Friday, November 21, 2014

It seemed churlish not to pause and savour this magical moment.

 As we set off from the castle on the east coast of Little Cumbrae, the...

 ...sea fog to the south began to lift and by the time we...

 ...arrived off Gull Point...

 ...the soaring rocky ridges of the Arran mountains emerged into a clear blue sky. It seemed churlish not to pause and savour this magical moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A luncheon at the Castle.

From the Great Cumbrae we set off across The Tan, the channel that separates it from its southerly neighbour Little Cumbrae.

 A light breeze got up and Phil and I soon pulled away from our sailless companions. So much so that Maurice is already thinkinhg of drilling holes in his shiny new boat to fit a Flat Earth 0.8sqm Code Zero sail!

The Little Cumbrae island rises in a series of ledges and is topped by the remains of its first lighthouse which was built by James Ewing in 1757.

We landed near the house (which was vacant) on...

...the little beach below the castle where we...

 ..enjoyed first luncheon in the beautiful November sunshine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For richer and poorer in the Hunterston Channel.

I have not paddled on the Clyde since my mother died in July and as Sunday 16th November was forecast to be such a beautiful day I decided it was time to get back out. A trip to Little Cumbrae, Bute and The Eileans from Largs seemed in order so after a few texts I met up with regular paddling buddy Phil but also Andrew, Colin McM, Colin R and Maurice, all from my old home town of Ayr.

 We used the ebb to head down the the Hunterston channel past...

the Hun 5 starboard channel buoy,...

 ...the coal and ore terminal and...

 ...the "robbing the poor to pay the rich" offshore wind turbine test bed. This so called green scheme is funded by a tax on every citizen's power bill and subsidises multinational companies and land owners to build these expensive, inefficient and resource greedy monsters. There is nothing renewable about this industry which damages the environment and the sea bed during both construction, running not to mention disposal after their short working lives have expired.

As we drove into Largs, the Kelburn and West Kilbride windmills were all turning. Do you notice how much wind there was? They were being turned by electricity generated by the Hunterston B nuclear power station, which is just to the right of this photo. It is a common public relations stunt when it's calm. Then when it is windy they don't turn because they break or go on fire like this one at West Kilbride. What is needed is another nuclear power station station but we are unlikely to get one in Scotland while the Nationalists hold power in Edinburgh, as they are in bed with the Greens. Anyway, back to the test bed, these monster turbines are prototypes for thousands which are planned for off the west coast of the Hebrides. I really doubt the politicians and the industrialists have a clue about how much it will cost to build and maintain them in the harsh conditions out there...

Land based wind factories also have problems. They are destroying the wilderness across Scotland and developers and land owners are getting away with it because most politicians and "green" city dwellers (who all leave their lights and chargers on) don't give a monkey's cuss about the countryside.

Wind farms represent the biggest redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich in this country since the Norman invasion of 1066. (Even that proto-nationalist, Robert the Bruce, was a Norman!)

Talking of the rich, this lovely little ship, the MV Hebridean Princess, was anchored in Millport Bay. She was built in 1964 in Aberdeen and as MV Columba served as a ferry on the Inner and Outer Hebrides for what would become Calmac. When she was retired  in 1988 she was the last Calmac ferry to load cars with a hoist. She was bought by Hebridean Island Cruises who operate her as a luxury cruise  ship for 50 passengers. A double cabin in peak season will cost you well over £1000 per night. Since the Royal Yacht Britannia was retired, the Queen has chartered the Hebridean Princess several times for Royal cruise parties. I would love to go on a week's cruise on her but don't have the spare cash. I had better go and switch the heating off and start saving.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I saw just a flicker of respect cross their weather beaten faces.

We enjoyed a fair breeze and made rapid progress for the first 6km of the 16km crossing from Ailsa Craig to Girvan but then...

...the wind dropped and our pace slowed but ever so slowly the buildings of Girvan emerged from the sea fog.

I decided to take a quick explore of the River Girvan which flows into the sea through what is now Girvan harbour.

I passed the RNLB Sylvia Burrell, a Mersey class lifeboat.

Then a visitor from Fleetwood FV Crusader.

MV Radiance II is a retired wooden fishing boat. She was originally called Ruby III and was built in 1984 by John Gaff of Girvan. She has been recently restored.

John Gaff have stopped trading but Alexander Noble and Sons still run a boat building and repair yard in Girvan harbour. They specialise in RNLI refurbishment work. BA 817 FV Academus was in for a refit. In April 2005 she had been rescued by the Mallaig RNLI  lifeboat after she fouled her propeller on a rope off Canna.

As I  passed FV Moian BA 820 and Radiance II, a couple of fishermen leaned over the harbour wall and asked "Have you guys just paddled in from Ailsa Craig?"

I looked them in the eye and said "We have actually come from Campbeltown" I saw just a flicker of respect cross their weather beaten faces.

I joined Tony and Phil on the sands below Girvan beach car park where Phil had left his car overnight. My Mum had taken unwell during the previous night so Phil offered to run me back to Ardrossan to collect my car while Tony would continue to paddle on his own past Turnberry and Culzean to be picked up by his wife at Croy Bay. Tony and I had paddled nearly 100 kilometres to this point.

As we looked out to Ailsa Craig and the distant Mull of Kintyre we knew we had had one of the best paddles ever.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dropping hints, raising sails in the lee of Ailsa Craig.

 When we arrived back at the lighthouse after our early morning circumnavigation of Ailsa Craig the weather changed. The wind began to pick up and clouds an low level fog obscured the distant...

...coast of Ayrshire. We took a compass bearing and a GPS bearing on a waypoint for Girvan, our destination. The 16km crossing to Girvan is a good bit shorter than the 21km crossing from Arran, which Tony and I had done the previous day. However, Ailsa Craig stands in splendid isolation and it is very exposed to sudden changes in weather.

No sooner had we set off than the wind increased and became very unstable in direction and gusty as we were in the lee of the Craig. Looking back we saw an amazing sight as...

  ...the SE wind whipped a plume of mist to leeward of the rock.

Initially we didn't launch the sails as the gusty wind was all over the place from dead ahead to dead astern.At first Phil and Tony were a bit reluctant to launch the sails. I dropped several hints: "It's steadying.", "It's gone round to the north." and "It's settled to a beam reach." Eventually I tired of hints and launched the sail.

This hint could not be ignored and the others quickly followed suit and we set off on a cracking beam reach towards an unseen Girvan. The bulk of Ailsa Craig rapidly...

...receded in our smiling wakes. Remarkably it was still only 08:38am!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Gardyloo on Ailsa Craig.

It was just 07:12 am when we rounded Stranny Point at the SW corner of Ailsa Craig and...

...came to the Water Cave.

 The air was thick with sea birds and if anything, the smell...

...of guano was even stronger first thing in the morning than the evening. We were surrounded by constant plops in the water raining down from above.

 It was unusual to see the sun break out to the ENE as we rounded the north end of the island at Bare Stack.

When we usually paddle round the island in the afternoon we expect the sun to be coming round the other end of Bare Stack to the SW.

After the north foghorn we came to the old tramway which we followed...

...back to the lighthouse. It was still just 07:34 am yet we had just enjoyed a paddle round what must be one one of the world's finest seakayaking destinations.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A dawn start on Ailsa Craig.

On Ailsa Craig the sun was well clear of the north eastern horizon by 04:55 am. It was impossible to sleep due to the racket made by assorted gulls so... was time for an early first breakfast.

We were not the only ones to be up and about early. On the horizon, the general cargo boat MS Fri Stream was making her way up the Clyde.

As we were on the water by 06:53 am, we decided we had time for a second circumnavigation of the island.

The  south eastern cliffs were in full sun due to the early time of day. It is usually about midday when we arrive on the rock and they are in shade.

 As we approached the south foghorn a line of clouds came in and...

 ... we were cast into the shade by the towering cliffs above...

...the isolated rock known as Little Ailsa.

 Offshore FV Rejoice BH220 was still in the sun as she trawled for scallops. Registered in Blyth Rejoice has been based in Girvan forb a few years but was sold in October 2014.

The skies above us began to fill with gannets.