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Sea Kayak Leader Sessions, Day 5 – Bull Bay by Eamon Hanlon

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Sea Kayak Leader Sessions, Day 5 – Bull Bay by Eamon Hanlon

Our penultimate sea kayak leader skills session with Dave and Fi took us to the north coast of Anglesey, with a planned trip from Bull Bay to Hells Mouth. As with previous sessions, the preceding days had been used to research weather and tide forecasts to help us decide individually where we would take the group. Other tasks included researching gear that a leader is required to carry and reviewing what we had learned on previous trips by answering a number of questions posed by Dave and Fi (‘what is a side transit’, ‘name and describe 3 symbols on a nautical chart’, ‘where within the group should the leader position themselves when rounding a headland with breaking surf’, for example). My preparation had been somewhat hampered due to time spent Googling obscure 80’s films, Scottish actresses and band lyrics – thanks to the previous trip report writer! However, the pre-planning exercises and discussions within the group during the week once again proved enormously helpfully in developing good habits for trip planning and embedding some of the knowledge shared.

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The large Arch

When Saturday arrived, stronger winds and larger swells on the west coast prevented route options on that side of the island and we had previously visited Porth Dafarch, Menai Straits, Little Orme and Puffin Island. So with an eye on off-shore winds and strong spring currents, we headed for a trip between Bull Bay and Hells Mouth with the intention of keeping close to shore where we would avoid the worst of the conditions and have an opportunity to have some fun amongst the rocks and caves. We met at the Texaco Services in Pentraeth for the usual informative briefing and review of the previous session and fuelled up on the excellent breakfast baps available from the cafe inside. 

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Soon after, we had unloaded at Bull Bay and after each taking turns to brief the group on A-rea (access & environmental conditions), B-oat (& equipment checks), C-ommunications, D-octor (medical conditions), and E-mergency (procedures), we set-off just before 1pm into the ebbing tide. There was plenty of opportunity to pop in to caves and skirt the rocks, keeping an eye out for the riskier ‘white water’ and friendlier ‘green water’ as the swells rolled in against the rocky shoreline. Seals, oyster catchers, and shags occasionally popped in to view as we paddled by. An excellent break between some rocks provided a fun overfall to play around in and further opportunity for Fi and David to hone their skills in their new kayaks.

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Each member of the group took turns in leading a section of the trip with co-ordinates to aim for and cross-check.  Dave and Fi took turns in paddling alongside the leader and we answered questions and discussed some of the background knowledge topics. After a couple of hours of paddling and hopping, we opted to continue past Porth Wen and the brickworks and stopped for lunch instead at Porth Cynfor, practising our landings and launchings. The return trip saw us crossing the bay at Porth Wen where we headed for the shoreline and rock hopped back towards Bull Bay, occasionally through some increasing waves as the now flooding tide started to interact with the opposing wind. We again passed the caves at Porth Adfan and vowed to return and explore on foot some other time. Eventually we were back at Bull Bay just as the full moon began to rise above the horizon. The de-brief was held at the Trecastell Hotel where beer mats and glasses were used to explain the effect of an emptying bay during ‘ebb hour’. Another invaluable day on the water developing skills and confidence and under thorough supervision with a great group – thanks all.


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