Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid, The Skerries – 5 Feb, 2018

Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid (Island of the Bald headed grey seal) or the Skerries.
Richard J, Paul and Steve.

What a great way to spend a cold Monday in February! HW (Liv) was 1438 (9.1m) and the flood runs until 1353. We put on at the beautiful bay of Porth Swtan (Swtan is a Whiting in Welsh) at 1225 and ferried to the Island. It’s an interesting ferry. Using transits, we could feel areas of faster/ slower water. The crossing took just under an hour. It’s always magical to arrive at the Skerries. Inquisitive seals are everywhere and the island certainly lives up to its Welsh name!
All day, the quality of light was amazing. Refractions causing distant objects to appear as if floating. However, the real ‘jewel’ of the day was an amazing view of Isle of Man. It would have been an excellent day for this crossing! But there again, all three of us were recovering from the lurgy, so maybe not.
We lingered for lunch and simply gazing at the view until cold prompted movement. Or maybe it was seeing the ebb tide increasing around Gull Rock? We paddled around the island, now feeling some considerable foce in the ebb. Another ferry took us across to Ynys y Fydlyn and one of our favourite areas of sea cliff and Coast. And so back to the vehicles.

Cemlyn to The Skerries and back on a spring ebb tide, 5 Jan 2018

A great day out with Ed for our first trip of 2018 to The Skerries.

9.68m Tide Liverpool.  SW Swell 0.8m, 10sec.  Negligible wind.

We arrived at Harry Furlough’s at 12:00 for the start of the ebbing tiderace and surfed there for one hour.


We arrived at The Skerries at 13:50, following a surf at Victoria Bank.


We departed The Skerries at 14:20, to attempt the crossing of Carmel Sound.  The ebb current was now at its strongest rate.


The Platters on lively form.



Arriving at Carmel Head’s ebb eddy, adjacent to Ynys Fydlyn, at 15:00.


Ynys Fydlyn



Rounding Carmel Head on our way back to Cemlyn at 15:20.



The view back to The Skerries.  We arrived back at Cemlyn soon after 16:00.


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


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


South Stack


Rush hour in Holyhead Bay


The Skerries


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




North Stack


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!




Sea Kayak Sailing – Enhancing The Seafaring Experience


South Pembrokeshire


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?

  • Speed/endurance/fun

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.

  • Enhanced safety

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.


More Information

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.














11 July 2015, Arctic Terns of the Skerries, Anglesey


A trip to the Skerries to visit the Artcic Tern colony.  These birds have an amazing migration story as explained in the following video.


Kathy on the crossing from Cemlyn Bay to the Skerries.



Arriving at the Skerries.


The Arctic Terns.



Paddling today were – Dave, Kathy, Richard, Paul, Mirco, Ed, Abi, Justine, Jasper and Geth