Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sammy the Loch Moidart seal pup.

We spotted Sammy, a grey seal pup, through a gap in the skerries in Loch Moidart. Its mother was basking on a nearby rock. We did not speak and moved on silently, leaving them undisturbed.

Hundreds of thousands of other seal pups are not so fortunate. I have no doubt that my ancestors did this sort of thing on a small scale to survive. I also know that some of my ancestors were whalers. Again they did this to survive.

Part of the evolution of human society and the development of our humanity is surely to reach an awareness that the other animals that we share this Earth with should not be abused. We should respect them and if we do not need to slaughter them to survive we shouldn’t. Of course this seal cull is really just the tip of the shitty iceberg of the way in which our species treats this world and everything in it. What a far sighted lot we are.

Fortunately for Sammy, here in Scotland sealing and whaling are not seen as an essential part of our heritage and identity and, as such, there is no call for their continuance on cultural grounds. There is still a small number of hunters who shoot deer and birds for sport but perhaps not so many as in North America. Maybe there is a cultural difference and need in some parts of Canada but most photos of sealers I have seen are of people of European origin, many of them probably of Scottish decent. Does the economic survival of one of the wealthiest countries in the World really depend on this slaughter?

I am no vegan but I try to meat that has come from animals that have been well treated and humanely killed. I avoid 99p chickens!

Rolf has something to say as well.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Two harbours Corrie, nor any drop to drink.

From Sannox we proceeded south along the east coast of Arran until we came upon the delightful hamlet of Corrie. Despite its diminutive size, Corrie boasts two harbours. We were by now exceedingly parched and Thirsty Tony suggested landing at the Corrie Hotel for a little liquid sustenance.

The landing on the rocky foreshore was not easy, the bay immediately below the hotel sported a large sewage pipe. We did not wish to discover if this was still a source of Clyde bananas so we moved further south.

Thirsty Tony strides purposefully towards the Corrie Hotel.

First impression was encouraging. The hotel is the largest building in the village and is solidly constructed from the local red sandstone. The door to the grand entrance portico squeaked loudly as we pushed it open. To the experienced reviewer, this did not seem like a potral that has recently been well excercised servicing the arrivals and departures of needy travellers. Inside was like the Marie Celeste, a dry, dusty glass stood alone in a corner. The bar looked as if it had been abandoned in a hurry, there were no bodies under the tables. A line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner came to mind: "nor any drop to drink".

The late winter sun shown down through the windows. Motionless dusty sunbeams hung in the still cold air and nothing stirred to disturb the particles of dust.

"Hello" I croaked (I was thirsty after all).

"Anybody there?" added an equally hoarse Tony.

Somewhere deep in the bowels of the house another door creaked followed by a slight shuffling noise. After what seamed like an age, a delightful old lady appeared in her slippers with a woolen shawl tightly wrapped round her shoulders to ward off the chill. She looked at us expectantly.

"Is it possible to get a drink please?" asked Tony, pointing towards the empty bar.

She didn't seem to understand as she replied "They've all gone."

"Gone where?" I asked, sensing a mystery.

"For the winter." muttered Tony under his breath, which condensed in the cold air.

"Are you boys geologists?" she enquired.

"Actually we are sea kayakers." I replied before apologising for disturbing her afternoon and bidding her farewell.

Our visit was in the week before the Easter weekend, we thought a tourist business would be delighted to see our custom after a long winter. However, we were not seen as the first swallows of spring. We left the premises as dry as we had arrived. This, it has to be said was a first for the staff of Tony and I are generous in our assessments of sea kayaking hostelries but on this occasion, I am afraid we have to award this establishment 0/10. That's right, nul point.

If you visit in the summer you may well find this to be a welcoming establishment with its taps running free and its glasses overflowing with refreshing liquids but we cannot recommend it for a winter refreshment.

We do however, plan to return...


Friday, March 28, 2008

The heather on fire in an empty land.

Leaving Garroch Head it was an 11km crossing to Glen Sannox at the north east end of Arran. During the crossing we had the ebb tide running to the SE out of the Sound of Bute and a wind that increased to force 4 from the NW. We had to use quite a high ferry angle to counteract the effects of wind and tide.

At last we approached the bay at the mouth of the glen. We felt dwarfed by the mountains of Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail with its serrated ridge, Ceum na Caillich (the old woman's step). Glen Sannox has been populated for thousands of years. There are standing stones and an Iron Age fort but the saddest signs of past habitation are the outlines of once fertile runrigs (small raised fields) and the stones of flattend cottages.

The Vikings called the great sweep of golden sand "Sand-vik" (sandy bay) which was corrupted to the present day Sannox. This was once the most populous part of Arran but in 1832 the Duke of Hamilton cleared the crofters off the land of the Glen. Half a century later, a poet, Mathilde Blind, visited Arran and wrote this:

I stood on the site of such a ruined village. All that remained of the once flourishing community was a solitary old Scotchwoman, who well remembered her banished countrymen. Her simple story had a thrilling pathos, told as it was on the melancholy slopes of the North Glen Sannox, looking across to the wild broken mountain ridges called "The Old Wife's Steps." Here, she said, and as far as one could see, had dwelt the Glen Sannox people, the largest population then collected in any one spot of the island, and evicted by the Duke of Hamilton in the year 1832. The lives of these crofters became an idyll in her mouth. She dwelt proudly on their patient labour, their simple joys, and the kind, helpful ways of them; and her brown eyes filled with tears as she recalled the day of their expulsion, when the people gathered from all parts of the island to see the last of the Glen Sannox folk ere they went on board the brig that was bound for New Brunswick, in Canada. "Ah, it was a sore day that," she sighed, "when the old people cast themselves down on the seashore and wept."

Mathilde Blind went on to write a poem about the Clearances called "The Heather on Fire".

From 1840 to 1862 the Duke ran a baryte (barium sulphate) mine in the glen. It reopened in 1919 and a wooden pier was built on the sands with a light railway connecting it to the mine. The mine closed in 1938 and the pier and the railway were removed in the late 1940s. You can still see the bases of the pier columns in the sands.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Porpoises of Garroch Head

We drifted in the ebb tide past Garroch Head at the south end of Bute. We were in the lee of the rocks and the water was near glassy.

All of a sudden a school of porpoises appeared, rolling in the current. I have often seen them here and in similar tidal flows off the west coast of Scotland. In the distance you can see Holy Island with Ailsa Craig beyond.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Clyde Bananas

The cold sea air and early morning start had given us an appetite so we decided to make Glencallum Bay on the south end of Bute our first landfall. As the ebb had already started we had to cross the channel at a surprisingly high ferry angle. In southerly winds a surprisingly heavy race develops off nearby Garroch Head.

Until relatively recently, Glasgow’s sewage sludge boat the SS Shieldhall (or SS Gardy Loo as she was known to the hoi poloi) used to make her way here from the Shieldhall sewage works in the river Clyde. She would proceed to dump her load in the ebb tide. Glaswegians were so partial to little trips “doon the water” that it was possible to buy tickets for a sailing on the SS Gardy Loo to witness the spectacle of their fellow citizens’ keech spilling out on this beautiful sea. She was one of a succession of “Clyde Banana Boats” It has to be said a Clyde Banana was far from yellow.

Fortunately we live in slightly more enlightened times and our appetites and lunch were not spoiled by the appearance of any Clyde Bananas on this now delightful shore.

In the days of sailing ships Glencallum Bay offered shelter from northerly winds and the bay was often filled with anchored vessels waiting for better conditions. These few stones are all that remains of a popular drinking establishment which served their needs. We too enjoyed the shelter of the bay. We took in the view to the southwest over the Rubh an Eun light to the Little Cumbrae and the distant Ayrshire coast beyond but it would be much later before we could slake our thirsts.


Monday, March 24, 2008

The freedom of sea kayaking

We continued on our 20 km crossing to the island of Arran. As the clouds to the south slipped away, the soaring ridges of the Glen Sannox mountains were illuminated by the late winter sunshine and stood out boldly as they reached for the sky. The cold north wind had brought crystal clear air from the Arctic and the distant snow dusted summits seemed so close.

As our bows rose and fell to the rhythm of the dark backed waves, this song came into my head:

I'll sing my song to the
wide open spaces
I'll sing my heart out to
the infinite sea
I'll sing my visions to the
sky high mountains
I'll sing my song to the
free, to the free

Pete Townshend, The Who

We had never felt so free.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Between sunshine and shadow on the Clyde

From Little Cumbrae we paddled for Glencallum Bay at the south end of the island of Bute. The hills on the island were dappled with sunshine.

Far away, to the south west, the higher Arran hills were still wreathed in cloud. Fresh snow could be seen highlighting the rocky ridges of north Glen Sannox.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Doon the Watter" on the Clyde

As the Ayrshire coast slipped away behind us, the weather front that had come in during the night moved away south. We were left in a cold, clear northerly airstream.

We passed the south end of Little Cumbrae Island and looking north we could see the distant mountains of Argyll behind the magnificent Stevenson lighthouse with its copper dome.

We continued on a north westerly course for the island of Bute. As we cleared Little Cumbrae we could see into Millport Bay on Great Cumbrae island. At one time this was a premier holiday destination for thousands of Glasgwegian workers. Steamers raced each other from the Broomielaw wharf in the heart of Glasgow to the piers on the Clyde resorts. It was known as going "doon the watter". The holidaymakers moved on to Blackpool, then the Costas and Florida leaving Millport as a sleepy little place, even in the height of summer.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Portencross Castle

We left from beneath the ancient walls of Portencross castle.

The first leg of our trip involved crossing to the Little Cumbrae island.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Winter Sannox sojurn

It was not a very promising start. Snow showers were rattling through the Glen Sannox Hills on Arran.

Sometimes it pays to keep going. It was still bitterly cold but the sun came out. We enjoyed one of the the most scenic paddles the Earth has to offer. The launch spot was less than an hour's drive from Glasgow. I have said it before....we live in sea kayaking heaven.

A jolly little 32km winter warm up then the ferry home. We went straight to the restaurant and had chicken curry rice and chips. Well I did say it was Scotland!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

An unexpected swim.

A force 6 NE wind was blowing down the loch and whipping a frenzy of white horses over its dark cold waters. It is the end of the Scottish winter but the summits of the mountains on Arran and the Galloway hills were still shrouded in a white covering of snow.

Despite the cold we were sweating in our high tech clothing as we battled into the teeth of the wind. All three of us were wearing helmets which shows how seriously we were taking the conditions. We were making slow but steady progress when all of a sudden Tony went over.

He disappeared from sight under the dark water. He had instinctively gone into the roll position but it failed and he was unseated. After what seemed like an age, he eventually surfaced. He was gasping with the cold cold and he couldn't get out of the water. Mike and I manouvered into position on either side of him and we each grabbed a shoulder strap and hauled him out like a fish. Water spewed from his nose, his mouth and his helmet but thank God he was still breathing, though he had completely lost the power of speech.

All the high tech windproof clothing and fleece was completely saturated with icy water. The NE wind chilled him to the marrow. It was a serious situation. Tony was already hypothermic and we were 28km from the nearest shore at Lendalfoot on the Firth of Clyde.

How did we get out of this mess and get ourselves home from this Scottish version of Deep Trouble?

Please scroll down for more....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Better Days #3

This old fishing boat has seen better days, her still stout timbers are now part of the sea.

In the county of Argyll, on Scotland's west coast, Loch Sween cuts deep inland from the tidal waters of the Sound of Jura. At its head, a dog leg leads into the hidden recesses of Caol Scotnish, a thin ribbon of the sea which penetrates deep into a land shrouded in mosses and oaks.

The shores are steep and rocky and the oaks lean over the sea dipping their leaves in salt water at high tide. We visited on a typical west coast day, the rain was running from leaf to leaf with the drips gathering in size as they went.

Wending our way under dipping and dripping branches we came across this forlorn old fishing boat.

She was just about as far from her old fishing grounds as was possible to get and still be in the realm of the sea. Now instead of her hull rising and falling over ocean swells, the tides rise and fall over her planking. Strands of bladder wrack are left hanging from her hull as the tide recedes.

Go on, get out there, enjoy your better days while you are able.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Better Days #2

Maidens Harbour is protected from the sea by the rocky Maidens reef. In summer it is full of recreational boats but when a chill eastern wind blows in winter, only this old work boat lists and strains at her moorings. She is tethered with knotted scraps of rope and she is lying low in the water as her hull is flooded with rain and sea spray.

Despite her neglect she still floats, carrying the pride of the craftsmen who sweated her fine curves and lines from planks of stout wood and the men who fished her on stormy waters.

Those were better days, they were proud days.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Primus EtaPower EF integrated stove and pan review

The Primus EtaPower EF integrated stove and pan.

I first became interested in camping stoves with heat exchangers after a windy week in North Uist and Boreray in the Outer Hebrides. It was so windy and it took so long to heat anything that we ran out of gas. Fortunately we found where some peats had been left to dry. There were a few scraps of dry peat left, where the stacks had been built, to keep us going….

Then the JetBoil came along but as its name suggests, it is only really suited to boiling. The Primus EtaPower EF is the most recent development of this type of stove. Primus are a well established company with excellent after sales support. I still have, in working order, a 90 year old Primus half pint paraffin stove, which I inherited from my great uncle. I recently got spare lead and leather washers from Tiso.

The Primus EtaPower is an extremely well thought out integrated design which is made from very high quality materials. It is a combination of a burner unit/base, windshield, pot, lid/frying pan handle, wiping cloth and insulated carry case. The whole thing packs into the cylindrical carry case which measures 22cm diameter by 12.5cm deep and weighs 850g. This means it will fit through the 24cm round hatch covers fitted on many sea kayaks.

It is very easy to assemble. The burner unit including hose and piezo ignition can be detached from the base for transport but I usually leave it assembled. (Unless I decide to take a second 1l pot, which will fit inside the standard pot but it then is fiddlier to fit the burner/base combination inside the smaller pot without removing the burner from the base.) The base sits very low, directly on the ground because unlike other heat exchanger stoves which screw directly onto the gas cylinder, this stove has a hose which runs to the separate gas cylinder. This low position of the burner could burn an inflammable surface so you would need to be careful and not use the stove on a bothy table or dry grass. Once the windscreen is clipped to the base/burner unit, you can fold out three serrated pot supports. You can use the stove with bigger pots than that supplied but then you cannot use the windshield. Neither can you use the windshield for frying in the lid which doubles up as a frying pan.

The pot and lid
The 2.1l pot is made from hard anodised aluminium with a heat exchanger permanently fixed to the bottom. The internal diameter of the heat exchanger ring is 10cm so you could still use the EtaPower pot with other stoves in the unlikely event of a burner failure. The pot has a durable and effective non-stick coating. The pot handle looks pretty standard until you notice the little rubber pads inside the jaws which prevent scratching of the non stick coating! What attention to detail. The pot handle will not lift the tight fitting lid if you invert over the pot for boiling but the supplied cloth is big enough to use and stop burning your fingers. This is a further demonstration of the thought that has gone into the usability of this product. Only then will you discover you are still one step behind the designers! If you put the lid on the pot right way up, there is just enough bevel at its base to secure it inside the pot rim. In this position you can use the pot handle and you could keep a fried steak onions and mushrooms warm while you cook some other vegetables in the pot. If cooking something like porridge, you can boil it up then put the pot into the insulated carrying case, the case even has a dip on the side so that the handle fits in. You can then zip on the lid to let the porridge continue to cook for a few minutes saving more gas. When using this stove with the lid as a frying pan, you need to be careful not to turn the heat up full or you will warp the lid! However, this should not be a problem as the burner is so controllable.

If I am on my own I usually eat directly out of the pot to save dirtying a plate. I use a plastic spoon to avoid scraping the non stick coating. If you do this and hold the pot with the handle, you will find the heat exchanger now works in reverse and the wind will cool your meal very quickly. The solution is simple, put the pot in the insulated case. You can now enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace and it stays warm unlike your friends who are bolting their food off their plates before it get cold.

The burner and cylinder
The gas cylinder does not have a regulator like the MSR integrated stove but because it is on a long hose, you have several advantages. First is that the low height lends stability. Second, in a frosty morning you can turn the cylinder upside down to increase performance. Third, you can warm a little water in a separate pot then sit the gas cylinder in this to increase performance for the main cooking session. The piezo ignition works well except if it gets damp, when three separate examples of the stove failed to ignite, so matches or a lighter are still a good idea to carry. At full power the stove puts out 2kW of power which is pretty impressive but the flame is very controllable for simmering and so unlike a JetBoil you can use it for thick soups or stew. The wind shield and heat exchanger are so efficient that if you cup your hands round the pot with the burner fully on, you can hardly feel any heat.

Performance in the field compared with a conventional stove
This stove really works in a wind. I still got realistic boil times of just over 3 minutes per litre of water in breezy conditions when a JetBoil was seriously down on performance. Not only do you get short boil times, this stove is amazingly frugal with gas. So far I have used a single 450g cylinder pf Primus power gas which is a propane/isobutane/butane mix. I have used it for 10 nights’ camping for one person. Breakfasts were hot porridge and hot drink, lunches were hot drink and half the lunches had fried mackerel or sausage as well, evening meals were hot drink, hot soup and sachet of stew with quick cook rice or potato powder. I boiled or near boiled about 4l of water per day. I still have 1/3 of the cylinder or 150g left!!! In the past I have used nearly 900g of gas for 10 nights which is effectively two 450g cylinders. So in real camping conditions the Primus EtaPower stove is more than three times as efficient as my lightweight MSR Pocket Rocket stove used with a folding windshield and a hard anodised pot. In the future I will probably buy 220g or even 100g cylinders to use with the Primus to save weight and space despite the higher unit cost of gas. There is room inside the pot to store these smaller cylinders so the stove really is an all in one solution.

A question of weight!
Interestingly, the gross weight of the Primus EtaPower and 220g cylinder is 1180g and the gross weight of an MSR pocket rocket with MSR Duralite 1.5l pot (and lid which cannot be used as a frying pan) and folding aluminium windshield is 1410g. Despite being lighter 16% lighter, the Primus ETA Power combo with small cylinder will boil 50% more water in real conditions than the MSR combo with the larger cylinder! (Lightweight backpackers might stick with their Pocket Rockets for an overnight camp but for extended trips, the weight of the EtaPower is balanced by the extra weight of gas cylinders that a conventional stove requires.)

Other developments
Also available is the EtaPower Trail which comes with a lid intead of the frying pan, a smaller 1.7 l pot and nylon bag instead of the insulated case. Being lighter it may have more appeal for backpackers. The EtaPower MF is a multifuel version of the gas powered EF. It should extend the appeal of this stove to those who camp in winter conditions or high altitudes.

How do I rate the Primus EtaPower EF stove for camping from a sea kayak? Well, I have now bought one, so I must like it but I have also continued to use it and not gone back to my other stoves. Not only that, three people who I camp with have also bought one. It must score 12/10 then! Mind you, if Primus cannot supply spares in 90 years time, I (or my descendants!) would be prepared to reduce that to 11/10!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The sun sets over Craignish; the cradle of the Scotland.

As we left the head of Loch Craignish, the road south climbed steeply up the Bealach Mor (the big pass). Before the road turned inland we enjoyed this amazing view over the loch to the ridges of Craignish and to the rocky outlines of Jura and Scarba beyond. The lights of Ardfern twinkled in the shelter of Eilean Mhic Chrion.

Craignish lies in the parish of Kilmartin which is the first village to the south of the Bealach Mor. This area of Scotland has been settled for over 4,000 years, since Neolithic times. In the vicinity of the village there are over 350 ancient sites within a radius of 10 kilometres. Not for nothing, is this area known as the Valley of Ghosts!

Much later, about 400AD, the Scots who lived round the coast of this part of Argyll, Kintyre, Islay and North Ireland, founded their kingdom of Dalriada here. Their capital was Dunadd fort which was built on a rocky outcrop. This rose from the Great Moss, the flat land behind present day Crinan. Gradually their influence extended throughout the rest of Scotland. The first King of all Scotland was Kenneth Macalpine, he was crowned at Dunadd in 843AD.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Better Days

We came across this old fishing boat near the shore of Loch Craignish. The flaking paint of her planking glowed in the twilight and brought colour to the waters of the loch that once supported her. She is alone now and her days at sea are past but she is decaying with a dignity that befits a craft that in turn supported a way of life.

Boats like this can be found in quiet corners all round the West coast of Scotland. They are a dying breed; built of wood by local craftsmen (this one perhaps in the boatyard at nearby Crinan) they sometimes served several generations of one fishing family. I wonder if the men who fished from her are still working or have long since retired. They too are a dying breed.

We left her in the gathering darkness of Craignish.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunset over the Enchanted Mountain.

From Craignish Point we looked southwest down the Sound of Jura and we watched the deepening twilight gather behind the rugged Isle of Jura. Long after the sun had set, the dreamy, dusky light on the distant Paps of Jura was worth the wait and the cold! It emphasised the mystical nature of these mountains; Beinn Shiantaidh (on the left) is Gaelic for Mountain of the Enchantment.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Winter twighlight on Loch Beag

Loch Beag is an inlet off the Sound of Jura. At its head, surrounded by woodland, is Craignish Castle. The Castle dates from the 16th century and the original square keep has walls 7.5 feet thick. A dungeon has been cut into the rock below its foundations. Nowadays it has been converted into private apartments and it is not possible to visit it.

Loch Beag is still a secondary tidal port, perhaps reflecting its previous importance as the Craignish ferry terminal.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

The ferryman of Craignish

In this house lived the ferryman of Craignish.

According to the 1881 British Census, his name was Dugald Mc Farlan. He was aged 60 and lived in the house with his wife Anne aged 36 and their children Dugald 12, scholar, John 8, scholar, Margaret 6, scholar and Malcolm 4. Dugald's sister Anne 52, Handicap: Lunatic and John Mc Vicar 19, assistant ferryman also lived in this little house.

The house was not shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1875 so it must have been built between then and 1881. Despite the overcrowding by modern standards, they probably had one of the best houses on the peninsula.


Friday, March 07, 2008

The sun goes down on the last ferry to Jura.

As the sun set on our Dorus Mor adventure, we returned to our launch spot, the old Craignish Pier.

There had been a ferry running between Craignish and Kenuachdrach (now Kinuachdrachd) on Jura since the 17th century. According to the statistical account of Scotland of 1843, 3,000 sheep and 1,000 black cattle were shipped through here each year.

The present pier is not shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map butthe 1881 British Census records the ferryman's cottage as being occupied. The 1900 Ordnance Survey map does show the pier as a T shaped structure. Presumably the top of the T was made from wood, as no trace of it remains today.

You still can walk to the end of the pier to watch the sun go down over the Sound of Jura and the Gulf of Corryvreckan but you will wait a long time for a ferry. The last ferry left in the 1930's.

Nowadays Jura has no direct ferry link with the mainland. You need to take a ferry to Islay, get off then take a smaller ferry from Islay to Jura. Jura is a remote and wonderful place, you would be quicker going by sea kayak!


Added 08/03/2008

PeterD said...
that pier looks very tall - how did you land here? Is there a beach nearby you could land at?

Peter there is a small beach about 500m further back on the single track road that ends at the jetty. Unfortunately there is no car park there. In dry weather it might be possible to park on the verge but it was too boggy when we were there. We carried the kayaks down the steep slippery rocks to the right of the pier.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Barnacle geese on an early passage north through the Sound of Jura

We finally broke out of the current that was flowing from the Dorus Mor relentlessly towards the gaping jaws of the Gulf of Corryvreckan beyond.

We were now heading north west with the rocky isle of Reisa Mhic Phaidean on our left. All day long, we had watched great skeins of barnacle geese flying north up the Sound of Jura from their wintering grounds on Islay.

They spend the summer on Spitzbergen, some 2700km away to the NNW. I do hope they were not fooled into an early departure by that glorious high pressure spell in February. They normally leave in April and the severe weather since mid February must have made a northward migration almost impossible.

Beyond the geese, you can see Kilmory Lodge on Scarba and the distant mountains of Mull.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Eddy lines, boils and whirlpools in the Dorus Mor


16:08:20 Something seems to be stirring ahead...

16:08:22 ...thankfully it's only a tiddler!

These photos were taken within the Dorus Mor before we cleared Craignish Point. We were travelling at 12km/hour which equates at 6 knots neaps as marked on the chart. I found myself progressing along an eddy line between a large, upwelling smooth boil on my right and a more disturbed area on the left. As you can see from the small blue segment on the GPS track, this corresponded with a sudden (involuntary) change in direction.

All of a sudden a small whirlpool appeared at the interface and within 2 seconds sucked air down to at least 6 feet below the surface of the crystal clear water. I dropped the camera and snatched my paddle out of the water to perform a reassuring air brace (as one does). Over the next minute I saw another five, near identical, whirlpools along the eddyline. Many years ago from a yacht, I saw about ten similar little whirlpools along another eddy line which forms nearer the Craignish peninsula.

If there had been any wind I would not have seen them, the Dorus would have been a very lively place and I would not have been doing any air bracing!

Our maximum speed was well thorough the Dorus Mor when we reached 16 to 19 km/hr where our track went northwards near where the chart mentions tide rips. We did need to paddle quite hard to break out of the race, otherwise we might have ended up heading for the Corryvreckan. We started paddling north just after we met the whirlpools. You can get some idea of the flow by the large arc of our track.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sea river

From Macaskin we paddled SW towards the islands that stream south from Garbh Reisa, the gatekeeper of the Dorus Mor.

Dorus Mor means great door or gate in Gaelic.

We were soon approaching the steep cliffs of Garbh Reisa.

We kept paddling SW until we cleared low Craignish Point. We turned to the NW when we could see straight through the Dorus Mor, past Reisa an t-Sruith, and on through the distant Gulf of Corryvreckan bounded by Jura on the left and Scarba on the right. We were now on the equivalent of a great river in the sea. If we were not able to break out of its tidal stream, we would be carried on through the Gulf of Corryvreckan and into its Great Race beyond....