Ynys Enlli: Isle of the Currents

This was to be my fourth trip around Bardsey Island or Ynys Enlli, the Welsh name being of greater significance for sea kayakers than the English, which refers to the Bards of centuries past. On our last journey to Bardsey, we had enjoyed a smooth crossing to the island and then a rather more sporting return; today, with high pressure, a strong sun and enough of a breeze to create some lively water, we sought out the same overfalls one would more often seek to avoid on a trip to Bardsey.
Looking across The Sound, the morning after the day before; the breeze has died and the tide is nearly slack...
...quite different to the conditions we had enjoyed the day before during the middle hours of the flood with a small swell rolling in. (Being on a neap tide, the max. flow was a shade over 3 knots.)
Approaching Pen y Cil, Bardsey beyond, Tim surfs beneath the crest of the first waves, Brian and Chris hidden in the troughs behind.
Surfing amongst the chaotic waves off the point, behind which a convenient eddy allowed for a few photographs, though from such a vantage it is almost impossible to capture the real size and surging power of the waves.
Having made sure the camera bag was properly sealed and after a quick roll to get into the spirit of things, I joined the others in the race. There is something quite hypnotic about big steep waves: in my mind's eye I can clearly see the foaming breaks; the deep trough beneath steep green and blue faces; water carving off the bow...brilliant!
With a mixture of relief and reluctance we left the overfalls to begin the ferry glide across The Sound heading for Trywn y Gorlech and the north west corner of Bardsey. At first it seemed as though our ferry angle was too great, the tide having little affect, but then as we neared the half way mark, the flow increased and we were swept rapidly west. Seeing a long eddy behind the rocks of Maen Bugail, I turned the bow and paddled hard, directly across the flow. The ground I lost by doing so was easily recovered once in the eddy.
Between Maen Bugail and Bardsey, the tide was pouring over a shelf or sill of some sort, creating perfect glassy waves. If the overfalls of Pen y Cil had been hypnotic...
...these waves were mesmerising, smooth and gentle by comparison.
As the tide began to ease and the waves dropped we completed the ferry glide to reach Bardsey...
...following the rugged west shore which proved almost as exciting as the race...
...rock hopping and dodging breaks along the cliffs before landing on the beach directly across the island from Porth Solfach.
Leaving Bardsey, we rounded the Pen Diban, the race here providing more excitement and large rolling waves which quickly eased as we headed north along the cliffs before recrossing the sound in the first hour of the ebb.
Looking across The Sound the next morning, the day's calm was profound although we enjoyed an idyllic day's paddling north of Porth Ysgaden. I took no pictures, engrossed as I was, though a momentary lapse of concentration amongst the rock gardens near Porth Dinllean resulted in smashed gel coat and a boat in need of some attention. A small price to pay for such superb sea kayaking.


Taran Tyla said…
Amazing images again, what camera do you use on the water? My fuji XP10 would never focus for those action shots.
Will Herman said…
Thanks Taran - I've given up on compacts completely. As you say, often too slow and even though it's possible to use them at times when I'd not risk the SLR, the results are very often so poor as to be not worth bothering with. So, on the water, I now use a budget DSLR - the Olympus e-420, typically with the 40-150mm lens.
Smaller sensor even than the APS-C type, but still far better than a compact.
Well done on your Wales trip - good effort.
Taran Tyla said…
Hi Will, your a brave man using an SLR on the sea & I was afraid you were going to say that.
I've just sold a Canon 400D to buy a new lens for my Canon 5D MK2 but I ain't using that on the sea (LOL).

My Fuji XP10 has just died so it'll be interesting to see what I'll replace it with.

Thanks for the advice, Taran...
Douglas Wilcox said…
Great trip and photos Will.

Taran my 5D Mk2 does very well on the sea.

Douglas :o)
Will Herman said…
Thanks Douglas - It's an interesting one this, as I think my Nikon D90 despite costing 3x as much, would cope less well than the Olympus e420 on the sea as it seems less 'weather proof' if anything...either way though, I can't justify risking that kind of money.
I think if I upgraded the Nikon again, the camera body would be more robust / weather proof but again, far too much of an outlay for me, to risk on the water.
Taran Tyla said…
Hey Douglas, gotta agree with Will on this. My 5D & lens is nearly three grand, no way I'm risking that.
My camera is my livelihood & I don't think my camera insurance would stretch to sea kayaking adventures (LOL).

Just managed to fix my fuji but I'm gonna look at a second hand Canon DSLR as I've got a good sigma lens kicking about.

Interesting topic this ;D
Stuart said…
Impressive, both the shots and the paddling!
Will Herman said…
Cheers Stuart - A longish lens and an eddy helped. Always interesting keeping one eye on the eddy line while squinting through the viewfinder though!

Taran Tyla said…
Just Ordered a Dicapac WP-S10 waterproof camera case for my Canon 5D. its the only one I've found big enough to fit my camera. Aquapacs are too small.

Think I'll still keep in in a drybag on deck & treat it as not being waterproof just in case :)

I'll have to take better pictures now Will, no excuse(LOL).