Monday, 8 August 2011

Orkney, A Slightly Longer Paddle

I decided to make the most of the calm weather and lack of swell and planned a big trip for myself. Setting out from Stromness I paddled all the way round Hoy and back to Stromness again, a total of 62km.

Setting out I managed to get a little tidal assistance through Clestrain Sound and Bring Deeps, passing the islands of Cava, Rysa Little, Fara, Flotta and Switha to reach the eastern most point at Cantick Head. There were numerous reminders of the importance of this area during wartime with gun emplacements positioned to keep the unwanted out of Scapa Flow.

I stopped for lunch at a small inlet where overhanging cliffs meant I could shelter from the rain. It had been raining on and off ever since I set out and by now I was getting a bit fed up of hood up, hood down, hood up, hood down etc. etc.
From South Walls I sat on a roller coaster of big round green waves, shoving me faster and faster towards Torr Ness. The next section of coastline was a committing stretch of high cliffs, hollow with caves and deep geos. A rock stack, called the needle towered above me as I paddle round its base, my neck aching from staring skywards for so long. The geo nearby was so deep that it was dark at the back, the walls green and slimy. As I paddled past, the rocks were alternately bright red and yellow, with the occasional streak of green, where freshwater trickled down from above.

As I approached Rackwick the wind funnelled through the valley caught me by surprise and it was as much as I could do to paddle across the bay. In my mind I was going through the possible contingencies including stopping for the night, but after a short while on the beach, the wind died down and I felt able to continue.
At Rora Head I was again hit by the wind, but this time it was head on, and was to continue for the rest of the trip, sometimes strong enough to prevent forward progress at all. Having been spoiled by the beauty of the cliffs further south, I was a little underwhelmed by the cliffs around the Old Man of Hoy. All that remained was a long slog against the wind until Hoy Sound, which I reached just after it had turned in my favour. The final stint into Stromness was straightforward, and I reached my start point some 9 ½ hours after setting out.

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