Tuesday, July 31, 2007

First glimpse of the Wilderness

Loch na Keal nearly bisects the mountainous isle of Mull. The B8073 to the hamlet of Ulva Ferry hugs its north coast. After a long climb you crest a ridge and are confronted with your first view of the Wilderness. 50 million years ago the lavas from the great Ben More volcano were finally halted by the sea here at the edge of the Ardmeanach peninsula. The cliffs of the Wilderness now tumble steeply for 370 metres to the shores of Loch na Keal below. Today the Wilderness is home only to goats, sea eagles and pelagic sea kayakers. Our first glimpse of the Wilderness set our hearts beating in anticipation of an outstanding paddle. We were not to be disappointed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Wilderness of Mull

The Wilderness of Mull lies at the foot of a giant series of lava floes from the extinct Mull volcano. There is almost no easy access on foot due to the near vertical lava cliffs at the top of the slope. The whole is composed of alternate layers of lava and volcanic ash. Where the sea has eroded its base there are fossil remains of organisms that were overcome by the eruptions.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Teeming waters below the Wilderness of Mull

Below the sea stack of Caisteal Sloc nam Ban on the Wilderness coast of Mull the waters were crystal clear. They were teeming with sand-eels and sprats. Great flotillas of immature shearwaters were learning to fish and shoals of mackerel would bring the smaller fish to the surface so that the water boiled. We also feasted on mackerel, eating them even before rigor mortis set in! Delicious!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Magical Mull cave light

Once we ducked our heads and entered this cave on the Wilderness of Mull, we entered another world. The water was a transluscent and luminous green. Dripping water from the roof splashed and tinkled on the surface of the water and there was a deep gurgling from the dark recesses of the cave. Reluctantly we left before the tide rose and trapped us.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Moonset over Little Colonsay and Lunga

After a long day, when we paddled from 9am to 10pm, we prepared a meal on a rocky knoll on the island of Inch Kenneth in Loch na Keal on the remote west coast of Mull. Long after sunset there was still a red glow in the north western sky as a dusky crescent moon sank below the island of Little Colonsay at the mouth of the loch.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The hardships of Scottish seakayaking.

I am just back from a week trip; sea kayaking the west coast of Mull and its outliers. The weather here in the UK has been exceptionally wet and breezy for July. I am often asked what it is that attracts me to paddling in this harsh environment. Perhaps this photo of Port Bhan may give the dear reader a small inkling of the strong pull of the Hebrides?

Our caddies travel ahead, by a variety of means, and assemble our social and refreshment tents prior to our arrival on pristine cockleshell sand beaches. Why they even scour far and wide for some small pieces of driftwood just so that we may enjoy a little late night incendiary activity.


Friday, July 20, 2007

On location

Posts will resume soon On west coast Mull no mobile recep Great new photos also assesed new seakayaking pubs Truly seakayak heaven :o)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ixodes ricinus and Lyme disease

This charming looking insect is Ixodes ricinus or the hard bodied tick. (The penny is 15mm in diameter.)

It preys on mammals by sucking their blood and storing it in its abdomen. It particularly likes rabbits, sheep, deer and sea kayakers. This year seems a bad season for them and it is worth examining yourself after walking through vegetation like bracken. They climb it in wait and anticipation of feasting upon their next victim.

Traditionally people have pulled then out with their nails or tweezers, burned them off with a cigarette or attempted to suffocate or stun them using Vaseline or alcohol. Unfortunately all these methods cause the little creature to dig further in and to puke its stomach contents into the victim's blood stream. This partially digested blood is a heady cocktail that contains another of God's creations, a spirochete bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. This causes a condition called Lyme disease in humans. Believe me (and I am a doctor), Lyme disease is something you would much prefer not to have.

Public service announcement: if you get a red ring spreading out from a tick bite you should seek medical advice, mention you have been bitten by a tick and you are concerned about Lyme disease.

A much safer way to remove the injurious, illegitimate and far from insignificant insects is to use a little rotating hook such as the O'Tom, available from all good veterinary surgeries. You slide the tapered fork behind its bloated abdomen then slowly twist without pulling. The tick can resist a pull by digging in with its jaws and fore feet but it's helpless against gentle rotation. Some favour anticlockwise and others clockwise rotation. My own experience is that both are equally effective.

Are you curious what to do with the now pitifully struggling insect which you have untimely ripped from its natural element? Well, this might not be good for your Karma, but the following is my humble suggestion. I take some delight in burning the hapless former parasite.

If only it was so easy to get revenge on the Scottish midge.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ayrshire agate

This banded agate was found on the south Ayrshire coast under the cliffs on which Culzean Castle stands. Agates form as nodules within cooling lava. As the lava weathers the nodules are released and get broken open by wave action. They are also found on Ayrshire's raised beaches which are used to grow Ayrshire potatoes. Hunters of the semi precious stones will often follow the tractors which plough the fields.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tiderace Seakayaks.

Tiderace Seakayaks is a new name on the UK sea kayaking scene. Aled Williams (formerly of Rockpool kayaks and designer of the delectable Alaw and Alaw Bach) has decided to rename his new company (formerly known as In-Uit Kayaks) in respect of the tradition and culture of the Inuit people who come from the Arctic territories of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Michael, who has spent a great deal of time with these people, has already drawn attention to the appropriateness of the name. I am sure Aled chose the name out of respect to the Inuit origins of our sport. I am equally sure that Aled has made the correct and sensitive decision to rename the company.

I like the name Tiderace and here is Kenny paddling an Aled designed boat in a tide race: the Cuan Sound.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Crossing to Scarba

Leaving the fertile grassy slopes of the

Garvellachs, we headed south east for Scarba. It is a barren and rocky isle with few places to land. We stopped here for a second luncheon whilst we waited for a favourable tide in the Corryvreckan. In this view the Garvellachs can be seen in the middle distance with Mull beyond.

The GPS track of our route.

From the Garvellachs the horizon to the south east is blocked by Scarba on the left and Jura on the right. From this distance the Gulf of Corryvreckan, which lies between, them looks like a sheltered sea loch.

There is a raised beach on top of a line of cliffs which surround most of Scarba's coast. This means that even if you can find a landing spot, access to the interior is barred by the cliffs. No wonder the 5th century monks chose the Garvellachs!