Easter weekend and Me and Mrs T decided on going away to the Llŷn Peninsula in the van for a few days. We had decided on a campsite at Llanbedrog with a plan of not doing a great deal, just walking and chilling, with maybe a bit of paddle boarding. I had a two hour window on Sunday to get some kayaking in and having already eyed up the St Tudwal's islands as being about 4 miles away, two hours ought to be enough get there and back again... Especially in the Carrot (Pace 17) Looking at the tidal diamond details off Pwllheli, it looked like the biggest current at Springs is about 0.5 kt. As it was a big spring tide I couldn't really see there being a problem. It would be ebbing the whole time I planned to be paddling.
Setting off from Llanbedrog beach, I immediately noticed a bit of a race off the head land at Trwyn Llanbedrog, but thought that will be ok as it's obviously being created by the water in the bay with the water wanting to ebb past the headland. Through the race and I can see from my GPS I'm picking up speed with 5kts, then 6kts increasingly being displayed as I hurtle towards the islands. As I drew roughly parallel with Abersoch, some large swell started coming in directly towards me. The swell and size was quite easily noticeable, as the islands would disappear completely behind the horizon line! As I approached the islands I needed to make a decision which way to go around them. Originally I had set a course to do the West island first but changed my mind as I approached. I decided on doing the East island first, going through the middle channel. There was quite a race! Way more than the 0.5kts advertised off Pwllheli - not surprising really! Towards the bottom of the East Island things were pretty messy, and I had to keep my wits about me. I must admit i was still struggling to operate the rudder automatically, as for the last few trips I had been so use to edging the Etain. Edging the Pace 17 with its rudder just doesn't work. With the messy waters coupled with the big incoming swell, my alert sensors were pushed right up to max. I slowly made my way back up far east side of East island, hugging the cliff as I went, looking for any eddies to help my progress into the current. Back at the top of the East Island, I had to ferry across to the West Island where I decided to go around the West side of the island.
St Tudwal's west is owned by the adventurer Bear Grylls who holidays on the island, living in the former lighthouse keeper's cottage. There was certainly a very expensive looking landing stage/platform erected at the north end of the island, which looks like you could drive a rib straight up and onto, to access the island. On both Islands, even without with a swell running, access does not look easy. I am pretty sure the Grylls were not at home.
I had seen on the chart indications there could be "spicy" waters in the channel between the West Island and the mainland. But if anything the sea state was a bit smoother than the East Island. It wasn't until I started trying to make progress up the middle channel betweem the two islands the full strength of the tide became apparent. I was struggling paddling flat out to make 3 kts. Going back to Llanbedrog was going to be fun.
I started back towards Llanbedrog, but trying to escape the pull off the islands felt a bit like a rocket trying to escape earths gravity. I was now paddling directly into the flow. There was nothing for it but to just dig deep and paddle hard! I changed course slightly to go nearer inshore, hopefully find some "slower water" in a large eddy, perhaps created by headland any Llanbedrog. As I pulled further away from the islands, the current began to drop off slightly. Once I was far enough away, I started to gain some assistance from the the big swell, with just enough speed to catch the odd mini surf to help my progress. Nearer the islands, I couldn't use this swell as I was far too slow. But slowly and surely my speed started to increase with the headland, Mynydd y Tir-y-cwmwd, becoming nearer with each paddle stroke. Very soon I found myself back on Llandedrog beach. It had taken me 1 hour and 58 minutes, so perfect and no brownie points lost!
All I have to do now is submit my gps track to Performance Sea Kayaking for the 1000 islands challenge. It isn't going to be many points but at least it is a start.
8.5nm 1hr 58min