With the wind being f3-f4 NW and a reasonable swell forecast, I led a group of three paddlers: Keith, Spencer and Paul.
This day I was paddling a Valley Gemini SP, lent to me by Valley. It is a lovely looking boat in nice metallic Blue with a funky white stripe down the middle of the deck. And so much shorter than my lovely Valley Etain 17-7! My reason for trying the Gemini was that when performing rescues, particulararly in assessments, I could do with something a little shorter and more manoeuvrable than the Etain. Maybe the Gemini is the other extreme, but I may as well find out what it is like and take it from there.
My plan was to paddle in the Rhoscolyn direction and to see how we go. I had not paddled with Spencer and Paul before. Having done my briefing on the beach using "S.H.E.E.T.S" we got on the water and soon set off.
It was soon evident that Paul was not too happy in the conditions, as I could see him struggling. As we came out of Porth Dafarch it became quite lumpy and messy. Paul took a swim and I quickly managed to get him back into his boat. But a few seconds later he was over again. Having got him back into his boat again, I managed to get him rafted up with Spencer and towed them back to the beach. Back at the beach Paul said he was more than happy to head to Trearddur Bay and practice in the shelter of the bay. Well, that was my rescues skills in the Gemini well and truly tried out. I have to thank Paul for this opportunity! For once it wasn't a practice scenario and it all down to me to sort out the rescues as leader. I followed the other pneumonic "S.A.F.E.R" I learnt at the Incident Management training in Cornwall: Stop, Assess, Formulate, Execute and Review. When I came to the review, I realised I could have done the Stop better, Assess, formulate and Execute were ok, except I should have rafted Keith up with Paul, as Spencer was carrying a tow line. Keith wasn't. We could then have performed an inline tow, with Spencer attached to the raft, which would have been quicker and easier in the swell. I could have also released myself from the system if needed. This was a great experience for me. SAFER certainly works and it is really good practice to review not only what you have done, but also to review what you are doing as an ongoing process.
The conditions heading downwind towards Trearddur Bay were, I have to say tricky, to say the least with the messy swell. The Gemini was feeling quite twitchy with the swell and wind behind us. But I could also feel the great potential for surfing as I managed to catch a few waves to assist me on the way. I had to slow down a few times to let Keith and Spencer catch up. The Gemini may be small in length but is a quick boat!
At Trearddur Bay we met up with Paul and had lunch together in the sunshine. After lunch we paddled around to Porth y garan, but by now the wind was picking up in strength and I didn't want to have a huge battle back into the wind getting back.
Heading back to Porth Dafarch we opted to go straight across the bay. Interestingly enough the Gemini was much better behaved heading into the wind and swell. It was still very quick though. I was quite enjoying accelerating down the backs of the oncoming swell.It may not have been the longest of paddles but it sure was a good one in some interesting conditions.