Monday, 28 November 2011

Excitement, fear ... & useful learning - sea kayaking north wales

Its one of the things I love about the Winter with more time to paddle for my self and with friends ... today was one of those opportunities, to get out paddling with Barry & Justine ... although for me a rather steep learning curve and one that I just about hung on to!!

Forecast was for nw (more westerly) f6/7 winds to drop, during the day although we were expecting BIG swell due to the much stronger winds overnight.

After some initial thoughts, Point Lynas, on the N/E corner of Anglesey was considered, first glimpse of the north coast soon had another option ... a run against the tide, from Cemais to Bull Bay, with the wind assisting and pushing us along? lets go have a look ...
Cemais Bay above with Ozzy looking on, with some surf and looking further out you could see a messy sea, towards the far headland, but the wind felt much lighter, than forecast and with the blue skies and sunshine, quite welcoming!

I gave my vhf to Sonja so if we had a change of meeting point we could talk while on the water, Barry had his vhf and did a radio check. I was certainly excited as the 3 of us paddled out of the bay and comfortable ... knowing this part of the coast well, I felt the early headlands would give a reasonable idea of what to expect at the most northerly point (almost opposite middle mouse), which would have the most current and due to wind against tide the rougher water.

Just about see us in the centre of the picture with the edge of middle mouse and some rougher water ...

Having passed two initial small headlands all seemed to be working with us, swell and reflection, but feeling good and enjoying the moment ... what was the main headland going to be like?

Now for obvious reasons of keeping hands firmly on paddles, there are no photos of the really big stuff, but it was bigger than id expected, with an occasional really big intimidating wall of water pushing through ... one caught Justine, who was up front and part surfed her, twisting her kayak round sideways, so she faced the other way ... and then broke over her ... she managed to shake it off.

I moved further out into more flow, hopefully away from what I thought might be the shallow edge of the headland, hence more breaking waves ... and half heartedly attempted to set into a rhythm of driving my boat forward, checking with transits to see if i was making ground, slowly I was ... mainly due to my defensive style of paddling ... with to much looking behind to see what was about to come through.

I soon wished I hadn't ... a wall of water was looming up and moving directly at me, its top metre or so all ready curling over and snarling at me ... I was like a rabbit caught in a cars head lights ... I was unsure to dig deep and get more speed or wait and brace ... so i did nether effectively and as it broke over me I felt no support on the blade and capsized.

Within moments I was back on the surface and now fairly griped ... finally I had decided to open it all out, catch what I could to surf, moving through and out of this zone and into the bay ahead, (Hells Mouth) I felt much better working with speed, focusing on keeping the kayak on line rather than whats behind .... the bay looked sheltered, although not such a welcoming name!

What felt like 10 minutes latter (although I was told it was much less than this) I joined Barry & Justine and paddled along the coast before a final paddle out of Hells Mouth and around to the brick works. This was much smaller but still sporty, with a lot of reflective waves, clapotis and current flowing towards us.

After some fluid and a home cooked chocolate muffin (thanks Justine), we enjoyed some of that winter sunshine before getting back on the water. Back at Bull Bay, it was time to load up kit, grab a drink at the Bull Bay Hotel while reflecting on the days adventure.

Overall I was really pleased with the day, despite being gripped, in the big stuff ... im sure this was because I was working with some unknown ... do I attempted to surf or brace, on reflection I felt to defensive with my approach, so it felt like two strokes forward and one back ... I rolled smoothly in what was the biggest water ive paddled in so far and its always good to be reminded what your students may be going through and how they are feeling ...

Thanks to Justine & Barry for a useful day ... it now feels good to have stretched and pushed my comfort zone, Ozzy dog for photo poses and Sonja for driving and taking the photos ;-)

On the water shots were taken by Justine, a short raw unedited video clip, which Justine took from a deck mounted camera, leaving Hells Mouth and Justine's blog ... enjoy
north wales sea kayaking
roger chandler

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