Friday, 26 September 2014

Cemaes Bay, Skerries, Church Bay - 21st September 2014

Another good forecast meant I was meeting up with Macclesfield Canoe Club paddlers at the A5/A55 services again to plan a day paddle on Anglesey.

Alan had suggested we go round Carmel Head, and with the tide ebbing most of the day, the obvious route was Cemaes Bay to Church Bay.

I picked up Liam (who was going for his first proper sea paddle) and with a captive audience bored him en route with tales of adventure on Anglesey and other distant locations. I mentioned that Alan had suggested Carmel Head, but raised the possibility that the Skerries - a small island a few kilometres offshore with a nice lighthouse - might be a possibility. With the required tidal planning this would be quite a commitment for Liam's first sea paddle, so I wasn't sure if Alan would fancy it. However, when we turned up at the services it didn't take long for a rather excited Alan to enquire whether I thought the Skerries were on...

The tides around Carmel Head can get up to around 6 knots in springs, but today they maxed out at just over 3 knots. Since we would be approaching the Skerries at the maximum flow of the ebb, it would necessitate us paddling in a NW direction and then letting the flow carry us west. The resultant vector should then see us safely on the Skerries.

Alan getting ready for the off
We sorted the shuttle out, dropping a car at Church Bay and were soon on the water leaving Cemaes Bay in bright sunshine and very little wind. We made steady progress on the planned track, sticking to our NW heading. My GPS was reading land speeds of over 13 kph, although we were paddling at a fairly leisurely pace. We passed well to the N of the marker buoys that start at Harry Furlough's Rocks, and the Skerries were starting to appear on a bearing just to the S of due W.

With the main flow going SW through the strait between Carmel Head and the Skerries, I wanted to get to the NE of the Skerries and then paddle straight towards them with the flow. As it turned out, we were a bit too cautious and ended up a bit far N, and we were in danger of being swept past them to the N. Some corrective action was required and some fast paddling was in order to get us back on track and we hit the N of the island in some bumpy fast moving water before making our way into the lagoon.

In the lagoon on the Skerries

A few large seals greeted us and we landed to explore the island and to have lunch. A couple of other groups of paddlers turned up, Mary in one, Bill and Royanne in the other, so it ended up quite a social gathering.
Liam enjoying the view
As we ate lunch we could look across the strait back to Anglesey and could see the small tide races that were all around the Skerries. We planned to use the remaining part of the ebb to ferry glide back across to Carmel Head and make our way down to Church Bay exploring as we go.

View back over our route to the Skerries

We launched with an hour and a half of the ebb remaining, and by this time the races around the Skerries were dying down, so we didn't have much problem paddling around the top of the island and setting off at an angle to cross back to the "mainland". Whenever I've crossed this section of water I've always seen at least one dolphin, and today was no exception. When I saw the distinctive fin I was slightly ahead of Alan and Liam so I wasn't sure if they had seen it, but I need not have worried because they were getting their own display from a couple of dolphins nearer them.

We reached the mainland and made our way down to Church Bay rock hopping as we went. By the time we reached our landing point Liam seemed pretty tired, not surprising really since he is used to drifting down rivers, but what an amazing day for his first real day out on the sea. About 21km paddled.

GPS track of our route - maybe nearly half a km too far north!

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