The Swellies: Sea Kayaking with Sarah

In which our redoubtable Sarah Horton continues her marine adventures in pointy boats.

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It is with much enthusiasm that I take my second training course in sea kayaking in Anglesey. Having done my introduction course with Stuart Leslie at Sea Kayaking Anglesey in May, as posted here, I am now in Anglesey again to do my ‘IntrOmediate’ sea kayaking course with Roger Chandler of Coastal Spirit.

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By coincidence I am in a similar kayak, and the same colour as last time – a Romany Surf designed by Nigel Dennis, made here in Anglesey. I am comfortable in this boat.

(Editor’s note: Those of us who remember the day Sarah went shopping for her basic kayaking kit can clearly see the inference here that a green Romany Surf boat is now very much in her shopping cart.)

We are going to be spending our weekend on the Menai Straits. The weather forecast is for windy and unsettled conditions, so Roger tells us we’ll be able to find shelter in this stretch of water.

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We are a group of four women, and our coach is Roger, pictured above in the lime green kayak, with Ali who is in a lovely boat we all coveted, as the paintwork is sparkly.

It rains most of the first day, but spirits are high. We spend time reinforcing effective forward paddling and turning. We also look at balance, you can see Ruth here, in the red boat, carefully maintaining balance and getting out of the kayak whilst on the water. I am watching this thinking there’s absolutely no chance I’ll ever manage to do that. And Roger is casually sitting side saddle on his boat as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

We spend time under the bridge arches of the Menai Bridge, looking at current and flow and observing what it looks like and feels like. And lots of practising our turns. Roger is an excellent coach, we all get lots of good support, and he also takes photos!

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We end the first day happy, if wet. This is us – Ali, Ruth, Helen (with her new orange kayak), and me.

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The next day the weather is slightly better, but wind is forecast for later in the day, so we stay around the same area and go into slightly more challenging waters. Roger has arranged for some filming to be done from the shore, and the guys take this photograph of us.

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Having played here for a while it’s time to move on, and Roger suggests that we carry our boats to the other side of the bridge, so we can move into ‘the swellies’.

I am surprised how easy Roger makes this all seem, but with some teamwork we get all the kayaks across the rocky ground and are able to set off again into the water which is between the two bridges – the Menai Bridge and the Britannia Bridge.

The Menai Bridge was completed in 1826, designed by Telford, and the Britannia Bridge, which you can see behind Ruth in the photo below, was opened in 1850 and carries both road and rail traffic.

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Here we are in some flow and current and learn more about how to cross this sort of water and how the kayak responds, and how to use our new turning skills.

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It’s hard and hungry work, and we break for lunch. Nice to be able to sit down today, yesterday it was a ‘standing in the rain’ quick lunch break.

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We leave what I now know are ‘the swellies’ and the seaweedy shallow waters, which I love…

… and as the tide is now in are able to kayak under the bridge.

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And then time for more balance work. This is Ali who does a very well executed balance and self rescue.

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And, I manage to do this balance manoeuvre, carefully guided by Roger. I am thrilled!

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So our day two comes to an end, the tide is high, the wind is getting up as forecast and we make our way through some choppy waters to the slipway.

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It was a great two days. Thanks to Roger and my kayaking chums Ruth, Helen and Ali.

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I’ve not planned to leave Anglesey until the next day, so I spend some time the next morning having a look around Menai Bridge. It seems strange to be looking at the water which now seems familiar, from the unfamiliar vantage point of the land.

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I discover that the slipway we used is called Princess Pier.

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The completion of Telford’s Menai Bridge in 1826 completed the London to Holyhead Road, and also brought prosperity to Menai.

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The bridge looms over the town.

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From the bridge I can see many features of the straits that I am familiar with from the water.

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Being close up to the bridge from the water and now from standing on it I can appreciate the engineering feat it is.

Too soon it’s time for me to leave Anglesey, and I always have a little pang of sadness when I do, but know that I’ll be back.

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When I left Anglesey in May I knew I would be back to kayak, and I have, and I will again. I am looking now at my next IntrOmediate course, possibly in Pembrokeshire or Cornwall.

For this trip I stayed with Franki at a lovely Air BnB in Beaumaris. Thank you Franki for making my stay so comfortable.

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