Monday, 13 July 2015

Scuba do bah do!

No going back!

The good thing about our trip up to Barra being cut short due to stinky weather and striking ferrymen, was that we had a weekend with nothing to do! Such a weekend is almost unheard of - OK, we have masses of wet, salty kit to sort out, but that doesn't really count.
So I suggested to Hubby dear that we pop along to the swimming pool on the Friday evening to brush up our scuba skills. We are really only holiday divers, so it's like starting from scratch everytime and I would like to improve one day!

So along we went and had a great time just pootling around the pool. Mark, the big boss!, suggested our next step would be to do our drysuit diver. We had done our open diver abroad where no drysuits were required. It just so happened they were going out the next day, so before I had the chance to talk myself out of it, we said we'd be there!
Next morning, we met up down at Burntisland's Divebunker, donned hot drysuits on a beautifully hot, sunny day. We were going to be boil in the bags! After the short walk to the jetty, all looking rather fetching in our mega thick neoprene get ups, we jumped on board the RIB. We weren't going far, just along to the Vows, off Kirkcaldy. We had read up our drysuit book the night before, now it was going to be time to put it all into practise.

Lots of new things happened that day. I'd always stepped off a boat up until then, this time we were rolling in backwards. So far so good. I always have a bit of phaffing at the top, til I get my breathing right, this time I got down OK, another tick. We then went through all the balancing, equalising things, then off for a wee swim. The visibility was pretty poor, but it was still great being down.
We needed 2 dives to complete our drysuit diver, so next day we were out again. Again it was back to the Vows. It wasn't such a hot day, but the visibility was much better.
Again I got down fine and went off for a wee swim. Lots of crabs, sea urchins and starfish, little flounders and lots of large soft corals and anemones and a lovely dinky little swimming Queen scallop.

My first diving weekend in Scotland, I thoroughly enjoyed it and looking forward to my next dive.
So although this hasn't been a kayaking scenario, it was still a soggy one!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The FINish of Mingulay

Coming up the west of Pabbay

David being skooshed
 We'd had fantastic weather for our trip round the bottom, however, the forecast for today was mingin'.  Our plan was to make our way to the top of Mingulay on the east, then across and up the west coast of Pabbay.  As we came to the top of Mingulay, while we were watching yet another basking shark, David shouted out that there were more fins - a large pod of Risso dolphins, how special is that? What a display they gave us of tail slapping and breaching, they looked like they were having a great old time! Just as they went out of sight, through the fast flow came more fins, porpoises this time. Sharks, Risso's and porpoises, all before we'd actually left Mingulay! Wow, David had organised this trip well!

We carried on past Pabbay and onto Sandray for lunch, a cold, wet lunch. It was getting so miserable, we were starting to think of a plan B. We cut over to the east coast of Vatersay, passing another pod of dolphins, Bottlenose this time, and had another breather on our first beach. We decided to paddle over to Castlebay, where there was a ferry due in at 6pm. While we were checking on the ferry, that was the first of us finding out about the ferry work to rule. The ferry was coming in, but not leaving until 7am!

David now turned into a "Luvvy" being interviewed by STV news about what he thought of the work to rule, unfortunately, they didn't use it. We still decided to go for the ferry, the weather was getting worse. We pitched the tents in Castlebay and spent a rather enjoyable evening in the pub!
What a fantastic trip we'd had and I'm glad we finished early, rather than carrying on through really cold, miserable, windy, wet weather. We certainly had seen masses, basking sharks, golden eagles, basking sharks, sea eagles, basking sharks, puffins, basking sharks, risso dolphins, basking sharks, minkes, basking sharks, porpoises, basking sharks, bottlenose, basking sharks and basking sharks! 33 Basking sharks and 5 and a half (the dead one) minkes! not bad for a few days away.
1st in line for the ferry
David modelling Sandies new bag!
 Back in Oban, there was only one way to finish off a paddling trip - with a double icecream of course!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

No. 97 Mingulay

Although we had seen lots of Razorbills and Guillemots, we had only seen a couple of my favourites - Puffins. David had promised to get me a Puffin - a real one, so I was fair chuffed when we approached the bay on Mingulay to see hundreds of them busily flying in and out, swooping past each other. How they avoid collisions, I'll never know!
We were also escorted to the beach by masses of inquisitive seals. The sea was so clear we could watch them swimming underneath us.

We set up the tents then went for a clamber up the hill (just clocked up another bar of chocolate!). The land just suddenly disappears with massive shear cliffs, giving me the heeby jeebies when Chris and Jonathon insisted on getting close to the edge for photos!
Basking in the bay

1 or 2 seals

Where we're heading
 Next morning, out in the bay was another basking shark. It's a bit surreal, lying in bed, watching a shark so close in! There were about 60 seals still hauled out on the beach, either very wary of the cruising shark or from sheer exhaustion after singing and partying all night long!

It was a lovely morning when we set off with empty boats aiming to do a figure of 8 round Berneray. We carried on round the bottom of Mingulay, past the arch of Gearuim Beag then crossed over to the huge cliffs of Berneray. Having empty boats and cracking conditions, we were able to explore all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We made our way round the south of the island til we got to the pier where we hauled the boats out at high tide, had some lunch then went for yet another clamber (another chocolate earned!) up to Barra Head lighthouse. It was up here David reckons he saw a Minke, no one else did!, but we did see another basking shark swim up the channel.

We then crossed over by the arch again and up the west coast of Mingulay and onto more magnificent caves. A bit further on and through more arches - this place is amazing!
We were soon turning the top corner cutting through the narrow gap at Solon Mor, before heading south on the east side again, seeing more sharks on the way.

Chris and Ken hung around out in the bay dangling fishing lines, while I had a peaceful nosey into the wee coves and rocks in the bay. 5 minutes later, Chris and Ken had given up having caught nowt! Just as well I'd brought tea - butternut squash risotto - yum!
Back on dry land, looking out to sea again, out in the bay we had a Minke spouting, next, it breached - what a sight!
After tea it was Puffin time!


We all clambered (again!) up to the Puffins, where David spent most of the evening with his arms deep down Puffin burrows. Lots of photos were taken of these comical, happy chappies. It was wonderful sitting on the rocks with them sweeping in and out, all at top speed. One landing so close to Hubby dear, it almost landed on him! The highlight though, was David catching a Puffin to ring it, No 97!

No. 97

After Puffin time it was bonfire time. We'd salvaged a couple of bits of wood from Pabbay, along with a couple of bits we found on Mingulay gave us enough to toast our marshmallows and sandwich them in between choccy digestives.
What a way to end what must have been one of my best days paddling. I've been privileged enough to paddle in some lovely places both in Scotland and abroad, but this trip is up near the very top. It had everything, beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs, caves and arches along with an abundance of wildlife.