The “Missing Years” and the importance of sea kayaking

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Those of you who remember and treasure the post on here where Sarah, the expert shopper, began gathering her kayaking kit, will rejoice in the opening statements in what follows about ‘my kayaking needs.’ Yes, she’s still shopping. But there still isn’t a pointy boat hanging up in our hallway. Not yet anyway.

But do read on. She’s having a great time out on the ocean waves. After her “missing years” she’s having the time of her life, at last x

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My latest visit to Anglesey at the end of September is for two days sea kayaking with James Stevenson of Outdoor Adventures. I spent two days with James in August when we met the friendliest seals (amongst other adventures), the post about that is here.

I enjoyed the one to one coaching with James, in fact, so much that I’m back already for some more! I arrive in Anglesey on the Sunday afternoon and go up to a shop called Summit to Sea in Valley, up near Holyhead. It’s a treasure trove for those with ‘kayaking needs’ and my birthday present this year is a pair of dry trousers. We’ll hear more about them later.

Having dealt with my kayaking needs, I then head down to Penmon Point on the far south east corner of Anglesey. The Penmon lighthouse is the distinctive black and white tower, and the red marker is Perch Rock, and Puffin Island is off this coast. James and I paddled here last time, and paddled round Puffin Island which is where we found the friendly seals.

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It’s a beautiful place. And it’s interesting to me to observe the water and the eddies, having been paddling in it.

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Today the light is strong and the sky fills up with rain clouds. I’ve chosen to come here to observe the ritual of eating the first slice of my birthday cake, given to me by my friend Jayne Lawless. Thank you Jayne. I get a cup of tea from the café and sit on the beach in peace.

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Peace. Happiness. These are simple enough wishes and expectations, but sometimes I struggle to find them. I have just turned 53, which means it is ten years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then spent several years having surgery and treatment, years I now think of as ‘missing’ as I don’t feel like I am 53. The shadows of that time linger. The birthday reminds me. But today I am happy enough that peace and happiness have returned.

This year I have found a lot of peace and happiness in my sea kayaking adventure…. I enjoy doing things on my own. I am working but I am also away a lot, Ronnie has observed that I am making up for lost time. I think this is true, time lost that can never be recovered, a future that can’t be ‘sure’, but this is good for now. For now.

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I also have another birthday gift on my person – my shoes, thank you Ronnie. They are much appreciated as I have an explore of the rocky shore, the pools and the seaweed.

seaweed

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I leave here as rain threatens. I make my way back to the small settlement of what remains of Penmon.

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There are the remains of a priory, a dovecot, a well and a church.

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The well is associated with Saint Seriol who lived in the 6th century here, but moved to a hermitage on Puffin Island. This is St Seriol’s well.

The remains of the priory provide shelter when the rain arrives. There are rainbows too, and reminders in the graveyard that it is nearly autumn.

After dissolution the Bulkeley family owned these buildings, and are still in use today, there is a private dwelling and St. Seriol’s church. The dovecot was built in around 1600. It has around 930 nesting holes – this was a privilege of wealthy landowners and nests of young pigeons provided a prized source of tender meat.

The buildings are constructed of Penman white limestone, this was quarried locally and used for buildings, such as the bridges across the Menai Strait. It was also processed in lime kilns, visible on the coast. I’d seen these on the last kayaking trip to Puffin Island and wondered what they were.

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August 2016, limekilns at Penmon

Time to leave now.

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For day one with James he says the weather forecast looks a bit rainy. I say I don’t mind as I have ‘new kit’. I’ve never participated in any activity – squash, boxing, running, yoga – where the prospect of ‘new kit’ doesn’t dramatically enhance the enjoyment of said activity. James is delighted to hear about the new kit.

So we begin our day at Trearddur Bay. From here we can head out into more open water, but find shelter in the many small bays if we need to. It looks fairly peaceful. And it’s not actually raining.

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No sooner are we on the water, it begins to rain. A lot.

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But, I smugly say, I am so dry! With my new dry trousers, plus new double layer kag (forgot to mention adding that to my shopping basket, well it was my birthday).

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We spend some time in this bay doing some technique. I manage to capsize accidentally, which is unpleasant as I am wearing a spray deck (the cover over the hatch) and forget to pull it off which makes getting out of the boat really hard, especially when you are underwater and panicking… but it’s all learning. And obviously the capsize puts my new gear thought its paces. It passes spectacularly well.

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We head out into open water.

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Making a short stop at this bay for a quick snack before heading into the swell.

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I have no photographs of the following kayaking trip we made. James has warned me that the weekend has been very windy, which means there is a lot of swell in the water. But he has seen how I managed with more complicated waters and thinks I will be fine. It is deceptive to look at the sea here, once out of the shelter of the bay, we are in very ‘complicated’ water. Not only is there a lot of swell, the water is hitting the cliffs and so we also have refraction from that. Basically, it’s very challenging. Not to James, but to me.

In terms of my ‘development’ as a sea kayaker moving into more challenging waters is something I want to do. It means that I can go further, I can go to places that might be inaccessible if I can’t cross some complicated stretches of water. But feeling ‘comfortable’ in these waters is pretty difficult.

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This gives some idea of the conditions of the water.

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After we return from our trip we have lunch and then it’s time for some more technique. James also suggests we do some rescues and capsizes. Reluctantly I agree, but it is in fact really good for my confidence. I have not capsized in choppy conditions in deep water, and have fairly dreaded this happening, but having practised it (and learnt how to remember to release my spray deck), realise that it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. But after being immersed several times, I am now starting to feel some water ingress and a little cold… so am glad when we are making our way back to the shore, with the van (and dry clothes) in sight.

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A good day.

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And time to leave Treaddur Bay.

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For day two we are starting out from Moelfre, on the east coast of Anglesey. The winds today are from the south, moving to west around lunchtime. This means the west and north of Anglesey will be too windy for us, but over here on the east we are relatively sheltered. We begin with a circuit to practice turns round the huge slipway of the new lifeboat station.

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This is the lifeboat station, photographed later in the day on our return.

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The coast of Anglesey has seen plenty of shipwrecks – on this stretch of coast the Royal Charter sank in October 1859, the ship was on route to Liverpool from Australia, and  many passengers were carrying gold mined in Australia – more history here.

Today I have been given the task of navigating, and feel quite honoured to be the map holder.

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A seal pops up as we approach Bay Ligwy, curious to see us. I am delighted but soon he/she is gone and no time to catch a photograph.

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We arrive at Bay Ligwy – and I am surprised at how ferocious the wind is now, it is on offshore wind, blowing directly at us from the shore. We have been protected from this along the cliffs. This is hard paddling for me, and my shoulders are still feeling the effects of our adventure yesterday.

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But, as in all good adventures, we arrive at this lovely beach and the sun comes out.

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And – very important to note – my feet are completely dry. One of the few things I have disliked about sea kayaking is having wet and cold feet. But not so today with my dry trousers.

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It’s sheltered here, we have our lunch and chat about life. Then it’s time to set off. By now our boats are some distance from the water as the tide has been going out. James helps me with my boat and then carries his down to the water.

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And we set off.

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Back into open water.

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We arrive back quickly as the westerly wind has arrived as predicted and is behind us, it carries us easily back to Moelfre. We take a trip around Moelfre island.

Near the lifeboat station, a monkey puzzle tree is spotted. But not recorded…

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On the cliff is this statue of Dic Evans – one of many heroes that Moelfre and its lifeboat station has produced. We paddle on.

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We spend the end of our day together doing some more technical stuff (having been so immersed in sea kayaking this year it’s been quite hard for me to process but I’m starting to consolidate things). And then it’s time to leave.

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It’s been a great two days. And here is the ‘new kit’.

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Thank you James for a splendid time. (And yes I am an advert for Peak UK kayaking gear!)

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*

Sarah went kayaking with Adventure Elements.

And stayed with Franki in Beaumaris. Thank you Franki for your hospitality.

Naturally none of the shops or organisations mentioned in this paid Sarah for their mentions. In fact she shopped appreciatively at all of them!

Happy Birthday Sarah. I get that this is a big one. For the missing years xx

One thought on “The “Missing Years” and the importance of sea kayaking

  1. robertday154

    I thought I recognised Treaddur Bay – my first ever nights under canvas were spent there on a school trip. The school I went to for my sixth form years was big on Outdoor Pursuits and in fact we had two days of sea kayaking there ourselves (though as a non-swimmer I spent my time exploring rocks and getting to grips with abstract and landscape photography). But that was more than forty years ago… (gulp)

    Reply

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