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Holy Island Circumnavigation – 31st August 2023 by Eamon Hanlon

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A person in a kayak on the water Description automatically generated

Holy Island Circumnavigation – 31st August 2023

HW Liverpool 12:11 pm 9.5m
HW Stanley Embankment 13:11pm Penryhn Mawr flood 15:41pm

A message from James late Wednesday afternoon, asking if I fancied a go at the Holy Island round the following day, caught me unawares. A couple of us ‘new to paddling’ had been pondering a future trip as something to aim towards and I’d expected that to be next year. ‘No, sorry. Can’t take day off work’ was my initial response. Ten minutes later, I was leaving a frantic voicemail ‘Forget that, I’m in’. What a fantastic opportunity!

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The following morning, we found ourselves setting off from Port Darfach at 9:40 and into a south-easterly breeze towards Rhoscolyn. The waves were disrupted enough to have me alert and working for the first hour or so; not the gentle warm-up I’d pictured. The distance still to cover and knowing that I’d be paddling around North Stacks had me doubting my capabilities. However, I’ve paddled with James on a number of occasions and was confident he knew my limits and would be putting his coaching skills to good use; he also had Roger (an experienced kayaker and aspirant leader) alongside to fish me out if needed!

After turning in towards the estuary at Cymyran Strait, things calmed down and it was a serene paddle up to Four Mile Bridge, with James using his knowledge from a round last year to steer us up the main channel and avoid any grounding. Stanley Embankment was one of the critical timing points, needing us to pass through at slack water thus avoiding dangerous stoppers, and we arrived with time to spare and enjoy our snacks and drinks. Planned ferry departures from Holyhead at 2:10pm were the next hurdle and after liaising with Harbour Control, we were soon passing the breakwater before the main Irish ferries had departed.

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The next stretch took us towards North Stack and we were carried along at 5/6mph on the ebbing tide. James and Roger continued to offer tips and advice on how to get through the Stacks and reassured me that the lack of breaking waves visible at the foot of the cliffs to our left was a good sign of ‘friendly conditions’; two roaring F-35’s above and a line of whitewater on the horizon however had me feeling I was heading to battle! We kept left and the paddle through the main race/overfall was over quickly and without incident. It gave me an exhilarating first taste of tidal race and overfall conditions and much to aim for in future.

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After some cave exploration and passing South Stack, we were soon at Penrhyn Mawr, minutes before the flood tide commenced and all according to plan to avoid the tidal race here. James and Roger took the opportunity to practice a roll as we entered Dafarch, I was intent on staying dry till the end.

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It was a great day and another trip with much knowledge and skills shared and plenty identified to aim for improving. Hearing of Tim’s trip around the whole of Anglesey the following day in around 40 hours offered further inspiration and one to ponder, but definitely not this year……well maybe not this year….

Many thanks to James G and Roger Simmons.