Friday, May 31, 2013

Peaceful Ardtoe reverie shattered by sudden sufacing of Sammy the Otter.

 Ian and I paddled round Eilean Dubh in Kentra Bay. This small isle is split by...

 ...numerous channels through which....

 ...the strengthening ebb tide propelled us steadily...

 ...past the birchwoods at the narrow entrance and...

 towards the open sea.

We paddled north towards the vegetation capped Sgeir an Eididh, which in Gaelic means clothed reef. In the distance beyond the dark outline of Eigg, the Rum Cuillin were capped in snow.

We had now left the birch woods of Ardtoe behind and were paddling along the barren rocky peninsula of Rubha  na Caillich in Moidart...Point of the Old Woman.

 Our peaceful reverie was shattered by the sudden surfacing of our old friend Sammy the Otter who seemed...

...quite unconcerned by our presence.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Better days in Kentra Bay.

After a good breakfast at Glenuig Inn, Ian and I launched in the small sandy cove of Ardtoe. It is situated at the root of the great peninsula of Ardnamurchan. It was just after high water, so we decided to start our day by exploring the tidal inlet of Kentra Bay.

As we approached the narrow entrance, the coast to our left was composed of grey rocks interspersed with white sand beaches and on our right...

 ...lay the Small Isles and...

 ...the snow covered Cuillin of Skye.

 We paddled into Kentra Bay under a leaden sky and upon a glassy sea.

 Wild wooded slopes tumbled steeply to the shores and...

 ...the ebb tide was already streaming through...

 ....the gaps between the rocky islets.

 We passed an old boathouse and a carefully...

 ...moored old Nordkapp.

Although it was March, the birch woods were still in the grip of winter. Maybe the trees were expecting the coming snows...

 This moored dinghy had seen better days but...

 ...the old Ardtoe pier is made of sterner stuff, its great stones have weathered many storms.

Nearby houses perched on the cliffs, while their boat houses clung to rocks by the shore.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Solar pyrotechnics at Loch Ailort

Back in March, my joints were doing better than now so I took a long drive from Glasgow on the Road to the Isles. I was due to meet Ian for a sea kayaking trip in a brief weather window before the worst snows of the year arrived. When I reached Loch Ailort, the sun dropped beneath the veil of cloud that had hid it from sight on the long road north. I could not help...

 ...but stop the car beneath the steep slopes of Rois-Beinn and get the camera out.

I had only just restarted the car when I had to stop again. This time it was the unmistakable silhouette of Eigg and Rum over the Sound of Arisaig.

To the east the lower slopes of Rois-Beinn were illuminated by the low sun but the upper slopes were in the shadow of the low clouds.

 The sunset was really building up...

 ...beyond the Small Isles.

 The dying sun put up an incredible display and I had to force myself to turn round... appreciate the golden light that was illuminating the far shore of...

 ...Loch Ailort.

At last the sun went down and I continued to the welcoming lights of the Glenuig Inn where I arrived just a few minutes before Ian. We were already looking forward to large plates of Mallaig prawns.0

Monday, May 27, 2013

Paddle sailing and planing in P&H Aries 155 sea kayak and Flat Earth Code Zero 0.8sqm kayak sail.

The blog has been rather quiet recently as I have run into continuing joint problems and am now seeing a shoulder surgeon in addition to a knee surgeon! I gave up mountaineering when my knees packed in now I am worried about sea kayaking as my shoulder problems worsen. I have not been on any expeditions since early March and unfortunately I had to pull out of the Skye Sea Kayak Symposium (at which I was going to demonstrate kayak sailing). This was a great pity as it was the first Skye or Jersey sea kayak symposium that I have missed in many years. I hope everyone is having a really good time at the symposium.

Yesterday Phil and Andrew wondered if I would like to join them on a trip to Ailsa Craig. Unfortunately I had to decline this too as I could not get my sea kayak onto the car roof (even with the Karitek easy load roof rack). Nor could I drive that distance and I certainly could not guarantee that my shoulder would last the 34km round trip.

Instead I thought I would review some of the recent testing of the P&H Aries 155.

Despite its short length the Aries (and Delphin) shows a remarkable ability to plane in following seas. Add a sail and even relatively light winds give you the ...

 ...ability to  enjoy continuous planing over considerable distances. Many people stop paddling (and trail their paddle in an extended low brace) when there is enough wind for the sail to drive a kayak at its displacement speed. However, as can be seen here ,kayaks like the Aries and Delphin will rise onto the plane, then considerably exceed their theoretical maximum displacement speed. Therefore not only should you continue paddling but in marginal planing conditions you should paddle as hard as you can to pop the kayak up onto the plane and keep it there. In stronger winds you will also find that travelling fast downwind reduces the apparent wind on the sail and this paradoxically means travelling fast makes it easier to survive and enjoy difficult conditions.

Here David has overtaken the wave in front and has climbed up the wave back. He has reached the critical point, where his body has nearly crossed the crest of the wave but the kayak has dropped off the plane. At this point the apparent wind in the sail increases as the boat slows. This increases the drive in the sail but is also the time you need to paddle as hard as possible. If I had been David, I would also have leaned forward as far as I could (but as David has a bad back and in a few months will enter his eighth decade, he has a partial excuse).

Two stiff strokes sees David break through the crest of the wave in front and start planing again. Yee Haa!

Although, in my previous posts on the Aries 155, I have said it is a wonderful kayak to paddle with a Greenland paddle, I would not recommend a GP when trying to drive a kayak onto the plane in marginal conditions like these as you simply don't get the same explosive power. Here David is using a wing paddle.

One of the beauties of the Flat Earth kayak sail is that it allows you to continue to paddle with no hindrance when the sail is hoisted.

Don't expect paddle sailing to be a relaxing easy option. Paddle sailing a kayak is hard work. The idea is to maximise planing time as this is such fun.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The adjustable grip hitch for sea kayak sailing rig stays.

Following on from my post about fitting a Flat Earth Kayak Sail to a P&H Aries 155, Alec commented:

"You say that your stays are a "fixed length" but you seem to have some sort of slip knot (see pic ) for adjustment. May I ask what knot you are using?"

Yes I do use a locking slip knot for fine adjustment. Previously Geoff has recommended a trucker's hitch (which needs tied every time) and Shawn Armitage has recommended the easier to adjust three-turn tautline, both of  which I have used previously. I have also used the Clamcleat CL266 Mini Line_Loks which are very easy to adjust but these slip in winds at the top of F4.

I currently use the adjustable grip hitch as it is as easy to adjust as the three turn tautline but it is also easier to remember how to tie in the field.

Start by making a loop by bringing the loose end over the stay (which is tied to the mast at its other end).

 Now wrap the free end twice round the stay side of the loop.

Now take the free end once more over the stay side of the loop and bring it back under both sides of the loop and thread it through itself.

Pull the knot tight. If you pull the end of the loop, the knot locks tight. However, if you grip the knot itself you can easily slide it in either direction to make the loop longer or shorter.

The reverse of the knot looks like this.

I normally thread the loop through the closed end of a 32mm snap shackle. This means that I can quickly remove and replace the rig from the kayak without knot tying.

To get the tension in the side stays just right, I bend the mast back then gradually shorten the stays by sliding the grip knots. I test the tension by putting the mast into the vertical position, repeating the process until I get the stays "twang tight".

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fitting a Flat Earth Kayak Sail to a P&H Aries 155.

The Aries is the composite version of the rotomoulded polyethylene Delphin so I knew it would be a great sea kayak for paddle sailing with a Flat Earth Kayak Sail.

Like the Delphin, the Aries has a peaked foredeck to shed water. Just forward of the compass mount the deck is very stiff due the moulded channels to take the spare paddle shafts. There was a handy RDF here so I removed the standatd bolt and used a longer M6 stainless steel bolt  to secure the front of the mast foot plate. The rear was proud of the deck so I packed it out with two stainless steel washers and drilled the deck for the rear M5 bolt. I used Aquaseal round the bolt to seal the hole.

 The mast foot in place.

 I used two surface mount fittings for deck lines to mount the two side stays at right angles to the mast, one on each side. I have several kayakst set up for sailing so I have a standard side stay length and each kayak has a small loop of Spectra cord which is adjusted to fit the side stays once then the snap shackles allow the rig to be fitted nd removed quickly to any kayak with no adjustment.

As my sidestays are at right angles to the mast I also use a back stay which is attatched to a Spectra loop through the front deck elastic RDF. Once the mast is erected the sidestays become "twang" tight.

I fit the sheet and uphaul cleats (ClamCleat CL 213 and CL214 low profile line cleats) on either side of the cockpit front. Make sure your thumbs won't bang against them when paddling. Note the pink uphaul line loops under the rear deck elastic and then goses foward where it is tied off onto the back stay. If you are running before a strong wind a tug on this will get the sail down without having to turnt the kayak's bow round into the wind so the mast blows back.

All ready to go....