Monday, 21 May 2012

Porth Dafarch to South Stack - 20th May 2012

With a good weather forecast, plus easterly/north easterly winds (2/3 gusting 4) I'd decided to head for Porth Dafarch with Rachael Clarke (Macclesfield Canoe Club). Rachael had only been on the sea once before, so the intention was to have a short/moderate length paddle but to concentrate on some boat handling skills. We were joined by Helen Marriott (Chester/NWSK) who had responded to my invite on the NWSK forum.

We would be launching around 10.30, and the tide was coming to the end of the flood. That meant that the tide race at Penrhyn Mawr would not be working, so I thought it would be nice to paddle around Penrhyn Mawr and head for South and maybe North Stack lighthouses. Even once the tide was flowing against us on the ebb, the eddies in the bays would give us options to make progress as required.

We headed out from Porth Dafarch in wonderful sunshine and made our way around to Penrhyn Mawr chatting and discussing various kayaking topics.

As I had predicted, Penrhyn Mawr was dormant as we paddled through channels and into the odd cave.

As we passed the end of the headland to get into "Abraham's Bosom" (the bay between Penrhyn Mawr and South Stack), we encountered an eddy line and the ebb flow against us. We had to work had to punch through this and get into the bay to pick up the eddy that was now circulating anti-clockwise.

Approaching South Stack

On the north side of the bay we paddled through a thoroughfare made between the sea stacks and the cliffs. We watched the climbers dangling/clinging to the rocks on one section of cliff and then saw hundreds of Razorbills and Guillemots nesting on the ledges of another.

Look hard to see 5 climbers!
We approached the gap between the "mainland" and the South Stack island and I was expecting this to be the crux of the paddle. I nosed through under the bridge and picked a channel through the rocks. There was flow against me, and once through the gap the sea state was reflecting the E/NE wind and was pretty choppy. I decided it was getting a committing location to be taking Rachael, with no landing spots before Parliament Cave and the strength of the ebb tide, so after Helen paddled through and had a look at North Stack in the distance we paddled back to the south side of Abraham's Bosom for a lunch stop. The eddy in the bay was now in full flow and when we passed Pen-Las rock to re-enter the main part of the bay we had to cross quite a flow of water with small waves that was pushing us out to the main ebb flow.

After lunch we returned to Porth Dafarch and practised rescues, rolls, and re-entry/rolls in the still rather cold water. I also found out that my plastic flare canisters do not hold enough air to make them float!... I'm rather grateful to a swimmer in a wetsuit that had a mask that could dive down and get one that fell off my deck.

Rachael heading back to Porth Dafarch
Lovely paddle and refreshing to get in the water at the end. 12.25km paddled, on the water for about 4 hours.


Emma said...

Hi - great photos! We are new to kayaking and were thinking about the same spot you were on here - are we OK as beginners do you think? (Also silly question - we dont need a licence to paddle here do we?) Thanks, Emma

John Bunyan said...

Hi Emma, no licence needed, but the area covered by this trip report is not a beginners area. Once out from Porth Dafarch there are very strong tides and tidal overfalls.