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Bardsey Island by Colin Hayward

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“On Saturday 21st July 2018 a brave group of seven LCC sea kayakers made the pilgrimage to Bardsey Island led by Mark Pawley. Setting out from the beach at Aberdaron at 1000hrs on the dying ebb tide, we quickly covered the 2.5km to the headland at Pen y Cil  from where you can stare across Bardsey sound to the Island itself and also assess conditions for the crossing before committing to it. The wind was fresh (F4) Northerly so the sea was far from smooth, but the swell was reasonable. The dying ebb was still running and producing a few white tops, but everybody was eager to make the crossing and we set a ferry glide angle to land us directly under the steep cliffs on the East coast of the Island. Andy Garland led off and Mark took a shepherding position keeping an eye on our progress. We made good steady progress across the sound through the slightly choppy but predictable tide race. On the way across we had a very good and clear sighting of a Rissos dolphin with its distinctively large pointed dorsal fin and light colouring. The crossing was executed with no dramas, but there were a few sighs of relief when the island was reached, and some shelter was found from the sideways waves.

After reaching Bardsey, the plan was to circumnavigate it anticlockwise during the final hour of the ebb and reach the safe harbour of Cafn Enlli  on the lower East side as the tide turned and the flood kicked in. We would then take time off the water to rest and explore the island during the flood tide and put back on again around the final hour or so of the flood to give a relatively simple ferry glide crossing back to the mainland, reaching it at slack water and then gaining any assistance from the new ebb back to Aberdaron.

The first section of the circumnavigation was around the Northern headlands of Trwyn y Gorlech and Penrhyn Gogor. Both headlands were kicking up small tide races which demanded concentration but again no dramas. Easing down the West coast with a following sea we made good progress round to the slipway at Cafn Enlli and landed at 1230hrs accompanied by dozens of grey seals which call this magical place home. After a quick change into dry clothes and after Karl had made a full cooked dinner on his portable kitchen, we were all keen to explore the island, so we set off in search of the resident population (and the hope of a brew). On reaching the small farm and café, we found the islanders busy shearing the sheep, but they welcomed us and made tea and coffee for us despite being very busy with real work!!

After lunch we decided to climb the island’s mountain called Mynydd Enlli (167m) to get a view back across Bardsey sound to the mainland. The vista was absolutely spectacular, and we felt very privileged to have made the journey to this very special place. On the summit we saw the burrows of the Manx Shearwater, a rare, mysterious, nocturnal sea bird. We descended via the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and made preparations to relaunch around 1630hrs.

There was still at least 

an hour of flood tide left but surface conditions were very good, so we set out at a ferry glide angle facing the two small islands in Aberdaron bay called Gwylan fawr and Gwylan bach. However, it was surprising to us all that the flood tide was still running so strong and in order to make progress across the sound, it was necessary to open the angle and head towards the cliffs. After a good strong effort, we reached the other side and regrouped only about 0.5km off target but in a nice back eddy allowing progress down the coast back to Pen y Cil just as slack water and the relative calm of Aberdaron bay arrived.  

The trip had been planned and executed perfectly by Mark and it was an amazing experience for us all”