Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Gnarly North Coast

In October, Ken and Zoe had organised a North Coast meet up at Tongue hostel for SSKEG. I keep thinking as we are passing through Inverness that we are almost there, forgetting the fact we are really only about half way there! After driving over bleak moors dotted with magnificent stags, we did eventually arrive at the hostel, with a very welcome roaring fire!
On Rabbit Island

Next morning minus Zoe, 6 of us, Lori, Antje, Alan, Fiona, Ken and myself, set off from the slipway, picked our way between sand banks and big swells before eventually making it out to Rabbit Islands. We landed here for a bit of a clamber around the lovely golden sand dunes, couldn't find any rabbits, but we did find lots of otter footprints. We carried on clockwise  round the island before picking our way through the next group of islands with the crashing waves, then headed out to Eilean Nan Ron. On the sheltered side, it was great getting into caves, round we stacks, through arches, out from the shelter, it was just lumpy, bumpy, swooshy! Coming back into Tongue Bay, there was a huge white wall which looked like it ran the full width of the bay! Yikes! We kept quite far to the right, however, as we got nearer, we could see that it wasn't quite as bad as it had first looked!

Big bubble bath

Not quite the paddling we thought of!

We did manage to pick our way through, eventually making it back to the slipway, back to the hostel - and back to that roaring fire and a beer!

Next day David, Alice and Ansgar joined us, though Alan had a day off. This time we set off from Ard Neackie in Loch Eriboll to the sound of large BOOMS! from the firing range nearer Cape Wrath. Weather again was a bit breezy and dreich! We cut across the loch, paddled up the west side, then pulled into a lovely little sheltered harbour at Rispond for a breather. We were hoping to carry onto Durness, however the conditions had other ideas so we headed out to Eilean Hoan for lunch, then back into Loch Eriboll and down the east side.
Heading back into Loch Eriboll
Back to the roaring fire and another wee beer!

Day 3, we were all out, Zoe and Mark had arrived early. We left Fiona's car at Talmine, then headed back over to Ard Neackie, sticking to the east side, we followed the coast round past Whiten Head. Magnificient cliffs and caves round here and wonderful entertainment from a frothy whirly tornado.
I have to say, it was quite nice getting back into slightly more sheltered waters!

Collected Fiona's car,went back over to Ard Neackie to collect everyone else's cars then back to the roaring fire and another wee beer!
Day 4, Alice and Ansgar have abandoned us today (back to work!) everyone else headed over to Dwarwick pier to head out round  Dunnet Head.

Once again the weather was somewhat breezy! After some time David did mention we were going at some rate and it was about time to turn back, which we did, then there was the hard battle back, at times feeling as though we were paddling hard and getting no where!. A wee bit more oomph and we did make headway before thankfully turning back into Dunnet Bay. There was the choice of heading further in to play in the surf, but by then most of us were a bit knackered and what with the talk of ice cream in Wick, it was a no brainer - Wick, here we come!
It was a really good, committing, few days hard paddling with good company, but boy was I glad of that icecream!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Down Devon Way

Lots and lots of lovely ladies
 I was delighted to be asked to coach at the Women's Sea Kayak Festival South Devon in August. After the fun I had on Bute, I was really looking forward to it - not so much the long drive down! However Ken was coming down with me to join in with the ever popular "Man Creche".
Off we set for the long haul down south, stopping off at an "interesting" B&B, complete with a "Bluesmobile" sitting out back!
We eventually made it down to Alston Farm, our home for the next few days. We pitched the tent and got nicely settled in.
Next day, the festival was opening in the evening. This gave us all a day to go paddling - well what else would we do? Paul was demoing one of his boats, so we joined him with another 3 guys (I did say this was a Womens' Sea Kayak Festival?) We made our way through the very narrow, very busy Devon lanes down to Strete where we launched, then paddled east along the coast passing Blackpool - we haven't paddled that far! We stopped at Willow Cove for lunch, then continued along passing Dartmouth, then onto Berry Head with some wonderful caves before rounding the corner into the full blast of a strong headwind and up to Brixham, our get out and ice cream stop! A great first paddle down south with no photos, forgot the camera!!!!!
Back at the campsite, things were getting busy, lots of lovely ladies were arriving!
Sunny lunch time

Checking out the cave

Next morning, everyone was divvied up into their various groups. Then the organised chaos of  everyone loading boats onto masses of vans and cars ensued followed by the mass exodus all through the narrow campsite gate! I think the other campers were all agog at this, but this being a women's event, meant that it all went remarkably smoothly! (thanks to the Man Creche for helping with humphing!)
Our group was the short day paddle heading out from Dartmouth with Zoe, Anges and umpteen ladies. We headed out down the river and into the bay, catching a few chances for rock hopping before getting out into slightly bumpier water, stopped for lunch before returning via a tiny cave entrance. This opened up into a lovely large cave, a nice finish to a lovely paddle. It was then back to the campsite and a superb dinner in the marquee.

Next day we were having a Paddle Skills workshop. After the organised chaos was once again over, our group made our way down to North Sands in Salcombe, only for most of us to meet back up. There were a few groups leaving from North Sands, it was a busy place! We had a great time going over different strokes, how to improve them and putting them to good use round the rocks, into the ever increasing wind, across the flow, then back again into the shelter of the bay again. We pulled out a bit early this day, the weather was just getting so bad, we retired to the cafe for a very large hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows - yum!
It's so good getting back to the camp knowing that  the tea has been made for you and tasty too! That evening we had wonderful entertainment where everyone showed 5 photos each, what a variety of trips there are to explore!

On the festivals last day the weather was glorious, thankfully the previous days mingin' weather had moved on. This days session was all about getting wet!, that should possibly have been yesterdays title! Once again well organised chaos ensued, once again we were down at North Sands along with most of the ladies - and the Man Creche. A superb day for generally playing, having a giggle and finishing it all off with icecream.


Another busy beac

Loving your boat

Kate's balancing act
Smiley Eryl

 A great day to finish the festival off with, here's an independent view on it.

The festival was over, but we were staying down a bit longer so next day Jo, Anges, Ken and I wound our way through more very busy, narrow Devon lanes eventually arriving at Lannacombe. We made our way along, through the rocks with Anges explaining about the different seaweeds and which ones taste nice. We stopped at Start Point, where the Channel meets the Ocean, had our lunch below the lighthouse, then made our way back. Superb place to finish, a fresh water stream was running down to the beach, perfect chance to rinse our kit, then off for a lovely icecream in Kingsbridge.
Next day we decided we would have a day being tourists in Plymouth which meant we had to have cream teas! Very tasty!

Next day it was time to start the long haul back up the road, but not before we had a wee detour round by Peter Tavy in Dartmoor to collect a wee Grandchild sized river boat. As the seller turned the boat over to let us see, there was a tiny grass snake slithering around - a wee snake for a wee boat!
We eventually made it back to Scotland having a detour round by Easdale for another weekends paddle with Andy and Co out through the Corryvreckan to the Garvellachs and Belnahua.

Night paddle?
Approaching Garvellachs

Nice to see you, to see you nice!
Approaching Corryvreckan
Coming through the Corryvreckan
 We did eventually come back home!