Puffin Island Advice

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krad4d
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Puffin Island Advice

Post by krad4d » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:24 pm

Hi there kayakers!

My boyfriends cousin has lent him 2 of her old sea kayaks. We have taken them out around the area he lives (Port Mellon in Cornwall) and have had an incredible time. We are both complete beginners but found we picked it up really quickly, and even when the waves got to about 2-3ft still felt pretty competent.

For my 21st birthday I'd planned on going on a boat trip around Puffin Island, but after a bit of a nosey into it, I've realised a lot of people are offering kayaking day trips. My dream would be to get up at sunrise and take our own kayaks out, and have a potter about when no other tourists are around. Looking at a map, the distances we've covered in cornwall are kilometres longer than what we'd have to cover for puffin island.
So my main question is: are we stepping way out of our depth doing this? should we go on a crash course or something to learn the proper techniques if things are to get tricky? Or is puffin island a fairly safe area to potter around.

Also if anyone has any recommendations of where we should start that would be much appreciated! We are going to be staying in our van, so any campsites/wild camping spots would also be welcomed.

Thank you

Kassie

Chris Bolton
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Re: Puffin Island Advice

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:44 pm

Welcome to UKRGB!

Puffin Island is not a particularly difficult paddle but it's not without its risks (for more info you could buy this book). There are quite significant tidal streams; do you know how to find out which way the tide will flow, and what effect tide has on the waves? It's also on the NE corner of Anglesey, and the prevailing wind is SW, so for quite a lot of the time, the wind will be blowing away from the shore. An offshore wind means you don't really notice how big the waves are until you're in them, and you have to paddle against the wind to get back. The real question is not whether you're likely to cope with the conditions, but what will you do if you don't? Have you practised rescues, how would you call for help, do you have clothing to survive in the water, etc? If so, and you can judge the conditions on the day, you'll probably have a good trip. If not, you could get a day's coaching from, for example, here (there are several other kayak coaches on Anglesey).

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Mr Ed
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Re: Puffin Island Advice

Post by Mr Ed » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:09 pm

Two of the biggest areas for coast guard call outs on Anglesey are:

1.) Cymyran straits
2.) Puffin Island

Both can look utterly benign under certain conditions, both can be incredibly dangerous with a combination of wind, tide and swell.

When incidents unravel on the water it's scary how fast a day can go from just about manageable to survival. I don't think you can really beat having a day or so with a coach/guide just so you can begin to spot the dangers.

There was a fabulous little RNLI leaflet/guide being given out on the island for free last year with danger spots highlighted? I'm not sure if they're still available but if you're on the island do look out for them.

Mr Ed

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Mr Ed
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Re: Puffin Island Advice

Post by Mr Ed » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:10 pm


seawolf856
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Re: Puffin Island Advice

Post by seawolf856 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 12:04 pm

Hi and welcome to UKRGB, you have certainly found the right place to ask for advice and you are absolutely right to do so before putting to sea in an area unknown to you.
Definitely get the 50 Welsh sea kayak trips book recommended by Chris Bolton it is invaluable for planing sea paddles in this area.
Like the contributors above, Anglesey is my back yard and is a world famous sea kayaking destination - and for very good reason. The tidal flow conditions around the coast of this wonderful island are complex and the kayaking is amazing but it can be very dangerous if you don't know the area. Mr Ed quite rightly points out that Puffin Island can appear benign but can be incredibly dangerous if the conditions conspire against you. The NE corner of Puffin Island can be very nasty with swell and on a spring tide there is a considerable tide race which kicks up in minutes. Puffin Sound which is the gap between Puffin Island and the Anglesey mainland at Penmon Point can be very tricky at low water with reefs barely covered by fast running tidal flows. The prevailing wind on Anglesey is SW giving Puffin Island some shelter but as Chris points out, this will blow you off shore in the event of an incident. On the other hand if the wind is Easterly, the sea conditions on this corner of Anglesey can be very lively. I am not trying to put you off coming here to paddle but please take care with your wind forecast (strength and direction) and your tidal planning. Also look carefully at your launch and landing point options. If you are just gong to paddle out from Penmon Point and land back there, things will be pretty straight forward. Be aware that there is a £5 toll on the access road down to Penmon Point and the beach is steep and pebbly. Most of us locals make Puffin Island part of a longer trip but this involves launching at some point in the Menai Straights e.g. Gallows point, which then dries out at low water and is not an easy place to land. In fact most of that end of the straights dries out at low water to expose mud flats which are impossible to land on. An alternative is to launch from Red Warfe Bay (North of Puffin Island) on the flood tide and return on the ebb. This trip is however around 22km long. A very popular option is to do a one way trip leaving a car at Penmon so you don't have to worry about paddling back to the launch point. Though I suspect this won't be an for you if there are only two of you.
I really hope you visit Anglesey, the paddling here is incredible. If Puffin Island proves too much of a faff, there are plenty more options with even better coastal locations to explore - check out the book. Newborough and Llandwyn Island on the SW corner are very beautiful and very romantic locations with less immediate danger that Puffin Island.

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Kate D
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Re: Puffin Island Advice

Post by Kate D » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:01 pm

Hi Kassie, I admire your enthusiasm and hope it will lead to a long term love of sea kayaking. I would encourage the pair of you to get some training before venturing further afield. You might book some time with a professional coach (there are lots working round Anglesey) or join a club and access training that way.

I'm glad your kayaking exploits so far have been successful and enjoyable but have you practiced what you would do if one of you (or both of you) capsized? Do you carry with you the means to call for help, and are you able to access and use it whilst afloat? Are you paddling dressed to cope with cold water immersion?


Please stay safe and get some training.

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