2023-09-01 An Aborted Anglesey Circumnavigation Attempt

This year, every time I've planned for a date to do the Anglesey circumnavigation, something would happen; mainly the weather ie. far too windy, or family stuff would clash. All the dates I had planned for this year just came and went. This year hasn't exactly been great for me getting to the coast and kayaking.

One of the dates I had noted earlier in the year was the 1st September, with it being a big spring tide (10.0m Liverpool). As the days in August were coming to an end, I actually started planning for the Anglesey circumnavigation on the 1st September in a spreadsheet. Maybe this would be the one. I had decided to start from Caernarfon this time, using as much of the ebbing tide out of the Menai as I could, before picking up in the flood tide to propel me across the top of the island. With everything entered into my spreadsheet it all looked very promising. That is, assuming conditions on the day would be ok and despite what would be a very early start. I just needed a bit of luck with the weather.

On the 31st August, I looked at as many weather forecasts as I could (or just about). There were differences in every forecast I looked at, which is never a good sign, as there was obviously a degree of uncertainty. From what I could determine, there would be strong winds coming from the SW on 31st August, with a period of settled weather arriving on the early hours of Friday morning. It was just a question of when the settled weather would arrive. This is the trouble with not be local and living close to Anglesey. You cannot simply look out of your window, check the weather and go back to bed if the weather is rubbish. You have to commit, travel and hope for the best. Late on Thursday 31st August, I decided to make the journey over to Caernarfon and hope the weather window would arrive in the early hours as possibly predicted (Met office and BBC Weather).

Setting off on the Menai Straits from Caernarfon at about 4:45am on Friday morning it was pitch black. The moon was well hidden behind dark clouds to the south, but apart from the dark clouds, everything seemed to be nice and calm at Caernarfon. I had a deck mounted GPS with my track/waypoints loaded and wore a head torch to help me navigate. My plan was to head out of the Menai via Abermenai Point, follow the various buoys through Caernarfon Bar, before heading up the coast of Anglesey. Everything seemed to be fine setting off, as a was helped along by the dying Ebb tide. That is until I started hearing noises from fast moving water. At first I wasn't entitrely sure what it was, until I could just about make out the white water, bubbling along. I was paddling far too close to some obstruction (sand bar?) and the water was rushing passed it. Soon though the noises ceased and calm returned. For a while. As I passed Abermenai Point, I checked my position against my plan and I was slightly ahead. Out into the Bar. It was a lot more windy than I was anticipating and there was a fair swell coming towards me. I could just about make out the various buoys, by their lights, which helped a bit. Although with it being so dark it was quite confusing as the lights appeared to move around as I made progress. I had to constantly look and concentrate on my GPS route to keep my course. It was while I was concentrating on my GPS, I either hit something, or simply capsized. To me at the time I thought I had hit something. It certainly felt like it. But the odd thing was I had plenty of depth to be able to roll up in, albeit on my not so good "wrong" side. "Oh well not a good start", I thought and carried on. Only to realise a few seconds later I had lost my head torch when I capsized. I turned around and went back for it as I could see the light clearly illuminating a patch of sea from the seabed. It wasn't a cheap head torch either and I was not prepared to give it up! Sticking my paddle down into the water I reckoned the head torch was in about 4 feet of water. So, I decided to roll down, grab it and roll back up. Thankfully my plan worked and my head torch was retrieved. I carried on. But now I could hear breaking waves. Errr, rather large breaking waves! As I closed in on the waves I realised these waves were quite sizeable! Picking my way through breaking waves and swell I proceeded on. I must admit, by now I was feeling somewhat unsettled. I kept telling myself that with a bit of luck the swell would quiet down once I was out of the Bar and heading towards Llanddwyn Island.

It didn't! The swell and wind was awful, coming at me side on, making my progress very slow and difficult. I tried heading out into it before cutting back to make some progress, but it didn't really help. The wind was also way too strong. I kept thinking if things are this bad here, what will conditions be like further around the island, ie Penhryn Mawr, South/North Stack, the North coast. I was also aware I had already lost lots of time. The section from Abermenai to Rhoscolyn is key to the success of completing a lap of the island. Losing time at this point would only put me on the back foot later on, missing some vital tidal movements and making it much harder. By the time I had struggled passed Llanddwyn island, there wasn't really much point in carrying on. So I turned around and caught some <ahem> "nice" waves/swells to surf back on. Dawn was slowly beginning to break and I was feeling quite deflated.

Caernarfon Castle Sunrise

Once back inside the Menai, calm was restored and I was greeted to some fine dawn views across Snowdonia. Knowing my luck the calm I was experiencing inside the Bar had probably arrived outside the bar too and it was going to be a good day. But who knows. When I reached Caernarfon, after a bit of faffing about, the tide was still a long way out so I delayed getting out of my boat for a bit and paddled up the river Seiont as far as I could taking some snaps as I went. When I had finally had enough, it was then just a case of getting very muddy feet and dragging my kayak across the mud, back to my van.

Low tide on the Seiont

I suppose this aborted Anglesey Circumnavigation counts as a bit of a night paddle! Despite being initially deflated, I was actually pleased with my decision to abort. The conditions on the day were far from ideal and to continue would have been stupid, even if the weather did calm down. I was already well behind my schedule and would have missed the vital tides I needed. There will always be another day to give the Anglesey circumnavigation a try, but probably not in 2023. I'll also make sure I am setting off in better light too!

15 miles in 3:50 (ie. lots of messing about on the return)

GPS track

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