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.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Skye August 2012

It's been a while since I last wrote anything here. It's not due to lack of paddling, in fact quite the opposite, I seem to be suffering from permadamp at the moment. Since my wonderful St Kilda trip, I've been a mock student for an open boat moderate water assessment, yes, me in an open boat in quite fast water, well it was for me!
I've also passed my UKCC level 2 and with it I've spent alot of Tuesdays up at Lochore coaching, add in a few sea trips round the Fife coast, helping Hubby dear run 3* training courses, a few Friday evenings up to Stanley and a very wet trip up the Braan. I've also got a gorgeous new Grand daughter, the Kayakey Kid has a wee sister. All in all great fun.
Eilean Donan castle

It was now time to have a bit of a longer paddle, so in August I arranged a weekend trip up to Skye for a few members of FCAG -  Steve, Robyn, Heather, Young Trevor, Kevin, Hubby dear and myself. I decided to have a base camp this time rather than wild camp around as I wasn't sure at the organising time who would be going. The base was to be at Ashaig camp site, near Breakish. We arrived late on the Friday evening and pitched our tents in the Quiet camp (as opposed to the Very quiet section) then proceeded to have a wee chinwag and music courtesy of Steve with his guitar until goodness knows how late.
Next morning we took the cars up to Plockton, launched the boats into beautifully clear waters before paddling up to Stromeferry to stop for some lunch. The weather had been lovely as we set back off along the north shore of Loch Carron, via the lighthouse. This was where Steve called it a day. All this guitar playing and beer bottle lifting had jiggered his back! He managed to fill in the rest of the afternoon skipping between chip shops and pubs. The rest of us carried on cutting through all the lovely wee islands, watching and being watched by masses of inquisitive seals. Young Trevor was determined to have a jaunt under the Skye bridge, so off we set. I'm not sure quite what happened under that bridge, but on one side the water was lovely and calm, just a wee breeze in the air, on the other side, where we were going to have a wee breather, the wind had picked up and there was no way we would be landing here. The waves were getting very interesting - and big! Robyn is a very good, but fairly new paddler who had never been in these conditions before and her eyes seemed to get bigger in time with the waves! Kevin, who had been on a bit of a detour with Heather, passed us here with Heather on tow. Young Trevor was putting his well honed support strokes to the test with a rather excellent brace when he was about wiped out by a massive wave hitting a submerged rock just as he passed. By now I had Robyn on a tow. We were supposed to be heading back to the airstrip at Ashaig, where there would be a lane taking us right back up to the campsite, however, Kevin had already landed and was out of the boat in the earlier bay. This meant a long walk in soggy kit - lovely - not!
Robyn, determined to tan her legs!
Young Trev under the Skye bridge

The benefit of a campsite was a very welcome hot shower. They also had sheds we could hang our kit in. The guys went off to collect the cars (and Steve) from Plockton. After a well earned tea, we carried on with the music and chinwag from the previous evening.
Steve serenading Young Trevor
Next morning after a slice of lovely thick porridge topped with midges, we set off in the sunshine down to Elgol on the side of Loch Scavaig. This lovely little village looked like a massive carpark, obviously, everyone was going to the same place as us, Loch Coruisk. I don't blame them, it's a trip I've wanted to do since I started sea paddling.
Today's destination
Kevin's obviously got too much energy!

 We set off in more crystal clear waters and headed over to Soay. Young Trevor  would have liked to paddle round it, but that will have to wait for another trip.
Thumbs up from Young Trevor, made it to Soay
Steve trying to get past Young Trevor

 We stopped for a quick stretch of the legs (in Steve's case, back) before having a nosey in some caves, then heading over to Ulfhart Point for lunch. This is where we had a Golden eagle soaring over us. I don't think it was eyeing up our oatcakes. We didn't hang around too long as the midges were also on their lunch break, feasting on us. There is always a benefit to having a bit of a breeze on Skye!

We set off round the corner and looked right into the heart of the Cuillins - what a magnificent sight. It really does make you realise what fantastic paddling areas Scotland has. Robyn was mesmerised by how many seals kept bobbing around her - hundreds.
Has Robyn shrunk or has Steve and Young Trevor grown

We pulled the boats up by the waterfall flowing from Loch Coruisk and had a dawnder up the side of the river. What is amazing is how this remote bit of land can be so busy, obviously all the drivers and passengers from the mass carpark in Elgol! The headwind was now picking up again as we made our way back to Elgol. Another satisfying paddle followed by more music and chinwag.
That night the wind was really picking up, wasn't supposed to until the following afternoon. Anywhere we went was going to be breezy. We were only having a short trip today as we would be heading home. We packed up our campsite and made for Kylerhea to have a little play. Steve decided against this paddle, he's really needing to work on his guitar / beer lifting muscles! We had a great couple of hours here.
Heather and Sarah putting in at Kylerhea
Hubby dear in the bumpy stuff
Kevin Surfing
Me and Kevin surfing
Me, Kevin, Young Trevor and Robyn all surfing
(Hubby dear took the photo or he'd be there too)
Young Trevor, Robyn  and Heather hasn't paddled here before and spent some time breaking out and in catching the flow. Robyn had a bit of a swim here, just to cool down!! Then we had a play on the waves with Robyn and Young Trevor doing really well. Unfortunately the fun had to come to an end, we got off the water, had some lunch before taking the ferry across  to Glenelg then on through Glensheil where the heaven's opened and turned the trickling waterfalls we'd passed on the way up into gushing torrents.
It was now time to get home to dry out the kit for the Tuesday loch session and our weekend away the next week.

If you're looking for  campsite on Skye, I would highly recommend Ashaig. They are very friendly, helpful and have open fire pits dotted round the site. Great for toasting marshmallows and midges.