Saturday, 24 July 2010

Clyde taster.

On Wednesday it rained, and it rained some more, then it rained again. I know because this was the first day of a 3 day trip from Arran up towards Bute, but by Thursday night the weather was just great and all was forgotten, the tent was dry again and watching the sun set over Kintyre made the journey work out fine.
Funny thing our summer weather.......

This was to be a trip with company but what with one thing and another it ended up just myself, we where going to do a round Arran trip but solo I could get in a journey that has taken my fancy for a while now. So on a rainy morning peering out over the Clyde with everything grey I hit the water at 9am with a rough plan to head up the coast and out across to Inchmarnock.

With enough food and water for 3 days the boat was heavy, the forecast said improving to dry, hope so.....

I launched at the north side of Brodick bay at the end of the road to my house, this was to be as simple a journey as possible with little costs. The first leg up past Corrie and Sannox is a place I paddle often and know well, its a great coast for the sea birds and otters, this is my back yard paddling area and I never tire of seeing it. At the Fallen Rocks, I stopped to eat and have a look at the crossing, do a quick radio check with Clyde and phone in some details of the route with a friend, then off.

Its an hour and 40 mins across to the small island of Inchmarnock and visibility came and went from ok to no sight of land, Bute would show itself eventually and the compass bearing was good bringing me on to the southern bay for lunch. Took a short walk about while the Trangia boiled some water, there seemed to be a worlds smallest crab contest going on in the rocks below high tide! The place was teeming with them, common shore crabs? This was one of the slower smallish ones.

The rest of the first day was a slog up to the top of Bute to camp at the Burnt Isles, a total of 45kms for the day, tired and wet through, happy and very hungry the rain held off till the tent was up. I did fancy camping on one of the Burnt Isle but when you see the amount of birds at this time of year its not possible, apart from anything the noise was deafening, so I pitched camp just north of wreck bay on the northern tip of Bute. Got the stove going for a coffee and some food and sat and watched the rain.

Now this may look like a pretty crappy way to camp with the rain and all, but I got to say I was lovin' it!

Hit the pillow, or should I say a rolled up Buffalo, at about 9 and didn't wake till 7 on Thursday morning, it was dry! Still overcast but no rain. Had a good breakfast and broke camp to get on the water for 9.

The sea was pan flat, mist lingered over the trees and the place seemed deserted. All was very quiet, I got a ride on the tide back down the Kyle past Tighnabruaich towards Ardlamont point where the gaff rig boat Ezra passed by, this is a boat we see when sailing around Arran a lot, she is a 44ft Scillonian pilot cutter, beautiful.

A school of porpoise passed by quite close but other than that the trip back down to Ardlamont point was fast and quiet, the GPS reading 8kmph with the helping tide. The coast from here on towards Portavadie is worth exploring and the sun once again showed itself.

The wee light is on Sgat Mor above, good camping on this little island and I will return there soon. From here I crossed over Loch Fyne to have a look at the Kintyre coast from south of Tarbert down to Skipness, this is another interesting shore with lots of places to camp and one I sail up quite regularly but don't get to see very close.

Skippness beach with Arran in the background, amazing clouds growing in the heat of the day.

Says it all really......

Skipness buoy, 45 minutes away from the Arran coast now and a great evening to camp.

Finally got everything dry from the previous days rain! The evening was really nice, met a couple of fellow kayakers out for an evening paddle, had a good feed, took some photos and went for a walk into Lochranza to say hello to some friends.

Friday seen another fine day and again I hit the water for 9 and got a ride with the tide around the north of Arran to Laggan. This place used to be a busy place with salt pans for the herring, a coal mine and farming all nearby.

Laggan cottage.

Millstone point.

The fallen rocks, just north of North Glen Sannox. Apparently the noise of this rock fall was heard in Campbeltown!

Marvins seal, a wood carving that sits off the shore at Corrie.

Last stop before home, this is a little known harbour just south of Corrie that only has water at high tide, I have never managed to find out much about it.

Back home, 101 km later and another memorable summer holiday.

Not minimalist camping by any means! Thank goodness for big boats.

Till next time..............................

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Big water fun at Pladda.

The weather forecast:    South East Force 6, heavy rain.

           Work cancelled.


Grieg and I headed to Pladda for some gnarly paddle play. Not a force 6 to start, we launched at the Yellow Port out into 1m waves and surf and maybe a force 4.

 Staying off to the west to keep out of the flat water downwind of the Island we moved south and then across the causeway around to the east side into sheltered seas. Great place to get in some rolling practice before heading out into the big seas at the exposed south side of Pladda. The south side of the Island is rocky and unforgiving in strong onshore winds, large breaking surf onto the rough shore leaves us with a sense of caution and awe. Not a place to go swimming. Reflected waves mix with the wind waves and the sea gets chaotic and big with the wind rising.
2m waves with some breaking tops give us a great thrilling time, try as I might the photos just don't do it justice.

This was definitely the most intense part of the trip, but the best fun, well that was going downwind heading back North. Surf fun, the wind starting to ease again and the waves big and fast.
As we reached the side of Pladda all the fun was too much and our adrenaline fueled heads where starting to overheat, so rolling and rescue practice looked like the only way forward!

Going for a roll.

Self rescue practice.

Heads starting to cool off now....

More self rescue.

Wait for it.......

Fantastic day for a lark about, the return to land was again surf fun and we played for a while before finishing.

Happy days.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Camping and bushcraft weekend.

Had a great trip at the weekend there with a friend across to try sea kayaking out for real. Mark is from the borders and a 'canoe' man, I hope to get across and try a river trip at the end of the season with him.

Sunny and breezy so no midges and perfect for camping! We packed the kayaks and launched at Merkland to head up the coast, no rush, plenty of time to fish for some mackerel and play in the waves.

White water waves and strong sun left us enjoying the sea at its best. Stopped at North Glen Sannox for a lunch break as the tide reached its lowest and stood at the mouth of the river we where surprised to see Mullet just feet from us with there fins and tails breaking the surface in the shallow water. Plenty of birds where spotted on the shore as we passed by, Eider ducks with young, Cormorants diving and the Oyster Catchers patrolling the seas edge. The local Swan pair have 4 chicks this year, we kept well clear of these great birds though!

We stopped to pitch camp near Millstone Point on the North East corner of Arran, a good landing spot and flat area to camp seemed made for the job. Mark is real keen on bush craft camping and soon there was a good fire and the fish cooking. I busied myself with drying all the gear and set a line up with tow ropes and paddles to hang the paddle gear on.
Taking a look around there where lots of edible plants about with wild Thyme right at the shore side, Thistle and Burdock nearby and endless shellfish on the rocky shore. The beach is littered with dry firewood here and ideal for wilderness camping.
An interesting thing to note is a cave on the shore nearby that must get regular use with glass and clothes left inside, but with some clues that give away a much older connection to human habitation. Mark spent some time looking at the plants and ground around the entrance with a view to finding a midden heap, which he did, and identifying some of the plants and looking for water courses nearby. Everything indicates ancient use with Burdock just outside amongst other plants and an area of grass with lots of shells just underneath, a midden heap, and good water very near. It would be a guess, but probably used for thousands of years.

Later that night on a stroll along the shore to the Millstone Point we heard a series of scratching sounds from the undergrowth, we stopped and where soon given a great view of a badger foraging in the bracken. It was oblivious to us, about 20 yards away, as we stood downwind and we got to watch for a good while.
We carried on to Millstone Point, so called because this is one of the only places on Arran, that I know of, where millstones where cut. There is still the remains of a whole stone on the path there. The whole area up near Laggan was once very busy with a coal seam being worked and salt pans working for the Herring industry along with Laggan Cottage being a farm with stone walls running all over the hill. Further south an older settlement lies in ruin.

Next day we broke camp and headed down past Sannox and Corrie back to Brodick to finish the trip, surfing on the southbound waves the progress was fast and fun. The whole trip though only short and within the shores of Arran was a real treat. Arran has a lot to offer the adventurous traveller and when the weather is good why would you go anywhere else? Wildlife at every turn and the sea kayaks get you so close that sightings of otters and wild birds are regular and enjoyable.
Have heard the basking sharks are back and dolphins again cruise the Clyde.

Till next time, will be planning more trips soon...........

Environmental images.

Took a notion a while back to try and capture some pictures of the Brodick Bay at night. I was originally drawn to the lights reflected on the water from the village and from boats at anchor out at sea. So at about 11:30 with tripod and head torch this image was taken along with a few others.

Apart from straightening, cropping and the addition of the black border and copyright this image has had no manipulation in photoshop. This is straight from camera as far as colour is concerned, with about 1 1/2 minutes of exposure to get the right light levels the colour is just great. To the naked eye it was more or less pitch black with a faint glow from the East. So all this light is from the town lights of the Ayrshire coast out towards Ardrossan, light pollution. Or is this recycled light?

As far as the technicalities of taking these shots are concerned the hardest thing is to focus, with so little light available the viewfinder was black so had to range find and hope. I am really pleased with the final images and the intense colours, there is a strong human element in them, one of the set includes an extra element of illumination from the headlights of a passing car on the Merkland road.

Check out the others from the Environmental Images gallery at Luke Furze Photography.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Kayak build project.

Well here we are and the first post on Arran Paddler.

Thought I would start with an idea that has been running around with me for a while now, building a kayak. I got some ideas and putting them here should, maybe, help to realize them.
So, sounds easy enough you say? Should be, just got a few questions first like how much time have I got? What style of boat and in what construction? In wood or plywood or a real old fashioned Greenland replica in wood and canvas?

Thing is I love them all. So what should I do now?

Anyway, here are some of the Greenland designs that have my going just now,

This is a fantastic design by Bjorn Thomasson. Called a Black Pearl.

It is a strip plank build and oh so very nice.

This is a Tahe Marine Greenland, a production boat, very nice though and with great reviews.

And this is a skin on frame,SOF, boat ready for its skin!

There are some great pictures here of different boats using skin on frame build,

So I have some thinking to do on what boat to try, do I go out and buy a finished boat or build a strip plank masterpiece or go the fast and cheap way of a SOF boat?