Saturday, October 17, 2009

The school of sea kayaking: lesson one, paddling in a current.

I have not been out for a while, since I dislocated my knee on Gunna. Four months of inactivity have left me pretty unfit. Phil, who has been paddling for less than a year, hadn't done any tidal paddling at all. So given it was a spring tide we thought it would do both of us some good to sample the tide races on the west coast. We set off from Crinan at the top end of the Sound of Jura.

We nipped through the Dorus Mor.Then we paddled quite hard to break out of the current that was heading straight out the Corryvreckan towards distant Colonsay. Next we paddled up the Sound of Luing where we saw a huge school of perhaps 30 or 40 bottlenose dolphins, leaping clean out the water.

After this we went through the Grey dogs at the peak flow of the spring tide, we bashed through the standing waves at 18km/hour. We had been pretty economical with the description of the Grey Dogs that we gave Phil. Just as we passed the point of no return on our approach, Tony quietly said "Phil, see when we turn the corner just after this wee island? Just keep paddling".

Next we paddled down the west side of Scarba and entered the Corryvreckan. The flood was still running out against us but we used an eddy on the Scarba shore to enter the Great Race. Spray from the agitated water hung in the windless air. The eddy ended at a small headland and swung out into the main flow where it joined the rotating mass of water which forms the whirlpool. I said “Phil you need to get round this headland so paddle quite hard and don’t look back.”

We got round the headland and landed in a little bay to wait for the flood to ease off. We had to drag the boats well up the beach as seething surges of water threatened to whisk them away into the jaws of the ‘vreckan. Slack water arrived suddenly and lasted all of five minutes.

We blasted through the Dorus Mor again. The Paps of Jura heaved above the SW horizon. The ebb from Loch Craignish now joined the fun. Even a large fishing boat got caught by the current and sidestepped several hundred metres.All too soon we were back in the shelter of Crinan, a mere 39km after we had left. Not bad after a four month lay off and for Phil’s first lesson in tidal paddling.