A cormorant soared a few feet ahead and a group of kayakers was pushing off from the bank to our left. I was sitting in the prime spot on Velocity, a black, streamlined inflatable boat, which is billed as “the fastest RIB [rigid-inflatable boat] ride in the world”. It travels up and down the Menai Strait – which separates Anglesey and mainland Wales – from the small town of Menai Bridge, at speeds of up to 80mph.
My 11 fellow riders and I sat in pairs. I gripped the rectangular bar in front of my seat with both hands and kept my feet firmly planted to the boat, as we’d been instructed. Our Tiggerish skipper, Christian Harris, (safely) careened the boat from side to side, creating a sense that we might tip into the strait. “If I do a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson over the side, there’s an anchor, here, at the front,” he reassured us before we set off. It was more likely that we’d lose a hat overboard; Christian was on his third pair of pricey wraparound sunglasses.
tot Gloria Griffiths, 51, operatic soprano from mid-Wales, near Welshpool
I was desperate to try Velocity, it sounded amazing. The speed at which it went [felt like] a facelift. The time on the water went far too fast – I was buzzing afterwards
As part of the safety briefing, he also showed us where to find blankets and flare packs, and demonstrated how to send a signal to the coastguard using his radio. We were also fitted with lightweight life jackets, which threaded between your legs and then were hoisted up so they sat close on your chest. “If the pitch of your voice changes, it’s too tight,” said Christian, eliciting giggles from two teenagers. Our party already looked a picture wearing science lab-style goggles and khaki-green flight suits. These waterproof onesies proved useful when another skipper – Sam “Samsonite” Sheather – driving one of the company’s smaller RIBs skirted close, playfully spraying us with water.
The Menai Strait was in clear view as I had walked from a high point of the town towards the RibRide office. It was then that I could see Sam and Christian taking Velocity for a spin. Like watching a rollercoaster’s drops and twists as you queue for your turn, it felt as if they had been daring us to back out.
tot Josef Tomos Hunt, 19, A-level student from Menai Bridge, Anglesey
The biggest thing I felt was the force. It was so exhilarating and fun, it’s an experience I won’t forget. Afterwards, I was messaging my friends saying it was something we had to do together
Christian wouldn’t be easing into the ride. As the acceleration kicked in on Velocity, I could feel a grin spread across my face – there was a childlike joy in travelling so fast, purely for fun.
Whipping around from Bangor Pier towards the Menai Suspension Bridge, we were sailing into the wind. While feeling my nose go numb, I admired the bridge’s majesty. Designed by Thomas Telford, its grand stone piers lift the bridge deck 100ft clear of the water, allowing sailing ships to pass underneath.
Next we rode by the peculiar Church Island. This grassy slab of land is home to the tiny St Tysilio’s church (named after a Welsh saint) that dates back to the 1400s. We also passed under Britannia Bridge before making a short stop outside the National Trust-run Plas Newydd mansion. “How are you doing at the front?” asked Christian, who was doing a quick walk around the boat. Back in his skipper’s seat, he soon broke our quiet lull, veering away from the mansion and back towards our starting spot.
Without being able to check our phones (we’d have definitely lost them overboard), I had no idea of the time. I hoped we’d make another lap. Sadly, though, we’d had our 30 minutes. Christian slowed the boat and stuck on the James Bond theme. We’d completed our mission. Our group looked exhilarated and Christian’s enthusiasm was still cranked up ready for the waiting group on the pier.
As we piled off, I wondered if this could be turned into a morning commute. “It certainly blows the cobwebs away!” said a fellow rider. If lunch wasn’t calling, I’d have jumped on the next available seat.
Velocity from RibRide costs £35 per person for 30 minutes, for those agedover 10 only. Five to seven rides run each day until November; to book, visit ribride.co.uk/book-boat-trip-online.