On Sunday 27 August P&H dealer Manu Redureau, of Bekayak, Brest, France, joined me for a blast around the Stacks. This trip also gave Manu the opportunity to try out the Delphin MKII Corelite X in rough water conditions.
Our journey took us from Porth Dafarch to North Stack and back – similar to the route shown below from the ‘Welsh Sea Kayaking: Fifty Great Sea Kayak Voyages’ book. We enjoyed surf and rough water at Penrhyn Mawr, followed by some small surf at South Stack before lunch on the rocks in Gogarth Bay – the seal pupping season from August to November precluded us from using the beaches. After lunch we returned to Porth Dafarch by closely following the coastline and exploring lots of channels, arches, caves and rock gardens. The journey was both fun and a great work out. Thanks for a great day out Manu!
“Where to go, where’s the fun?” The spoken introduction to so many paddling days. “And not the fear?” …..Unspoken, unless the obvious, guaranteed outcome of a plan.
Today was a more difficult decision. The West Coast seemed a good idea, based on the prevailing wind but which part? Rhoscolyn is a lovely area but we figured the outer race would be exposed to the wind and actually, not likely to be doing very much. Penrhyn Mawr was predicted to start running around 1530. Would it be fun before beer time?
Being decisive decision makers, we drove to Trearddur and Porth Dafarch to ‘have a look’. With an offshore wind, the ocean looked flat, and after the Mediterranean blue of earlier in the week, when Paul and I were playing (Ed working), decidedly grey!
Now, young Ed is a clever lad (youth) and came up with the idea to rock hop along the coast to Penrhyn Mawr and incorporate a skills session. Rocky landings, rescues etc followed by a late lunch and more rescues in the race. Paul and I had obviously been thinking about this whilst desperately trying to digest a massive Truckstop bacon sandwich. Great idea! Wish I had brought my Drysuit and not ‘separates’ (Ah, ha! …now I know Ed’s cunning behind the plan) But to his credit, the youth had a good idea.
At Porth Dafarch we bumped into Dave Southern and the Shrewsbury Gang along with a very tanned (just back from Spain, surely he’s too young to join us retirees?) Jim Krawiecki.
With a slow start (still trying to digest that bacon butty), we left the beach empty as we glided out of the Bay with a tail wind, pretending our forward paddling had really improved.
Porth Dafarch was once used as a port for packet boats to Ireland when the port at Holyhead was unavailable. Close in, one can appreciate the splendour of the rocks hereabouts. The Geological map showing these to be rocks of the South Stack Formation. Heavily folded sandstones and siltstones with folding which relates to the overturned limb of a major anticline that dominates this coastline. It is a stunning place!
However, it pays to keep a look out around here as rock can quickly change to lead as it wings its way to sea, attached to a string of feathered hooks one end and a hopeful, sometimes stroppy fisherman at the other.
Ed was now eager to exit his boat and you shouldn’t hold back youth, so we discussed and planned rocky landings. We moved onto extricating a swimmer from a gully, short tows and towing a swimmer with his boat. Paul towing Ed who was lunged on his back deck, then in the water, legs down and finally in the water kicking ie a more horizontal position. Least resistance and easiest towing was lunged on back deck or holding back of the boat kicking, which is more dynamic than just holding on and also helps keep the casualty warm if he/she is fit enough. A technical point; the dynamics of this rescue may change if roles were reversed. There are different coefficients of drag between Loffil legs and Pauls (shorter) Celtic legs.
Erudite and intellectual conversation dominated lunch.
Penrhyn Mawr had now begun and further built as we practiced rescues and rolling in the race. All this good and sensible stuff faded away as the kid inside took over. Surfing and blasting down the waves! Now, Penrhyn Mawr can be much, much bigger. But these waves were big enough to be fun and friendly enough to allow ‘cocky’ experimentation on the wave. Except, I struggle to get over my emotional attachment to the paddle whilst taking pictures when the waves become more interesting. Perhaps I should see a Councillor? I blame my Mother.
Strangely, we met the Shrewsbury Gang and Jim in the pub after.
PS Dave, sorry we broke the unwritten rule of husband/wife teams and scoffed most of Sue’s chips before you had a chance!
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.