Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Macclesfield Canal - 17th April 2016

Clarke Lane <> Higher Poynton Marina
Back for a quick blast on the canal - out in 53:20, back in 56:42. Not too bad. A pleasure to be out enjoying the spring sunshine.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Rhoscolyn to the Cymyran Straits - 10th April 2016

After the previous day's exciting exploits, we opted for a more leisurely excursion for the Sunday paddle.

Four of us set off from Rhoscolyn and made our way east towards the entrance to the Cymyran Straits. There was a small choppy swell that added interest to the excellent rock hopping that can be found along this stretch of the Anglesey coast.

We had lunch in the pleasant sunshine on the island just inside the Straits and waited for the tide to turn.

A trio of noisy jet ski riders interrupted our snoozing, and we relaunched to make our way back.

As usual there were some breaking waves near the mouth of the Straits and I had a quick play in them, though they weren't breaking with much power.

It wasn't long before we entered Borth Wen at Rhoscolyn and packed up to make our way home after a great weekend.

Only a lazy 9km paddled!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Skerries from Porth Dafarch - 9th April 2016

This was the first day's paddle of the NWSK meet based at Anglesey Outdoor. We split up into a few different groups, and I was in a group of four that decided to make the long return trip to the Skerries from Porth Dafarch.

I'd been wanting to do this paddle for a while. I've visited the fabulous Skerries from Camaes and Cemlyn Bays on the north coast, and from Church Bay nearer to Holyhead to the south east, but all of these are relatively short trips. The round trip from Porth Dafarch gives a route of nearly 42km, an impressive distance were it not for the considerable assistance that can be gained from the tide, and this weekend it was a big one (over 10m Liverpool).

With high tide on the Skerries around 12:30, it was perfect timing. We knew the tide would be going at up to 10 kph in places, so we aimed to get on the water for 10 and take it fairly "easy".

There wasn't much wind forecast, so we were surprised to meet a fairly strong SW breeze as we left Porth Dafarch. This was kicking up a bit of chop and small swell that made the first kilometre or two a bit hard work and didn't bode well for the long trip we had planned. We carried on though and soon had something to take our minds off the small chop.

The route we were taking requires the negotiation of some of Anglesey's most notorious tide races, and we were going to be tackling them near peak flow on a big spring tide. So it was with a little trepidation that we approached Penrhyn Mawr. Without any large swell, from a distance the race did not look too confused, so Rob and I decided to go for the "middle race" while the two other opted for the less turbulent inner channels. I led, and was accelerated to the first wave that knocked me to the left a few feet and then we hit a number of large "haystack" waves that gave an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. Luckily the race was in a fairly friendly mood and we emerged to meet the other two paddlers who had shot the race closer to the mainland.

Screen grab from Rob's video of Panrhyn Mawr
The wind seemed to die down, so we made quick and pleasant progress towards South Stack. With the flood tide, South Stack does not kick up too big a race (unless you have wind/swells against tide) so we didn't have too much difficulty starting off on our northerly track, but we were soon to fall foul of a man-made hazard rather than the natural ones. Another feature of this route is that it crosses the main shipping channel between North Wales and Ireland, so it is criss-crossed by large car ferries. Sure enough we saw a ferry inbound to Holyhead that would cross our path. It's difficult to judge the distance from us to the ferry, so we decided to stay put and let it cross in front of us before proceeding. However our hearts sank as we made out another ferry following behind it in the distance. By this time we had managed to get hold of Holyhead port control on the radio and we stated we would hold our position and let both ferries pass. Perhaps we erred on the side of caution, we certainly considered crossing the shipping channel between the ferries, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

We'd lost over half an hour because of the ferries, and I was now getting a bit more anxious about the timings. We had planned to use the flood tide to push us initially north, then expecting it to push us north east as we neared the Skerries. It was now getting towards the last hour of the flood, and its speed would be decreasing, giving us less assistance. We resumed our route and initially made good progress at about 13-14 kph. The Skerries changed from a distant object on the horizon to a discernible lighthouse perched on a rocky island. We paddled on a generally northerly bearing, but continually checking the resultant route was taking us towards our objective that lay to our north east.

The Skerries can be see in the distance

Getting closer!
As we got closer the paddling seemed to be getting slightly harder work, and this was confirmed on our GPS devices. We were now only making about 7-8 kph and therefore not getting any more help form the tide. So it was with a bit of relief that we finally reached the Skerries at around 12:30, just when the tide would start to change and flow against us.

The normal landing site of the beach between the two main "islands" was not available to us due to the high spring tide. So we made a slightly awkward landing on rocks in the lagoon under the lighthouse.

We ate our lunches against a backdrop of dramatic dark clouds and bright sunshine on the lighthouse. Not long after settling down we were surprised to see Chris come round the corner into the lagoon followed by a few other paddlers from his group that had left from Church Bay. We knew two other groups were aiming for the Skerries but we thought they had come and gone earlier. Our rocky landing spot was rather full, so they went off and found a much better landing on a shingle beach to the north.

Looking south to our return route across Holyhead Bay
Rob and I had a quick walk around the lighthouse. Within a few weeks the island would be home to thousands of Arctic/Common Terns who aggressively protect their nest sites, but for now the island was fairly quiet.

We were getting ready to head off, but after checking in with Holyhead port we realised we would be setting off straight into the passing of two ferries on their outbound journey to Ireland. So we hung on for another 15 minutes before relaunching and making a leisurely paddle south. The tide had now fully turned, and without making much effort we were doing 12-13 kph. So in order to give time for the ferries to leave port we mainly drifted in the tide, being bounced about a bit as we passed over Langdon Ridge.

The ferries left port on schedule and we had kept a good distance, but it was now time to turn our attention to our route home.

On the outbound leg it is Penrhyn Mawr that is the major tide race, but on the return leg North and South Stack build up on the ebb, and with the wind and swell against the flow, we were expecting conditions to be lively.

We made our way towards North Stack and plotted a course to cross the race get on the landward side of the flow to then decide how to tackle South Stack. Jim led us through the large waves, big enough that we occasionally lost sight of each other, but thankfully not really breaking, and we made our way into the eddy between North and South Stack.

It was a good decision to head for the inside, because on our right and heading out to sea was the main flow and some serious looking breaking waves. So we followed the eddy line towards South Stack and we could pass the headland without difficulty fairly close in.

Approaching South Stack
The sun was now shining and we were in good spirits knowing we had negotiated the main difficulties. The main flow was more out to sea than our route, so the paddle became somewhat hard work to make progress as we made our way against strong back eddies. We passed back through Penrhyn Mawr - totally different on the ebb, with no hint of the dramatic conditions of the flood earlier in the day. It was then a short paddle back to Porth Dafarch and our cars. A fine day out.

Porth Dafarch in later afternoon sun
42km paddled, off the water just before 4pm.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Macclesfield Canal - 2nd April 2016

Long paddle from Clarke Lane to the northern end of the Macclesfield Canal, and then another mile towards New Mills on the Peak Forest Canal. Short break for a chewy bar and a drink, then paddled back. Just over 30 km paddled. Kept up a reasonable pace, nice not to totally fade at the end.