Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Three of a Kind

An amazingly beautiful December day had us (Ed, Geth, JF, Justine and me) choose to go to Porth Dafarch for paddling Penrhyn Mawr. With near springs and an easterly wind we did not put our hopes up too high. But with a tiny bit of swell PM was magic. After PM died down we took the scenic rockhopping route towards North Stack. North Stack race was messy; more for 'rodeo' than for surfing. At only 14:30, daylight was already starting to fade when we paddled towards South Stack race. Magic again; long and fast runs.

I tried to remember again how it was when I first visited Anglesey in 2000 for the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium. Totally new to tide-races I could not even get my kayak to point into the flow at North Stack before being swepped downstream sideways. South Stack race only came many years later. In Penrhyn Mawr it was the local paddlers that showed what was possible. So I tried, swam lots, tried more and harder, rolled, learned more and still learning. Thank you for all the great runs together!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On the grid again

It has been a very active two weeks for me. First I was on a Wilderness First Responder course in Scotland. A full-on week of intensive classes daily from 08:45 until 21:00; with breakfast before and the shortest of lunches and dinners inbetween.

Last week I spent a week on-board a yacht for a Competent Crew / Day Skipper course around Anglesey with some very interesting and challenging conditions... The few moments off AND with internet I could not be bothered other than essential e-mailing. More about those courses at a later date.

Saturday in Anglesey with a georgeous sunny and windless day. What else then the Skerries? I joined Tavy, Misha, Geth, Rachel & Paul for a paddle to the Skerries from Cemlyn and back.

@Peddelpraat WKC
I hope you all had a productive meeting for next years' Peddelpraat club trip calender! This is only the second time I had to miss this annual meeting in more than 15 years.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Day & Night Skipper

My upcoming sea kayaking trip with a team led by Justine Curgenven on the Antarctic Peninsula in February 2017 involves 3 to 5 days on the sailing yacht Spirit of Sydney out of Ushuaia and back.

I am not sure how I will cope with Drake Passage and life on a 60 ft. sailboat with a total crew of 9 people and watch duties. So I signed up for a Competent Crew / Day Skipper course with Plas Menai. While sailing and life on board would be new for me, at least the area would be familiar.

The week started with a lot more 'excitement' than I could ever have imagined. First day 10:50 AM storm warning for the Irish Sea was NE 9 increasing 10 imminent. Andy was our (Cezar and I) instructor on the Menai III. Despite the forecast we headed out of Port Dinorwic to go through the Swellies. I knew that the Menai Strait was fairly safe in almost any weather, but how far would Andy take us... The Swellies navigation (on motor) was quite familiar, allthough I now learned the transits that make the passage a piece of cake for a 'big' boat, even in this weather.

Once past the Suspension Bridge it was difficult to see (literally) where this could go. Slashing horizontal cold rain in our faces and eyes and a solid gray horizon. We returned and tried to pick-up a mooring south of Port Dinorwic, but the very strong wind, and possibly our limited experience, prevented a succesfull hooking-up to the mooring. So back in Port Dinorwic just in time for the tidal window would close for using the lock there. That meant for the next day again an afternoon start...

Tuesdays 24 hour forecast was 'only' Northerly 6 to gale 8, occasionally severe gale 9 at first in west, veering Northeast 4 or 5 later. This day we headed south towards Abermenai Point, crossing Caernarfon Bar and possibly along the west coast of Anglesey to Holyhead. Not knowing how this would go I had put my Kokatat dry-suit on; at least one thing less to worry about...

I mentioned to Andy that I was happy with my navigation all the way up to South Stack, but that we would hit South Stack & North Stack race against us mid-tide. And by-the-way, from Llandwynn Island onwards it would be in darkness. My thought was that Andy would anchor for the night at Llanddwyn. We continued sailing close-haul all the way to South Stack.

Feeling a bit queasy I did not appreciate the tasks that Andy gave me: to go below deck to log our position. While Cezar kept us on a very steady course. Also all the sailing terminology was new for me and had me mentally focussed and strained on the various sailing tasks we helped to perform. And this all on top of my anxiety of how we would manage from South Stack onwards. In daylight in my sea kayak I would exactly know what and how; even in this wind. Appreciating the cup of tea Andy offered me on approach of Rhoscolyn, I concluded that I could have felt much, much worse.

We dropped sail in Abrahams' Bossom (safety-lined-up) and Andy took the wheel passing close by South Stack; avoiding the race. A very familiar area for me in a sea kayak, but not on a yacht. When I could see the harbour light off the Holyhead breakwater and when I thought we had the worst behind us we hit North Stack race... Now it felt good that it was dark that I could not see the waves... Andy gave me another task: to inform Port Control via VHF of our arrival and route. Focussing on communications, Port Control asking questions, while it is difficult to stay in the seat. I found out that what is not locked into cupboards is flying about in the cabin... Thinking and acting takes a bit more time. As soon as we rounded the breakwater it was flat-calm and at 21:45 we moored in Holyhead Marina; closing traffic. My first day of sailing.

The next day we stayed in Holyhead harbor for dock manouvering, mooring and sailing using all daylight hours, learning to feel the wind.

Because of the wind direction we returned to Port Dinorwic via the West Coast again. Now during day time arriving at Port Dinorwic spot-on 17:00. A georgeous sailing day.

I am a bit more prepared now on how my body and mind reacts to sailing 'rough' seas and in darkness and life on-board a yacht.