3 star sea kayaking in Menai Strait, Anglesey (Day 2 of 5)

Tuesday. I was feeling brave so decided to go with the smaller boat. We had a different instructor today – Stuart – whom I’d not met before. The wind was the strongest of the week, force 5 or more, so we chose to go to the Menai Strait to get shelter. We talked about edging to make the boat more manoeuvrable on a turn, which for the non kayaker is using your hips to tip your boat hull at an angle, but obviously stopping before you actually tip it over. He decreed that 3 out of the 4 of us, including me, were not using enough edge, especially when it got choppy. I agreed with that, and had a very good reason, namely that I was paddling the narrowest sea kayak I had ever been in in my life and was unsure how far it would edge before there was a big embarrassing splash. We had a practice in a quiet bay on the Strait and I realised the Pilgrim would go over a lot further than I thought, especially as there were cute little knee bumps on the deck which let me move the boat from one edge to another by the tiniest wiggle of my lower body. The Menai Strait is known for its ferocious tide, but we had timed it to avoid the worst. It goes from lazy around the put-in point to hurtling at high speed when the flow is funneled between the bridges. We had fun in the area between the two bridges, known as the Swellies, where there are tiny islands and confused water swirling and boiling between. Stuart demonstrated an ‘eddyline spin’ where you station half the kayak in the tidal flow, and half of the kayak in calm water, and the total effect of the water is to spin you around. If you continue paddling to keep yourself in the right position you can do a 360 degree spin on the spot with the power of the flow. I managed about 270 degrees before the wind blew me back off the eddy line faster than I could paddle back. Enormous fun though!

Water doing funny things
There was also a spot near some small rocks where the front of my kayak was being pulled one way by the flow, the back was being pushed in a different direction by a little rivulet, and the middle of the boat was in completely calm water behind the rock. Now which way do I edge to avoid capsizing? I don’t know. When in doubt, keep paddling, and eventually things will settle down. Phew.
Stuart also has a ‘party trick’ demonstration of when to lean forward vs backward in wind and tide. He shows off by climbing out of the cockpit when the boat is floating sideways in the flow of the Strait, and sitting on the bow and then the stern of the boat. The weight shift makes the kayak start turning without any paddle strokes, and point upwind and downwind respectively. We were all secretly hoping he would fall in, but the man has some balance. Respect. The day ended with some rolling practice, and I managed to roll the smaller boat using the smaller paddle first time, but things still weren’t working for Zoe.


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