Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008

10th - 14th March– Kayaking


From the 10th to the 14th March a development week for Kayakers took place at Indefatigable in Anglesey in preparation for Ex Midnight Sun in Greenland.

This was a great opportunity to put all our new skills to the test as strong winds were expected all week………and unfortunately the weatherman was right!!

Seven Kayakers arrived on the Sunday, with apprehensions after watching the weather reports and I quote from one…” The west coast of Britain will be battered by 60mph winds for the next few days”.  Lucky enough the first day was spent mostly on the road getting to Indefatigable and once arrived, kit issue took place. Kayak1 Although a tedious task it would end up to be the most important task as we ensured the kit at least fitted us correctly. 


Day one included further familiarisation of kit such as erecting the tents, using the cooking facilities, using the GPS etc.  Once familiar we were able to tackle the notoriously difficult Menai Straits.  Paddling on the sea is very different to paddling on a lake as the kayak moves up, down and sideways over the waves and current. We managed to get some quality paddling in by practising turning using the edge of the kayak, paddling using our core muscles to reduce fatigue and high/low braces, which are fundamental to kayaking.   The instructors then taught us a new skill called ferry gliding.  This allows you to move from one side of the Menai strait to the other using the current to push you sideways along.  The instructors made this look too easy!!  As there is a certain art to this.  It can be very tiring, as you frantically paddle to stop the current pushing you out to the open sea.  All managed to do this bar one who ended up wet and cold for the rest of day!!  Lucky for him, he was not the only one, as a few more managed to capsize later that day.kayak2


Later that evening we squeezed in a pool session and so the lessons started in rolling.  We were all looking forward to learning this skill, as this would boost our confidence if we could do this out at sea!! Several hours later we were nearly rolling, just a few more practices!


Day two ended up being a wash out as the winds picked up, making the sea too rough for us to a paddle and so most of the day consisted of lessons in weather, tides, countryside code and first aid.  Another pool session was organised to improve our rolling which proved to be beneficial as most of us started to roll with ease by this stage.

We then had to pack our kayaks ready for the long paddle the next day.  This proved to be vital, as you cannot get much in a kayak!! 


Day three was our long paddle and overnight stay.  We were dropped off at a point 12 km away down the Menai Straits, taking everything with us.  With the kayak full of equipment it was very heavy and I was a little nervous of capsizing as I did not feel confident that I could roll with a kayak this heavy!!  Into the paddle, confidence grew amongst the team and again new skills were taught including rafting up and using a Bivvy bag as a sail.  This was one way of using those strong winds to help us.  Enjoying the views along the way, we practised towing skills and more.


After stopping off for lunch at a secluded, covered bay we then continued on to Indefatigable tackling the winds that had been gradually getting worse.  We made it to Indefatigable where we set up our overnight camp.  The winds continuously got worse throughout the night, making it an unpleasant night’s sleep.


The next day the winds were still strong and so after we packed away the camp we headed out for a navigation exercise using the GPS.  Splitting down into two teams we were sent walking through several checkpoints on a bearing and only a GPS to help us. This was a good alternative to kayaking.  Another pool session was booked which led to all of us managing to roll.


Day five ended up being the best weather and so took advantage to try a beach entrance, surfing and rock hopping.  This was exhilarating as the waves were huge the further out to sea, making our kayaks feel insignificant in comparison.  Dodging in betweens the rocks, being battered by the waves was a great way to build confidence in our drills as a kayaker.  Sticking to the coastline we discovered lots of caves to explore, and ended the day by surfing the waves. 


A final pool session took place to confirm we could do a roll to gain our 3 star certificates.


Day six ended in cleaning the kit for the next group and making our way back to our units.


Sarah Hales