Friday, July 30, 2010

Guirasdeal, a miniature Scarba!

On leaving Lunga we approached the fair isle of Guirasdeal and Scarba beyond. It is like a miniature Scarba. One wonders what sort of cataclysmic geological events shaped this wonderful little isle.

We often take a break on its steep cobble beach but I knew my knee could not stand a landing there. At this point we had to decide whether to return to the Sound of Jura via the Grey Dogs (over Jennifer's left shoulder) or to carry on further south west and go through the Corryvreckan.

We decided to make for the Corryvreckan and crossed over to Scarba. There is another beach at the NW corner of Scarba but it is not suitable for dodgy knees either!

The cliffs, with their dry caves and raised beach, make Scarba's west coast a truly inhospitable place. This is the calmest we have ever seen it but there was nowhere to land, for anyone with the remotest sympathy for gel coat, so we kept paddling!

We came to the final headland before the Corryvreckan, what would it be like?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Givin' the Dogs the slip!

Although there was some growling from the throat of the Dogs and the occasional fleck of saliva, all looked remarkably calm and, much to Phil and Jennifer's relief, we slipped past the Grey Dogs on our way north to the tip of Rubha Fiola.

Scarba slipped astern but still dominated the skyline above the east coast of Lunga.

Ahead lay Fladda lighthouse backed by the island of Seil and the distant mountains of Morvern. Fladda light was built by David and Thomas Stevenson in 1860. The light flashes white from north through east to south and flashes red to the north and there are red and green sectors to the south. There is a large walled garden in which the keepers grew vegetables. Our speed increased as we passed Lunga and increased to 12km/hr before we reached our turning point of Rubha Fiola.

Rounding the point at the north end of Rubha Fiola, we were fortunate that the current on the west side was much less, even at the height of the tidal flow. We had now entered the Firth of Lorn and a dramatic coastline lay ahead, with the headlands of Rhubha Fiola, Lunga, Scarba and distant Jura all blocking our way back to Crinan.

It was about this point that Jennifer and Phil realised that we were now committed to returning either by the Grey Dogs or the great Gulf of Corryvreckan... they consoled one another with some Jelly Beans!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Relaxing, with the roaring of the Dogs in our ears.

The tides carried us north at 8km/hr out of the Sound of Jura into the Sound of Luing, which separates Scarba on the west from Luing on the east.

The east coast of Scarba is sheltered from the prevailing wind and has a thick growth of deciduous woodland. Both red and fallow deer can be seen here. Kilmory Lodge lies 88m above sea level while the summit of Cruach Scarba 449m towers high above.

We had now been paddling for two hours and ten minutes. Even with tidal assistance, we were ready for lunch by the time we reached Poll na h'Ealaidh, Scarba's sole claim to anything resembling a harbour. The view to the north, through the Sound of Luing and across the Firth of Lorn ended in the distant mountains of Mull and Morvern.

We walked out to the end of the pier, hardly able to believe that we had just paddled all the way from the distant hills of Knapdale behind us.

We had a leisurely lunch while the tide built up to full speed in the nearby Grey Dogs, which lie between Scarba and the steep rocky knolls of Lunga to the north. Relaxing afterwards, with the roaring of the Dogs in our ears, Tony helped put Phil at ease by telling him about the huge standing waves we would encounter in the races ahead. "You'll be fine Phil, it's easier when the waves are bigger than 8 feet, they're more spaced out!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A hidden lagoon in the Sound of Jura.

From the Dorus Mor we paddled towards Coiresa with some difficulty.

The current was carrying us inexorably straight towards the Corryvreckan.

Eventually we broke out of the flood and an eddy carried us up the SE of Coiresa towards Reisa Mhic Phaidean and into the lagoon between the two islands.

The lagoon was a magical place, its clear waters were full of little fish and its bottom was studded with starfish. The flood was pouring out its NW entrance. We dallied for some time, ferry gliding back and forwards, breaking in and out of eddies and enjoying the sensation of holding ground against moving water.

Once we had cleared the islands we found ourselves in another flood stream, which carried us NE up the Sound of Jura and away from the Corryvreckan.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trying to hold a straight course in the Dorus Mor.

We crossed the Sound of Jura towards Eileen na Cille. We had predicted that the flood tide would start at 10:25. Initially the last of the ebb carried us SW...

...but at 10:20, without any perceptible period of slack, the transits showed the flood had started to carry us NE. Because I hadn't been out recently, I quickly fell behind the others but soon hit on an excellent delaying tactic. "Hold it there for a moment! I see an excellent photo, if I was just a little nearer!"

We broke out of the tide and entered a sheltered lagoon between Eilean na Cille and Garbh Reisa and for the first time saw our ultimate destination, the distant Gulf of Corryvreckan. The feeling of space, after being confined to the house for 5 months following my knee operation, was quite overwhelming. So much so, that for a moment, I thought I was going to loose my balance and capsize on this perfectly flat sea. Only for a moment though! I would certainly need my balance later in this paddle!

Despite the apparent calm in the lagoon, the flood tide was already building and the water level on the east side was higher than on the west side.

We now paddled up the west side of Garbh Reisa. At its north end, an eddy carried us north into the Dorus Mor tide race. Once we crossed the eddy line into the main flow, we were ejected out of the Dorus Mor at a most satisfactory 13km/hr. It was only 25 minutes after the turn of the tide. The tidal rule of thirds does not really apply to the races in this constricted part of the Sound of Jura.

Once we had cleared the race, Phil paused to look back through the Dorus Mor.

We were now heading for the little island of Coiresa. Despite being well clear of the narrows, the sea was still full of boils and eddies. It was difficult to hold a straight course. Jennifer and Tony are both trying to get to the same place!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Slack water in the Sound of Jura.

We left Glasgow at 07:00 and it was 09:10 when we finally drove down to the slipway in the little village of Crinan in Argyll. Across the Sound of Jura, the horizon was blocked by Jura to the south and Scarba to the north. Hidden between them lies the great Gulf of Corryvreckan through which surge some of the most powerful tides on Earth.

All was calm as we left Crinan on the last of the ebb tide.

There was no wind to ripple the water and the reflections of yacht's masts lay straight on the calm surface of Crinan's natural harbour.

We past Ardnoe Point and entered the Sound of Jura, backed by that island's eponymous Paps.

It was now slack water and the transit between the distant light of Ruadh Sgeir and Jura behind did not change. However in the upper Sound of Jura, slack never lasts very long!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kayak sailing, over the horizon.

After a pleasant break at Bracken Bay we were tempted to proceed to Dunure but it was time to return to Seafield as I did not want to stress my knee over acres of sand at low tide! As soon as we rounded the Heads my sail filled in the now light wind...

...but Tony fancied a shot, so we swapped kayaks.

David soon whipped his sail up...

...and he and Tony...

...disappeared over the horizon, leaving me trailing in their wake! It is quite amazing how much extra ground is covered by the combination of paddling and sailing, even in a light wind.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Return to the Heads of Ayr!

Last Sunday was a bit of a milestone, it was the first time I had been back to Ayr since my knee operation four months ago! It was planned with some precision; either side of high tide to avoid a walk, parked on the double yellow lines (which are obscured by sand) at the top of the Seafield slipway. There was a bit of wind so it was an ideal time to resume testing the Flat Earth Kayak Sails, especially as I was not very fit!

The wind was gusting to the top of a 4 and I enjoyed several excellent downwind blasts, averaging 10km/hr and hitting 14.4km/hr.

As I enjoyed paddling and sailing this truly excellent kayak sail, the others got on with some rescue practice...

...till we decided to warm up by paddling to Bracken Bay just beyond...

...the Heads of Ayr.

My goodness it was good to be back to our regular stomping ground after such a painful lay off.

PS You will need to excuse the quality of the photos. I am a bit rusty so did not want to risk dropping the Canon 5D MkII over the side. I made do with the trusty 2mp Sony U60 camera.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A final blaze and the sun was gone.

North of Bracken Bay we enjoyed a bracing paddle in the dying minutes of the day.

Behind us the sun had set behind the Heads of Ayr.

As we came into the shelter of the headland, the conditions moderated.

A final blaze and the sun was gone.

We paddled on into the darkness of a mid winter's night.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Relief in Bracken Bay

After the excitement in leaving Dunure harbour, we found the sea further out had built up a little swell. The shallow rock shelves, that project from each of the headlands, caused some turbulence on our return north to Ayr.

It was with some relief that we landed at Bracken Bay. Soon our flasks were out with some warming soup. Although there was an orange glow in the sky from the setting sun...

...the wind was blowing straight across the Firth of Clyde...

...from the snow covered mountains of Arran. It was bitterly cold.