Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Rubha Hunish

Our fifth annual trip to Skye.  We arrived late Sunday, today was Wednesday and my first day on the water.  The forecast for the week had originally been awful but it seemed the bad weather had not pushed this far north.  The wind, my main enemy, was blowing in from the south west but was not particularly all that strong, force 3-4 occasionally 5.  There were a few big trips I really wanted to get done, so for my best chance of success I headed north to the very tip of Skye.

Staffin, a large bay on the north east Trotternish peninsular.  Last year I completed a trip from here heading south, today I will be heading north tying the two trips together.  
For now the wind would be on my back as I briefly leave the shore and head around the back of Staffin Island and onto the islands of Eilean Flodigarry and Sgeir na Eireann. 
East side of Staffin Island left and the steep cliffs guarding the island of Eilean Flodigarry right of picture.
Wind in my sail my bow drove on through the slight following waters sending spray into my face.  This was the first time I had really used the sail to its full advantage and it was fun.  I glanced town at my gps, if I could keep this speed up this would be a very short trip.
The impressive basalt cliff guarding the southern end Eilean Flodigarry grew ever closer.

Passing between the two islands I was joined in the water by some weary seals.
Continuing on looking back with the two islands seen left of picture over my right shoulder.
Out of the reach of the wind bellow the towering cliffs the geology continues to impress.
And so does the wildlife, two White Tailed Sea Eagles leave the cliffs and sore high above.
And you don't have to go to Ireland to see the giants footsteps.
As I take my time to explore this section continues to keep giving with sea stacks, caves, tunnels and arches...

After and hour and a half I reach the north side of Kilmaluag Bay I take the last opportunity to stretch the legs before I head around the north tip of Skye.
So far the conditions were perfect but for the moment I was on the sheltered side.  Once I round the next point I will be exposed on all sides to weather, swell and fast flowing tides.  Add into the mix the remoteness, loneliness and the not really knowing what to expect factor, the commitment weighed on my mind a little.  But fear shows respect and to not fear the sea would be a mistake.    
I push off from the pebble beach and round the corner and point my kayak north.  The island of Eilean Trodday about 1.5km off the eastern tip looked temptingly inviting, but I didn't want to push my luck.  
 Turning west the northern tip opens out into a large c shaped bay.  This is where many whale sightings are often seen...just what I need a pod of Killer Whales to ease my nerves!
I decide to stay relatively close to the shore where there seems to be a bit of back eddy flowing toward my direction of travel as predicted.  It's calm, quiet and tranquil.  The nearest road is at least 2km inland but there are a couple of people spotted walking atop of the cliffs.
A big sea stack marks the point where I make my final turn around the tip before heading south.
Here we go...the tides were really chugging along but there was nothing more than a bit of confused water thankfully.  Mind I wouldn't fancy it on a big day.
The west coast unfolds before me and it's time to head south.  Again the cliffs here tower above but lack the stacks and caves of the eastern coast.
Only three hours in and I am paddling along Tulm Island keeping an eye out for otters and heading toward my final destination.
Duntulm Castle marks the last point of my trip.  I was here last year in rougher weather looking down upon the sea from the cliff above.
I land my boat on a small patch of white sand and dig out my sandwiches feeling extremely chuffed having just completed one of the classic headlands of Scotland.  I head toward the back of the beach where I get mobbed by Japanese tourists excited to learn of my travels and how far I had come.  
A sorry sight of a dead seal washed in on the high tide mark.  Inspecting a little closer there is a clear gun shot wound to the abdomen which was clearly the reason for it's death.  I am lead to believe fishermen are allowed to shoot seals in Scotland if they are encroaching on their fish stocks.  
I spend forty minutes or so sipping my hot coffee from my flask taking in the views across the Minch onto the outer Hebrides.  I pick out the Islands of Fladda-Chuain, another trip I hope to complete for another time.  I study my map, roughly 7km further on (about an hour paddling) is another possible pick up point for my dad.  I try to call him but there's no answer so text him my intended plans and hope he gets the message that I am to continue on to Camas Mor.  I take a call from my dad not long after, he's come off the hill earlier than expected so is fine to meet me at my new destination.
And what a beautiful place to finish.  Conveniently it had almost tied up another trip I did from Uig on our first visit to Skye.
I bring my kit up to dry in the sun where we enjoyed wide views of the Minch.  This time I could now pick out the Shiant Isles, a distant cluster of small islands that would act as an overnight stop should you wish to cross the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.     
After years of bad weather I could relax with a pint and a good meal tonight after completing a trip that had been long overdue on the Skye bucket list, and it lived up to it's expectations.  The good weather would not last however as the island regained its reputation as 'the mistly isle'. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Llantwit to Ogmore

This was my last chance to get out in the boat before heading up for our annual trip to Skye next week.  I wanted to get a bit more practice with the sail and if possible roll with it before heading out on my own in the remoteness of the Scottish seas.  There was a brisk breeze today, perfect for the sail, however typically we would be paddling directly into it. 

The trip included myself, Sean, Chris and Martin from Llantwit Major to Ogmore-by-sea.  Eurion and his friend were doing this trip in reverse and were due to return to Southerndown not long after we launched.
Tressilian Bay cave roof starting to bow slightly.
Perfect weather to explore the caves.  Not very often do we do this trip at so high into the tide.
A picture of me by Sean. 
With no swell it was nice to bumble along feet from the cliffs.
Eurion caught up with us just before Nash Point.

I was eager to follow with the wind so took the opportunity to see if this sail could push me into the fast flow around East Nash buoy.
We briefly stopped at Southerndown before continuing on to explore the best the Glamorgan coast has to offer...  

We played a while at Ogmore where I did had some nice runs with the sail and managed my first roll with it.  We were lucky enough to catch a brief glimpse of a merman...Gareth.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Plan C - Ramsey Island

It seems people still find this blog of interest even though I haven't written anything new in over a year.  So for you here's a trip we did back in August (writing this in November) and thank you very much for your continued reading.

Elan and myself jumped in his car early morning to head over to St Davids, Pembrokeshire, to meet up with Jules and James for what was forecast to be a perfectly settled day.  So perfect was the forecast that we intended to paddle out to the Bishops and Clerks, a committing trip to a group of offshore islands approximately 5km off St Davids Head and Ramsey Island.  Eager to get underway we left the still waters of the harbour entrance into... 
..a lively looking sea state, not the smooth still waters we were expecting.  So eager was I to get on the water I left my day hatch open and flooded the contents, great start.
Jules heading on toward Carreg Fran in his P&H Delphin.
Through Carreg Fran we made a beeline into the oncoming swell for the most southerly tip of Ramsey Island, Ynys-Bery, the 'Enduring Island'.
In open water the conditions remained choppy but we remained on course as planned.

Picture by James, Eland and myself discussing our options. 
We could spot some white water off the tip of Ynys Bery.  We decided to continue on but it looked unlikely we would be heading any further offshore to the Bishops.  Alternatively Plan B was to head up the west side of Ramsey with the remaining flood tide.
Leaving the sheltered eddy behind the small island of Ynys Eilun (Idol Island) it became immediately obvious the Bishops were a no go.
James in his P&H Cetus at the most southerly tip of Ynys Bery.  Elan and Jules were just a little ahead.  The sea state was big, bigger than any of us (except possibly Elan) were comfortable with.  Me and James agreed we should turn back.  We signal to the other two who also came to the same conclusion.  Plan A and B were off, time for plan C... turn and PLF (paddle like f#@k)
As soon as I had confirmation we were all turning with our tails between our legs I was gone.  The tide was pushing forcefully against us as it wrapped around the island but fortunately we were able to surf the waves into less committing waters.
One last push through the swell as the heavens opened brought us safely into the tranquil waters of Ramsey Sound.

Midland Gap the gateway between east and west or today heaven and hell.  James and Elan decide to slip quickly though the gap and wish they never had, the push back through against the tide was apparently a little harder.
 A seal popped up to see what all the fuss was about while we were waiting for the other two.
On our way again up the east side of Ramsey, continuing on not wanting to disturb the lazing seals on the south beach.
A bull made certain we were moving on as they so often do.  This is the only way your going to get a picture of a pursuing seal.  
The Bitches never seem to loose their menacing appeal, even on a calm day in the sound.
Actually this is how I prefer it, small and fast.
Picture of James and me on the Bitches by Jules.
Elan showing off.  
James breaking though the eddy.
Jules riding the wave.
After enough fun we landed on the only permitted landing spot providing there are no seal pups hauled up, which there weren't.  
After a bit of lunch we continued on up the east side of Ramsey exploring various caves on the way.

By the time we reached the north east tip of Ramsey the conditions on the west looking over to the Bishops looked far more inviting.  However the tide had now turned and it was far to late for that.  So we opted to cross over the sound and explore the shoreline side of the sound, which some of us hadn't explored before.  
We were lucky enough to encounter a porpoise with a calf at it's side mid crossing.
Elan launching his new P&H Aries from the St Davids lifeboat soon to be redundant slipway.
And Elan loves life boats so much he even got the matching colours.
 A few more caves and we were soon back on the home stretch again toward Porth Clais.

Ah yes this is my new sail and this was it's first outing, except there wasn't anymore than a slight breeze.
Picture by Jules.  Elan with his Flat Earth Code 0 mounted to his P&H Aries and myself with my Flat Earth Trade Wind 8 mounted to my Tahe Marine Greenland T.