Wednesday, June 04, 2008

canoeing at trefor

It was a bit of a shock that I realised that I had not been out once this year, in fact the Clipper had’nt touched water since the Symposium in Bala last October!

Life had got in the way again and what with every weekend seemingly being taken up with work, house matters or the flu, any chance I had to get out was restricted to last minute plans for heading out on coastal walks.

But this last weekend dawned bright and sunny and for once there was no wind to speak of. Ditching the south coast as being too full of idiots on jetskis [the last gasp of the whitsun half-term was still in full swing] I opted for the rather more craggy and less frequented north. The tide would be out during the day, but it was neapy so it was’nt a huge problem; if anything it would be more fun as I could get into some of the sea caves and in amongst the rocks.

I wrote a blog on just this a couple of years back, but that was back when I had the 13’ boat, the 16’ Clipper had’nt been out here before. Also in favour was the fact that Trefor beach is hard pack sand, so the car can be driven right down to the waters edge for unloading, a fact not lost on half a dozen sit on top users already there when I arrived.

I got some ‘you must be crazy taking that in the sea’ looks from a few, but one old guy spent a a couple of minutes looking my canoe over – it transpired that he had used one identical in Canada years ago.

I quickly loaded up with the usual gear, plus the wood gas stove, which I wanted to ‘field test’ at some point.

It was approaching low water slack tide as I exited the harbour and what was left of the ebb wafted me along to the west. I was trying out my ‘new’ grey owl paddle, bought at the symposium last year and only now getting wet for the first time. It was some 6” longer than the Langford otter tails I like and has a spade blade which grabs the water really well. The first few minutes went well, then I began to realise that it was just too long as a solo paddle. I changed to the Langford and the difference was immediately noticeable. The paddle was much easier to use, the shaft length being just right for a paddler in the middle of the boat. OK it did’nt shift as much water on each stroke, but once up to speed you forgot it was in your hands. The best £15 I’ve ever spent on fleabay, and for that I got a matched pair in maple and black walnut!

Ahead of me was a stack called ynys cachu [guano island] where large numbers of cormorants used to nest, now though it seemed to be the sole preserve of gulls

I couldn’t get to the inside gap of the largest stack so moved around it where I espied a sea cave, only accessible at this low state of tide. It was calm enough to risk going in and it was then I realised that the sea cave had outlets either side and I was in fact inside the stack – literally! All that stone above me and the beginnings of a little swell made me back out of there in a hurry!

I continued along a pretty forlorn bit of coast, all boulder beach and scree from Yr Eifl, heading for Trwyn y Gorlech and then the beach at Porth y Nant where I hoped I’d have it to myself since it’s quite difficult to reach. Porth y Nant would be my turnaround point, some 4.5 k from where I set out.

Beaching the canoe on the coarse sand beach, I found a handy driftwood log and set about firing up the stove. I got a handy rolling boil in the kettle in around 5 minutes, having charged up the stove with offcuts of softwood stacked vertically and lit up with a fragment of firelighter. This one charge boiled water for my coffee and then did my noodles, with enough left over I reckon to do a fry up and boil a litre of water to sterilise it.

As I contemplated starting back a SoT hove into view, with the same idea as me I’m sure and I vacated the beach so he could have it to himself…….. not for long though as I encountered a couple more SoTs and a Klepper Aerius heading in the same direction.

The northgoing tide was just starting up and I had a great paddle back to Trwyn y Tal, where I got back right into the rocks for a spot of pretend rock dodging and thence back to the beach…. 9km 4 hours, lovely.