Shrewsbury School

DofE: Gold kayaking trip by James Halliday (G LVI)

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Having arrived on Sunday evening, having been in Edinburgh for MUN, we were woken by the combination of the youth hostel’s dog, alarms and Major Billington at 7am. After a lovely cooked breakfast we prepared lunch, packed our kit and were on the road by 9. The day was designed to be a training day for us to practice longer paddling on the sea and perfecting strokes and map reading. Our day started by heading to Innis Dolas (apologies for the spelling), a small rocky outcrop about 1.5 miles off the coast of north Anglesey. The island is home to a small group of seals and a lot of birds. Our instructor, Pat, said the seals were quite inquisitive and we should keep quiet. So as a silent group of 9 sea kayakers approached the island we began to see heads bobbing up and down in the waves, and then a tail. The seals became more and more inquisitive but then they all suddenly didn’t like any of us. As we stopped for a break next to the island Pat was lucky enough to have a close encounter with a seal, nearly tipping him out of the boat but our hopes were not to come to fruition. We continued to paddle on our route, a quick stop for lunch at 12 and then back on the water to catch the tide. Towards the end of the day Sam Ansloos and I were becoming more and more anxious. We had been warned that we needed to go in to prove we were able to survive, so as 4 o’clock came around the tension was clear on Sam’s and my faces. If you have ever been to a beach in Wales you will know that the water is cold, bitterly cold, even in the unusually hot sun that Anglesey experienced in late March. After a dry down and a kit packed up we headed back. We finished the day with route planning for the following day.  

Tuesday began much like Monday - alarms, dogs and Major B. Today we would be paddling expedition-style. Our route started about 10 miles from the youth hostel which would also be our campsite for the night, so overall the group was optimistic about the day ahead. After cramming the hatches of the boats with sleeping bags, cookers and a lot of food, we set off. Our route traces the north coast of the island, with a long stretch hand railing the RAF base, RAF valley. The day was a tropical 16°C, the sea was still bitterly cold and planes were screeching past every 2 minutes with everything from rescue helicopters to Hawk T1As, the planes used by the Red Arrows. The actual trip finished in a rather idyllic bay surrounded by small cottages and dinghies resting in the bay. We spent the afternoon practising emergency scenarios, until we were hit by our own emergency - a nose bleed a sea. After the near-death experience we hauled all of our kit, including the kayaks(!), up the 800m path to the camp site. The weather was glorious, to the extent that the majority of the group were wearing shorts into the early evening! After a tiring day we hit the hay for a night out under canvas.

Wednesday brought the expectation of another day of travel, but the reality turned out that we would not be kayaking during the day but would instead be visiting the coast guard centre for Anglesey. The talk, given by the second in command at the centre, explained what happens in various events. The scenarios ranged from a child being lost on the beach to how to calculate the drift pattern of someone who is wearing a life jacket but is clinging to a bit of wood and how a search would proceed. The talk reassured us that if anything bad did happen to us, the coast guard would be on hand to help us out. The day finished with the group planning our final expedition to the Caledonian canal in Scotland, due to talk place in half term.

James Halliday

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