Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sea kayaking desktop wallpaper calendar 2010

I wish a very Happy New Year to all visitors to As way of a celebration of the last year and in anticipation of sea kayaking adventures yet to come, here is the 6th annual sea kayaking desktop wallpaper calendar from The above link will lead to high resolution photos in four different desktop sizes.

January. Sunset over Bernera Island and Mull from the west coast of Lismore.

February. A lone kayaker crosses Loch Leven below the winter mountains of Glen Coe.

March. Pladda from the old red sandstone slabs on Kildonan Beach, Arran.

April. The Cuillin of Rum from Portuairk beach, Ardnamurchan.

May. Tricky landing and launch at Portandea, Firth of Clyde.

June. Sunset over the Islands of Fleet, Solway Firth.

July. Sunset over the Outer Hebrides from the NW coast of Coll.

August. Broken knee beach, Gunna.

September. Raised beach, West Loch Tarbert, Isle of Jura.

October. Balnahard Beach, Isle of Colonsay.

November. Approaching Glen Sannox, Arran from Garroch Head, Bute.

December. Rainbow Rock, Rinns of Galloway.

A buoyant character, a guru and two malts.

As we rounded Gull point at the south end of Little Cumbrae, we literally bumped into an old friend, Richard Cree and his two companions from Garnock Canoe Club. Richard is a very buoyant character in the waters of the Scottish Canoe scene. He gives a lot of his time to help others in the sport. In addition to being current commodore of the Garnock CC, he is also the Regional Coaching Officer for Strathclyde West (and a former Director) of the Scottish Canoe Association.

After a good chat, during which the merits of clockwise or anticlockwise circumnavigations were discussed, we retired to the castle for luncheon. After medium rare roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, we had home made Christmas cake washed down by two fine malts. We started off with an 18 year old Glenfiddich which was simply superb. This was followed by a 12 year old Speyside malt. This was good but the consensus was that it would have been better to start with this and move up to the 18 year old.

We chatted with the caretaker who is employed by the new Indian owners of the island. They plan to open the island as a base for the teachings of an Indian Yog Guru Swami Ramdev. I am not sure if roast beef and whisky will be on the menu. They owners waiting at Largs Marina to see if the weather would break. The caretaker tidied recent storm debris from the jetty in preparation for their arrival. He had also been employed by the previous owner. The quad bike looked a fun way to get round the rough tracks on the island.

As we left the landing site by the castle, we could see the promised weather had broken through far to the south. Ailsa Craig shimmered on a sunny horizon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Number 38

Crossing the Tan, which is the channel separating the Great and Little Cumbrae isles, we came across this funny looking buoy (No 38) with a top that looked like an upside down bishop's hat. There were no directions on it so we proceeded in a southerly direction...

...and were soon paddling down...

...the series of raised beaches which characterise the west coast of Little Cumbrae.

Assisted by wind and tide, we swept past the old and new lighthouses.

But it was cold. The chill wind blew right from Valhalla, in the cold wastes of Asgard.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A chill wind on the Clyde

WE had decided to paddle anticlockwise round the Cumbraes to take advantage of the ebb tide and NNW wind which would help our progress down the west coast of both islands. In the distance we could see a tanker waiting at the south end of the Clyde channel to pick up a pilot from the Clyde pilot boat the MV Mount Stewart.

Rounding Skate Point at the NW end of Great Cumbrae, it was a relief to get the wind behind us.

With Bute and Arran in the background, the tanker proved to be the Nuuk Maersk, a small product tanker of 144m x23m and 16,600DWT. She was built in 2007. She was en route to the the oil storage facility at Finnart some 46km further up the Clyde estuary on the banks of the fjord like Loch Long.

The west coasts of Great and Little Cumbrae stretched away to Holy Island and Arran in the distance. There are a series of raised beaches and the distant Little Cumbrae lighthouse is built on one of them.

Even with the wind behind us, there was considerable windchill and we used hoods as well as thermal hats and pogies for our hands. We began to wonder what had happened to the forecast sunshine and light winds.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Mull of Galloway tide race, at full belt!

A day trip round the Mull of Galloway, a 21km paddle from East Tarbert Bay to Port Logan, taking in the Mull of Galloway tide race. December 2009.

The Mull of Galloway tide race at full belt.

Destination, the Mull of Galloway.

Sunny skies and calm seas.

Sea kayaking the Mull of Galloway.

Hiding in Lunnock Cave, Mull of Galloway.

P&H Cetus excels as a photography platform.

Mull of Galloway to Gallie Craig.

Taking in a Kindram or two on the Rhinns of Galloway.

Picnic at Rainbow Rock!

The pot at the end of Rainbow Rock.

Transition from the terrestrial to the maritime.

Crammag Head.

The Silurian simian sentinel of Breddoch Bay.

Port Logan sunset.

"It was at the Mull of Galloway...and this giant wave..."

Keeping a low profile on the Clyde

We had tried on two occasions to go paddling with John, our friend from Swanage, who was up visiting family over the Christmas holiday.

Unfortunately the snows came down on both occasions. On the first, I didn't even get out my drive. On the second, some main roads were clearer of snow and I made it to Largs on the Ayrshire coast by avoiding the 31m direct route over the hills and taking a 48mile detour by Greenock and the coast. Unfortunately, John was well and truly snowed in at Aberfoyle in the Trossachs hills.

It was freezing cold when I met with the Ayrshire contingent yesterday morning at the public slipway at Largs Marina on the Clyde.

The bulk carrier Wah Shan (length 289m, breadth 45m) had just made her way down the Largs Channel to Hunterston Jetty where she would offload her cargo of coal. She was accompanied by the tugs Svitzer Milford (30m x 11m) and Ayton Cross (31m x 12m).

The next vessel to cross our bows was the UK Border Agency cutter HMCC Seeker.

She was on the prowl for smugglers or illegal aliens. We may have kept a low profile but so did she. She was not transmitting any AIS information. She is 42m long and has a top speed of 26 knots.

We still hadn't cleared the Largs channel and now the Calmac Great Cumbrae ferry, the MV Loch Shira. Unlike the other ships we saw, the Loch Shira was Clyde built (2007) in the Ferguson's yard, just up the coast in Port Glasgow. She is 54m x14m.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"It was at the Mull of Galloway...and this giant wave..."

Jim ran Phil and myself down to the Mull of Galloway to recover our shuttle cars. Since there was no other car left at Port Logan, the others were forced to take refuge in the Port Logan Inn.

From above East Tarbert Bay, we looked down on a suspiciously calm looking Mull of Galloway. The only movement appeared to be the steady sweep of the lighthouse beam.

Back at the pub we warmed ourselves by the roaring log fire. Phil regaled an enraptured audience with tales of monster waves. Well, enraptured might not be an adjective that could be fairly applied to David, he looked dead beat!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Port Logan sunset

By now we had left Lagantalluch Head far behind and the adverse effects of the flood tide were diminishing. We now paddled deeper into the great bay south of the Mull of Logan...

...and by the time we rounded Cairnywellan Head, the tide was almost imperceptible.

We entered Port Logan Bay as the sun was setting...

...and at last our keels kissed the sand of Port Logan harbour. We stretched our stiff legs in the chill air of the approaching night. We had only covered 21 km but for much of that distance we had encountered adverse eddies or tides. We were now quite tired and thirsty!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Silurian simian sentinel of Breddoch Bay

After Crammag Head, the next headland was Laggantalluch Head where we passed the sea stack of Scutching Stock...

...the Cave of the Saddle...

...Ape Rock, which stands like a simian sentinel above Breddock Bay...

...and the incredibly folded and shattered strata of Muddioch Rock.

From the rocks of South Lennans, we could see the distant Mull of Logan. David was getting very tired and was very pleasantly surprised that our destination was in Logan Bay on this side of the Mull.

The delicate Lennans Waterfall poured straight over more stratified rocks, which had been folded to almost ninety degrees from their original horizontal alignment. At the foot of the waterfall there is yet another cave.

Finally, we found there had been a recent landslide at Green Saddle. There was a lovely little flat area of grass, ideal for camping, below where tons and tons of broken rock now lie. There might be a lesson there...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crammag Head

After a wet launch at Rainbow Rock, we regrouped on the water while some pumped out their cockpits, which had filled with dumping waves.

The old WW2 coastguard lookout bunker announced our arrival at Crammag Head. The rocks here are hard pink granite and have been more resistant to erosion than the softer sedimentary rocks on either side. It is a popular area for sea anglers and rock climbers.

We now found ourselves under the Crammag Head Lighthouse. This was originally built by David A and Charles Stevenson in 1913. They built a simple tower without a lantern house on top. The current light is a replacement with a proper lantern and actually looks better than the utilitarian Stevenson design. It must have been installed after February 2008 when we last passed this way and saw the old light. The light flashes white every 10 seconds.

I later discovered that the new Crammag Head light was established just about the time of our trip in mid December 2009.

We rounded Crammag Head at 13:46, nearly an hour after the tide had turned against us. Close in to the rocks, we were not too bothered by the adverse flow. At peak tidal flow on the south going flood, a considerable race develops here, especially if it meets a prevailing SW wind.

As the winter sun slowly dipped to the SW, we started the final leg of our journey to Port Logan.