Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last swim at the end of the Solway summer.

 From Knockbrex we paddled upwind to Craigmore Point, which allowed us to hoist  sails and...

 ...close reach back to our start point on the far side of Fleet Bay.

There was time for a quick swim before barbecue time. I have been swimming each day since the end of July and the water temperature has been 16 degrees C for most of September. At 16 degrees I can stay in for about 40 minutes (this was 21/9/2012) but since then the sea temperature has dropped to 14 degrees and I just managed a couple of minutes before I just had to get out as the cold gripped me. I was surprised that "only" 2 degrees C made so much difference. This is of direct relevance to sea kayaking as if you now fall in (and are not suitably dressed) you will be quickly paralysed by the cold. The north and east coasts of Scotland are even colder.

 As the evening shadows lengthened...

 ...and the moon rose after sunset, it seemed summer would last forever. Sadly the deepest low pressure system to hit the UK in September was about to arrive. Three days later we had 29mm of rain in 24 hours and strong winds have blown ever since.

Another fine paddle in Fleet Bay.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Three priapic pillars of Knockbrex.

After rounding Barlocco Isle, Tony and I took a break on the sands of Knockbrex beach, which comes complete with a...

... "Coo Palace". This Galloway term describes a folly, which in this case is not the castle it appears to be but was actually built as a boathouse and beach changing room for Knockbrex House which... nearby. There is a hidden harbour behind this second castellated building.

These three priapic pillars sit in the middle of Knockbrex Bay and have long stood as navigational markers for the hidden harbour beyond. Sadly, the one on the right is drooping a little.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Amazing clarity of vision from the Solway reefs.

 With the sails up in the NE wind...

 ...Tony and I made rapid progress towards Murray's Isles.

 Soon we rounded the rocks at their western point and...

 ...slipped below the old cottage that was once used by pilots and excise men. The window in the gable end allowed them to keep an eye on the horizon for approaching ships. The isle was now devoid of the colonies of breeding cormorants and gulls that had nested here from April until early August.

 The reefs of the smaller Murray's Isle soon slipped...

 ...astern as we made across the mouth of Fleet Bay towards...

 ...the reefs of Barlocco Isle. After all the recent rainfall the atmosphere was exceptionally clear and we were able to see as far (51km) as St Bees Head in Cumbria on the English side of the Solway Firth.

On the SW side of Barlocco there is a maze of rocky channels in which to spend time trying to thread a way through.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer puts in a late appearance on the Solway.

 Summer finally arrived... Fleet Bay...

 ...on the Solway Firth...

 ...on the 21st of September. Tony and I were taking no chances, in case we missed it, and set off as soon as the tide reached the bottom of the rocks.

In the NE wind, we hoisted our sails and set off for the horizon. The Isles of Fleet were somewhat nearer than the Isle of Man, so that was where we headed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Finding a leak in a sea kayak.

One of my kayaks developed a leak in the back hatch when it was about 6 months old. It was in no danger of sinking but on return from a camping trip, everything in the back was well damp.

Over the last 10 years or so I have had to deal with this problem quite a few times. 2 times out of 3 it has been the back hatch. It can be difficult to track down the source of a leak. Kayak manufacturers do a pressure test. They use a hatch cover with a car tyre valve in it then pump some air in and soak the outside of the kayak with soapy water and look for the bubbles.

I have found the leak it is most often where the skeg cable enters the top of the skeg box in the rear hatch followed by where the holes are drilled for the end toggles in the front or rear hatches.

You can test the end holes by upending the kayak with the leaky hatch down. Either lean the kayak against a high wall or get someone strong to help )and it is best not to do this in a wind!) Fill the rear compartment with a decent amount of water from a hose and look very carefully for leaks. In my case all was dry so...

...I hung the kayak upside down and lifted it up to about shoulder height. (I also use these pulleys under the carport to raise and lower the kayak off and on my car roof rack.) I then poured a jug of water into the skeg box. Water started to run down the inside of the cable and dripped out at the control end of the cable by the cockpit. But I was more interested in what...

...was happening inside the hatch. It was quite easy to stick my head in and have a look. (If your kayak has a small rear hatch you may need to use a mirror.) It turned out as I expected, there was a steady drip coming from where the cable entered the skeg box. My Valley Nordkapp LV also developed a leak here and it was returned to the factory and came back with a GRP bandage round the skeg cable and skeg box. That fixed the problem but the kayak was away for two weeks.

This time I wanted a quick repair. I could have used GRP but instead, I smeared Evo-stik Serious Stuff Ultra adhesive round where the cable enters the skeg box. This product is waterproof and even sticks to wet surfaces. It is much cheaper than Sikaflex 291 sold by chandlers and is just as effective. (£5.98 for 290ml out of Tesco compared with £12.95 out of Duncan).

I now have a dry kayak.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not quite the Galapagos but natural selection is alive and well in the Isles of Fleet.

 Leaving the verdant pastures of Ardwall Isle, we set off to round...

 ...its seaward coastline.

 From this viewpoint there was little to suggest...

 ...that there was any green vegetation on the island at all. Indeed, the coastline was so primeval that we half expected to see basking iguanas round every corner.

From Ardwall we crossed to Murray's Isles. We landed on the larger isle for another break, though this little sandy beach  is covered after about half tide. We were amused to see two separate paddlers on sit on top kayaks paddle by. We thought they must be members of the DKC* as their only safety items were a pair of gloves and a cotton T shirt.

 We left the Murray's Isles through this little gap... their western end and...

...arrived safely back a little early. Tony and Jennifer kindly carried my kayak up the beach. Tony brought his trolley back for his own kayak and was ably assisted by his daughter.

Another great trip in the Solway.

*DKC Darwin Kayak Club.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apples are not the only fruit in the Eden of Ardwall Isle.

We landed on Barlocco reef at low tide so we had three hours to wait until the flood tide would fill Fleet Bay sufficiently to return to our launch site. The reef is seldom visited and the ground is very rough with no paths. It is interesting to explore Barlocco as there is a lot of flotsam and jetsam. There is also a very lush green mound under which lies the remains of a fin whale, not a good place for Little Miss Muffet! For someone with knees like mine, Barlocco was not an option so with Knockbrex House in the background, we set sail for...

...Ardwall, which is a verdant isle with a network of paths. Leaving Jennifer by the kayaks, Tony and I enjoyed a gentle walk to the summit of the isle and took in the panorama.

To the SE, in the lee of distant Ringdoo Point, lay Barlocco reef from where we had just come. On the horizon, the flood tide was rushing eastwards up the Solway Firth, kicking up an uncomfortable sea in the SE wind. We were glad we had retreated to more sheltered waters.

To the NW lay the Murray's Isles. The cottage on the larger isle is very interesting. Like many Scottish cottages in exposed locations, its gable end faces SW into the prevailing wind. This one is unusual in having a window in the SW gable. This was so the occupant could keep an eye on approaching ships. The cottage was used by pilots who were waiting to escort ships up the Fleet canal to Port Macadam in Gatehouse of Fleet. It was also used by customs officers who were on the lookout for smugglers.

 This was the view north to the Carrick coast and...

...this is a telephoto view to the ESE and Knockbrex beach where we had stopped for first luncheon. There are two follies or as they say in Galloway "Coo Palaces" in this photo. The fortification behind the beach was a boathouse and beach changing house for Knockbrex House. The castle on the horizon is a water tower! There is also a cave, reputed to have been a Smugglers cave, hidden in bushes to the left of the beach.

 Eventually the winding path took us to Ardwall cottage. Near the path at this spot are a couple of underground chambers covered with flat stones. They were used by smugglers to conceal contrabrand.

It is stll used as a holiday home but the owners were not in residence. There is no water supply barrainwater which is collected from the gutters.

 Hedges round the cottage are abundant with fuschias and escalonias which thrive in the mild climate.

 Tony spied an apple tree...

...which had a heavy crop of small but perfectly formed fruit. He picked a rosy specimen and bit into it with relish. Unfortunately it was a bitter crab apple!

Fortunately the flood tide was now beginning to fill the bay again. Time to go... we made our way down to the beach through a hay meadow that was alive with butterflies. Near the beach we passed ta pile of stones covered with brambles. It is all that remains of an early Christian chapel. Ardwall is truly an Eden and well worth exploring.

Friday, September 14, 2012

SECURITE on the Solway.

It was a neap tide down on the Solway. There was no time to waste as this meant that the tide would soon be out, exposing the sands of Fleet Bay for most of the day... Tony, Jennifer and I set off early to catch the the ebb tide before the bay emptied. We planned to stay out on the open Solway for about 6-8 hours until the flood filled the Fleet again. A force three NE wind sped us on our way as we crossed the tidal bar that connects Ardwall Isle to the mainland and...

 ...made our way out towards Barlocco reef beyond.

We took a break on Knockbrex beach for our first luncheon. Jennifer did well in the Delphin to keep up with the kayak sailors. We did not stay long as the reef that connects Barlocco to the mainland was rapidly drying.

As we approached Meikle Pinnacle Jennifer pointed out a flock of gannets diving on a shoal of fish.

The swell began to increase as we rounded Ringdoo Point. We had planned to paddle round to Kirkudbright Bay as we should have been in the lee of the land in the forecast 3-4 NE winds. The winds were due to veer SE and increase in the evening so we should have had plenty of time to get there and back.

As we left the shelter of Wigtown Bay the wind increased and veered SE and the swell began to increase. The ebb tide runs to the SE out of Wigtown Bay but as you approach the entrance it joins the ebb from the Solway which runs to the west. We were therefore paddling in glorious sunny wind with tide conditions with nice smooth swell.

All of a sudden the VHF crackled into life "SECURITE,  SECURITE ,  SECURITE ." It was Liverpool Coastguard with a strong wind warning for small craft.. Winds were to veer to the SE and increase to force 6 imminently. This put us in a difficult position. Imminent means within 6 hours but the wind had already veered and increased and we were enjoying ourselves now. However, the tide would turn and start running east long before we would get back from Kircudbright Bay. Wind against tide in the shallow waters of the Solway creates the "White Steeds of the Solway" which are best avoided so we decided to
turn back towards...

 ...the now distant Ringdoo Point. We made rapid progress towards...

 ...the point in the following seas.

 Soon we were in the shelter of the cliffs and all appeared to be calm again.

We paddled round the seaward side of Barlocco and landed in a sheltered cove on its lee side. We arrived at low water so we had plenty of time for a leisurely second luncheon until the tide came in sufficiently to kayak back into Fleet Bay. It was a different world in here as we sat in the shelter of the reef looking towards the Islands of Fleet and the distant Galloway Hills. For a moment we wondered if we had done the right thing in turning back. However, when the tide turned, out at sea the Solway horizon had become very lumpy...