Monday, May 25, 2015

A rescue and two ice cream heads at Auchmithie.

On the May Bank Holiday Saturday, Maurice, Mike, Phil and I drove from Ayrshire and Glasgow to the old fishing village of Auchmithie on the Angus coast NE of Arbroath. We met Duncan and Joan who had driven over from Fife and Ian who had driven south from Aberdeenshire.

 We had paddled here quite recently and enjoyed it so much we were back for more. Until the mid 19th century Auchmithie was a thriving fishing port but the fleet moved to Arbroath when its harbour was improved. Auchmithie was the home of what is now known as the Arbroath smokie, a type of smoked haddock.

Just south of the village we came to Lud Castle a sandstone tower whose rocky ledges are the nest sites of countless sea birds, guillemots, black guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, gulls and cormorants.

 This pair of guillemots caught our eye.

This one has the rarer white spectacle variant though they are all the same species and interbreed at random. They should not be confused with the spectacled guillemot which is a different species and found in the NW Pacific.

 A pair of puffins flew out of this cave

This cave had a "sky light" that let in a narrow shaft of light...

....that illuminated a patch of emerald green water in the depths of the cave..

It also had a second door that exited on the far side of the headland.

Kittiewakes added to the auditory and nasal experiences with their onomatopoeic calls and their guano.

This cave did not look very promising but... extends 150m deep inside the cliff...

...where it opens into a gloup called Gaylet Pot where the roof has collapsed.

We managed to land this time, last time some big swell almost wiped us out!

The pebbles on the gloup's shore were very smooth and colourful.

It was time for first luncheon at Cove Haven below...

...these ancient red sandstone cliffs.

These sedimentary rocks were formed when Scotland was an equatorial country. The coarse layers with large water worn pebbles were formed in periods of high rainfall when huge rivers carried their deposits and dumped them in a shallow sea.

We enjoyed our first luncheon at the head of the bay. Ian had brought some truly excellent  traditional Speyside malt.

We had this great view of the Angus coast as we chatted over our extended first luncheon. We waited for the tide to go out then come back in again so that no carrying of kayaks was necessary.

Just south of Cove Haven we came to this former sea stack called the Deil's Heid. It is now above sea level but this and many caves and arches that are now dry are evidence that once the sea was higher.

Then it was back to more stunning caves. Just south of the Deil's Heid we entered a truly remarkable cave with an extremely narrow exit.

It was reminiscent of the caves that riddle Dun in the St Kilda archipelago.

In the many narrow channels, Phil found a great way to stop the barnacles getting to his new VE carbon paddles.

Next up was Dickmont's Den, a huge geo formed by a collapsed cave system. There is a way round the back that leads to another entrance. Phil and Maurice were so taken with it they went round twice and so now we call it Phil's Pott!

Another tight through route can be found at Seamen's Grave geo.

The Needle's E'e is an arch which is now high and dry.

After one last cave we emerged to find the wind had got up to F4. The inshore forecast for the afternoon was F4-6 southerly.

We stopped in the shelter of a tidal channel at Arbroath for second luncheon. A tour boat had the same idea.

We enjoyed ice cream in Arbroath but...

...we heard on the VHF channel 16 that a yacht was in distress a mile off shore. I got an ice cream head trying to finish my ice cream too quickly.

The yacht in difficulties had dropped its sails due to the increasing wind and started its engine. Its propeller got tangled in a long piece of rope attached to a buoy. The yacht was stuck fast. Ian did a superb job communicating with Aberdeen coastguard and the yacht. Ian and I paddled out to see if we could cut her free so she could sail. After a real high energy paddle into the F4 wind and with a 1.5knot cross tide  We almost reached the yacht but the RNLI Arbroath allweather and inshore lifeboats just beat us to it. They thanked us and wished us a safe passage to Auchmithie.

Clouds had gathered and the sea was now very lumpy with the ebb tide against the wind but Ian and I had a most enjoyable paddle back to the others who were making their way up the coast. At each headland there was a small tiderace where we experienced bumpy seas. Off the headland at Lud Castle it was particularly rough. It was a surreal situation as we paddled through rafts of guillemots and razorbills that were quite unconcerned by either our passage or the rough conditions.

Only 3 out of the 7 of us had sails so to avoid splitting the party we did not use them until near the end when we were in the relative shelter of Lud Castle.

Once the sails were up, Phil and I caught some decent waves and got the speed up to 20.9km/hr. To finish off a really great day. Ian, Mike and myself did some rescue and rolling practice. I did 10 rolls on each side and ended up with my second ice cream head of the day (the water was only 8C). So that's my rolling practice done for another year.

We might only have done 15km but everything about this day was superlative, not least the exceptionally fine company!

For the full 3D trivision blogging experience you can read Duncan's account here:

Perfect Auchmithie: Paddling back...inside the planet.
Ice cream on deck...and a rescue operation on the North Sea.

and Ian's account here:

An Angus congregation.
Sea kayaking under the farmland of Angus.
Luncheon in a lost world.
Narrow places - exploring the geos of the Angus coast.


  1. Superlative indeed, Douglas. It just keeps getting better! :) Warm wishes from us both.

    1. Thank you Duncan, it was really great to be able to share such a day with ~Joan and yourself. :o)

  2. 20.9km/h..... no wonder I couldn't catch you on the run-in to Auchmithie! What a lovely day that was (again); who'd bother with the east coast?!


    1. Hi Ian, at least you have the new Trade Wind 80 to look forward to when you get back! :o)