack headlands.

I wanted to make the trip a reasonable distance, but I struggled to find a parking place and ended up parking and launching from a pebble beach just north of Trearddur Bay - which later to prove a mistake.

Great launch site.... but at high tide only!
It was just after high tide when I set off, and it was so nice just to be paddling in a tee-shirt and beach shorts. Such a change from the restrictions of a dry-suit.

Paddling solo I could take as much time as I wanted, and with flat seas I explored all the possible inlets, caves and arches of this wonderful piece of coast.

I was paying so much attention to my exploring that I didn't recognise passing Porth Dafarch and continued round to Penrhyn Mawr. With no appreciable flow, I was pre-occupied exploring and again didn't really register where I was. I rounded the headland and South Stack lighthouse came into view and to my surprise I realised my location.

I was in need of a comfort break, so I stopped off on the rocky/pebble beach of Porth Y Gwyddel and had a quick chat with Roger Chandler who was leading a group that had also stopped there.

I set off again and made my way over towards South Stack. It was getting near the end of the nesting season, but there were still quite a few birds on the cliffs, so I didn't go in too close. I sneaked through the channel between South Stack island and the mainland and entered the magnificent Gogarth Bay.

I headed for the cliffs and large arch of Wen Zawn and watched a party of climbers on Dream of White Horses. I must have surprised them, because one member of the team was relieving himself from his hanging belay... not the best view!

Wen Zawn cliffs
I stuck my nose around North Stack and had a look at the flow created by the ebbing tide. Some small waves were being kicked up, but nothing serious and I crossed the flow a couple of time before starting to make my way back.

I paddled back a bit more directly, and returned to my launch spot. Only problem was that the nice pebble beach at high tide had been replaced by a very rocky shoreline at low tide. It took a number of attempts to find a spot where I could get out, and I had to carry my boat quite a way back to my car. This didn't detract from a fantastic paddle.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Conwy Ascent - 25th June 2016

Nice to catch up with friends at the annual Conwy Ascent race and also great to see a lot of Macclesfield club members out. Much more benign conditions this year, no nasty headwinds to contend with and no rough water.

I was racing with Glen Parry in a surf ski on my tail for the first half of the race, but managed to pull away from him. Was making some headway on the boat in front, but run out of time to catch him. I didn't realise he was the lead boat in the same class as me, so I finished second sea kayak in a time of 1 hour 10 minutes and 49 seconds.

After refreshments and the prize giving we returned to our boats to have a leisurely tour back to Conwy.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Loch Roag and Loch Roag Beag - 16th June 2016

This was the final paddle of our St Kilda trip. We had left the Monach Islands on the wednesday evening, motoring into an increasing NE wind. We spent the night in the bay on the east side of Taransay, and then on the following day we spent a while on shore exploring this wonderful island. It was too wild to paddle, so we returned to the Cuma and carried on north, past Scarpa to anchor for the last night in the shelter of Loch Tamnabhaigh on the west coast of Lewis.

Conditions were pretty wild on the Friday morning as we completed the final leg of our trip and rounded Gallan Head and back into the calmer waters of Loch Roag. We launched the kayaks from the Cuma and explored Pabaigh Mor, entering the hidden lagoon on the northern end of the island. We comtemplated leaving the lagoon on the NE side, but wisely we opted to return down the SW side and made our way south down through Loch Roag to enter the long, thin Loch Roag Beag.

Motoring north towards Loch Roag

Pabaigh Mor lagoon
The strong wind from the north were making conditions pretty choppy, but we didn't necessarily seek shelter. We swung out into the loch to enable us to get a better downwind run into Loch Roag Beag. So we surfed our way down the loch and completed our week's adventures at the Giosla power station.

About 20km paddled. Thanks to Gordon, Rowland, Murdo and the gang for a great holiday.
Gordon Brown
Rowland Woollven
Murdo MacDonald

Skyak Adventures -
Island Cruising -

Monach Islands - 14th June 2016

The forecast for the next few days was for strong North Easterly winds, so we reluctantly bade farewell to St. Kilda and headed east towards the Monach Islands. Situated off the west coast of North Uist and Benbecula the Monach Islands are a stark contrast to the geology of St. Kilda. Low-lying and windswept, they are made up of two main islands and then a number of skerries. Joined together by sandy beaches they create a wildlife haven for seals and numerous sea birds.

We had motored over during the night to moor up in a sandy bay on the west side of Ceann Ear. We awoke to calm but overcast conditions. The lack of wind suprised me since the boat had been rocking a lot overnight, but this was due to the atlantic swell and not the local conditions.

After the usual hearty breakfast, we launched from the Cuma and headed off on a clockwise circumnavigation of the islands. It was not long before we found a mainly submerged skerry that was creating an interesting wave break and a teasing challenge to paddle over. Gordon demonstrated the correct approach and timing - to get pretty close and then time your take-off on top of a wave avoiding being surfed on the front of the wave over the exposed rocks. As the wave washed over the rocks it provided enough depth to safely paddle over them. We all then took turns in repeating the manoeuvre, with varying degrees of success and dignity.

Photo credit: Rowland Woollven

We carried on in a similar manner, finding interesting rock features to play with until we reached the lighthouse on the small island of Siolaigh. One advantage that the Monachs have over St Kilda is that it is easy to land for a pee!... so we stopped for a comfort break and a quick snack. Care had to be taken to not step on the eggs of the nesting birds.

Resuming our paddle we were increasingly surrounded by the large number of seals that make the islands their home. Always keeping a small distance, they kept an inquisitive eye on us.

The sky brightened and cleared as we continued playing and surfing as we made our way round Ceann Iar. We stopped for lunch in the wide sheltered bay of Croic, lounging in the sun.

Photo credit: Gordon Brown
Photo credit: Gordon Brown
Setting off again, now in bright sunshine, we crossed over to Ceann Ear enjoying the wonderful sandy beaches and dunes. As we rounded the southern end of the island we turned back into an increasing wind, a sign of the conditions to come. A couple of us headed off in front to find the Cuma... but it wasn't where I thought it was! In order to save some time, Murdo had taken the Cuma round to the north side of the island ready to continue our journey back towards Harris and Lewis. Luckily Rowland had been listening on his radio and picked up a call from Murdo to say where the boat was.

So it was a bit of a slog heading into the wind in the channel between Ciann Iar and Ciann Ear and in choppy conditions we reloaded the Cuma after another great paddle.

About 20km paddled.