Friday, 28 December 2012

Why bother with shipping channels!!!!

Leaving Kinghorn
A couple of weeks back, we decided to organise an evening island paddle - sounds nice and romantic!
We met up with Niall and Aline at the boat shed before heading down to Pettycur Bay to launch. It was getting on in time as after Aline had double checked she had everything, announced in the carpark that the spraydeck she thought she had was sitting in her living room at home! After a frantic few calls to whoever we could think of in the area that would have a deck we could use, it was our Number 3 son who came to the rescue - they do come in useful sometimes- by that I mean Sons, spraydecks are always useful!
Niall and Aline

We set off for what always looks like a short distance over to Inchkeith. Aline was having a bit of a wobbly day and about half way across "jumped" in for a swim! We got her back in, but she wasn't desperately happy. We were nearly at the island when Hubby dear suggested we head back to Kinghorn as it was getting a bit late. We had hoped to get a quick breather on the beach first, but after a quick look, discovered that the area was covered in young Grey seal pups, so that was out of the question.
Niall, glad to be back on the water!

Aline was still not her usual happy self, so we put her on a tow with me keeping her going with my usual constant nattering. After a bit with her still on tow, over she went again. I got her back in, tried to comfort her by explaining what a pants time I had up on Skye and that we are all here just between swims!
Hubbydear heading for Inchkeith

As we were paddling along, we were keeping an eye on a container ship heading out from under the bridges. We were still on the island side of the red marker as this boat was coming closer. We headed straight for the red marker, reckoning this would be about our safest area. The boat was going well outside of the shipping channel, travelling between the marker and the island - just where Aline had been having swim 2. This massive ship with a full load of containers wouldn't even have had the decency to go bump had it hit us! We have been out to Inchkeith three times now. Twice this has happened while out on the water and happened again whilst we were watching from the safety of dry land. Why bother having a shipping lane marked off if it's going to be ignored. I always feel a quick shipping channel crossing is essential, but in this case, having a daunder in this particular channel would have been OK, whereas outside the channel should be our "safe" area - not this time!

Getting back to Kinghorn, I'm glad to say Aline hasn't been put off paddling, instead is more determined to get her support strokes worked on.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Kayakey Kid goes for Gold!

This one will do, I'll grow into it!
We had a recent jaunt up to Paddle 2012 in Perth as Stuart from Seakayak Oban had kindly brought my plastic sea boat across the country for me to collect. As the Kayakey Kid is boat daft, we took him along. He was in seventh heaven, boats in every direction. Didn't matter if they were big, wee, open, sea or river - they were boats! He had a great old time getting his card filled with stickers from participating stands and was getting a dab hand at asking for "things".
He came across the Coastguard stand where he collected so many fliers and stickers, they insisted on him also taking one of their carrier bags. He obviously thought his bag looked a bit empty as he boldly asked if he could also get one of their "walkie talkies", he was meaning their radios!
This is how you do it

He happily carried on round the show until he came across the indoor kayak race. On he clambered and instantly fell off the other side, luckily he tends to just bounce! Margaret Chapman kindly came over to give him a hand and finished his race in an impressive 4 minutes (would he have been quicker on his own?). This meant he was in the winning position in his category which magically appeared, his being the "up to age 3" category. He was pleased as punch to get a certificate and his first SCA kayak "cup" OK, blue mug, impressively presented by gold medallist Tim Baillie. He was allowed a shot of Tim's gold medal to wear round his neck which he declared was every heavy and could he keep it! He thought it was another "freebie" - I've taught him so well!
The Kayakey Kid with that "Every Heavy" gold medal and his winning SCA cup! 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

5* sea assessment - a candidates point of view.

I don't normally agree with plagiarism, but I've made an exeption this time.
A 5 Star Assessment
Setting off
 It all started on Saturday with sorting, then resorting and finally checking and sorting again all the kit I needed for the assessment. The boats were mounted on the car ready to go. Yes, boats, I can’t go without Sarah as she had been selected as a GP (* guinea pig or mock student). We, the other candidates and I, weren’t to meet until Sunday night at 7:45 so we set off for a pleasant trip up to Skye on Sunday morning.
We arrived at our B&B about 4; we had decided that B&B was a much better option than camping out beside Kevin. With 2 evening sessions planned, coming back to a hot shower and comfortable bed far outweighed the thought of pitching a tent and all the additional kit to sort out. We had time for a trip to the local metropolis of Broadford where we stopped for a chat with one of the locals, a certain Trevor Nicholson. By pure chance our B&B sat right behind the Hebridean Hotel so we sampled the bar meals and ale, both of which we can’t recommend highly enough. I set off to register and start my assessment leaving Sarah in the bar waiting for Kevin to join her.
There were 5 of us for the assessment and we started with the usual introductions. Assessing us over the 2 days were Gordon Brown and Rowland Woollven with Kim Bull observing. Both assessors had been involved in my training so I was fairly happy that the assessment would follow the same topics as the training. The four other candidates were Chris Loynes (a lecturer at University of Cumbria) , Ole Lindhardt (A Greenlander from Nuuk), Mark Williamson (an outdoor instructor from Ardmore) and Bonnie Perry (a pastor from All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago). The assessment started with a review of the required documentation; LR forms and log books, then a question paper on equipment, weather, navigation, the environment and history. Luckily this was an open discussion rather than a written exam.
This finished about 9:30 so I headed back for a night cap before retiring. No sign of Sarah or Kevin so assumed both had decided on an early night. This is where I found Sarah had the B&B keys and my wallet so after knocking on the door and paddling through the puddles to the back window I found she was now missing. As I headed back to the car to sit on my own I got a text from Kevin, sent almost 2 hours earlier, to say they were meeting up with some of the other GPs in the Broadford Hotel. Wolfgang Pfab and Sean Mulligan had been in although Sean had left just before I arrived. Wolfgang said he was German but his humour was very Scottish or I’ve met too many straight Germans. Sarah told me that we had met Sean before as he was on our 5 star training. So far a large number of the GPs were of a high standard, this might be easier than I thought.
After a broken night’s sleep and a huge breakfast I set off for the first full day’s assessment starting at 9. A set of 5 charts, pilots, Clyde yachtsman and Reeds almanacs were laid out waiting for us. A quick brief on where we were starting and finishing from and then we had almost 2 hours to come up with our route plan. I had 2 channels to cross with a small island to go round. Finding the tide times and converting to local times and the flow rates and times didn’t take too long. I’d never used the Clyde yachtsman so thought it best have a quick check in case there was anything I might have missed but it didn’t give me anything I didn’t have. The crossing would take just under 4 hours so I worked out the tide direction and rates over the whole range and opted for a start time to get the best use of the flow. I was just starting to draw the route on the chart when Gordon came in to announce that we should be starting to draw some form of route within the next 30 minutes. Now I’m either 30 minutes ahead of what is expected or I’ve missed something. 10 minutes later I’m fairly happy that I’m OK and continue with the plan. It all looked great until I decided to lay off my actual track position and ended up about 1km out. Once I worked out where the error was it was simple to explain how to correct it without starting again. Gordon re-appeared again to say most of the GPs were here and I was surprised to see that it was almost 11 already. He had been out for a drive and had decided we were going in at Armadale and paddling up to Isleornsay after a trip to the skerries.
Nearly back at Isle Oronsay
We were split into 2 groups, Mark and Bonnie were one and Ole and Chris were stuck with me. The GPs were brought in and after a brief introduction they were handed over to their candidates. Chris’ partner, Kate Rawles, was put in beside Sarah, Kevin and Wolfgang and left with Mark and Bonnie. I had Sean, Alan Jones, Neil and Roger Hamlet. We gave them a rough idea of the plan and were not surprised to learn they each had different ailments, a broken finger, a heart murmur, asthma like symptoms and a previously dislocated shoulder. With the boats racked and everybody changed we headed to Armadale.
The wind was a force 5-7 coming from the south so the put-in was fairly sheltered. While Gordon and Kim went off to arrange the shuttle the candidates had to get their group into a shelter with a hot drink and some food. Once they were suitably refreshed and warmed up it was time to get them on the water. Chris asked to lead first then me and Ole would follow on. Ole and I hung back while Chris got the group sorted and on the water. As we picked the boats up to move them to the water my rear toggle broke, I’ll blame Ole for that one. Not a lot to do other than tie a knot and hope it holds. As we headed out around the Armadale ferry the wind soon hit us head on as did the rain and hail. I half expected to take the group over behind Eilean Maol but Chris was taking them a bit further up behind Eilean Sgorach. I headed between the 2 skerries to see what the conditions would be like as I expected I’d be bringing the group back in there before handing over to Ole. Gordon shouted over that I could go out and have a look. This is where an understanding of Gordon’s style of coaching helps, he doesn’t tend to say much and when he does it’s usually a suggestion. It reminds me of an old warrant officer, a suggestion is his way of being nice and isn’t really a suggestion at all. As I headed, out the 1.5 – 2mtr waves changed into 2-3mtr waves and I was pleased to look back and see the Ole had also had the same suggestion. Progress was slow but I still preferred to battle on rather than turn around and then battle against the wind to catch the group. As we approached the end of the skerry the first group came through and by the time we got to the gap our group were there.
My turn to lead and take the group around the headland. There were a few breakers ahead of the first group and some more just off the headland. I had to race around the group as it was impossible to communicate any more than a couple of metres away. The plan was to head up to where the other group were, about 100mtrs ahead, then veer right avoiding the headland. As I explained this to my group the other group had decided to stop and turn around. It was a real surprise how quickly 100mtrs can disappear as we had to dodge through their group with many of them still side on. We were clear of the headland when Gordon asked that I turn the group around and hand over to Ole. I’d only been leading for less than 500mtrs so this was a bit of a worry, either I had done really well or really badly and Gordon doesn’t give anything away. With the headland to our right and rear the only safe way was to turn left. Rodger was slightly ahead and the most left so I had him turn first while I went back to explain to the others to start turning left and then drop the skeg. Over to Ole while I sat back with Chris and played on the waves.
Ole led the group back to the skerries then took them around again while we waited for Chris to adjust is boat. We then started heading for Ornsay, approximately 12km north east with Ole still leading. Over the first 1km Chris & I estimated we were travelling about 8 knots but this slowed down to about 5 after Armadale. It wasn’t much further before Rodger started to get cold which brought on his breathing troubles. With an extra storm cag on he still wasn’t showing signs of improving so a rafted tow was called for. Time to call the coastguard, so Chris and I had to give our position as a grid reference and bearing. After 1km of towing, Rodger started to recover. Ole had led for the best part of 6km and I was asked to lead the group into a sheltered bay for a short break. We were almost half way by this time and with Chris still due a second turn what could possibly go wrong in the next 3km?
More towing
The entry into the bay was a bit rough but once inside we managed to get out for a 10 minute stretch and refresh before heading back out with me still leading. We hadn’t gone far when Neil looked decidedly wobbly so I started to work my way over to keep an eye on him. But after 2 checks that he was OK he still went over, I’m not sure whether he tried a roll as the shout of agony told me something was wrong. What’s the 4 priorities of incident management; 1 – me, I’m fine, 2 – group, stop! they appeared to turn round, 3 – casualty, time to get him sorted. Neil had popped his right shoulder and was in a bit of pain. He still had his boat, his paddle was on a leash and his hat was drifting slightly behind (that’s 4th on the priority list so can wait). I slid him into his boat using a scoop rescue and got him to hold his arm in a comfortable position, it saved trying to attach a sling out there. I looked round for some assistance and had Rodger close so I had him help out with a raft and the pumping while I sorted out a tow. I could have done with somebody on the other side to assist with the stability while Rodger was pumping but to my dismay the sea was bare. I had lost half my group and couldn’t see them. A quick bearing check to content myself they were not behind me. It was almost time for the chopper for the casualty and a big whirlpool for me when I caught sight of them again, just ahead of their last position. They had slowed down and were happily chatting as they paddled off. I tried the whistle but you would need to be about 10mtrs away to hear it. The gap wasn’t much more than it had been so I set off towing as hard as I could to try and catch up with them. Now this is where reality and illusion meet. There was I angry with myself that I had made a simple error, despondent that I may have wasted my chance with a little bit of hope that I might catch up with the rest of the group. Puffing half way down a 2mtr wave when I look over and there’s Ole surfing past with the biggest smile he could give, if he’d been any closer I’d of punched him. My group eventually stopped in a small bay and waited for me to join them after a 3km tow. Chris took over here and had the job of landing my casualty, getting the group warm under a shelter and fed and watered.
Day 1 paddling done!
Chris then led us uneventfully back to the pier. The only challenges we were given were to get a bearing of the pier, paddle the last 1km with our splits and exit at the end of the pier. It was starting to get dark and the wind was still at force 7 so it was deemed too dangerous to continue with the night exercise. We’d been asked several navigational questions as we’d been out so although it wasn’t fully dark we had shown the skills that were required. By the time I’d gone down for the car Sarah had found the bar and downed 1 ½ pints of Red Cuillen. We loaded the kit and boats and headed back to Gordon’s to get changed and hang up the wet kit. A few of us met later in the Hebridean for a beer before Kevin took Wolfgang and us down to meet Trevor and his family.
After another fitful night’s sleep we met at Gordon’s again at 9. The plan for the day was to head down to Kyle Rhea and although he didn’t say it I expected it to be a fairly wet session. The assessors were going to swap over so we would have Rowland for the day. Chris arrived with a badly swollen wrist and had to withdraw although he would come down and watch as Kate was still going out. We also had the added bonus of having an assistant while we were leading.
The tide was south going and estimated to be about 8 knots just after 11 with a south, south westerly wind of up to force 5. With the groups ready Ole won the choice of leading first or second and gracefully passed it to me to lead first. I got the group on quickly as the ferry was already half way over before giving them a brief on the plan. We paddled up to the lighthouse and then we were to head over to a bay on the other side. I split the group in 2 with Ole heading off slightly ahead of me. Half way over and while in the fast flowing water we needed to perform a roll and self-rescue if that failed. Ole was first and his roll went well, it was only later that I found out he had done a rolling demonstration for the Danish royal family. My turn came and over I went, back up cleanly and hardly broke my stride; this is usually a good indication of how the day is going to go.
Ole rescueing
As we settled into the bay I was taken out to the edge of the flow and made to sit like a good puppy while Rowland took Alan midway into the flow. Once there Alan capsized and let go of his boat, either he’s been on these before or he listened to the instructions on day 1 as he held his paddle straight up so I could find him. Once Rowland raised his arm it was off like a sheepdog to round up all the separate bits. It didn’t take too long and we were both back on the bay pumping out while Ole and Rodger went through the same exercise. Next Ole and I had to each tow another tired paddler back out of the flow. Ole was upstream so went for the upstream paddler and I went down stream. A minor problem with the zip on my towline cost me about 200mtrs and meant another long slog back to the bay towing. The final challenge was without the GPs, we had to go into the flow and carry out a self-rescue. We had to make our way back to the side and pump out ourselves. Once this was completed Ole was to lead back across to just below the pier.
Sean and Alan were too tired to paddle and as we only had Ole and my towlines and as the assistant I was back on towing duty. Half way across the 2 other paddlers played at synchronized capsizing. With Alan back in his boat but still half full of water he joined the raft while he got pumped out. Once Rodger was back in he was a bit cold so also joined the raft. Ole being a considerate leader hitched up his towline to me and we headed off to the beach. Just after the pier Ole capsized and released his towline before rolling back up. Before my turn I pleaded with Rowland to allow Ole’s line to be detached as I’d be rolling right over it. It all seemed to go OK but the line stayed connected and just as Rowland was asking me to roll again I lifted my BA to free the toggle. By the time we hitched up again we had drifted way passed the beach and had another slog back up stream. Once on the beach with the GPs under a shelter for lunch Rowland asked if we were happy that we had been given enough chance to prove our abilities. We were both happy with the day and had about 1 hour to lead in rough water for real, the group wanted to play in the bumpy stuff so we headed out for a quick play. Rodger managed a roll and a self-rescue and left delighted. Back at the pier Ole showed off some of his skills by standing in the boat, duly copied by Rodger and then I had to make it 3. Ole and Rodger had big stable boats and managed to stand on the back deck, that’s one I’ll need to work on.
 Back on the pier while tidying the kit and boats Gordon called us over to tell us that all 4 candidates had passed. I don’t know what felt better the joy of passing or the relief that the work over the last 18 months was worth it. What’s next? A holiday somewhere warm and a chance to build up some experience then possibly the advance water training but that’ll be next year anyway.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

......... to another. St. Lucia.

The beautiful Marigot Bay
Warm seas

After coming back home from Skye with a husband whose grin was like the Cheshire cat's, we had a quick zoom to rinse and dry all our kit, then get the next load of bags ready for our proper summer holidays (even though it's October). We're off  to somewhere just as wet, but considerably warmer - St Lucia!
We were greeted at Pomme D'Amour with sunshine , warmth  and a delicious Rum Punch- ahhh bliss!
Whilst we were in St Lucia, we had decided to try to go for our PADI open water certificate. I've done plenty snorkeling before, but only once trying scuba, but I've always fancied doing more, this seemed the perfect location. We picked up our manuals and spent a couple of days pouring through wheens of information, breaking it up with swims down in the bay and more rum punches.
It wasn't as warm in Skye!
Wonderfully clear

On the Tuesday, we had our first dive, normally in the confines of a swimming pool, but here we were in a shallow bay.  After getting some basic instructions it was time to head back to the dive boat for lunch, then after lunch back in for a dive along the reef. It was wonderful managing to swim so deep in only a costume - unlike the week before, swimming in Kylerhea, thermals, drysuits, a hat!
One of the things I had to get used to was buoyancy and the weights I needed. I had a 16lb weight belt on (would have been more if I had a wetsuit on! , Hubby dear only had 12lb) I struggled to wobble around the deck, but underwater, it was as if it wasn't there. We had to do various exercises quite deep down and despite me dumping air from my BCD, I still floated to the surface, I even had Hubby dear dangling on my fins to pull me back down! This would give him the chance to go on about how I'm full of hot air! He about got a slap round the chops with a wet fish and what a selection of fish I had! We saw all sorts, all colours, Trumpet, Butterfly, Parrot, Trunk, Drumfish and a surprising amount of Moray eels. I felt quite a sense of achievement when our instructor Andre, pointed to the depth gauge and shook my hand, we'd made it down to 35'.  Next day we were down in the bay snorkeling, reading and generally taking it easy before making our daily jaunt down to a rather delumptious ice cream shop in Marigot Bay. You know sharks can sense blood from afar, I can sense icecream from a greater distance!
One of the many Morays
Cuttle Scuttle

 We should have had our second days dive on the Thursday, but the seas had picked up, stirring up the sand, meaning visibility wasn't great. We found out this was the start of a "tropical wave". The next few days were spent doing various "touristy" things. St Lucia is covered in rainforest, so naturally you would expect rain. When it rains, it really rains - but it's lovely and warm. We visited the botanical gardens and Diamond waterfalls in Soufriere where the rain came down in sheets, but once you are soaked to the skin, you can't get any wetter! We lunched at Ladera, between the Pitons, except we couldn't see the tops, but still a stunning setting. We went to Fish Fry day in Anse la Raye, where the locals come out and cook all sorts of fish, served up with extremely potent spiced rum all accompanied by music.
Slightly soaked
6" moth
The seas were settling again. The tropical wave had moved on, turning into Hurricane Raphael. There were still some weather systems to be watched further away which eventually turned into superstorm Sandy.
We had our next dive booked for the Tuesday. Off we went for more instructions in the shallows, removing masks, sharing air, rescues, back to the boat for lunch before diving along another ledge. At this point, I'm still struggling to get my breathing right before going deep, but I know once I'm down the breathing is so much easier, which is just as well as we managed down to 60'. The visibility was amazing. I only wish we had a camera that could go that deep, the pressure would kill our cameras. All our underwater photos are from our snorkeling trips. Andre put a little sea slug on my hand which almost turned over to get it's tummy tickled - fantastic!
That evening, after our dive, we had our written part of our certificate to complete, all our reading had paid off well.


Me under Latille  Falls
Piton Falls
Our next dive was arranged for Thursday. We met up with everyone again. Hubbydear and I still had a bit of underwater navigation to finish off which didn't take long to do. We then joined the other qualified divers  to finish the morning dive reaching 70' this time. After lunch was our last dive. I managed down quite quickly this time. The first fish we spotted on our descent was a well camouflaged scorpion fish, not the prettiest fish in the sea! Our next fish was a black lion fish, another fish to be very wary of! After that, I managed to dump air successfully staying on the bottom instead of  shooting out of the water like a jet propelled rocket, I feel as though I'm really getting the hang of this.The one fish the other divers were really keen to see was a seahorse. I'm pleased at seeing anything and was delighted to see a tiny pipefish, a member of the seahorse family. Our other sightings were more Moray eels, Damsels, spiney lobsters, flounders, soldierfish along with masses of Sergeant Majors, colourful anenomes and corals of all sorts of shapes and colours.
A successfull ascent with emergency stop finished off a fabulous last dive of our holidays.
Hubby dear working hard at chilling
Our last day was spent snorkelling, eating ice cream and gazing up at the coconut palms for the last time.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

5* sea mock student. From 1 extreme ...........

Setting off for the skerries
We were recently off for a third attempt at Hubby dear sitting his 5* sea assessment. The previous 2 were called off due to our Scottish weather, the weather was wonderful, the conditions weren't! The weather had been flat, calm, sunny, normally perfect paddling conditions, just not 5* conditions. I was heading along as a mock student.
We arrived up in Skye earlyish evening. As we were passing through Broadford, we passed a very familiar sight - Young Trevor, up for a family holiday. After settling into our B&B, we headed down to the Hebridean Hotel (which was conveniently situated at the bottom of the B&B garden) for tea. Hubby dear was then having to head off for Skyak Adventures to start the assessment. I stayed put in the bar and waited for Kevin (fellow club member and mock student) to join me along with my German buddy Wolfgang, also a mock student.
Next morning, Hubby dear was off bright and early to complete more of the paperwork side of the assessment, whilst I had a leisurely start.
Kevin towing Kate and me
Kate and Bonnie
Mark and Rowland

The other group towing
The assessees (?) were Hubby dear, Chris(Cumbria) and Ole (Greenland) in one group with Bonnie (priest from Chicago) and Mark (Ioan Gruffudd - actor, lookalike). Kevin, Wolfgang, Kate (Chris's partner) and I were with Bonnie and Mark. Kate and I being kept separated from Hubby dear and Chris! Finding out that Bonnie was a priest made me think I would have to behave myself and not swear!
Rowland came down to sort the students out and give us all ailments which would eventually cause a problem or two (or in this case 8). They included an inhaler missing asthmatic, dislocated shoulders, blood pressure problems, epilepsy, generally not listening to any instructions and mine. I was to be 2 month pregnant!!! very funny Rowland-not!!
We piled into various cars and made our way down to Armadale in time for the heavens to open and dump on us (didn't think that would happen, what with having Bonnie with us). Split into our groups, our leaders had to quickly heat up a cold group. The 3 "girls" were in 1 group shelter with Bonnie dressing Kate and myself in umpteen layers of everything-don't think we were going to start a fashion trend! On the water, we paddled down to the skerries where the water was suitably 5* conditions. The leaders were taking turns leading their groups round the rocks before turning and heading back up the sound with the waves behind us. At this point, my boat was feeling a bit funny, I've been out in bumpy waters plenty of times, it just didn't feel right. It wasn't long before events started happening, so I put it to the back of my mind. Kate "dislocated" her shoulder when she fell in, so Bonnie had to rescue her with me being in a supported tow with her. This gave Kate and myself a fine chance to have a great chinwag as Kevin had to tow both of us through the waves to a small bay where an otter put in a welcome appearance.
My good buddy Wolfgang
Bonnie rescuing me
Rowland. Kevin happy to be towed and not towing
Mark was taking over the leading for the next section. It wasn't long before I fell in needing rescued and because of my "condition!" needed a supported tow with my good buddy Wolfgang, giving me another fine chinwag time whilst  Kevin improved his towing skills wonderfully. After a bit I made a miraculous recovery and on we went again. It wasn't too long before Wolfgang went off on a tangent with poor Bonnie yelling after him whilst he carried on doing his own thing which inevitably led to him capsizing and needing rescuing. Quite why I worried about behaving myself and not swearing in front of Bonnie is by now way beyond me! The other group had caught up with us by now when I fell in again, next to the rocks which seemed to get closer mighty quickly. This time as Bonnie was rescuing me, Wolfgang did a marvellous job of "getting in the way". It was getting cold and dull by now, but nearing the lighthouse Kevin had another wee episode, another rescue only to go over again, resulting in another supported tow, another quick natter opportunity for me whilst Wolfgang towed us. Unfortunately getting towed so much meant I was genuinely getting cold. A quick fast paddle to the pub (where else?) where we were getting out, heated me up a bit. This is where Kevin, Wolfgang, Bonnie and I, still in our paddling gear, had the best pint and a half of Red Cuillins, which went down a treat at great speed!
The best Red Cuillins around!

Rowland thinking of seal launching?
Next day, the assessors were swapping groups. We were going in at Kylerhea, where the water was quite fast and bumpy. I was looking forward to this bit where hopefully we'd get a bit of a play. I was absolutely gutted when what seemed like 2 mins after getting into my boat I was over and swimming. Bonnie got me back in, made our way back into the waves when the same happened again. Nobody heard me swear as I was still upside down!! Back in the eddie Gordon got me set up for a roll which I failed miserably in, I think my confidence had just taken a huge hammering, even the fish were giving me a shoulder to cry on - still upside down! I can't remember the last time I had failed a set up roll. Heading further down, Gordon was saying it was good practise for the leaders and wouldn't it be good if I did it in the middle of the bumpy stuff, with my skeg down, boat up and give it a hard shove! So after a while, Gordon seemed to have managed to split the group a bit, asked Bonnie to go over and do a self rescue. At that point whilst Bonnie was upside down, Gordon said Now, so over I went. Poor Bonnie, came back up from her self rescue to find chaos with me and my boat well separated! Whilst bobbing around in these large waves a porpoise swam past, does this mean I can claim to have swum with a porpoise?
Despite having had a terrible start to my second day, I still had a great time and learnt alot. Giving my unplanned swims in Kylerhea a bit of thought, I reckoned my boat was too light. Despite my love of chocolate, ice cream and beer (probably in that order!) I have lost a bit of weight over the last few months, that and the fact Hubby dear had all the safety kit, my boat was mega light. I literally bobbed around like a wee cork. I should have chucked a couple of water containers in the hatches. I did have another go at a roll and thankfully came back up. I guess I also learnt that you can never practise rescues/rolling enough!  Also, if your going for assessment, keep between your assessor and your students otherwise chaos is guaranteed to ensue!
Heading back, Hubby dear's group were already there turning their kayaks into S.U.P's.
Back at the Kylerhea jetty, both groups got the news we were all hoping they'd get - the candidates had all past. They all put such a lot into it and I wouldn't have blamed them for refusing to take out such a dodgy, decrepit bunch of paddlers! I was so chuffed for them all, especially Hubby dear because well, he's my hubby!
Glen Garry on our way home



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Easdale - I think!

It was on our St Kilda trip that Mike was telling us about the SCA trip out to the Garvellachs and Grey dogs. It's an area we've never been to before so it was a great opportunity to have an organised paddle there.
After a few emails, we decided to travel up to Easdale on the Friday evening so we could have dinner in the Puffin Bar with some of the other paddlers on the trip.
It can sometimes be a bit daunting going for a paddle with folk you've never met in an area that is new, but I was still looking forward to it. As we travelled up past the Green Welly and headed over to Oban, the weather wasn't exactly great. By the time we had driven over the Clachan Bridge, it was like pea soup. We arrived in the village of Easdale, found the harbour and unloaded the boats. We were to paddle over to the island of Easdale, except we weren't sure where it was! The fog was that thick. As we were packing the boats, there was a slight gap in the fog, long enough for us to see a couple of kayaks sitting beside the pier on what we presumed was Easdale. That crossing must have been our shortest paddle ever.

A Fair Puggled Skinny Blonde

Easter Island?
Meeting everyone
We found the Puffin Bar where we met Andy and some of the other paddlers. Deciding on what to drink wasn't hard. I've always wanted to be a bit slimmer, so Skinny Blonde beer seemed the right choice. It was rather good, so a second bottle ensued, hence the reason (or 1 of them!) as to why I'm not a Skinny blonde. The beer mat was probably more appropriate for me - Fair Puggled!
Next morning, we did the massive crossing back over to Seil to meet up with the rest of the group, before heading off south. The views were terrific, slightly further than the end of our boats.
Fladda Lighthouse
 We eventually made out the misty shape of the lighthouse on Fladda. The fog was beginning to lift slightly. We made our way down the side of Lunga before stopping for a bite of lunch in the large bay near the bottom.

Lorna, Clair and myself
I have no idea where we are!
Lunch No.1
There's that lovely hill
 We had a wee keek at the Grey Dogs before rounding Scarba with Christabel promising me there is a lovely hill on the island - somewhere. Just round the corner we spotted the first of our Porpoises. Then a Golden Eagle, then some Red Deer. Our next area to paddle through was the Corryvrecken.
Alan and Ansgar
Turning into the Gulf
Hubby dear going with the flow
 Never having been here before, only having heard of the whirlpool and Andy and Alan's stories from the evening before, I was a bit apprehensive as to what to expect. The speed we came through the Corryvreckan was quite amazing with very little paddling. Although we were going through on a nice slow tide, it was easy to imagine how a slight change in weather could result in completely different conditions. Getting stuck in whirlypools isn't always my idea of fun, I have enough practise on our Friday evening paddles up at Stanley! This was where we saw the Sea eagles and more porpoises.
Ansgar at the start of the Grey Dogs
Hubby dear looking for a wave to play on
After another lunch, we were now making our way up the side of Scarba back towards the Grey Dogs. I'd had great fun the week before playing in Kylerhea and was quite looking forward to this area, however we all just seemed to zoom through this bit. The playing part of me is possibly also the river paddler part of me. We carried on back up the west side of Lunga being able to see it now that the fog had cleared.
Belnahua drying rack
Belnahua quarry
 We were making our way up to Belnahua for the night. It's a bit ironic that what is left of the  houses on the islands that roofed the world are all roofless shells. It was quite nice when a bit of a breeze picked up as it cleared the midges, however over night the breeze really picked up. Next morning instead of making our way over to the Garvellachs which was the original plan, we broke camp and headed back to Easdale. The forecast was for fairly strong winds and it was already picking up the seas a bit.

Heading back to Easdale
Easdale with Mull beyond
This earlier finish meant we could pop into Oban for an icecream - a double one. This time it was white chocolate and Ferrero Roche. It should be fairly non fattening as I ate it quite quickly, almost as quick as I was at buying a second hand plastic seaboat from Stuart at Oban seakayaks. I'm hoping to use it for rock hopping and practising rough landings which I tend to shy away from in case I bash my good boat.
Thanks to Andy for organising my thoroughly enjoyable first SCA trip with a great bunch of fellow paddlers, I'd love to come back to this area again especially for a wee play in the Grey Dogs. I'm looking forward to seeing what's on the next SCA calendar.