A Gentleman's Adventure
The plan was to circumnavigate Anglesey, like all best laid plans, the weather had something to say about this!
On the drive across from Nottingham the weather had steadily deteriorated, we were supposed to be launching into the Menai straights no later than 5 to catch the out going tide. After a few broken, no signal, lots of voice mail phone conversations the six gentlemen met in a car park over looking the straights. It was obviously nothing was going to happen tonight. It was cold, raining and a strong wind was blowing from the south. Even on a strong tide this wind would be too strong to paddle against.
A plan ‘B’ was hatched in a local drinking establishment and we set off for Roscolyn for an overnight bivi. We’d make the call in the morning of what we could paddle. The windy night didn’t make for a greats night sleep but we awoke slightly refreshed. The wind had strengthened and was still coming from the south. Any paddling on the south side of Angelsey would be a bad idea, especially as for at least 50% of the group this would be their first time in a sea kayak, this included me.
Plan ‘C’ was put into action and we drove to the north side of the island. We decided to put in Cemaes Bay and paddle with the tide round to Moelfry. The shuttles took longer than planned but we got underway around 11am. The wind was extremely strong, and our first strokes in what seamed extremely narrow boats compared to our whitewater kayaks were a little tentative. As we paddled out into the tidal flow we quickly gained confidence. Stato Steve kept us constantly updated with our speed from his GPS. 11kph, 12.1kph, we were motoring now. Looking back to shore we passed the old brick works, and decided to pass on the pint at Bull Bay. We pulled in for a break and a quick spot of lunch at Porth Eilian. Along the way we caught site of a porpoise, soon dispelled any despair over the weather.
After lunch we paddled out around the lighthouse with its wailing fog horn. This low drone gave a eerie feel as the rain started to intensify. We were paddling much slower in the afternoon, the tidal flow had slowed and we felt the wind begin to change direction. As we rounded the headland to paddle into Dulas Bay the wind was in our faces. Paddling hard Stato confirmed our worst fears, the tide had turned as well we weren’t going anywhere fast. We decided to head back to Port Eilian where we had left a backup shuttle.
The weather looked to be improving as we got changed and we began to look forward to another evening under the stars. As we drove off, the heavens opened. We drove round to Wylfa head where we had been told of a bivi hut. Wet and now very tired, an old smelly lifeboat station shed with a leaky roof, filled with pebbles and seaweed didn’t seemed an attractive proposition. Another emergency meeting was called and some light refreshments ordered. A few calls to directory enquiries and we had found six beds for the night. It was back to Roscolyn thanks to the guys from Outdoor Alternative.
In the morning the weather couldn’t have been more different from the previous day. The sun was trying to break through the mist that had rolled in from the sea and there wasn’t a breeze in the air. We decided to paddle around the stacks, a classic sea kayak journey that should be everyones tick list. By the time we were changed the sun had broken through the mist and the sea looked calm. After a quick surf on the small breaking waves we set off buoyed by the pleasant weather. As rounded the headland we could see the breaking waves of Penrhyn Mawr. This was going to be our first real taste of a tidal race. As we paddled into the race we started to accelerate, the bows of the kayaks split through the waves, keeping extremely stable. We broke out of the race to explore the cliffs and as we paddled across the bay we caught a glimpse of South Stack, shrouded in fog. It was long before we were completely surrounded by mist and staring a compass. The fog horn was emanating from somewhere in front of us and it seem ages before we could at last make out the vague proportions of the sea cliffs. Hugging the coast around South Stack we paddle into Gogarth Bay. Normally riddled with climbers the cliffs tower above the water. The tops hidden by the mist we continued along until we reached Parliament cave. We landed the boats on the small rocky beach and pulled out various food stuffs from the hatches of the boats. Stato Steve had done us proud with the food for the weekend on today’s lunch menu a platter of Samosa’s, Bargi’s and Pakoras.
During our lunchbreak the mist lifted and we rounded North Stack to see an HSS ferry pulling into Holyhead harbor. We had been told of the wake these things can kick up so waited for it to hit us. Apart from what appeared to be some slightly large swell nothing materialised so we set off on the last leg of our journey. We paddled into the bay and up onto the beach for the last time this weekend. Tired but extremely satisfied with our first sea kayak adventure. Sea kayaking is certainly an aspect of kayaking I would like to do a lot more of. Maybe I’ll even get the rest of the Alpkit team out on a adventure on the sea one day!