Saturday, February 03, 2007

Incredible day (and night!) in Firth of Clyde

Leaving the beach at the mouth of rugged Glen Sannox at the north east corner of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.

We took the ferry across to Arran with the plan of paddling back to the mainland via the north of Arran, Bute and Little Cumbrae. We reckoned we would have a little twilight paddling.

Looking south west to Arran from Dunagoil Bay, Bute.

Paddling down the south west corner of Bute towards Garroch Head.

Rounding Garroch Head with the sun setting behind Arran. Still another 10 km to go!

Even in calm conditions, the tidal race of Garroch Head kicks up some movement in the water.

Paddling in the dark across the Hunterston Channel before moon rise.

After sunset a force three wind got up which managed to give some wind against tide turbulence in the channel. This was seat of the pants paddling. The next point of concern was crossing the Hunterston shipping channel. This is only 500m wide but is used by some of the biggest ships in the world. We had bright white lights, flares, stobe light, camera flashes and VHF but common sense tells you that a 300,000 ton bulk carrier is neither going to be able to stop or manoeuvre in a narrow channel, even if it was full daylight. We paddled for the red light that marked the port side of the channel and looked both ways very carefully. Seeing no ships we sprinted straight across to the green bouy on the far side of the channel. The buoys are very useful as you know big ships will do their best to keep between them. The buoys show where you are safe from big ships (but not of course from faster smaller vessels).

Our route was 32.5km.

The fog meant the ferry was about 30 minutes later than it should have been and we had to paddle slowly up to Glen Sannox behind the clearing fog. This lost time meant we had more night paddling than we had anticipated. We headed off to Bute (hidden by fog) on a compass bearing and using a GPS way point. Fortunately the fog lifted as we crossed. What a great day!


  1. Just stumbled across your blog. Great Photos!

  2. Did you take the Ardrossan ferry out there? Why were you crossing at night?

    The Glen Sannox picture...wonderful.


  3. Hello Rob, thanks for dropping by, I have just been over at your great site. There are quite a community of sea kayaking bloggers across the world. Rather than just finding by stumbling, would you consider having a blog roll and having reciprocal links with sites such as mine and Alison's?

    Hi Mark, Yes we took the 09:45 ferry from Ardrossan. Because of fog the ferry went slower than normal and we had to delay our departure for Bute by having two lunch stops to allow the fog to lift. Even if we had no delays we would still have had a bit of twilight paddling but you cant expect to paddle in the Scottish winter without a few night time epics!

    Thank you Alison! :o)

  4. nice , nice pictures! looks beautiful!

  5. Douglas,

    We came across what looked liked your car in Portencross car park on Saturday morning.

    As part of the navigational aspect of the four-star training/assessment we put in at portencross and paddle over to little cumbria. At the south of the island we saw a pod or porpoises. We saw them again in the middle of the shipping lane where we started to practice rolling/self rescues.

    I bet you can guess whose idea it was to practice in the shipping lane.

    Liked the pictures.

    Kind Regards


  6. Hello Harvey, I texted you to see if you could come but Richard said you were on the 4*. Cailean and Richard left a note on the car. Getting out at Portencross at spring low water in the pitch dark was the least fun thing I have ever done sea kayaking. I also got in touch with Jim but was really sorry to hear about his dislocated shoulder.
    I am glad you had fun swimming in the shipping lane! :o)

  7. Claire, I am glad you also got out on the Clyde. It was a nice weekend.

  8. Looked a nice paddle. I would have definitely came if I was not sitting my four-star. Incidentally, my mobile is no longer working at the moment hence the reason why I did not reply.

    No doubt I will see you at the Cuan Sound in a few weeks.


  9. Looks like another classic WWW (Wilcox Weather Window). Great stuff...but I'm a little green with envey.

  10. Hi Harvey, I am glad you had a good time on the 4*, did you scrape your boat?

    I will phone your home number next time.

    Grazie, it was simply wonderful.