2022-05-15 The Stacks (against the tide)

I hate cold and wet, especially when you feel like you have just woken up and feel all warm. In fact, I had overslept and was still trying to wake up! The last thing you want (or need) is to get cold and wet. But we had decided to do a skills session at the start of our day on the water and rolling was the theme of today. It was early too, as we had decided to meet up at Porth y Post where parking is at a premium. You need to get there early to get a space.

Ashley had very kindly offered to lead the rolling session, which started off rolling with us sat in our boats on the beach, to practice the all important body position. This was then swiftly followed by rolling in the sea (brrrr... cold and wet) without a paddle but using your partners/assistants hand to roll, with your partner stood waist deep in the water next to you. I have to say I have never done this technique before, but found it a very good technique to teach, as it is so surprising how little pressure you actually need from your assistants hand to roll up. My Valley Etain is a big boat in both length and height (big expedition volume) and consequently has never been the easiest of boats to roll. Having tried rolling using the hand of my assistant Kris, I almost felt like I could hand roll without a paddle! I must try it sometime. Having got over the cold and wet (not really), we took turns in practicing, until we were rolling without any assistance with a paddle. Thanks for the great rolling tips Ashley 🙂 As a group we should do these "refresher" skills sessions more regularly, just to keep us on top of our game. And even, I hate to say it, if it is cold and wet first thing on a morning. brrrr.

Having done our skills session, we then debated which way to go. Do we go left, with the ebbing tide, or right into the flow. The general consensus was to go right into the flow, but to hand-rail the coastline, making use of the numerous back eddies to assist us with our progress. This would take us past Porth Dafarch, "mini-mawr", Penrhyn Mawr, and out to the Stacks; flow permitting and would provide us with lots of rock hoping opportunities. We would then benefit from being pushed back to Porth y Post by the ebbing tide later in the day. Weather-wise it was sunny with some clouds, some of which were heavy. Rain was to be expected at times. The Sea state was nice and calm.

Time flies by when you are having fun. Despite getting caught in a huge down pour near Penrhyn Mawr, we made good progress against the tide, enjoying the superb geology this section of coast provides. The strata in the rocks on this section of this coast is really stunning, and despite having paddled this section many, many times, there is always something new to see, with the different light levels showing off the cliffs in different levels of detail. In Abrahams Bosom, we picked a small cove for some lunch. The sun had come back out and it was glorious. The only trouble with landing on a rocky beach with an ebbing tide is, with the tide falling, you inevitably have to carry your boats someway, back down to the waters edge. In this particular cove, the sea water level following our lunch was only just covering many more rocks which made for an awkward launch.

As we neared South Stack, the birdlife intensified due to the large colony of Razorbills and Guillemots, who had taken up nesting residence on the cliffs. We gave the nesting site a wide birth, so as not to disturb the birds (or the twitchers), paddling around the outside of South Stack and headlong into the tidal flow. A bit of grunt was required against the tide here, but soon we were in the protection of Gogarth Bay. At North Stack Kris an I did a lap of North Stack rock/island, so we could claim a point on the PSK 1000 islands challenge. But the tidal race at North Stack wasn't working. We played for a short while in the swirly waters but there were no waves to surf. South Stack looked to be a better prospect. You could just make out an occasional breaking wave, way off in the distance.

With the assistance of the flow at North Stack we were rapidly sent on our way to South Stack. My GPS log shows speeds of between 6-10 kts! I assume the 10kts was when we were paddling and the 6 kts was when just floating along. At South Stack there were some small waves to surf on. But the problem with South Stack is the lack of eddy service. If you get washed off a wave it is a long way back to the smooth waves at the front of the tide race and you cannot stop paddling. I saw Ashley make her way over to an eddy under South Stack Lighthouse and decided to follow suit. Both Kris and Si soon joined us.

We rejoined the tidal flow, which would take us back to Penrhyn Mawr. By the time we reached Penrhyn Mawr, the flow had stopped and the tide had just turned against us. The tide was now flooding against us. But at this stage of the tide, this is not a problem and you can easily make your way against it. All too soon we were back at Porth Y Post. Just the long drive home to do now. 🙁

Thanks to Ashley for her rolling session, and to Kris and Si.

What a fab day!

13 nm 6 hr 10 min

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