Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kayak Caledonia progress report #4, round the Cape!

Day 8, 29th May 49km

Tony: "Awesome day, sun, swell, dolphins, whales! Round Point Stoer passed Handa to Oldshore More."

Day 9, 30th May 37km

Tony 21:30: "Round the Cape (Wrath). It was huge. There was no possibility of landing at Sandwood Bay. The swell was 4-5m and the impact zone was like a cauldron. We decided to give the Cape a wide berth of about a mile. Once we turned eastwards the following swells were buttock clenching which was really just as well as we had not been able to stop for a break. A wild ride but now safe in Balnakeil Bay. "

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The lonely sea and the Skye

On Saturday which was the first day of the 9th Scottish Sea Kayaking Symposium on Skye, Jim Weir and I took of group of really nice folk out onto Loch Eishort on the north west of Skye's Sleat peninsula. At first the wind was a gusty force 4 southerly but the arrival of torrential rain soon killed the wind. The outline of Bla Bheinn, an outlier of the Cuillin ridge, can just be seen behind Nigel.

We launched at Ord and made our way east up the loch...

...past the delightful coral sands of Eilean Gaineamhach an Arda.

We were lucky enough to spot a pair of white tailed sea eagles. One of them had at least one faded orange or red wing tag.

The hills were running with torrents of water...

which poured over the beaches and into the loch.

I don't think anywhere does rain as well as Skye!


Kayak Caledonia progress report #3

Day 7, 28th May 22km

Tony 12:33 "Left Isle Ristol this morning, rough round Rhubha Coigach, now at Stoer will round Point of Stoer at slack 3pm. Oldany Island is destination tonite. Aiming to round Cape Wrath on Saturday. Force4 and rain today."

Tony 13:50 " Tried to get out of Stoer Bay but wind has picked up to top of 5 and very lumpy turned back. If u get chance txt eve 4cast to see if there is chance later. Othrwse will sit tight."

Tony 20:05 " Glad we turned back, wind n waves just kept getting up. Camping on the site at Clachtoll. Just hitched into Lochinver to top up supplies, phones and fluid levels. Now walking back to Clachtoll. Will try to get round Point of Stoer and up to Kinlochbervie tomorrow pm."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kayak Caledonia progress report #2

Day 5, 26th May: 33km
Tony 16:31 "Made it round Rubha Reid, camped on isle of Ewe. Wild scary ride f5-6, 3m swells-but fun. Well knackered!"

Day 6, 27th May: 32km
Tony 18:32 "Arrived art Isle Ristol.Windy day big swell on Greenstone Point. Tomorrow aiming for Rhuba Coigach then Achmelvich."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

9th Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.

Organised by Gordon and Morag Brown, Duncan Winning and Ken Nichol and a myriad of supporters, the 9th Scottish Symposium was a great success. The range of activities was incredible and went ahead despite some pretty windy and wet weather. The event was also well supported by the trade, with a variety of stands and a huge demo fleet. Geoff and Anne from Kari-tek had even brought along a mobile shop!

The opportunity to test boats back to back is a great reason to visit a symposium. I spent an afternoon with my Nordkapp LV against the Sea Kayaking UK Pilgrim (Romany LV), Rockpool GT, P&H Cetus and Cetus LV. I edged them to the point of no return and did about 50 rolls. The wind was a gusty 5 to 6 offshore with flat water. I am 5'8" and 200lbs.

Sea Kayaking UK Pilgrim (Romany LV)
This is a small version of the classic Romany. It is designed for paddlers up to about 150lbs so I had to squeeze inh and I am really too big for it but I liked it straight away, it was so manoeuvrable. It had a nice low rear deck and the only sea kayak I have tried that was as easy to roll is the Anas Acuta. With my weight it did seem to have a limited top speed but it accelerated up to that very quickly. The finish on this boat was superb but I have to say that a demo Greenlander, one of my friends borrowed earlier this year, was not well finished round the cockpit and one of the compartments leaked. Despite much rolling, this one was dry as a bone. Smaller paddlers should definitely try a Pilgrim!

Rockpool GT
The finish on this boat was stunning, the work of a master craftsman. It is a bigger hull than the Alaw/Alaw Bach but not so large as the Menai 18. The usual Rockpool cockpit ergonomics were superb. As you might expect, it felt faster than the Alaws but slower than the Menai 18. It edged superbly but it didn't feel quite as responsive to turning as my daughter's Alaw Bach. However, as a boat to do it all, including having decent space for camping trips, it is pretty much unbeatable and a welcome addition to the Rockpool fleet.

P&H Cetus
Amazingly, I had not yet tried one! I like my trusty Quest too much! This is a big boat and the wide point is behind the paddler. However, it has a low foredeck and I was surprised how snug it was on the thighs, despite its size. The cockpit feels much smaller than the Quest LV but for most people that would just mean less padding. The stability on flat water was amazing, I think it will make a great platform for photography. You can hold it right on edge with none of the feeling of instability you get from a Quest at that angle. The Menai 18, which is also a big boat is equally stable on edge, so I was not too surprised about this. However, what did surprise me was how much the Cetus turned when on edge. Even in windy conditions I was nearly doing 360's with a sweep and single bow rudder. It is more manoeuvrable than the Quest and considerably more so than the Menai 18. Although the Cetus is very stable on edge, once you push it to the point of no return it goes very quickly. It rolls pretty well for a big boat but in comparison with the SKUK Pilgrim, it was a bit sluggish. In an afternoon of 50 or so rolls it was the only boat that I failed a roll in. Mind you I was getting tired and cold by that time!

I would need more time in controlled conditions to be sure, but I think its maximum sprint speed is faster than the Quest but slower than the Menai 18. In the strong wind it tracked very well and responsively to adjusting the skeg at various paddling angles to the wind. I am not sure if I like the new locking ratchet skeg adjuster. In the gusts I do not think it was as directionally stable as the Menai 18. The only waves were the ferry's wash but the v bottom of the Cetus did not seem to slam as much as the flat bottom of the Menai 18. The construction and finish on the Cetus was impeccable.

I was not expecting to like the Cetus as much as I did but it was so manoeuvrable that I wonder if it might make both a camping boat and a day boat. P&H have very kindly offered me a loan of one for a long term test and I look forward very much to that.

P&H Cetus LV
Everything I have said about the Cetus applies to the Cetus LV except that the LV is much smaller. I could hardly squeeze in. Despite its smaller size, I didn’t find the Cetus LV any more manoeuvrable than the Cetus. I think the Cetus LV is really for smaller paddlers who want a decent fit, rather than for big paddlers wanting more manoeuvrability. I noticed a very small paddler having a great time in this boat and he did not seem undully affected by the strong wind.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kayak Caledonia progress report #1

Due to being at the 9th Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium in Skye, I have not yet posted the progress of my pals, Tony and Gavin's Kayak Caledonia expedition to raise funds for McMillan Cancer Releif and Childline.

Day 1, 22nd May: 17km.
Embarked from Morar, south of Mallaig at 18:30 in beautiful spring sunshine and light winds and made camp on Knoydart peninsula.

Day 2, 23rd May: 38km
Heavy rain, wind Force 4-5 S veering N. Spring tides. Tony and Gavin made their way up through the narrows separating Skye from the mainland. They passed the Sandaig islands before entering the tide races of Kyle Rhea and then Kyle Akin. They had a rough crossing in a head wind to the south of Applecross where they spent the night in a bothy.

Day 3, 24th May:0km
Heavy rain Force 6-7 SW. Stormbound day, second night in bothy.

Day 4, 25th May: 47km
Heavy rain clearing up. Force 3 S dropping during the day. Applecross, across Loch Torridon, round Redpoint and into Gareloch.

Follow the rest of Tony and Gavin's trip on their blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

End of the day at end of the road, Ardnamurchan

It was a while after rounding Ardnamurchan Point before I felt safe enough to get the camera out again! Jim and I were really impressed with Phil's paddling round the Point, especially considering that he has only been paddling for six months (and most of that time was in a double).

Once we had left the disturbed waters of Ardnamurchan Point, the wind began to drop with the dying sun...

... until there was not a breath left as we paddled between the reefs on the north coast of Ardnamurchan.

Our keels finally kissed the sands of Portuairk again at 21:43 some 10.5 hours after we had launched.

We covered a total of 42km on the water. We packed up leisurely in the darkness and brewed up soup and coffee before leaving for the long drive home at 11pm. We arrived back in Glasgow at 03:30am on the Monday morning.

What a day! This is seakayaking!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rounding Ardnamurchan Point at sunset

If we had set off to round Ardnamurchan from Paradise Beach, we would have hit Ardnamurchan Point with a force 4 north wind against the peak flow of a north going spring tide. It would not have been particularly pleasant for Phil. By taking time out for an evening meal in Laorin Bay, the wind had dropped to force three and I reckoned that we would hit Ardnamurchan about 30 minutes after the tide had to to flow south again.

We decided to go for it and avoid that 7km walk from Kilchoan over to where we had left the car on the north of the peninsula! We set off for Ardnamurchan Point, 11km due north across the Sound of Mull.

On the way across the Sound of Mull, we spotted a familiar outline approaching. It was the Pharos, the Northern Lighthouse Board maintenance vessel.

We approached Ardnamurchan as the sun was setting. Muck, Rum, Skye and Eigg lay beyond the point.

Huge swells were coming in towards the point and the sun sank below the "horizon" several times before it finally disappeared. It was an incredible experience to be off the most westerly point of Britain at sunset.

Despite the favourable conditions, it proved to be quite lively round the point, particularly on its north side.

There is now a 20 minute gap in the photographs!


Monday, May 18, 2009

The lochs and headlands of the north coast of Mull

Our return journey started by rounding Rhuba an Aird on Mull's north coast in perfect sea kayaking conditions.

We the entered Loch a' Chumhainn as we passed Port na Ba.

The Loch extends deep into the heart of Mull through a narrow tidal passage and ends at the planned village of Dervaig. The village has an excellent bunkhouse which would make an ideal refuge if stormbound on this coast. The fishing vessel Eilean Ban, OB998 has a sheltered anchorage near Croig. She is a lobster boat and was built in 2004.

Leaving the shelter of the loch we rounded Quinish Point and crossed Loch Mingarry before entering the delightful shelter of Laorin Bay. We decided to stop for a full cooked evening meal and the consumption of some golden steadying liquid (18 years old!). This was for Phil's benefit as he was not sure if he would make it back round Ardnamurchan Point. This would mean landing at Kilchoan on the south side of Ardnamurchan and a 7km walk back to the car. Not a pleasant prospect for a sea kayaker!

After a very pleasant meal, the spring tide had made its way right over the beach to the grass. This long stop now meant it would be slack water at Ardnamurchan by the time we would get there.

Had the golden steadying liquid had the desired effect....?


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Paradise found, on Mornish, Mull.

From Quinish we paddled SW across the mouth of Loch a' Chumhainn (Loch Cuin) and rounded Rhubha an Aird. The headlands on the north coast of Mull can be quite lively on a spring tide and we were not disappointed. As we explored further, we came across...

...this delightful cove which was hidden among the dark basalt cliffs and reefs of the Mornish coast.

This looked like an excellent spot to partake a second luncheon.

We made our way over white shell sands to the dunes at the back of the beach.

From here, the sea stretched away in shades of aquamarine, turquoise and finally ultramarine to distant Arnamurchan. Beyond the point, the islands of Muck, Rum Eigg and Skye crowded the horizon with soaring ridges. The lighthouse at Arnamurchan looked a long way away.

What a great spot this was to enjoy lunch with like minded friends. We felt we had escaped to Paradise!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The fossil tree of Quinish, Mull

The rough black basalt rocks of the Quinish peninsula on the north coast of Mull make for a rough landing.

Fortunately we found a south facing cove protected by a reef. However the boulders were not just ankle breaking, they were knee breaking!

Looking south from Dun Ban to Dun Leathan on the shores of Loch Chumain, the red arrow points to the site (NM 40875,56026 ) of the Quinish fossil tree whose great trunk of basalt is lying just below the high water mark. It was discovered in 1984 by Peter MacNab. It is much less known than McCulloch's Fossil tree on Mull's Wilderness coast about which, I have posted previously.

From the top of Dun Ban, a natural defensive position, there was a fantastic view north to the Cuillin of Rum and Skye and Ardnamurchan Point.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ardnamurchan to Mull

About 1km to the south of Ardnamurchan we came to the black basalt rocks of the headland of Corrachadh Mor. This is actually the most westerly point of Britain, not Ardnamurchan. However it is possible to drive a car to Ardnamurchan so this lesser point receives the vox pop laudit of being the most westerly point.

Working round the coast of the peninsula we came to the little isle of Eilean nan Seachd Seisrichean at the mouth of the Sound of Mull. The MV Lord of the Isles can be seen entering the Sound on her voyage from Barra to Oban.

We now struck out across the Sound of Mull aiming to land on Mull some 8km distant.

We enjoyed a great crossing with a fair tide, a following wind and helpful swell.

We landed just to the SW of Quinish Point on Mull.

Ardnamurchan lighthouse seemed a very great distance away.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kayak Caledonia

My good friends, Tony Page and Gavin Gerrard, are about to embark on a fundraising paddle of at least 800km round northern Scotland: "Kayak Caledonia".

Tony Page.

Gavin Gerrard.

They are raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support and also for Childline.

I wish them a great trip!


Sea kayaking round Ardnamurchan Point

The channel at Portuairk was draining fast due to the spring tide and with three kayaks to move it was quite a logistics exercise to keep up with the disappearing water!

Sanna Bay on the north of Ardnamurchan is fringed by glowing white shell sand beaches.

Soon we had Ardnamurchan Point and the lighthouse in our sights. In the distance, the low lands of Coll and its Cairns lay to the west. We were nearly tempted to go there as a day trip!

The spring tide was in full flow to the south and we were carried effortlessly towards the point.

The lighthouse was built by Alan Stephenson in 1849. It is built of granite quarried on the Ross of Mull. There are Islamic influences in the architectural detail. The tower is 36m high and the light stands 55m above sea level. There are two white flashes every 20 seconds. The lighthouse was automated in 1988.

The south going tide starts at +01:00 HW Oban and the north going starts at -05:22 HW Oban. The maximum spring rate is only 1.5 knots but if there is any wind against tide there can be a fearsomely rough tide race and yachting pilots advise giving the point a wide berth of 2 miles! We were at the point during maximum south going spring flow, with a light northerly wind. Conditions were very calm