The main flooding current flowed clockwise around this coast of Anglesey for the duration of our journey.
Richard and Paul with Carmel Head behind them.
The view south towards Holyhead Mountain.
Ynys Fydlyn tiderace.
The first day paddling with seabeyondisability’s Ben Bostock and Tom Clark down the Llŷn Peninsula was a great experience. The highlight of the day was approaching Porth Iago and our destination of Porth Or (Whistling Sands).
A video link to the Llŷn Penisula’s Risso’s Dolphin’s taken from Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Youtube channel.
We rounded the headland with the daylight soon fading at 7:30 pm to find some huge animals in the water in front of us. Moving very slowly they broke the water only to breathe noisily. My initial impression was that they were some kind of whales. Then the long curving dorsal fins made me think of orca. Finally, when the whiteness on their bodies became evident I thought of the Risso’s Dolphin. This was confirmed a little later when two breached the water, revealing the lack of a bottlenose and extensive whiteness. The animals split, at least two large (the breachers) swimming West and a calf and adult into the bay. We were careful not to pursue the animals once we’d stumbled upon them and were very content to watch them move off.
Ben Bostock and Tom Clark paddling almost the entire north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula in a day
29 July Porthdafarch – South Stack, via Penrhyn Mawr, with Ed Loffill
2 August Soldiers Point – South Stack, via North Stack with Ed Loffill and Justine Curgenven
Sea kayak sailing/surfing at Penrhyn Mawr
Sea kayak sailing/surfing at South Stack
The sail was taken down for surfing steeper waves at South Stack
The sail back up to surf closely past South Stack’s headland
Beam reach sailing back to Porthdafarch
South Stack with Ed and Justine
The Delphin MKII Corelite X
The biggest improvement I found in the Delphin MKII Corelite X is the extra speed and responsiveness it has in surf. This is thanks largely to the greater stiffness in the plastic construction. The cockpit has also been improved to provide better comfort and connectivity. The day hatch is a welcome addition, as are the sailing fittings. In summary, the Delphin MKII Corelite X has all of the great features of the original Delphin but with some very useful additions/refinements and stiffer plastic for even more fun surfing.
Sea Kayak Sailing in Tideraces
It is a bit of a balance whether/or not to deploy the sail in a tiderace. When the waves are not particularly steep the addition of a sail makes catching waves far easier, increasing the number of surfable waves and the length of the runs. At some point the balance between fun and fear will probably tip towards fear, or at the very least uncomfortableness. It is now time to take the sail down as the surf has steepened up and you probably don’t need any more help catching the waves.
After paddling the Pyranha Octane surfski on Llyn Padarn I wanted to try it out at sea in wind, waves and moving water. My kayaking buddies for this trip were Ed and Abi Loffil.
The Pyranha Octane with the Flat Earth Sail fitted
Ed and Abi had a head start on the outward leg so I followed them 20 minutes after their departure. This leg had up to 10 knots of southerly wind with a slightly post spring tidal current to propel us on the flooding tide to The Skerries. Time of leg – 1.5 hrs.
Approaching Penrhyn Mawr
Approaching the middle race of Penrhyn Mawr
Rush hour in Holyhead Bay
Departing The Skerries
Surfing circuits at The Skerries
The return leg had 10-17 knots of southerly wind against the south flowing ebb tide. Time of leg – 3 hrs.
The rough journey back south
Taking a rest at South Stack
Sailing home to Porth Dafarch
The team returned at Porth Dafarch with our paddling friend Jan
Initial thoughts on the Octane
Previous to receiving the Octane I had never paddled a surfski. The closest speedy boat I had experienced to compare it to is the Rockpool Taran. The Octane, like the Taran, is great fun to paddle fast, especially in surf. At speed the surf ski is particularly stable, locking into its watery path. Its stability seemed further enhanced with the addition of the Flat Earth Sail, as this gave more propulsion. It is even better to sail than the equivalent P&H Scorpio or Delphin sailing kayaks as it is super quick and responsive to the rudder. With its open cockpit it felt a lot like a modern sailing dinghy, especially with the gurgling sound of the self-bailer.
Paddling downwind with swell was far, far better than the reverse into wind and waves. The former situation gave much greater speed than the accompanying sea kayaks, whereas into wind and swell the surfski was only marginally quicker, despite lots more effort from my core muscles. I probably need to improve my technique in these conditions.
The Octane is a very positive boat. It rewards good posture and technique with better performance. This feedback is proving really useful as I try to get better at paddling a surf ski.
Next time I want to try some more downwind runs!
West Coast of Ireland
Sea kayaks enable their users to explore and play on life-affirming journeys. Part of the challenge is to safely utilise the currents, swell and winds. The direct energy of the wind has been largely unused by most modern sea kayakers. In recent decades sailing rigs have become far more manageable to use on sea kayaks and their distribution/availability outside of Australia and New Zealand is only now becoming a reality. This exciting development is opening up brand new sea kayaking opportunities and challenges for all. From downwind coastal runs to traversing huge exposed island chains, like the Aleutians, sea kayak sailing is putting bigger smiles on people’s faces and aiding in epic journeys.
Tropical beach on Caldey Island
Windy day at Cadnant Bay Menai Straits
Kayak sailing was invented in 1865 when John “Rob Roy” MacGregor designed and built a sailing kayak for his 1,000 mile journey along the inland waterways of Europe. Those early Rob Roy Kayaks subsequently evolved into the huge variety of kayak types that we know today. Sail equipped kayaks remained popular into the 1930s. In 1934, Alastair Dunnett and Seumas Adam (“The Canoe Boys”) used their sail equipped Lochaber kayaks on an impressive and pioneering journey to explore the west coast of Scotland.
Kayak sailing also became popular in continental Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1928 Franz Romer kayak sailed across the Atlantic from Lisbon to Puerto Rico. He attempted to continue his journey onwards to New York but went missing, presumably killed, in a hurricane. Oskar Speck’s similarly epic seven year kayak sailing trip from Germany to Australia should have been widely celebrated as an amazing achievement. However, arriving at his destination in September 1939 he was interned for the duration of the Second World War.
Kayak sailing subsequently went out of fashion in Europe. Towards the end of the twentieth century sails were beginning to be developed for use on modern sea kayaks by Australia and New Zealand-based kayakers. Sea kayak sailing is now commonplace in these countries and is beginning to take hold in Europe and North America.
Skerries Lighthouse, Anglesey
Surfing in Ireland
Surfing near Stackpole
Why sea kayak sail?
Maintaining the top displacement hull speed is easier when sea kayak sailing. It is also much easier to get your kayak planing in swell and tidal rapids. This is particularly useful when attempting to catch less steep waves. In essence you will catch more waves, considerably increasing your speed and range. Average speeds of 7 knots with planing top speed runs in excess of 10 knots are not unusual in conditions where it would be considerably more difficult for conventional sea kayaks to plane and maintain average speeds of more than 3-4 knots.
When the waves become too steep it is best to stow the sail away as it will no longer enhance the experience and will, most likely, become a liability.
The sail appears triangular and conspicuous from afar and/or in overhead rolling swell.
The exposure of paddling along coastlines with less frequent safe landings is reduced if the wind and sail combine to add to the kayaks propulsion.
Caldey Island tiderace
Getting into sea kayak sailing
The main airfoil sail available in Europe is the Flat Earth Kayak Sails range of airfoils. They are designed and manufactured in Australia by Mick MacRobb. Other airfoil sails are being manufactured for sea kayaks but they are far less common in Europe.
Sea kayak manufacturers
Many composite sea kayaks will need strengthening in order to accommodate a sail mast. You can assess this by pressing down on the deck near the compass recess and gauging whether there is much flexibility in the deck and hull. Most kayak companies will strengthen your kayak by special order. Plastic kayaks tend to be more robust in taking a sail mast.
Since 2012, P&H kayaks have produced all of their composite kayaks with enough strength to accommodate a sail mast. Their plastic Scorpio MKII range of sea kayaks has been designed with sailing in mind. It easily accommodates a Flat Earth Sail and handles superbly well when sailed.
Have a go/purchase
Scotland – Karitec are the main UK distributor of Flat Earth Kayak Sails and have a range of demo boats to try out under sail.
England – P&H have demo kayaks fitted with sails and attend many sea kayak symposiums.
Wales – Sea Kayaking Wales (SKW) are based on Anglesey and have a range of P&H sea kayaks and Flat Earth Kayak Sails to try out. SKW also run sea kayaking (including sailing) courses in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Llŷn and the Gower. Flat Earth Sails are available to purchase from SKW.
http://seakayakphoto.blogspot.co.uk/ – An excellent blog written by one of the most enthusiastic proponents of sea kayak sailing in Europe.
http://www.flatearthkayaksails.com/ – The most popular airfoil sail in the UK at present.