Monday, February 07, 2011

Ferry gliding in the Grey Dogs.

We arrived at the Grey Dogs when there was still plenty of ebb left in their bite! Here Jim is ferrying ith the current running from left to right at 7 knots.

On the ebb when the tide is east going, it is usual to pass through the Dogs from west to east, through the broader south channel. But we were here to play so we spent time ferrying the north channel...

... and round Eilean a'Bhealaich, which sits mid channel where it is isolated by the swirling tides.

Away to the south west, through the Grey Dogs, we could see Colonsay on the horizon.

I have pretty crappy paddle technical skills but there are some things in this video (taken by Jennifer) that might be helpful to paddlers progressing to more tidal paddling.

The current in the centre of the channel is flowing right to left at 7 knots and eddies either side are flowing left to right with fairly sharp eddy lines with swirly bits.

Note the acceleration out the eddy on the far side, I cross the eddy and hold a high angle (bow pointing well upstream) as the current is quite fast.

It's really too far too far away to see, but I have lifted my left, upstream edge to ferry across.  (I well remember the first time I crossed a fast river eddyline in a Pyrannha H2 kayak, without lifting an edge. I was upside down before you could say "Edge"!)

Sometimes to maintain a high angle and stop my bow being swept down stream I put a quick double stroke in on the right downstream edge.

Once I am nearly across, note the lifting of the right, "downstream edge as I cross the eddyline and meet the eddy current which is flowing "upstream"..

I have my skeg up. Of course an expert would have such perfect edge control on a ferry glide that they really would hardly have to use the paddle at all....

All too soon it was time to leave the Grey Dogs. You can see the two rock formations, like dogs' heads behind Phil and David, which might give the channel its name. What a fun place!


  1. Good enjoyable stuff!

    Something to try next time - try to paddle at a much slower rate (sounds silly, but it gives you much more control), maintain paddling *forwards* rather than sweeping, and be careful to get your whole blade into the water, placed as far forward as you can.

    Looks like a great spot, still on the wishlist.

    Mark R

  2. Thanks for that very helpful advice Mark. Videos certainly display any deficiencies!!

    My paddling is not usually quite so bad, I was trying out a new paddle which is 30 cm shorter than the one I have been using for the last 8 years.

    The Grey Dogs is a really amazing spot and well worth several visits!


  3. Doug, the Grey Dogs is now on my must do list. I could hardly believe the speed of the water and that's the sea! I see you are no longer using your kinetik wings what did you go for? Also that looks like an unusual feather angle what were you using?


  4. Hi Rob it's good to hear from you. On the way down to the Grey Dogs Jim also noticed I had new paddles and asked me what they were and I didn't know!!

    They are Werner Cyprus on a neutral bent shaft. They are lovely and light. They are also considerably shorter than the kinetik wings, 6cm overall so 3cm either side. I hurt my wrist last year giving 2 different Greenland paddles a go. (I have arthritis in my left wrist after an accident) so that probably didn't help. So I was looking for something very light with a variable feather. In the video I had set feather at 0 degrees and I usually paddle with 30 degrees.

    I'd like to pretend that my crappy paddle technique was due to a new paddle and feather angle but in truth, it was just as crappy before I got the Werners.

    I have only used them for about 60km but already I like them very much and the good thing is, they didn't hurt my wrist at all! After I gave up on the Greenlands, I borrowed a lovely set of cranked Lettman Ergonom Pro Sea LCS paddles. I had heard real good things about them but for for me they were no good and brought the pain in my wrist right back.

    A great thing about the Grey Dogs on the ebb is that if you get into difficulty, you will just get washed into the sheltered Sound of Luing. Not like the Mulls of Galloway/Kintyre/Oa or the Rhinns of Islay!