After a very early start (I left home at 05:40) I arrived at Anglesey, just in time to see Rob emerging from his car at 08:30, parked at Porth Dafarch. Rob had traveled over the night/morning before, from Lincoln and spent what was left of the night sleeping in his car under two duvets. He said he was toasty warm, but the temperature was still only just above freezing and the wind made it feel bitterly cold. I had a good nights sleep, if a little early start, at home near Nottingham.
We had arranged to meet Phil Clegg of Sea Kayaking Anglesey at Anglesey Outdoors at 09:00. Phil was going to be coaching us for the weekend. Having discussed the weather, tides etc we decided on going back to the Menai Strait, as it would be sheltered and allow us to concentrate on perfecting those skills. So it was back down the A55 to Menai Bridge. By the time we were on the water it was beautifully sunny, but still very cold.
After lunch we went and played on the tidal rapids in the Swellies. I failed to make it across to the wave, despite a few attempts and I had to watch John Willacy in his very fast Rockpool Taran show us how it's done. Great to watch though. By the time we had to paddle back, the current was in full flow under the Menai Bridge and this time it was not so easy to get up through the bridge arches. So we ferry glided across to mainland Wales and made our way up, eddy hoping from there, with a final ferry glide back to the Anglesey side. It always sounds so idyllic "ferry glide", but in reality it was anything but. It was more of a case of grit teeth, paddle hard and keep going. The end of day one saw us practicing our rescue techniques. Which having exerted ourselves, ferry gliding, turned out to be not quite as cold as I was dreading.
Day two saw us back on the Menai Straits along with most other Sea kayak groups based on Anglesey. The weather was slightly warmer, but it was overcast with occasional rain/drizzle and blowing force 4, gusting to 6. The light was so dull, I decided not to bother taking any pictures. For this trip, rather than paddle out and back again, we ran a shuttle to Moel-y-don. This way we would have the wind on our backs and help from the tide paddling back to Menai Bridge. Arriving at the car park at Moel-y-don, there were several groups already there with exactly the same idea. Car parking space in this normally quiet coastal car park was at a premium for such a dull dismal wet day.
On our trip back to the Swellies we did lots more skills, in various sheltered spots, with Phil providing his excellent coaching. One such sheltered spot provided us with a bit of urban caving, in the Boathouse of Plas Newydd, which is an amazing building.
When we arrived at Ynys Gored Goch, where we had played on the rapids the day before, I have to say for me it felt very strange. Paddling on the Straits feels like you are on a wide river. Now with the current running in the opposite direction it felt really odd. It is like taking a river rapid you know really well and someone reversing the flow.
We stopped for lunch in the shelter of the trees opposite the Ynys Gored Goch island and during lunch we suddenly noticed the flow/tide was once again reversed. So now we were, for the last stretch of our paddle, against the current, but with the wind still on our backs. Back at the Menai Suspension Bridge we played again in the currents under the bridge. This time I was much more confident in my paddling abilities. I also had one of those moments when it clicked into place for me. Breaking out into the flow, I was edging the boat so much better, so that I could really control the direction I wanted it to go in. It may not sound like much, but the penny dropped, along with loosing that little bit of uncertainty I had had previously when breaking out into fast flows in my Sea Kayak.
Many thanks to Phil Clegg of Sea Kayaking Anglesey for putting up with coaching Rob and myself in such cold conditions. I have come away from the weekend with things I want/need to practice and I now feel I can take my paddling to another level.
Some pictures from sunny cold Saturday below: