Friday, February 27, 2015

Good news for Saturn.

This time last year, three and a half months after my last knee operation, my first paddle took me to the Gareloch. At the Rosneath breakers yard we came across MV Saturn which had been laid up since 2011. It looked like she was doomed.

Saturn was the last of three Streaker class CalMac ferries that ran on the Clyde. She was launched at Ailsa Shipyard in Troon in 1977. Her sister ships Juno and Jupiter were scrapped in 2011 at Rosneath and Denmark.

The Orcadian newspaper has carried some good news for Saturn. She has been sold to Pentland Ferries and will be refurbished and used to carry freight traffic across the Pentland Firth and round the Orkney Islands.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All aglow in the Lynn of Lorn.

Our winter adventure was now nearing its end. The sun was well down as we continued our exploration of the sheltered waters of Port Ramsay at the NE end of Lismore.

 We went round the south end of Eilean Ramsay before...

 ...paddling through the skerries on its west coast on our way back to the NE point of Lismore.

Then we were in for a treat. The flood tide was  now running up the Lynn of Lorn and was being compressed in the narrow gap between Lismore and the Appin mainland where it was running at 2.5 knots. We took advantage of an eddy to carry us past the Lismore ferry pier then...

 ...down the long gravel spit to its south before enjoying a brisk ferry glide across to the island in mid channel. It certainly warmed us up!

East of the island, the tide dropped to 1.5 knots and I was able to get my camera out to capture this wonderful sunset glow in the sky above the Lynn of Lorn. Beyond the dark outline of Eilean Dubh, the distant Garvellachs were floating above the horizon.

We landed at Port Appin just after sunset and packed our things away in the gathering darkness and cold as a creel boat off loaded its catch. Although our winter trip was now over, we were glowing with memories.

The last day of our four day winter trip was a short 18 kilometres but it had been packed with interest: castles, history, industrial archaeology, natural history, islands, strong tides, paddle sailing, sunset, and good company, who could ask for more? If you look at the GPS track you can see where I stopped to take the photo of the sunset just before  the finish at Port Appin. The tide certainly didn't waste any time in carrying me NE!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heavy industry and some calcareous considerations on Lismore, Loch Linnhe.

From Eilean nan Caorach we paddled to the NE point of Lismore at Rubh' Aird Ghainimh and entered the sheltered waters....

 ...of Port Ramsay as...

...the "Lady Fiona" (fast ferry for the workforce of Glensanda superquarry) slowed down to pass us then sped off across Loch Linnhe.

Lismore means "big garden" and it is a very fertile island due to the prescence of limestone. At the NE end it plunges steeply into the sea. This sea urchin had been left exposed by low tide. Earlier we had seen another carried off in the large beak of a great black backed gull. Its spiny calcareous shell would be no protection from being dropped onto rocks by a flying gull.

Above the tide line, the calcareous rock itself was interesting here. This is limestone tufa, a type of calcareous sinter. It is formed as carbonate minerals precipitate from water oozing out of the limestone rocks above.

We now paddled deep into the natural harbour of Port Ramsay and approached...

...the eponymous village, which is the main settlement on Lismore. It was established in the early 19th century to house workers for the lime kiln industry.

As we drifted between the islands that shelter Port Ramsay we spotted numerous divers.

By now it was well past time for second luncheon so we landed on Eilean Trenach where...

...enjoyed a wonderful view to the north while enjoying home made soup and a dram of 15y old Dalmore.

The air was wonderfully clear the snow covered Appin hills stood out against the wintry sky. It was hard to imagine that, for well over a century, this landscape would have been hidden behind black smoke and fumes belching from the numerous lime kilns scattered round the islands. Of course there is still heavy industry here. One of the World's biggest quarries, Glensanda, is just 6km away on the other side of Loch Linnhe. We visited Glensanda in 2010.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The quicklime industry on Eilean nan Caorach.

We paddled down the east coast of  Eilean nan Caorach (Sheep Island) and arrived at a beach backed by a cottage, a store house, an...

 ...old pier and three lime kilns. Limestone from the hillside behind the kilns has been quarried away.  The industry lasted for over a hundred years from about 1800.

 The islands in this part of the Firth of Lorn are rich in Dalriadan limestone and this was roasted in the kilns to produce quicklime which was stored... the roofed building on the left of this photo, before being taken away in boats.

The whole operation was run by two families who lived in these cottages.

The  building with the blue doors (behind the quicklime store) was a smithy.

The oldest kiln is now in a pretty unstable state.

A ramp leads up to the top and limestone rubble was dropped into the kiln from...

...above onto a grate below which the coals were lit and then roasted for several days.

The coal was stored in this open walled enclosure behind the quicklime store.

The jetty was used to bring in coal for the kilns and take the quicklime out for agricultural and building purposes. The reef in the middle of this photo is actually a ballast bank where boats dumped ballast before taking on quicklime. At one time there were 24 locally owned smacks which carried coal, limestone and slate. The last was the "Mary and Effie" which was owned by Captain Alan MacFadyen who traded these waters in her until the late 1940's.

The two newer kilns are lined by brick rather than rough stone.

This rowan tree presumably had a sheltered start to life.

This is the view from the top of the kilns to the north towards Shuna and the Appin hills.

This is the view to the south  The island just beyond the ballast bank is called Inn Island. Many people think that there was once an inn there but it is called this because it was leased together with the Port Appin Inn which can be seen at the foot of the wooded slope on the mainland. InnIsland was originally shown as Island Imachar on the Appin Estate map. The Garvellachs can just be seen on the horizon to the right of centre.

We returned to the base of the Kilns. The largest  is still in pretty good condition and Ian and I crouched down to make our way inside to...

...the main brick lined kiln chamber.

The coal store now shelters an old Mirror dinghy, a kayak and a deflated inflatable all of which have seen better days.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is it worth paddle sailing up wind and up tide across the Lynn of Lorn?

It was now time to leave the north of Shuna. The flood tide had already reached the boats.

We managed to get the sails up for a short paddle across the north end of the island but... soon as we turned south down the Sound of Shuna we faced a head wind and the north going tide.

The mooring for the Shuna farm work boats is on the east of Shuna.

As we progressed down the Sound of Shuna there were some bursts of sunlight and... the south the Sgeir Buidhe lighthouse and Eilean Dubh stood out against the glowing sky above the Lynn of Lorn.

From the south end of Shuna it is 1.75km across the north end of the Lynn of Lorn to Eilean nan Caorach (sheep island) which lies off the NE tip of Lismore. The offshore wind was gusting quite badly so Mike and Ian decided to paddle and I stuck my sail up. Although I started on a beam reach, our route took us across a tide that was running at 2 knots. Even maintaining a high ferry angle I ended up paddle sailing close hauled.

This is on Eilean nan Caorach looking back at Shuna.  First of all, note how far down tide (to the left) Ian and Mike have been carried, we set off from the south end of Shuna which is out of picture to the right. Secondly, many people say it is not worth paddle sailing close hauled as the kayak will not plane to windward. However, I beg to differ. I paddle sailed the crossing and arrived 4 minutes and 35 seconds before Ian and Mike arrived by paddling alone.

As you can see, they were in the tide a lot longer and got carried well down tide.

This seal was so busy looking at me he did not notice Ian's approach. It disappeared with a huge splash as...

...Ian passed and finally arrived on Sheep Island. I rest my case m'lud!