4 April 2015, Rhoscolyn – a sea farers paradise?

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Ynys Traws guarding the entrance to Borthwen, Rhoscolyn

On beautiful summery days Rhoscolyn is indeed a seafarers paradise.  It is one of the finest geological locations for the study of three-dimensional fold geometries. It also harbours a wealth of marine Biodiversity sustained by the clean waters of the Irish Sea.  These clean waters are the product of the strong tidal streams flowing, twice daily, to and from the North Atlantic.  Rhoscolyn is highly exposed to these tidal currents which often provide seafarers with additional energy to propel their vessels on coastal journeys.

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Rockhopping through the impressive Geology of Rhoscolyn

Rhoscolyn is also renowned for it’s rock climbing.  The climbing route known as “Icarus” (HVS, 5a) is the most popular route on the wall at Porth Gwalch.

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Porth Gwalch Wall.  The route “Icarus” is the most red coloured corner on the right

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Climbers silhouetted above the cliff

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Rhoscolyn Head’s cave

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Rounding Rhoscolyn Head

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Narrow inlet between Rhoscolyn Head and Porth Saint

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Bwa Gwyn, White Arch

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Bwa Du, Black Arch

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Phil Clegg of Sea Kayaking Anglesey near Porth Y Garan

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Sea Kayaking Anglesey clients rockhopping

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Using the tidal stream to return efficiently to Rhoscolyn

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Sheffield Canoe Club at Rhoscolyn Beacon, Ynysoedd Gwylanod

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Spot the seals at Rhoscolyn Beacon, Ynysoedd Gwylanod

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Grey Seals, Halichoerus grypus, at Rhoscolyn Beacon, Ynysoedd Gwylanod

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Cymyran Bay with the Lleyn Peninsula mountains on the horizon

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Returning to Borthwen

In poor weather the Rhoscolyn area can quickly turn treacherous, often due to the action of the wind on the strong tidal stream.  There are a great many examples of seafarers getting into difficulties in these waters. Early in the twentieth century a particularly tragic incident occurred. In December 1920 the “Timbo” steamship got into difficulties on its passage from Liverpool to Ireland.  Following a period  sheltering gales in Holyhead harbour, the “Timbo” resumed it’s journey westward.

On passing South Stack, it was again struck by westerly gales, which pushed the steamship shorewards. The “Timbo” soon drifted past Rhoscolyn Beacon, whereupon thirteen men in Rhoscolyn’s lifeboat launched and fought for three hours to intercept the steamship.  On the fifth attempt a rope was successfully thrown from the lifeboat and attached to the “Timbo”. This success was shortlived and the line was broken. Recognising that the rescue attempt was now turning into a fight for survival, the lifeboat was turned to shore, adjacent to Llanddwyn Island, in a bid to escape the chaos of the sea. Soon after turning a huge wave capsized the lifeboat, throwing the crew into the sea.  Five of the Rhoscolyn men lost their lives.

Meanwhile, on the “Timbo” five of the crew of eight abandoned ship in their own lifeboat. This small lifeboat also capsized, resulting in the death of four of its crew.  The “Timbo” made landfall at Dinas Dinlle beach, sustaining remarkably little damage. It was even eventually refloated and returned to service for a while before becoming shipwrecked on Carreg y Trai reef. near Abersoch. This time all of the crew escaped unharmed.

Rhoscolyn Lifeboat Station was disbanded in 1929. Today the local seas are guarded by the National Coastwatch Institute from the old Coastguard lookout. Trearddur Bay Lifeboat is now the closest RNLI base. They are both local reminders that the seas around Rhoscolyn can quickly change from being a “sea farers paradise” into a very challenging environment.

Paddling today were: Richard, Paul and Geth.

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