Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Monday, October 20, 2014

Waiting on a train

Last week I was at Sea Kayaking Cornwall's annual Sea Kayak Symposium course week. More on this to follow.

Because of time and schedule constraints I could not drive to Cornwall and instead had to fly in via Bristol. It had already been a tight schedule but at least I made it to Bristol Temple Meads train station on time. Only to find my train to be delayed by 26 minutes. The platform by then crowded with people for a next (last) train in that direction. Like herrings in a can... At Truro the delay had run-up to 45 minutes, making me miss my last train on the Falmouth branch line to Penmere. Jeff Allen picked me up from Truro and at midnight I could call it a day.

On my return trip a week later (today) I opted for the connection that needed no other transfers and a reserved table seat. So at 09:26 I am waiting at the (non-staffed) Penmere Platform for a train... that is canceled... Fortunately I could sit at (unreserved) table seats on both connecting trains and I am now 30 minutes away from Bristol Temple Meads. Then only a bus ride away from the airport.

The British and the Dutch rail system appear to have more than one thing in common. Privatized and delays. And maybe they also use the same statistics for measuring service, in that a canceled train does not count as delayed. Also it seems there are a lot of jobs with British Rail. All those gated stations and platforms with service personnel at those stations, gates and platforms to help people with valid tickets and non-opening gates. And many conductors on the trains, at least on the ones that run, calling out for tickets of newly boarded passengers only.

The British rail users remain kind and polite under all of this and show patience in queus. The train conductor on the Penmere branch line gracefully accepting my written-down reservation number, despite regulations, for I only could collect my on-line booked ticket at a Truro ticket machine.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


My last day in Anglesey on this visit and my first day in my brand new Explorer. Justine and I had a morning paddle out of Porth Dafarch into a lumpy sea.
Penrhyn Mawr was intimidating rough. For me it is the biggest I have ever seen from my kayak or it has been a long time since I have seen it this plucky. Swell running into the race at an angle against the current. Feisty was the word that Justine used. Justine went into the thick of it to catch some waves. I was happy to paddle at the rough enough edges and not surf. My built-in 'safety valves' on the setting: a bit too intimidated to play. Someday I will find the 'override switch'...
We continued towards and around South Stack and towards Parliaments House Cave. Justine got hit by a nice zipper-wave reflected off South Stack. Very chunky water. Returning under South Stack bridge against the full flood was a work-out. With some luck I got two surges that helped a lot. Justine had to try a different channel. We could already mentally prepare for what was waiting at Penrhyn Mawr's Chicken Run.
Many years ago I 'blew myself up' at the Chicken Run only to see Dale make it through seemingly effortless. I than had to pull my kayak over the islet to the other side... The 'secret' was reading the water in combination with brute force. Today helped extra by the completely smooth unscratched hull of my new kayak. So it was spared dragging and scratching.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Anglesey on a day

Anglesey Sunset, Anglesey, Wales, 2014
Yesterday I paddled around Anglesey in one day. Leaving Cable Bay at 04:45 and arriving back at 19:55.

With a perfect weather forecast of variable 1-3 Beaufort winds, smooth seas, 15 degrees temperature and springtide I thought (on Saturday morning): why not!

On my first visit to Anglesey in 2000, I paddled around the island with a paddling friend in 4 days. Nigel Dennis' comment was: "Some people paddle it in one day you know?" So it was allways in the back of my head to give it a go someday. Yesterday was that day.

The only issue this time of year is daylight hours. I paddled in the pitch black until halfway across Trearddur Bay. Despite GPS I had a difficult time around Rhoscolyn for all the black rocks popping up late in front of me preventing a proper cruising speed. And being stalked by a breathing seal or dolphin? Using the eddies all the way up to South Stack for the tide was still ebbing; LW Holyhead at 07:15; HW at 13:30.

Beyond South Stack the tide turned. I lost 15 minutes at the Skerries for a pee & leg stretch break. Although the break was planned, I lost precious current, that was even audible... At Middle Mouse I saw a Dolphin twice, wow! I did not use my planned stop at Point Lynas to take full use of the conveyer belt tide towards Puffin Island.

Halfway across Red Wharf Bay I did not seem to make good progress anymore. To take good care of myself for the remainder I needed to land at Penmon, where I was greeted by Phil and his clients, cookies and tea. From the start I did not have to wear a cag. By now my shirt was soaked and I was getting cold. Time for a dry shirt and cag. For me it felt I already nailed it. The rest was just making the miles. After the break I was a half hour behind my original schedule. That proved vital in the time to get around for it was now ebbing north, out of this end of the Menai Strait.

At Beaumaris boats where lying at different angles from their mooring buoys and soon therafter bows lined against the current, my direction, yes! Now catching the full ebb towards Abermenai Point; home run. At Menai Bridge I rearranged my maps to be sure not to forget it once it would get dark. I was now looking at at least one-hour-and-a-half later arrival than planned, aiming for 20:30. Instant soup at Abermenai Point and headlamp check and off for the last stretch. I made it back by 19:55, in the dark, for my first one-day circumnavigation of Anglesey.

This was pure for personal achievement. It is also the last trip with my 'Tweety' Explorer sea kayak. I am getting a new Explorer in my familiar colors Yellow-over-White; "Tweety II". It's first trip was Falls of Lora, it's last trip with me around it's home island Anglesey for a fitting 'farewell'.

If I would paddle it again I sure would better my personal 'record', for there is enough room to tweak it and make even better use of the current, not to have to work so hard towards and after Puffin Island. With a standard (none-racing) sea kayak (Explorer) and a bigger tide, I could better my time by 60 to 90 minutes, without 'racing'. For this was a gentle and rewarding (long) day paddle.

Worst things on the trip? The boat carry to and (worse) from the beach to my car, sore feet, and a not-working (cold) shower at the B&B. All gear now rinsed and ready for paddling tomorrow, Tuesday.

04:45Cable Bay04:45
06:45Penrhyn Mawr (arrive)06:45
06:45Penrhyn Mawr (leave)06:50
07:15South Stack07:20
07:30North Stack07:35
08:45Skerries (arrive)08:50
09:00Skerries (leave)09:00
09:45Middle Mouse09:55
10:30Point Lynas (arrive)10:45
11:00Point Lynas (leave)10:45
13:00Puffin Island (arrive)13:00
13:00Puffin Island (leave)13:25
16:00Abermenai Pt. (arrive)17:10
16:00Abermenai Pt. (leave)17:30
17:00Llandwyn Island18:15
19:00Cable Bay19:55

Total Time15:10
Total Distance66,7nm
Total Distance123,5km
Average Speed4,9kn
Maximum Speed8,0kn
Tides LW 07:15 1,1 - HW 13:30 5,44,3m

Nutrition: 2 slices of toast with thick bacon for breakfast; 6 slices of bread with peanut butter & jelly; 2 bananas; 6 mini blueberry muffins; 5 bounties; 2 chocolate biscuits from Phil, half a liter of yogurt; 1 big cup of soup; 2 liters of water.

For humbling record times for the circumnavigation see John Willacy's Anglesey Circumnavigation page.

P.S. Last week I had some wonderful paddling days with Rowland Woollven, Bonnie and Andrea. The pictures and postings of that follow later.