Thursday, 25 October 2012

Macclesfield Canal - 20th October 2012

Clarke Lane <> Bridge 18.
Out in 40:23, toured back and had quick chat with Macc CC members who were completing their "hare and hounds" monthly race.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Holy Island Circumnavigation - 6th October 2012

The weather forecast was good for a change when the North West Sea Kayakers met up at Outdoor Alternative on Anglesey for the "End of Season" meet. Over a few beers in the White Eagle pub a plan was hatched to paddle around Holy Island the following day.

A large number of the group had decided to do the same route, so we broke up into more manageable "pods" so we had smaller numbers to keep an eye on. I paddled with Jim, Arnaud and Rob as we set off at about 9:45 from Borthwen (Rhoscolyn beach).

There had been much discussion as to the best time to leave. The circumnavigation has a number of "crux" points where timing is critical. The general plan was to paddle clockwise, using the flood to take us around Penrhyn Mawr and South and North Stack before the tide turned. We would then most likely have to wait at the tunnel at Stanley Embankment to enter the inland sea after high water to let the potentially dangerous "stopper" wave subside before we pass through. Hopefully then we would have plenty of water in the inland sea and by the time we reached Four Mile Bridge the inland sea should be draining into the small estuary that leads back to the open sea by Valley airfield. With high water Liverpool at 3:30pm, and local high water at Holyhead around 2.30pm, we thought our departure time was good, giving us plenty of time to round the stacks with an expected wait at Stanley Embankment.

We paddled out from the bay and around Rhoscolyn Beacon to pick up the main tidal flow heading north. With the wind blowing at about F3-4 from the NE, and some residual swell from the windy day before, the sea was quite choppy, especially with the wind against tide. Despite the sea and wind being against us, we made good progress being pushed along by the tide and we were soon bearing down on the race at Penrhyn Mawr.

We paddled inland for a bit to get out of the main flow to avoid being forced into the more violent part of the race on the outside of the rocky islands and ledges that form the race. As we approached the rough water we could get a bit of a view of the conditions, Rob and I decided to go through the outer race while Jim and Arnaud took an inside passage. Conditions in the race were quite confused, with surging waves from the swell cutting across the waves formed by the tidal flow, so we didn't stop to play and carried on towards the stacks.

We stayed out in the main flow as we passed South Stack and we were checked out by a couple of dolphins heading in the other direction. In Gogarth Bay we took a line closer to the land that meant we were not benefitting from the tide, but it was less bouncy and we could admire the spectacular scenery a bit more. We passed around North Stack without incident and headed for a brief stop at Porth Namarch.

It must have been around 12:15 that we landed, and we were the first of the four groups who would eventually go around the island. We were about 30 minutes ahead of the next group, and each group had increasing difficulty getting around North Stack as the flow had changed to E to W and the standing waves of the North Stack race were starting to form well before local high water.

After our stop we paddled on to the Holyhead breakwater and radioed port control to check that it was safe to cross the busy harbour area. It was about 2.15pm now, and we thought conditions at the Stanley Embankment would not be right to pass through, so we stopped again at the country park (ice cream van and loos) on the Holyhead side to allow local high water to pass. Two of the other groups now caught us up, so we decided to paddle over to the tunnel entrance and have a look at the conditions.

We got out of our boats on the sloping concrete to the L of the entrance and peered in. The flow into the tunnel was a fast drop into a standing wave with the rest of the tunnel looking OK. The exit into the inland sea had a standing wave train of a few waves that looked bouncy but harmless. There was no sign of the dangerous stopper that can form in the tunnel, so we decided to shoot through. Rob went first, then I followed breaking out on the R. We watched most of the rest of the groups down while crossing the standing waves from side to side for a bit of white water practice. I had to deal with one of our group that had a swim and once sorted we proceeded on through the inland sea to Four Mile Bridge.

To our surprise the flow was still against us at the bridge - we tried a few attempts to get through, but initially the flow was too much. Evidently the inland sea had still not filled up to the level of the estuary, despite the estuary being past its high water (which is earlier than HW Holyhead at the other end of the inland sea). After a brief wait we eventually got through as the flow eased as the water levels started to balance.

We then carried on down the peaceful, but sometimes shallow estuary and out into the sea at Valley airfield. A quick surf on a few waves saw us turn for home and the short paddle across Silver Bay and back into Borthwen to get off the water about 4:30pm.

Heading for home