Even the Seagulls were cold…. by Richard Janes

Up to now (17th Jan) it’s been a very mild winter over here in North Wales. The hills have been bare and our crampons are definitely rusting.
Today was different! Time was needed to scrape the windscreen in the dark of 0730 as I left home in Llan Ffestiniog. Snow showers chased the van as I climbed over the hills and I felt grateful for having recently fitted ‘winter’ tyres. The Dawn was glorious! Snow covered hills of Eryri, glowing pink in the first light.

Why, oh why have we planned to go paddling and not heading for the hills today?
Wind Northerly. No messing, straight off the Arctic (F5+) dropping steadily during the day. We headed to Trearddur Bay and a plan to paddle South with the last of the ebb and wind. Play around Rhoscolyn Beacon and return with the flood and well, the Northerly wind should have dropped by then.
We should have known better as we watched a gull going for a wet landing. Toes in, an odd feather and whoosh!! He’d cleared off to a dry rock to squark on a pile of pelvetia, like only seagulls can and to watch other idiots on the sea. Er,.. That’d be us. 

Getting into drysuits was purgatory. Frozen fingers, jamming zips along with serious questions of sanity, eventually saw us launching onto a slate grey sea. A bit of effort and circulation began to return, at least to most parts. …

Conditions were brilliant! Swell, around a metre or so along with wind blown waves generated glorious lively conditions around the rocks and reefs. “Could we land here?” , “how might we manage a rescue there?” .. “Let’s give that a go!”  Great opportunities to challenge, test and consider. 

The ‘Beacon’ soon appeared and whilst very early into the flood tide, it seemed wrong not to pay our respects. Too early for the race.

Landing on ‘lunch’ beach (never learned the name after decades of paddling), I shivered whilst Paul enjoyed his Sushi and egg mayonnaise, our rain hoods drumming to the beat of continuous, heavy hail.  My hummus seriously wanted chips (lots). 

Launching was only possible after sweeping the slush from the cockpit and seats. Seal cold, we paddled hard out to the Beacon race. The sun came out and the waves were big! Sadly, not square enough for our lustful (surfing) desires so we headed North looking for the roughest water and playtime. Beautiful, breaking water around reefs and slots fed our adrenaline need. The wind had listened to the forecast and we paddled back over a flat sea, rolling swell continued to make the rocks and reefs interesting and a playful seal rather took the whatnot as we pondered a ‘rock hop’

Using the excuse of failing light, we headed back to Trearrdur Bay. Landed and sorting kit, we both noticed lack of (any) feeling in toes and somewhat useless fingers. Good job we hadn’t needed to fire a flare.

Sorting kit and loading boats maybe the worst part of the day. But what a brilliant day! Warmth, hot coffee and the usual erudite conversation of the pub finished a fabulous day. Hope the seagull has warmed up ? 

Sea kayaking in the Winter!

What brought us out this winters day,
From a place so warm and safe?
What brought us out this winters day,
To wind blasted eyes and face.
What takes us from a working life
Banal, we earn our pay,
To soaking clothes and salten lips,
Hands, seal-cold with spray?
What brought us out this winters day,
Wind whipping from the North.
The sea a violent turmoil,
White chargers to the Bay.
What tempts us out on such a day,
To the cold brought from the deep?
In these waters life is found,
And memories long to keep.
Why go out this winters day,
Sea the colour of slate?
To play with friends in waves and tide,
At Natures Loom to be
Soaking wet and freezing cold,
At home with the living sea.

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