Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

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.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Today I joined Rowland, Andrea and Bonnie for a beautiful trip out of Trearddur Bay.
The sea state is quite lively. Penrhyn Mawr is clearly visible from T-Bay as a big white line on the horizon, from 3 miles away...
We turn left towards the white arch and enjoy 'dynamic water near rocks', sunshine, blue sky, white clouds, waves and white stuff. Anglesey at it's best.
This is the third day with Rowland and the second day with Andrea and Bonnie for which this is their first time over in Anglesey. Yesterday we paddled the North Coast from Bull Bay to the brickworks (pictures).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beautiful Day

After the rough day yesterday, the contrast could not be more dramatic. Blue skies, sunshine, almost no wind and very warm. Rock-hopping to Abraham's Bossom and returning in time to play a developing Penrhyn Mawr. Not big, but very easy to surf. A beautiful day on the water with Barry & Justine.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back Up

Back in Anglesey since May. I am visiting Justine & Barry. Tide is perfect for the Skerries, so why not? One meter swell with a northerly force 4 Beaufort. Seems reasonable. There is surf in Cemlyn Bay, never seen that here before. Furlough's race is very messy.

It is a weak neap tide and it is hard to catch waves. Also I feel a bit rusty in these kind of conditions, been months that is, especially because the sea is so unfamiliar confused. Never seen Furlough's this way. At one time, more by chance than effort, I do get into a gentle surf that brings me quite a bit to the front of the race. On autopilot I start back-paddling when a steepening breaking wave just lunges me forward and down at an angle. My low brace boat angle is too gentle and I am swepped over the other side, upside down. Almost immediately I am almost upright again, just by water pressure alone, but I cannot find the blade pressure to low brace up again completely. Over I go for the second time. I had enough time to think strategy.

On previous occasions I found that if I capsize in rough water I tend to lock myself into the cockpit with firm knees to not flush out of the cockpit. At the same time that would make my roll more difficult. So once upside down ease-up and focus on 'right-side' knee pressure only. In this case my left knee. Back up again in an instant. OK, my rough water roll really works. But a bit shaken I am.

Did I chew off a bit too much for my first Anglesey day since May and a very rough one too? At least I did not 'wet my pants' this time, dry-suit helps ;-) Only lost my threading BBB cap and the left part of my very well 'surf-proof' secured spare paddle flopping in it's final bungee. Secured we continue to the Skerries. Victoria Bank and Coal Rock races are lumpy but easy.

Just before noon we arrive at the Skerries for lunch. I am hungry and a bit tired and 'tense' in the arms...