My first trip around The Stacks – Penelope Coneybeare

 Amy Goolden

“So what’ve you been doing, Mum?” This is younger daughter. She’s washing up while she chats.

“Well I went to the dentist and…”

“No I mean what Interesting stuff have you done?”

“Well”…a moment’s excited hesitation ”..we paddled the Stacks…”

“Is that interesting?” And I can hear she’s bored.

“Well… there were some climbers there. We were in this big cave and there were loads of climbers. Tiny climbers. On a massive wall”

“Yeah?” Still bored.

“Dreaming of white horses? Or something.”

“A Dream of White Horses?” She explodes “But that’s an icon! That’s just one of the best climbs in the world!”

Well, so is paddling the Stacks. If Anglesey is recognised as one of the finest sea paddling destinations in the world then the Stacks are “the jewel in Anglesey’s paddling crown…North Stack, South Stack, Penrhyn Mawr. Names that trip off the tongue like honey.”  That’s according to the UK Rivers Guide. Paddlers go quiet and reverential as they talk of muscular tides, gnarly tide races, massive overfalls. This is where only the big boys and girls can go.

The first time I’d hoped to paddle the Stacks was in July 2016. I was lucky enough to be one of a small group of women attempting to circumnavigate Anglesey with Justine Curvengen.  Justine was awesome. We all made lasting friends and developed as paddlers. But the Wind Gods were very fractious. We didn’t circumnavigate the island and we didn’t “do” the Stacks. The next attempt was to have been in May 2017 with Geth Roberts. Would have been good but the wind was humungous. And then illness struck and my horizons shrunk to what I could see from a hospital bed and then from my sofa.  The Stacks started to feel much, much bigger than me. Amanda and Anne Marie, my friends from the Justine trip, had done it but I never would.

But, thanks to Richard Janes’s coaching and confidence in me I got back off the sofa and into my boat. I found I could do more than I had ever thought. The Stacks started to be somewhere I could dream of once again.

Thanks to many a Wet Winter Wednesday with Paul Williams and Richard I have found that surfing is not actually beyond me. I always loved being out in big wind and sea but now I know how to use my body to better effect, how to connect with my boat, how to paddle assertively and how to read the water and understand why the wind can seem to maliciously change direction as you make it round a headland. Whoever would have thought that wind flows and eddies, just as water does.

When Richard, Amy Goolden, Lyn Mellina and I set off from Porth Dafarch for this iconic trip it was a quiet blue day. A silken sea merged into a soft blue sky. In the distance the mountains of Snowdonia were cushioned in sea mist. Penrhyn Mawr offered a little playful distraction, that’s all. Not so much a wild beast, more of a kitten. At Richard’s insistence we took it slowly, very slowly, soaking up the landscape. In these conditions the kayaker’s privileged view of the drama of the ancient folded rocks is heightened. The story the rocks tell unfolds before you. The folded fine silvery green cliffs between Porth Dafarch and South Stacks, described by the geologist Edward Greenly as “unsurpassed in Britain”, are simply enthralling. And then South Stacks itself with guillemots thronging the layers and galleries of the rocks and making impetuous mass forays into the sea around us.

 Penelope Coneybeare

And then, in silence, we floated in a cave with the massive proportions of a cathedral watching tiny climbers dreaming of white horses. The light cascaded though majestic arches into pearly green depths. It was, quite simply, awesome.

I am so very grateful that my first experience of the Stacks was on this blue day and shared with such company: Richard, Amy and Lynn. Would I take the chance to paddle it gnarly? Well yes, of course. But only in the right company.

Ynys Gybi (Holy Island) Circumnavigation, Anglesey – 17 Feb, 2018

Saturday 17 February was a sunny day with a playful swell hitting the westerly shore.  The tidal range was in the spring end of the spectrum and the wind was around force 4 from the South, backing West later in the day.  The Ynys Gybi (Holy Island) circumnavigation seemed like a good plan.

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Leaving Porthdafarch

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Rhoscolyn Head

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The Beacon

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Roger Chandler’s group on their way out to Rhoscolyn Beacon

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Borthwen

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Cymyran Straits

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RAF Valley

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Approaching Four Mile Bridge

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Entering the Inland Sea

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Stanley Embankment

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The 2 PM Ferry

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Crossing to the break water

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Holyhead Mountain

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North Stack

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South Stack tiderace

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A bit of a surf session with tired arms…

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Approaching Penrhyn Mawr

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Mini Mawr

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Back at Porthdafarch

 

 

The Delphin MKII 155 Corelite X at Penrhyn Mawr and the Stacks

Stacks map

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

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Sea kayak sailing/surfing at South Stack

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The sail was taken down for surfing steeper waves at South Stack

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The sail back up to surf closely past South Stack’s headland

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Beam reach sailing back to Porthdafarch

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South Stack with Ed and Justine 

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South Stack Surf

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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.

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Porth Dafarch to The Skerries in a surfski

DSCF2109After 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.

Porthdafarch Skerries Map

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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.

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Approaching Penrhyn Mawr

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Approaching the middle race of Penrhyn Mawr

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South Stack

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Rush hour in Holyhead Bay

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The Skerries

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Departing The Skerries

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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.

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The rough journey back south

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North Stack

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Taking a rest at South Stack

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Sailing home to Porth Dafarch

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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!

Geth

www.seakayakingwales.com

 

5 September, The Stacks, Anglesey

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More fun sea kayaking around The Stacks on a beautiful sunny day.  Neap flooding tide with westerly light wind and swell producing some great surfing conditions.

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Justine, Ed and Paul at Penrhyn Mawr tiderace.

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Ed.

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Paul.

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Geth.

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Justine taking pictures at Penrhyn Mawr.

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South stack tide race providing lively surf on the flood.

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North Stack tiderace.

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Rich at North Stack.

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Paul enjoying the journey back to Porth Dafarch from North Stack.

Photographs provided by Justine.

1 August 2015, The Stacks, Anglesey

A selection of photographs from our trip from Porth Dafarch to North Stack and back.  Spring tide, ebbing, SW force 4 wind.

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South Stack Lighthouse on Ynys Lawd.

Stacks map

http://www.canoekayak.co.uk/userfiles/file/08Stacks.pdf

For a route description click on the above link (taken from Jim Krawiecki & Andy Biggs book – Welsh Sea Kayaking Fifty Great Sea Kayak Voyages.

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Penrhyn Mawr at high water.

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Tidal rapids at the mouth of Abraham’s Bosom.

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Tidal rapids at the mouth of Abraham’s Bosom.

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Fantastic channels to explore.

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Climbers at Castell Elen.

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Cave/arch just beyond Ynys Lawd/South Stack.

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Paul exiting the arch.

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Recently collapsed rock covering a channel in Gogarth Bay.

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Gogarth Bay.

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Wen Zawn – famous for the Dream of White Horses (graded HVS 5b) rock climb.

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North Stack and Parliament Cave.

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Green waves at North Stack.

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Yippee!!

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Rough water on leaving North Stack.

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Welcome to South Stack tiderace.

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Even better surfing waves.

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Yippee!!

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Time to leave the race.

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Porpoise spotting off Abraham’s Bosom.

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Returning home through Penrhyn Mawr shoreline at low tide.

Paddling today were: Paul, Ed and Geth.