Imagine you are at the edge of the sea on a day when it is difficult to say where the land ends and the sea begins and where the sea ends and the sky begins. Sea kayaking lets you explore these and your own boundaries and broadens your horizons. Sea kayaking is the new mountaineering.
...we crossed the Tan and got some shelter from Farland Point on Great Cumbrae.
We then enjoyed a blast of a run up to Clashfarland Point where I had to stop, as my knee was really painful. When we set off again the channel had begun to get busy with two ore carriers and a variety of fast RIBs.
We decided to just paddle straight across the shipping channel but as soon as we were clear, we unleashed the sails for a final blast back to Largs marina.
Sadly, the pain in my knee has recently restricted my sea kayaking to shorter half day trips. I also don't manage sitting in a car for any length of time. However, this short, local trip proved to be an exciting day and we were home in time for afternoon tea!
When I first tried the P&H Delphin I was impressed by all the usual things: its comfortable ergonomics, its stability in rough water, its manoeuvrability, its surfing, its rolling, its behaviour in winds... but I really couldn't wait to put a sail on it. Those hard chines at the bow are just asking for a sail to provide the drive to push through the waves in front!
I mounted the pulley for the uphaul/fore stay on the front deck line recessed deck fitting (RDF). The pulley for the sheet and the back stay went on the front deck elastic RDF. The existing side deck line RDFs were just too far behind the mast to provide support when reaching or beating so I mounted two stainless steel saddles on either side of the mast and attached the side stays to them. If you were only interested in downwind sailing you could use the RDFs and do away with the back stay.
I mounted the sheet and uphaul cleats in front of the cockpit and to either side of the 4th hatch.
The ideal position for the mast base was just forward of the compass mount but the foredeck on the Delphin is peaked. Purists will be horrified but I just fitted the mast base to the right of the mid line on the flat part of the deck secured with two penny washers to spread the load below deck.
I use the same mast on my Nordkapp LV, which does not have a peaked deck. The side stays were therefore too short, so using bowlines, I adjusted loops of 2mm Dyneema cord through the saddles and clipped the snap shackles into them. If you only use the sail on one kayak you could clip the snap shackles directly through the saddles.
The beauty of the Flat Earth flexible tendon universal joint is that the mast is still vertical despite the mount and...
There was a 12 knot headwind blowing directly from our destination the Heads of Ayr.
I decided to try and tack upwind to see if it would be quicker than just putting my head down and paddling straight for the Heads of Ayr.
At first I tacked upwind while both paddling and sailing. I covered 1600m over the ground but only 600m upwind in 15.28mins. The over ground speed was 6.3km/hr but the upwind speed was only 2.4km.
Next I dropped the sail and paddled directly upwind. I covered the next 600m in 6.72mins which meant the upwind speed was 5.4km/hr.
It was good to take a rest at Bracken Bay and work all this out. My conclusion is that it is not worth tacking up wind when kayak sailing but if you can lay your destination sailing closehauled it is worth kayak sailing. In this example the close hauled speed was 6.3km/hr and the paddling only upwind speed was 5.4km/hr.
Of course the downwind blast home was much more fun...
...my maximum speed regularly went over 14km/hr with a max of 14.6
We journeyed west along the north coast of the Sound of Arisaig towards...
...Eilean a' Ghaill, from which we had set off on our crossing of the Sound, just the previous day. However, as is often the case on trips with such intense experiences as this one, it felt more like a week ago! We had intended camping at Port nam Murrach further up the coast but when we got there my heart sank when I saw a large party of kayaks in the bay complete with tents and a tipi on the machair.
Some were still afloat and I had a very pleasant chat with Mike, their experienced kayak tour guide from Wilderness Scotland. However, it no longer looked like the wilderness and I didn't fancy adding our tents to this burgeoning tented village. Wilderness Scotland are very responsible and leave the wild camp sites spotless but they do use the Sound of Arisaig wild campsites very heavily during the summer. The Land Reform Act Scotland allows wild camping but I can't help thinking that regular, commercial trips of this size (which target the same small number of honey pot sites) are not in the spirit of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which states: "Wild camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place".
This is a photo from one of Wilderness Scotland's partner companies, Rockhopper. It is the wild camp site in Moidart, which we had used the night before. It shows 10 small tents and a large group tent. Wilderness Scotland say in their downloadable brochure"In order to minimise our impact, you will be asked to share a tent with another expedition member of the same sex". That's very laudable but it makes a lot of people on a fragile spot. There will be even more next year. This year, Wilderness Scotland offered 3 five night wild camping kayak trips in the Sound of Arisaig area. In 2012 they are increasing this to 4 trips. One of the problems is that the experience level of their clients means that they only paddle about 12km per day so that means their trip is condensed into a small area and they use all of the decent camp sites in the area during the trip. Most camping sea kayakers will move about 30km between camp sites and on this day I covered about 50km.
If you want a wilderness experience in the Sound of Arisaig, the dates to avoid are: 2nd Jun - 7th Jun 2012, 30th Jun - 5th Jul 2012, 28th Jul - 2nd Aug 2012 and 1st Sep - 6th Sep 2012. Rockhopper are not advertising their 2012 overnight trips in the area yet but have one overnight trip left this year, 8th Oct - 9th Oct 2011. Of course they are not the only companies offering commercial trips in the area...
We had a choice, either return to Eilean a' Ghaill or carry on back to Arisaig. The Arisaig option had some attractions. Although it was still over 10km away (round the skerries) it was nearly high tide and I could shave about 3km off that. I could paddle straight through the skerries and the tidal channel inside Eilean Ighe at the mouth of Loch Nan Ceall. Another advantage was we would arrive about high water at 8:30pm, which would make recovery of the boats very easy as our cars, and Donald's static tent, were only about 25 meters from the HW mark. Decision made, Donald produced some snack bars to fuel the remainder of my 12.5 hour paddling day, then we were off, with the setting sun warming the clouds behind the Sgurr of Eigg.
We entered the South Channel of Loch nan Ceall together and marvelled at the back drop of the Skye Cuillin mountains beyond. Donald then kept to the main channel while I...
...slid through the skerries. The putter of his outboard soon died away and I was left in peace in this amazing place. The boats and the people gathering "spoot" shells had all gone. The sea birds were roosting for the night and even the seals had all slid off the rocks and were out of sight. Apart from the drip from my paddle blades and an occasional pip from an oyster catcher the world of the skerries was silent. I was now glad we had not set up camp on Port nan Murrach. I love paddling on my own in the evening.
As our journey neared its end, the evening mists curled round the jagged peaks of the Cuillin and I felt I had found the Wilderness again.
We left Loch Ailort and entered Loch nan Uamh. At first the head of the loch was obstructed by the dark ridges of the north Ardnish coast...
...but soon we could see the ridge above the loch head illuminated in a shaft of sun. The Prince's Cairn lies just behind Eilean Gobhlach (the dark rocky islet about 1/3 of the way from the left side of the photo). It was here that Bonny Prince Charlie both landed and departed from the Scottish mainland at the time of the 1745 rebellion.
On reaching the north shore of Loch nan Uamh, we turned west and found ourselves exploring the delightful chain of the Borrodale Isles. This one is called Eilean nan Cabar; isle of the timber. It has clearly had trees on it for some time.
The Borrodale Isles have very steep shores with no easy landing spots so we left Eilean nan Cabar in our wakes and continued...
...where we met a party on a Wilderness Scotland trip. They were staying in the Glenuig Inn and were clearly enjoying every minute of their holiday. I enjoyed stopping for a chat because it was a distraction from the pain in my bad knee.
It had been a long day and we needed to press on to our intended camp site, which was still about an hour and a half away...
Donald and I had been crossing the mouth of Loch Ailort with the intention of taking a luncheon on one of the beaches on the Ardnish peninsula. However, my knee was now causing so much pain that I was desperate to get out the kayak and stretch my legs, never mind check the dressing on my recently lacerated toe. I spotted this lovely strand of sand on the delightful little Eilean a' Chaolais and called Donald over. We had found another corner of paradise.
The rock pools were filled with crystal clear water and we had the beach to ourselves apart from...
...this starfish. This beach is covered at high water so we were fortunate to pass when we did.
We were surrounded by the silence and beauty of this huge landscape.
Once we had eaten our lunch Donald returned to his boat...
...to fix his flooded engine while...
...I sat on the lichen covered rocks and changed the blood soaked bandages on my right foot. These lichen colonies are probably several hundred years old. They were probably here when Bonny Prince Charlie landed nearby and raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. After initial success he was defeated at Culloden near Inverness. This was the last pitched battle of two land armies on British soil and resulted in much bloodshed and loss of life. The Highlands were never the same again.
Some (quite a few actually) drops of my bright red blood spilled onto the rocks and added their own colour to that of the rich orange and gold lichen. I may have left a bit of myself in paradise but in turn, this paradise was now etched indelibly on my brain. We who live in Scotland are so fortunate to be surrounded by such natural beauty, sometimes we just don't appreciate the extent of our birthright.