Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Oban Sea Kayak Race

Last Saturday was the third Oban sea kayak race. The event kicked off at the Kilbowie outdoor centre, which sits right on the shore in the Sound of Kererra. After a delayed start, due to many of the participants getting caught up in a road closure, boats were duly laid out on the grass for inspection.

Once on the water, the flotilla of fifty boats paraded into Oban bay. It was fantastic to be part of such a big group of kayaks.

Photo courtesy of Graham Milne

In this picture we have just started and are heading for the Sound of Kererra. Conditions are perfect with a northerly wind and no rain.
Photo courtesy of Graham Milne

Crossing Oban Bay

And this is me, 2hrs 20minutes later crossing the finish line in Oban Bay
Photo Graham Milne

And here are the race results

I was the first woman to finish in a time of 2hrs 20mins. Previous women's winning times have been in excess of 2hrs 30mins so I was pretty pleased with my time. Now of course I will have to go back next year and see if I can do better.
The event was very well run, and well supported locally. Local sponsors had covered the running costs so that race entry fees and raffle takings were donated to the Oban lifeboat, about £1500 I believe.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Roadtrip Part 7 - Skye

After a very enjoyable week around Arisaig, the paddlewaggon took me to Skye. Here I met up with Julie for five days paddling in wonderful conditions.

Near Kyleakin we came across a bloom of jellyfish all trying hard to strand themselves in the receeding water.

Next day we paddled into Coruisk from Elgol. The view into the Cuillin was spectacular

In the absence of a sandy beach, we made do with a landing on rocks at the Scavaig river. Having enjoyed weeks without rain, Skye was parched dry and the river was just a trickle.

Next day, we set off from Elgol in the opposite direction in the search for Spar Cave. Cliff scenary was spectacular.

The first cave we found had some pretty stalactites, but was clearly not Spar Cave

Here it is, from a very undramatic entrance, a passageway leads up over gour pools to a chamber lined with calcite.

The gour pools complete with cave pearls bear a striking resemblance to the surface of tripe.

For the next two days we paddled in Kyle Rhea but sadly no photos.

The Roadtrip Part 6 - Arisaig

After returning from Shetland, I had a quick turnaround before guiding a five day expedition on the west coast. Based around Arisaig, we had a fantastic week of white sand beaches, sunshine and amazing views.

This was our first campsite

And the second

This was the view we awoke to

 Campsite number three

Beautiful calm conditions

Checking out another beach for campsite potential

Another flat calm day

Campsite number four

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Roadtrip Part 5 - Shetland

After a very successfull event on the Isle of Bute, the paddle waggon and I set off northwards aiming for Aberdeen, and the boat to Shetland.

I’m not sure where to start. I spent 10 days on Shetland and paddled for nine of them. The weather was perfect and paddling conditions just amazing. The photos don’t really do it justice. There were enormous cliffs, huge caves, gullies, arches, stacks, seabirds everywhere, loads of seals and plenty of friendly local paddlers to show us the best bits. These photos were taken on a trip round Papa Stour. It was about a million times better than it looks in the pictures. At one point there was a tunnel that went right through a headland to emerge some 300m later in a different bay. A couple of small islands off the north corner of Papa Stour had tunnels right through them, and in the case of Lyra Skerry, just to make it more interesting there was a tide race running through the tunnel.

 There were extraordinary sculpted walls to some of the caves. This one looked like a row of statues on a shelf.

There were arches around every corner.

And stacks.

This cave had a sunroof.

This one had three.

 This is where we stopped for lunch. A rope hanging down the cliff at the back of the bay assists the climb up. It takes a bit of courage (or stupidity) to use a rope that you can't see how it is attached.

This probably used to be a cave but is now an enclosed gully with an arch to enter.

The sea was teeming with fish

I'm not sure whether this is a cave with arches, or arches with a cave. Either way it was a spectacular place to be.

The Roadtrip Part 4 - Bute

Time to put on the sensible head, and go and do some work. The sea kayak festival on Bute was an event for women paddlers. I still can’t get used to the idea of an even for women only, and probably wouldn’t attend one myself as a participant, but I have to say that everyone seemed to have a good time. Women got out on the water, many for the first time in years and others with little prior experience of paddling. A total of 30 participants and at least 8 contributors enjoyed the drizzly weather outside followed by the good food and entertainment inside.


The Roadtrip Part 3 - Craignish Point

 Craignish Point is where the Ardfern road runs out. There is the remains of an old slipway and not a lot else. It a perfect place for a little roadside camping, and also an ideal launchpad for playtime in the Dorus Mor. Conditions were calm (again) so Mitch, Gianni, Anne and I spent an enjoyable two days playing in and out of the fast moving channels created by tide rushing through gaps in the chain of small islands south of Craignish Point.

The weather was a little special, so my van sprouted an awning.

Mitch is showing off his new found love of moving water.

The Roadtrip Part 2 - Luing

After a great weekend at Largs, I pointed my trusty paddlewagon northwards and ended up near Arduaine for a couple of days paddling with Mitch and Andy.
Day one was an introduction to tide races for Mitch. We went to the Cuan sound and played around in the swirly water at the north western end of the channel as the flood tide squirted water over a shallow bar. Waves and 'funny water' made an interesting playground.

Day two,three of us set out on a journey round Luing. 

This trip was remarkable for two things; firstly the size, number and variety of jellyfish encountered and secondly, within moments of announcing to the others that I would like to see an otter, a great big dog otter  (I’m guessing it was a dog otter as it was the biggest otter I have ever seen) ran across the rocks just beside me. The otter was far too fast to appear in a photo, but fortunately the jellyfish weren’t.

From the southern tip of Luing we had tidal assistance, initially too little to appreciate but as we travelled north, our paddling speed got increasingly swift, until just before our lunch break on Fladda island we were notching up 14km/hr without really trying. Conditions were flat calm so the sea appeared to be swirling in all directions. Having enjoyed dry weather so far, it started to rain as we were building stone towers on the beach while waiting for the Cuan sound to turn in our favour for the ride home.
While lunching on Fladda we say another otter. You are going to have to use your imagination but the little dark blob in the middle of the water is an otter (honest).