LCC trip Benllech to Bull Bay Sunday 19th September by Ian O’Connor
After a 5.30am alarm I was on the road at 6.00am heading to Benllech, Anglesey, to meet the rest of the 11 strong group for a paddle that Brian had kindly and meticulously arranged. On the car radio, the morning news told me that the four SpaceX “amateur” Astronauts had safely returned to Earth late on Saturday night and all was well. The Mission Director had described this as the new Space Age – four space tourists orbiting Earth 15 times per day at 360 zero gravity miles above its surface. It had cost them £145m for the pleasure. By comparison, our plan was to “orbit” 20km of Anglesey from Benllech to Bull Bay. We’d made our own butties and managed to avoid the newly hiked Anglesey car park charges! Like any well executed mission, we all arrived on time at Benllech (08.30am), unloaded the boats and made a perfect shuttle, dropping the majority of cars at Bull Bay. It was raining at this point, but the forecast for the rest of the day was good with only light winds. As planned, we were on the water by 10.00am and Brian had split us into two groups. Brian led one group and Kris the other. Brian made radio contact with Mission Control at Anglesey Coastguard to let them know our plan. During the discussion the Coastguard asked if we were going to do any exercises and Brian said we might do some towing practice. They would turn out to be prophetic words. However, it was briefing done, Coastguard informed – All Systems Go!
From Benllech we headed north in perfect conditions. I was in Brian’s group, and we hugged the coastline, admiring the rock formations and enjoying the varied birdlife. I am no ornithologist, but I know a Cormorant when I see one and there were a few drying their wings sat on the rocks above us. There was the odd seal too. As we headed towards Moelfre, Kris took his group around Ynys Moelfre before making their way around the headland and stopping for our first break on Rocks Beach. We stayed closer to the cliffs and checked out the lifeboat station before catching up with the other group for second breakfast/elevenses. We were orbiting the island at around 5-6km per hour at this point. Rocks Beach was aptly named as it was covered in those little pebble towers/cairns that people build by carefully placing and balancing them on top of each other. There was none of that dehydrated spaceman food consumed, it was all homemade butties, flasks and the odd Aldi adventure bar.
From Rocks Beach we continued north past LLygwy Beach and into Dulas Bay. We decided to stop again for lunch on another rocky beach with Ynys Dulas directly in front of us about 1km offshore. The tide was continuing to ebb so we decided to get back on the water and tackle what was going to be the longest stretch of the journey. Hugging the coastline again we headed toward Point Lynas but before getting there, we took a few minutes to investigate a cave and pose for the obligatory photos. As we approached Point Lynas we could see the tide race. The wind picked up as we headed round the Point, but Brian expertly guided us through the waves and to some sheltered water under the cliffs where we waited for Kris’s group to join us. It was about halfway between Point Lynas and Amlwch that things became a bit more interesting. I’ll spare you the details, but I ended up on the end of Brian’s tow line and after a short time, somehow or other (it was my fault) I ended up having a similar experience as the space tourists I mentioned earlier. For a few seconds it was like being in Space – floating, weightless, upside down and needing air! After a quick wet exit and Brian’s expert rescue, I was back in the boat and back on the towline. With a bit of composure regained I was off the towline and limping into Amlwch harbour.
It was a brief stop at Amlwch before heading back out for the final leg of the journey to Bull Bay. Eleven LCC Aquanauts left Benllech and they all came home safely, although one (me) had dented pride and several lessons to learn. We enjoyed a pint and a chat in the pub back at Benllech. I’ve waffled on long enough now, but you need to know that there was a second incident on the final leg of the journey. It’s safe to say that because of the skills, knowledge, experience and teamwork of people like Brian, Kris and Keith, there was no need to radio Mission Control and utter those immortal words “Holyhead, we’ve had a problem.”
Aquanauts – Brian Green, Kris D’Aout, Roger Colman, Mark Pawley, Neil Mack, Mike Bailey, Lee Pimlett, Adya Misra, Andy Trowler, Keith Steer, Ian O’Connor