Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I love my kayak!

Listening hard
Hubby dear
Last Friday evening, CB, Hubby dear and I all traipsed up to Glenmore for the Club Coaches weekend. This is my 3rd year going and I have to say I look forward to it more each year. The company is great, the activities are great and the food is great. A sign next to the packed lunches states that as most folks are going to be doing energetic activities whilst staying there, the average value of the meals are approximately 4000 calories per days, bang goes my Weightwatchers diet! and that's all without a wee pint of Tradewinds at the end of the day.

Will that duck fit in his roll
I had decided on open boating for the weekend, as I already do a fair bit of river paddling and possibly too much (can you get too much?) sea paddling. We were spending the day down on Loch Morlich, with the group being taught all sorts of skills and techniques in both single boats and doubles. There wasn't any wind, but the day was still really cold. We finished off the day by poling along the edge of the loch, heated poles would have been appreciated by now. I'd had a great time and had learnt loads, but was now looking forward to a hot chocolate and a slice of Glenmore's fabby cake.

Pink poles
Think Colin's winning
We all met up in the lecture theatre after that to go over all the news from the SCA. I had been asked to do a presentation on club funding which I duly agreed to do before remembering I don't particularly like doing public speaking, therefore Hubby dear was given the task and a good job he did too.
"The Assessor" - Mike "Cake please" from Paddleactive
Our group then met up with our coaches for the Sunday to see who wanted to sit their 3* assessment. The group could be split into assessment or extra training. Extra training was definitely my choice!

Loch Insh
Hubby dear

On the Sunday, we were all going to be paddling solo. We headed up to Loch Insh, where it was beautifully calm, my kind of open boat conditions! The local Ospreys were giving us a good show before settling on their nest. The assessment group started off first, in their own corner, whilst we headed out to go over more coaching practises, more strokes and generally honing what we had learnt the day before. After lunch, we were to head down the Spey to Aviemore. This meant adding flow into my day! I've never been in a solo boat with flow before. We started heading down at a very gentle pace, before coming to our first "rapid", OK more of a ripple, but it felt fast in this boat and of course there was the obligatory rock for me to bump over! We then did a bit of ferry gliding with varying degrees of success.

Colin and Stuart
Hope that's not him telling Wullie how to paddle!
Ferry gliding
Emily, Sarah, Colin & Stuart
I have to say, I was glad when the end came. Wullie, our coach did a wonderful job getting me down the river in one piece. As I tried to unbend my decrepit bones, after all that kneeling, I don't think my legs will ever be the same again, which some folks may say is a good thing.
I had a fantastic weekend, met loads of great folks, hopefully we'll get out paddling with some of them again. I've also learnt lots, with loads of tips to take away and practise. I will master open boating one day!
 One thing I did learn was how much I love being in my comfy kayak! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Friday evening paddling

Not much action here
Getting there & still upright!
A rare sight, Colin in a boat!
With our club nights about to move back out onto the loch, I thought it would be a good time to remind myself what an open boat looked like. Friday evening, Colin, Hubby dear and myself had a wee jaunt up to Lochore and hauled the boats out. The weather was perfect for me, not a breath of wind. I don't work well with open boats when there is a slight chance of even the merest of breezes and a slight flow is a no, no! We had a pleasant paddle round the loch and through the islands, going over some of the strokes, with varying degrees of success. I admire paddlers who can go through big, bumpy waters in an open boat AND control it. One of those days I might manage.
What a wonderful evening

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Back on the river at last

A very low Tay
Up at the Linn
And again
Down at the island
The last time I was out on the rivers, it was the Tay descent last year and that was in a sea boat. Last time I was in a river boat was way back in August when we had a gentle paddle down the Lower Tummel. I decided I would have to get back out again or I would forget everything I knew about river paddling (some folks might say that's not a lot!). Hubby dear and I set off on Easter Monday for a park and play up at Stanley. Once I eventually got myself into my boat (I keep forgetting how small they are) I had a wee paddle up stream, ferry gliding back and forward, trying to get my balance again, before heading up to see what the Linn was like. I don't think I've ever seen the Tay so low at this time of year. We had a bit of a play up at the Linn, I found out I haven't forgotten how to roll! We then headed down to the weir for another play before eventually calling it a day. By now I was absolutely jiggered but still had enough energy to munch another cream egg, yum!
Down at the weir
And again
Rinsing the salt out of the kit!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Inchcolm night paddle

Silver Sands
Well, it was that time of year again, the Easter night paddle. Hubby dear organises this and doesn't like to give up his eggs too easily, therefore sets us all up with various challenges.
This was the first time Jill had been out in the sea boats with us. This was the first time Stewart had been out in the sea, with anyone. Let's start off with a night paddle! He was really just excited at the thought of playing with his glow sticks! And Sarah T has been out before.
We met up at the boatshed, then made our way down to Silver Sands in Aberdour. We were all given three bits of paper. One had a skill, one a challenge and the other we had to find a point on the map with the bearings given to us. Luckily, they all pointed to Inchcolm, where the eggs would be dished out.
This sea kayaking is real relaxing
Look, no paddles!

Inchcolm abbey
Passing the Happy Warrior

 We set off, completing our challenges on the way, on a lovely still night. We rounded Hawkcraigs, past Aberdour to Braefoot, where we had a break before heading over to Inchcolm. We had our usual audience of seals on the way. By this time the sun was sitting quite low. We paddled round Inchcolm and into the little bay to wait til it was dark. This gave Hubby dear the chance to play with his good camera, writing our club name in the dark. It took a few shots to get the spelling correct! This also gave us time to devour our eggs.
Egg time
Hubby dear playing with his torch
Yeeha! Glow stick time!
Once it was dark, we donned our glow sticks and headed out past Car Craig and started back towards Mortimer's Deep. By now it was pitch dark and we could see the lights of a tug coming up from Braefoot. We would be OK as the boat was passing well in front of us. As we were carrying on, we were aware of the sound of waves, but in the dark all waves sound big. But these ones were big! Hubby dear gave the shout for us to raft up just in time for some rather large, fast waves to hit us. Stewart was between Hubby dear and Jill, whilst I had rafted up with Sarah T. A good few waves later and the water was calm enough to carry on. We rounded Hawkcraig and arrived back at Silver Sands. I'm saying Silver Sands, but the tide was exceptionally low, some ferries had been cancelled due to the tide level, that any further out and we would be walking from Burntisland! By the time we had lugged the boats back we must have well and truly worked off our eggs. Although we paddle that stretch regularly, it always seems almost magical paddling it at night. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Red Cuillin of Skye

Beautifully calm under the Skye bridge
Last Wednesday, Hubby dear was supposed to be travelling up to Skye to sit his 5* assessment, I was going up with him to be one of the mock students. Typical of Scottish weather, it was forecast to be lovely!, not what was required. 8am, Wednesday morning, he got the call he didn't want, but was expecting. The course was cancelled.
As we had already organised time off work, we decided to carry on to Skye and do our own thing. I had got booked into a small B & B for the Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evening. It was quite late by the time we arrived in Uig, but still before last orders!
As I said, the course was cancelled due to our wonderful weather. Britain was in the middle of a heat wave with the temp getting up into the 20's. Someone forgot to tell Skye this when we were there. Britain was looking good, Skye had a dirty great big grey thumbprint stuck across it. When we got up on Thursday, the hill cloud was sitting on the sea. The Ascrib islands we planned to paddle out to had disappeared.
Outside the B & B
 Off we set, from the back garden of the B & B and headed out across Loch Snizort. The cloud was coming and going a bit by now, enough to let me spot my first, very lonely looking Puffin of the year. 8K later, we arrived on South Ascrib. Time for a quick coffee before setting off in the mist again and headed south for 5K with a seal escort to our lunch spot. Further south next to a magnificent waterfall, where we watched a pair of sea eagles. We then cut across the bottom of the loch, skipping past the smaller islands and made our way back up to Uig, hoping to time our arrival to be different from the Hebrides ferry which docks just along from the B & B. After about 28K, a wee visit to the local after dinner was just deserved.

On Friday, Hubby dear took the car over to Portree and got the bus back. We launched again from the back garden, complete with all our camping gear. The weather was clearer today, but a bit windier. We set off again and headed north to paddle round the Trotternish peninsula. It didn't take long for the waves to start hitting us. There wasn't going to be many rest spots. We "bounced " along with a fair few braces being used. In amongst all this, I spotted my second , equally lonely Puffin. It could very well have been the same one as the previous day as I never saw any more.
Why do photos always make it look calmer than it really was?
We managed a landing on the beach at Osmigarry for a breather, although launching was probably enough to undo any rest we had. We carried on round Tulm bay where we rafted up to pump out the boats. We still never found Tulm island! After we rounded the Hunish point we found a lovely sheltered bay with crystal clear waters to stop for a very welcome lunch. This is where I thought we still had a hard section to go, but my map is printed in mega size, to take into account the fact I'm blind as a bat without my glasses. I was so pleased to see that, that last section was the hard bit. We just get through my maps quicker than Hubby dear's.

A welcome breather
Rounding the top point into Kilmaluag Bay was wonderful, like a completely different day. We were getting sheltered from the NEwinds. We actually managed to take photos!
 Further down we paddled in and out of caves, through the rocks and under the arches. Another massive waterfall and more Sea eagles. We passed Flodigarry island and arrived at Staffin island, where we were camping for the night. It had been a long and very tiring day. Dinner and toasted marshmallows were very welcome. Just as we were about to crash out for the night, we checked our messages to find we had received some lousy news and nothing we could do about it. With this all going round in my head, the fact the wind was picking up and the regular low fly over by geese, meant no sleep.

Blue skies, blue seas, still looking calmer than it really was, honestly!!!
Feeling a bit deflated with the wind
In the morning when I stuck my head out of the tent I spotted what I didn't want to see - massive waves. The wind had changed direction. The thought of another intense day on top of no sleep didn't exactly fill me with joy. We had to pack the boats to get back across to Skye, so we decided to paddle  to the point to check the conditions out. It wasn't long before the waves were breaking above head height. The next section was fairly committing with sheer cliffs and no chance of landing if things went pear shaped. We decided to turn and head back into the little jetty in Staffin Bay. Hubby dear thumbed a lift back into Portree to collect the car. The conditions did settle down a bit later on, but it was one of those calls we had decided to make. We could have hung around and it not improve.
Later in the evening, we had our last pints of Red Cuillin, before heading home the next day to see what could be sorted out with our lousy news.
Aaaahhh! those Red Cuillins
Although the assessment never went ahead and the paddling didn't go exactly to plan, it was still a wonderful weekend and I'll definitely be back for another paddle in the area.