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By Erik Rasmussen
  • M112 of 2017
    Kings Reach & Lambeth Reach - River Closure - New Year's Eve Fireworks & Light Display
  • M111 of 2017
    Cancellation of M106 & M107 of 2017

Anglesey – September 2014

The Paddler’s Return on Anglesey is my kind of pub – the kind where you arrive knowing nobody, and leave feeling like a regular who knows everyone. So no one seemed surprised as I worked my way round the bar asking locals if they were from Chelsea.

Not that I had much choice. It was my first outing as a club member. All I knew about my fellow weekend paddlers was that there were six of us, and Rob was organiser. It wasn’t long, however, before I was at a table with Alex and Fiona who had already been paddling. We were joined by Geors looking fresh from a day clambering up mountains. Finally, Rob and Sally turned up, looking rather wearier after the drive from London.

Introductions over, the weekend began to take shape. We agreed on a 10.30am start. What a civilised hour! And what a relief! I was not going to be outshone by a bunch of seriously hardcore paddlers. And so it proved. Fiona set the tone when she suggested we all say what we wanted from the weekend. Good company, enjoyable birdlife, and a general potter topped her agenda. Nobody disagreed.

We launched at noon to catch the tide flooding east, and left with the vast Wylfa nuclear power station behind us. Stay together, Rob advised. The advice hardly seemed necessary. The sea was placid.

It wasn’t long, however, before paddling got tougher; the current to our surprise was against us. We would not reach the derelict brickworks where we hoped to have lunch. Over our shoulders a pair of porpoises arcing among the waves failed to generate much interest. As we plunged up and down, we bunched closer and concentrated on staying upright in a sea that had become bigger, bouncier and more difficult.

By the time we found a spot for lunch – eked out by blackberries foraged by Fiona and Geors – the breather felt long overdue. A look at the map showed we had come all of two miles. Just as well we hadn’t been racing.

The paddle back was gentler, and we had time to poke into caves and mess about on the waves that surged between the rocks. But again the sea threw up a surprise, and we found ourselves battling to pass an overfall that stretched well out from the corner of the bay where we had left the cars. Hugging the cliff would have been the easy option, but fishermen perched on the rocks had got their first; we had to stay off-shore and fight the current.

And suddenly it was over. The waves flattened and we were back in our bay with time to relax and look around. Playtime! A kingfisher shimmered by and I heard the oohs and ahhs. With the water warmer than I’ve known it all summer, practicing rolls and getting in the water for rescues was a pleasure. The 200 yards back to the shore were the slowest part of the day.

That evening back in the Paddler’s Return Alex, happy owner of two Rockpool boats, was deep in conversation over the shape of the perfectly designed kayak with Rockpool boss Mike Webb, out for an evening in his local.

Later we were joined by Jim Krawiecki, author of the Welsh Sea Kayaking guidebook (known to its fans, he cheerfully told me, as Jimski’s Book of Lies). We had all puzzled over the vagaries of the tides but Jim assured us there was no puzzle; we had been struggling against a huge eddy. If only we had read his book, he said, we could have stayed offshore. The tide really would have been with us, and our day would have been much less strenuous. Valuable information. But somehow it didn’t seem to matter.

Sunday was spent on Anglesey’s south coast. I wondered if we might head for the tiderace at Penrhyn Mawr which would have meant an even tougher and more difficult day. But Rob lead us the other way along the coast. The day was to be short. London was calling

Rockhopping proved lively enough for helmets to emerge from hatches, and we had a return crossing of a mile or so. And that was the weekend done – my baptism as a Chelsea kayak club member.

I’ve now got Jim’s book and am looking forward to the next chapter.

 

Jonathan

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