Thursday, October 19, 2006

Circumnavigating Holy Island (Anglesey)

I think I'm really lucky to have my birthday in the middle of the summer. It means that I can celebrate in the outdoors with a weekend of splendid activities with some of my favourite friends.

My 2006 celebration took me on an evening trip to the Skerries followed by a couple of delicious pints of Guinness outside the Church Bay Inn.

The following morning Trevor, Mark, Maurice and I met with Helen and a couple of others at Rhoscolyn on what would be an ideal day for a sea kayaking trip round Holy Island. Holy Island or Ynys Gybi is separated from the western side of Anglesey by the remains of an almost estuarine shallow sea.

The 32km journey typically takes 6-7 hours and must be done in conjunction with some cunning tidal planning.
We Left Rhoscolyn all lathered up with lashes of sun cream about our faces and arms in defence from the blistering sunshine. Heading out west across Penrhos Bay we were all in buoyant mood, chatting as we paddled towards the treacherous waters of Penrhyn Mawr.

We approached with respectful caution even though conditions were relatively benign. I had bounced through the first couple of waves when I looked to my right to see how others were enjoying the excitement of the overfalls.

For Mark, disaster has struck! I saw his upturned hull and signs of his paddle wafting as he made a couple of unsuccesful atempts at a roll. I was surprised, not only by the abundance of flotsam (sodden egg sandwiches, shoes and cheese slices) surrounding the disaster area but also the amount of time it took to reinstall Mark in his rightful position. The ensuing investigation found that his rear hatch had not been properly closed before going to sea, thus allowing water to flood the rear compartment.

The approach to South Stack always brings a gasp of delight, especially as the vertical cliffs of Gogarth and North stack appear beyond.

We had some time to make up after the earlier aquatic adventures, so the leg from North Stack to the end of Holyhead Breakwater turned into a bit of a chore.

I called the port authorities on the VHF radio to get clearance to enter the busy harbour. After waiting for a couple of ferries to pass we continued to paddle south, to the next significant target on our journey, Stanley Embankment. We needed to pass beneath the embankment before the tide turned, and for this reason we had been paddling for nearly 4 and a half hours without landing. (Although Mark had managed to stretch his legs during his previous out of boat experience.)
So, having passed Stanley, we landed on the shores of the Inland Sea for a well earned siesta in the sunshine!

Since leaving Rhoscolyn we had followed the flooding tide round the Stacks and into Holyhead Harbour. From The Inland Sea we would now be following the ebbing waters south beneath Four Mile Bridge and along the Cymyran Strait. The Shallow waters of the Cymyran Strait make parfect feeding grounds for Arctic and Sandwich terns. Oystercatchers make plenty of noise as you pass the sandbanks but the curlew's quiet nature and mottled plumage makes them harder to spot despite the fact that they are Britain's largest wading bird.

As we emerged from The Cymyran Straits into the open waters of southern Anglesey we embarked upon the home strait, and the last 3km to completion at Rhoscolyn.

For more information on sea kayaking in Wales you might consult the new guidebook 'Welsh Sea Kayaking'.

1 comment:

Stu said...

Just discovered your blog Jim and what a find!

Some fantastic photographs of Anglesey and North Wales from a vantage point few ever get to see.

Myself and Wendy (my wife) regularly fish these areas and the views are always spectacular.

Keep up the blog and thanks for sharing you great photographs.

Sea Fishing and Walking in the UK