Last weekend O and I had plans to take our canoe to the Welsh coast and try it out in the sea. Plans changed however, when I saw a last minute deal at the National Mountain Sports Centre at Plas y Brenin. We were still going to the sea, but in sea kayaks rather than our canoe – and instead of making it up as we went along, we were actually going to receive instruction (and breakfast, lunch, dinner, cake and comfy beds). It was a win win situation!
We headed up to Plas y Brenin on Friday evening, after we spent the day watching some lovely friends getting married – in Chester Zoo! How cool is that?! Wedding pictures are much better with penguins in them.
Arriving at PyB at 11pm, we had just enough time to admire our extremely nice room before conking out and getting a reasonable night’s sleep. It was an early start on Saturday, began in the best way with a fry up. If you’ve not been to Plas y Brenin before, the food is noteworthy. Honestly. It’s great. Especially the cake. Mmm, cake.
After breakfast, we headed into the lecture room with everyone else there for weekend courses and after an introduction to the centre, split off into groups to meet our instructors for the weekend. There were five of us on the Introduction to Sea Kayaking course and our instructors were Glen and Jen. It make it a lot easier to remember their names, knowing they rhymed. I think people think the same when they meet me and O. (Owain and Laraine – for the record, our names don’t actually rhyme, if you pronounce O’s name in the proper Welsh way. I can’t pronounce it properly)
Anyways, we had a natter about our experiences of kayaking and what we wanted to get out of the course and then shot off to the PyB stores; an Aladdins cave of kit for any outdoor pursuit! It’s so cool!
After getting kitted out and choosing kayaks (at which point we realised that it’s going to cost us a lot of money if we want our own sea kayaks. Rather, it’s going to cost O a lot of money. He doesn’t fit very well into normal sized kayaks…)
As you can probably tell, the morning was taken up with a lot of (vital) faffing so it was about 11am before we arrived at the Menai Straights to learn some kayaking skills. Important stuff, like different strokes and how to rescue each other, and even some self rescue. The latter was demonstrated perfectly by Owain when he accidentally fell out of his kayak. It is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen… basically, after trying to empty your kayak which is floating upside down, you roll it over then mount it from the back and ride your way up to the cockpit, while the thing rolls around like a bucking bronco. Once you get to the cockpit, you drop your bum in to stabilise it, then slide your legs in. Remember I said O didn’t fit in kayaks very well? Well, watching him trying to fold his legs in made me think I might break the golden rule of not peeing in the boat, I was laughing so much!
Lunch was enjoyed on a stony beach, where I may have scared a poor chap walking his dog. Trying to pee in a bush whilst wearing a swimsuit under a wetsuit is not easy, and when someone suprises you walking round the corner, it’s quite hard to stop midway through and get yourself decent again…
The afternoon was spent perfecting (?) our rolling and rescue skills, before heading back to Plas y Brenin for afternoon tea and cake. Cake is waiting for all delegates each day at 4.30pm. It’s sooo good and there is no better feeling than coming back, shattered, and sitting there looking out at the lake and mountains, drinking tea and eating cake.
Saturday evening was taken up with dinner, and a very entertaining lecture by one of the PyB instructors on white water kayaking around the world. It was excellent, and really got us both keen on trying out white water kayaking. Possibly our next course…
The plan for Sunday was to kayak along the north coast of Anglesey, along the cliffs then after lunch head out to sea and learn about kayaking with the tides when further away from shore. We were both pretty excited about this, so after an early breakfast we were back in the minibus with our kayaks, heading back to Anglesey.
It was an amazing day, kayaking in and out of caves, spotting seals and even watching three porpoises jumping and playing around our boats. Seriously cool! My favourite part though, was heading out to sea, past a small island called Middle Mouse and getting to play in some rough water caused by conflicting tides and eddies. I was pretty pleased to find that all my weights work recently is paying off, since I found myself getting quicker at paddling as the day went on, with minimal arm ache.
We finished the day with yet more tea and cake back at PyB before saying goodbye to our lovely instructors and heading home, tired and achy, but so happy with our new skills – and planning our next adventure!
By the way, I’m aware this post contains a serious lack of pictures of us actually kayaking. My phone is not waterproof and I still haven’t got round to getting a cover for it. Poor blogging, I know. Sorry.