Saturday, September 13, 2014

Out of the saddle at Saddell Bay.

We were well tired by paddling into the headwind that blew at us straight from our destination... Saddell Bay which we finally arrived at just before sunset.

Saddell House is now in the care of the Landmark Trust. It was originally built in 1774 by Colonel Donald Campbell as a more comfortable abode than the existing Saddell castle at the south end of the bay.

After a long hard paddle it was a relief to get out of the saddle onto the sands of Saddell Bay.

It was a delight to pitch our tents on sweet smelling machair, laced with clover.

We even managed to enjoy our dinner and Guinness before the sun set. Our Kintyre, Arran, Ailsa Craig, Ayrshire trip was well underway.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heads down into the wind on the Kilbrannan Sound.

Once Tony and I left Campbeltown Loch and turned our bows north towards the Kilbrannan Sound we found that the wind became increasingly a head wind. We paddle sailed close hauled for some time but... soon came round to hit us right on the nose and we had to drop sails and get our heads down for...

...a stiff paddle into the wind.

At Ballymenach we passed the remains of a WW2 antiaircraft gun emplacement that defended Campbeltown Loch and Machrihanish Air Base.

It was a relief to catch our breath on a cobbled shore at Black Bay but rather worryingly, our goal, Ailsa Craig, was becoming more and more distant and was now little more than a slight blip on the horizon.

We gained a little shelter as we approached Kildonand Point and Island Ross. Some potential campsites in this area proved to be inaccessible at low tide so we continued up the Kilbrannan Sound which was becoming narrower as the coast of Arran drew closer.

Rounding the point we found ourselves back in the teeth of the wind. There was still no break in the dark rocks but fortunately we spotted the inviting sweep of the sands at Saddell Bay which was still 5 km away beyond Ugadale Point. It was getting late so there was nothing for it but to get our heads down again and make what progress we could against the wind.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A flying visit to Campbeltown.

The MV Isle of Arran entered Campbeltown Loch to the north of Davaar Island and it's lighthouse. The fishing boat CN17 Perserverance was dropping her pots not far offshore.

Tony and I made our way down to the car deck to get ready to embark at 16:30.

We launched from this slipway just to the north of the ferry terminal. Amazingly we were on the water by 16:56. This was to be a flying visit to Campbeltown as we hoped to get well up the east coast of Kintyre before nightfall. Leaving the slipway we passed MV Fame from Bergen. She is a general cargo ship and is often seen round the Clyde.

Although Campbeltown is a pretty quiet place these days at various times it has had a huge fishing fleet, a coalmine, a canal which was superseded by a railway, 30 odd whisky distilleries, a huge military airbase and extensive farms in the surrounding countryside.

It was not just the ferry that was bringing visitors to Cambeltown. This was the 18:05 FlyBE flight coming in from Glasgow.

The MV Isle of Arran soon swept out of Cambeltown Loch...

...and we followed in her wake, leaving Campbeltown quickly behind. A nice little tail wind got up so we wasted no time in...

...launching our Flat Earth kayak sails.

In no time we were at the mouth of the loch and caught sight of a distant Ailsa Craig on which we hoped to camp in three nights time but...

...for now we turned our bows north to paddle sail up the east coast of Kintyre towards the Kilbrannan Sound and the soaring granite peaks of Arran beyond. Our adventure had started...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Friends reunited on the way to Kintyre.

Back in mid June, Tony and I set off on what was to be a fantastic sea kayaking trip from Campbeltown across the mouth of the Firth of Clyde to Arran, Ailsa Craig and finally to Girvan in Ayrshire.

We set off on the Sunday evening ferry from Ardrossan to Campbeltown.

The ferry passes to the SE of Arran and we got good views of Holy Island and...

...Pladda with its Stevenson lighthouse on the way. Ian, Mike and I had landed on both of these islands on our recent circumnavigation of Arran.

The great rock of Aila Craig lies some 24km from the south of Arran and we hoped to use this as a stepping stone back to Ayrshire. Tony and I were just discussing our route strategy when it was both a surprise...

...and a very great pleasure to meet the family of the late Jim Broadfoot. Jim was our longstanding and very great sea kayaking friend with whom we had paddled extensively in the Solway Firth, the Mull of Galloway, the Firth of Clyde, the Sound of Jura, the Firth of Lorn, the Southern Inner Hebrides, Ardnamurchan, the Sound of Arisaig, Skye, Wester Ross and St Abbs Head. I am pretty sure there were other places as well! In January 2010 Jim steadied my kayak while I buried my father's ashes at sea off Balcarry Point on the Solway. Although we miss Jim very much, we were fortunate to share so many wonderful trips with such a good friend. It was great to see his family looking so very well.

I knew it was Jim's birthday because we had celebrated Jim's 50th birthday on this day in 2009 on the north end of the Isle of Coll after paddling out to Coll and Tiree from Ardnamurchan. It turns out that Jim's family take a little trip on the water together each year on Jim's birthday. What a great thing to do! They were taking the ferry out to Campbeltown then returning to Ardrossan as a summer evening cruise. Mind you it must have been a bit of a busperson's holiday for Jim's daughter Lorna as she had spent part of her training to be a Merchant Navy Deck Officer on board the very ship we were on... the MV Isle of Arran!

Jim would have been so pleased to see his family enjoying themselves on his birthday, especially on the water :o) 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fitting a Flat Earth sail with double back stays to a PandH Aries155

I have previously posted about fitting a Flat Earth sailing rig to a P&H Aries 155 but on taking delivery of a new Aries with forward fin I decided to use a slightly different method which I have outlined here. We have been increasingly paddle sailing in stronger winds often going on down wind shuttle runs. Until now I have used the forestay/up haul with two side stays mounted on either side of the mast for maximum stability and a single back stay. This time I have replaced the single centrally mounted back stay with two back stays mounted on the kayak seam which is the strongest part of the kayak. This also has the advantage of having one of the stays directly in line with the wind direction when paddling on a broad reach which is one of the most fun directions. I got this idea from Mick McRobb who is the brains behind the Flat Earth rig.

I like to get the side stays at right angles to the centre of the mast foot and as far out as possible to give maximum support.

I use surface deck fittings to secure small loops of 2mm Dyneema cord to which the stays are attached by 32mm snap shackles. The SDFs are attached by M4 stainless steel bolts which mean one 4mm hole needs to be drilled for each. A stainless steel penny washer helps spread the load inside but note the pull of the stay is almost at right angles to the bolt. I like to have an adjustable grip hitch  on a loop to the snap shackles as this lets me get the tension of the stays just right. It also means I can transfer the rig to several different kayaks.

These SDFS fittings give a very strong mount that will not break under pressure. If using these you need to be very careful that your deck and seam are strong especially if you capsize and attempt to right the kayak without letting the uphaul or sheet off. Water exerts a much greater force on the sail than air! If you have any doubts I suggest using the deck fittings supplied by Karitek either separately or as part of their fitting kit. These are also secured with a single bolt but the side stay does not wrap round the bolt as happens in the fittings I use. The Karitek fitting is made of plastic and will shear before your deck breaks (unless you have a very lightweight layup).

P&H supplied this Aries with a reinforced deck from in front of the forward hatch to near the bow. The Aries bow is peaked to help with resurfacing so P&H also supplied a shaped spacer to mount the red Flat Earth deck plate on. I chose not to use it and mounted the deck plate using one of the deck elastic RDF mounts. I removed the existing M6 countersunk SS RDF bolt and replaced it with a longer 40mm pan head M6 SS bolt which goes through the front deck plate mounting hole and the RDF. I then  mounted the rear Deck plate hole with an M5 pan head bolt and 2 penny washers above the deck/below red plate and one below the deck. This required a new 5mm hole to be drilled.

The two back stays can be seen clearly here. If you have an aversion to drilling, you could just use the existing lateral deck elastic RDFs to mount the stays to but I thought the best angle to give maximum support on a broad reach was a bit further forward and as I like drilling holes in boats I went for it! To prevent the snap shackles rubbing on the deck when the sail is launched and loaded I have made the loops round the two back stay SDFs a bit longer. When the sail is folded on deck the snap shackles would fall into the water, so to prevent this I have used a short piece of cord to form a saddle between them. When the sail is launched there is no tension in it.

Have fun

Friday, August 29, 2014

Upwind paddle sailing with the P&H Aries 155 with forward fin, first test and review.

This striking pillar box red metallic with turquoise trim P&H Aries 155 is the latest addition to the seakayakphoto quiver.

Not only has it a Flat Earth kayak sail, it has an other interesting addition.. Note the central cord and cleat...

 ...which operates a large carbon fibre...

...forward fin for upwind paddle sailing.The fin is 30cm long and measures 11cm fore and aft at its mid length point. The fin is stiff but is cut from a flat plate of carbon fibre composite. It is pulled down by elastic and raised by the cord on deck. It will autoretract if you hit an obstruction. The fin box slot is 49cm long and will obviously increase turbulence.

The fin box is grp and is moulded into the forward bulkhead so it is very stiff. It does add to the weight of the kayak.

Here is the proof of the pudding. It is slack water at high tide. Wind is WNW F4 to F5. The sea is relatively flat due to being downwind of the shelter of Ringdoo Point and Garvellan rocks. I was paddle sailing upwind from Carrick Point to Ringdoo Point. I paddled four 500m tacks. The first two tacks were with both the forward fin up and the skeg up. From experiments with the Aries 155 last year, I already knew that it would point to about about 60 degrees from the wind with a tacking angle of about 60 degrees without the forward fin and this is exactly what I found on this occasion.

I  then put the forward fin fully down for the third and fourth tacks. From experiments with the bigger Cetus HV fitted with a smaller Karitek forward fin last year, I expected to paddle sail up wind with just the forward fin down and the skeg up. However, the balance point is different and as soon as I put the large forward fin down the kayak luffed up into the wind but this was easily corrected by putting the skeg fully down. I now found I was paddling 45 degrees to the wind with a 90 degrees tacking angle. This is the same as a Laser dinghy which was tacking alongside. Despite pointing 15 degrees higher into the wind my forward speed remained the same at a steady 7.8 km/hr. I also found it was easier to balance against the F4-5 wind with less strain on my core muscles.

Pros and cons:
The P&H forward fin is highly effective in improving a short kayak's upwind performance. It is very easy to deploy and retract and when fully down the sailing angle can be easily controlled by varying how much skeg is deployed at the stern. I found it easier to balance and control the sail upwind when using the forward fin. On the down side it adds cost, weight, water resistance and another control line.  You do not need a forward fin to have a lot of fun downwind paddle sailing the Aries 155. Lastly I found longer kayaks such as the Cetus MV will already paddle sail upwind at 45 degrees to the wind without a forward fin, though these kayaks are less fun down wind than the Aries 155.If you want to add a forward fin to an existing kayak then Kari-tek will be able to supply/fit a slightly smaller one which I found worked very well last year.

In conclusion, I found the P&H Aries 155 with forward fin to be the most versatile and fun sea kayak for paddle sailing which I have yet tried. Upwind performance over the standard kayak is markedly improved. Lastly the pillar box red metallic looks fantastic in the sunshine!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sheila Wilcox 29/7/1928 - 30/7/2014

My mother Sheila has died. Both she and my father gave my brother Donald and myself our lifelong interest in mucking about in boats. This photo was taken in 1962 which was my fourth season on the water! However, Sheila gave us much more. Below is the eulogy I spoke at her funeral service in Ayr.

A breezy day, September 2013, walking along the Solway coast.

My brothers and I were so lucky to be born to Sheila. I first became aware that our mother was a bit different to friends' mothers when I started primary school in Dingwall. She was always visiting needy or bereaved people, bringing them companionship and help. I had grown up thinking this was normal because Sheila's mother, Agnes, also did the same. In those days religious observance was very important in Dingwall. I was in the same class at school as a boy down the road but found we went to different Sunday schools. I went home and asked Mum "What kind of Christian are you?" She looked me in the eye and said "I am a practicing Christian." As a child I did not really know  what she meant but as the years passed and I watched how she lived her life, I came to understand.

In addition to being a wife and mother, Sheila was a teacher of domestic science. Years later, while my wife and I were working as doctors, we came across people who asked "Are you related to Mrs Wilcox? She was a wonderful teacher!" 
In her "spare" time, Sheila loved her garden and greenhouse, walking her dog, golfing, swimming, bridge, reading, driving her car, going out for lunch with friends and, when she was younger, 1st XI hockey at Marr College, badminton, country dancing, sailing, hill walking and playing piano. Her house was constantly filled with the rattle of her sewing machine and the smell of baking as she sewed, cooked and baked for family, friends and charity.

 Sheila in about 1949 at Glasgow College of Domestic Science.

Sheila had a great capacity for love and caring. She moved in many circles and her phone book is full of friends from Glasgow Do' School, the teaching and  veterinary worlds, golf, bridge, St Leonard's church, the Ayrshire hospice (for which she was a volunteer for nearly 26 years), Cardoness where she spent her holidays and the many people she was looking out for. After Sheila died, I phoned people in her book, many of whom I did not know. Some were old friends from school days and others were very recent friends but all described the same joy in Sheila's friendship. Sheila was forgiving, she never held grudges and she always saw the best in people. Sheila was very independent, she would rather look after others than be looked after herself. After 57 years of marriage, when Rae died,  she was heartbroken but she pulled herself together and often said "I'm doing just fine". Despite being on her own, she filled the empty space in her life by going out and helping others again.  

Two years ago, after Sheila had major open chest surgery, she was given only two months to live. Sheila was determined to prove the doctors wrong when it would have been all too easy to just give up. Alison, her daughter in law, nursed her back to health over those two months. At the end of this time Sheila said to me "I think I am ready to go out for a drive". "Certainly Mum where would you like to go and I'll take you?"  "No, no, I'll drive, I only need you to check I'm OK". Earlier this year, when her breast cancer was well advanced, she had two cataract operations so that she could continue to drive. Then, just six weeks before she died, Sheila drove to and from her great grandson's first birthday party in Glasgow. She took with her three cakes and trays of pastries which she had spent hours baking.

Sheila was modest, sharing and so generous with her time. She was always thinking of others, whose needs she often  put first. Many times I tried to take her out for lunch only to be told "Sorry, I am just away to see an old friend is all right".  She loved nothing better than teaching friends to golf and helping youngsters who might have otherwise been unable to play. When Sheila was in hospital for the last time, a 99 year old friend sent a get well message. Despite her situation, Sheila's eyes lit up and said "Please tell her I'm doing just fine and I hope she is keeping well too".

Sheila was uncomplaining. Her last illness was challenging and painful but the nurses said she never complained. The New Testament has a proverb "As you sow, so shall you reap". After a lifetime of caring for others and when Sheila needed help most, she found herself surrounded not just by her family but by loving neighbours, friends and professionals who cared for her as if she were their own. Her one regret was that she spent much of her last three summers in hospital and missed her glorious garden. Both her birthday and anniversary were in July, when the roses bloom and these were her favourite flowers. When she was in hospital for the last time, I took her photographs as each of her beautiful roses blossomed throughout the month. It was a joy to see her smile, her eyes light up and nod her head in appreciation.

Sheila was an eternal optimist. Just over two months ago, I was with her when (for the second time), a doctor gave her just two months to live. By this time she knew how to cope with bad news. Going out to her car (she was driving) she said, "Six months, that's not so bad." By the time she got home to family and friends this had grown to five years! "I am doing just fine" she said and with a smile she went off to the greenhouse, sowing seeds for next year. She loved life and never gave up hope, not even at the very end of her long illness.

As the family shared a bedside vigil with Sheila, one of the very last things she said to me was "Will they accept me?"  I cannot imagine anyone who would be not be willing to accept Sheila into their fold. In the small hours of her last night I was stroking her hair and cheek when I was overwhelmed to feel so much of her love just slipping away through my fingers and there was nothing I could do to hold on. Then I heard her voice inside my head. "You're just feeling sorry for yourself, I'm doing just fine, now go out there and do some good in the World". When I got home in the early morning, the petals of the last of her beautiful roses had fallen to the ground and I knew that the natural cycle had turned. The love and time Sheila had so willingly shared with others had come to an end. Only precious memories now remain and to hold on to these, we should try to live a little like Sheila.

Sheila thank you for giving us so much love and joy. God bless you.

Sheila's last rose