Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Lismore and Mull from Ganavan Sands - 28th August 2016

It was the day after the Oban Sea Kayak Race, and a number of us arranged to meet up for a paddle to shake out some tired muscles.

Looking out on our route from Ganavan sands
The day dawned sunny and still, and we set off in mirror-like conditions heading for the lighthouse on the southern tip of Lismore.

The route out to the lighthouse and back is the course of a race that is held on the last weekend of May each year. I haven't managed to make it to this race, but I hope to one year.

The wonderful conditions made it a very relaxing paddle with views down towards Jura to the south and a mountain panorama around us from the island of Mull through to the highest mountains in Scotland further up Loch Linnhe.

The mountains of Mull

The lighthouse on Eilean Musdile on the southern end of Lismore
We had lunch by the lighthouse, then set off to make the short hop over to Mull. This entailed us crossing the busy ferry route of the Sound of Mull and we had to dodge the odd CalMac ferry going to/from Mull and Barra.

We didn't have time for a stop on Mull, so I just touched the rocks to complete the crossing, and then we turned around to head back via Lismore and reversed the crossing back to Ganavan. A bit of a breeze had developed and the crossing was a bit more lively with some chop and small swell on our starboard beam. It would have been nice if the swell was from more behind us, but you can't have everything!

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

A great paddle, and I was glad I stayed to make use of the good conditions rather than heading straight back home from the race.

About 24km paddled.

Oban Sea Kayak Race - 27th August 2016

Oban harbour
The English August bank holiday weekend saw me heading north to compete in the Oban Sea Kayak Race. I did this race the first two times it was run (2010, 2011) and I have always enjoyed it.

The course circumnavigates the island of Kerrera in a clockwise direction. The initial stretch is south down the Sound of Kerrera and then the course has its most exposed section as it rounds the southern end of the island. It then makes its way up the west side of the island en route back to Oban harbour.

The weather this year was overcast but with no wind, in contrast to most years when there is normally wind from the south west making the bottom part of the course quite challenging (or fun depending on ability).

The keenest paddlers are now competing in surf skis, and out of a field of 47, 16 skis were competing, with 8 "performance" sea kayaks (Epic 18/Taran etc) and the rest were touring kayaks. I was paddling my Epic 18x, which has a similar hull to the more stable skis. Numbers in the race were a bot down this year which is a shame.

The start - photo credit Gilbert Speirs
The race was won by Mark Ressel who had come up from Devon in a time of 1:36:16, way ahead of the rest of the field. Mark is an ex UK ski and K1 champion, so it was not a surprising result. My own time was a more modest 2:06:15, but I did squeeze into the prize giving as 3rd old git in a racing kayak. I've not been training so much this year, so I found the last third of the race hard work.

It was great to see a lot of friends again and to meet some new ones. The event has a good social side, and a number of us paddled together the following day.

Post race social - photo credit Roswitha Wagenknecht
Thanks to Gus and the team for organising the event.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Stacks from Porth Dafarch - 15th August 2016

After the Skerries paddle with Alan we said goodbye and then started to think about where to spend the night. I had brought bivvy gear and was contemplating a wild camp, but it was getting into the evening now and being a bit tired I couldn't face the hassle of re-launching, so I chickened out at camped at Anglesey Outdoor.

Bivvy gear
Holyhead Mountain sunset
The following day dawned bright with light winds. Neap tides gave a lot of options, but I decided to go for the classic trip of visiting North and South Stack from Porth Dafarch.

I was parked up fairly early, and the beach only had a few people milling around and a small fishing boat getting ready to launch. With the warm sunshine I paddled in a rash vest and no cag, so nice to avoid the "boil in the bag" drysuit.

The trip was pretty much a repeat of the journey I had made a few weeks earlier and again I enjoyed exploring all the channels and caves of this wonderful stretch of coast. It's hard to tire of this spectacular area, and this must be my favourite part of Anglesey.

 On the return leg near South Stack I saw a dolphin/porpoise fin break the surface a few times, but wasn't quick enough on the camera to catch it.

Arch near Penrhyn Mawr
South Stack come into view shortly after Penrhyn Mawr
Approaching South Stack

Climbers on Gogarth

North Stack flowing, but in friendly mood

Lunch stop in Abraham's Bosom

When I returned to Porth Dafarch it was very crowded, with many small boats in the area. I carried my boat up to the car and then enjoyed a very welcome ice cream in the afternoon sunshine.

19km round trip.

The Skerries from Bull Bay - 14th August 2016

A more settled forecast saw me head to Anglesey for a couple of days paddling. On the first day I met up with Alan from the Macclesfield club. We fancied "doing something a bit longer" so given the timing of the tides (low tide at Holyhead at 2:40pm) we decided to do a round trip to the Skerries along the north coast.

With the tidal assistance you can cover "ground" fairly quickly, so we left the cars at Bull Bay and headed out into the westward ebbing tidal flow. The Skerries were 16km to the west but it only took us about 1 hour 40 minutes to get there.

On the way out I was treated to the sight of a dolphin/porpoise completely breaching out of the water. I was talking to Alan and looking his way, and the mammal jumped out of the water about a hundred metres behind him. He looked around and only saw the splash.

With weak tides the trip out to the Skerries was a relatively simple navigation excercise - we got ourselves into a position E/NE of the islands and tuned our course appropriately.

The Skerries were bustling with boats - kayaks, sailing boats, speedboats and jet skis. The benign sea conditions had brought everyone out.

Not much room on the beach!
We ate lunch below the lighthouse. The last few Terns were still nesting on the island, so there were lots of signs asking people not to leave the main path so we didn't do any exploring.

We set off back again around 1:45pm. In theory the "flood" flow should have started around 2pm, but we didn't seem to be picking up much assistance, so the initial crossing back towards West Mouse was a bit of a slog.

West Mouse
West Mouse resident
Luckily as we neared Harry Furlong's (or Furlough's) Rocks we started to get some benefit from the tide and we were going at a more reasonable pace.

It took us about 2 and a half hours to return to Bull Bay.

35km round trip.

Cemlyn to Bull Bay - 7th August 2016

It would be nice if the club trips could coincide with some decent weather! With a forecast force 6 from the south west, we opted to paddle in the relative shelter of the north coast of Anglesey and to head east.

Cemlyn Bay
We sorted the shuttle out, leaving a couple of cars at Bull Bay. As we left Cemlyn Bay we picked up some of the wind on our backs and it created some lively conditions on Wylfa Head. Once round the headland conditions moderated and we could enjoy the scenery a bit more.

We stopped for lunch in the ruined brickworks in Porth Wen. By now the sun had started to show itself, and in the shelter of the wind the beach became a pleasant sun trap.

Suitably refreshed we re-launched and leisurely paddled around the bay rock hopping. As we made our way back to Bull Bay we passed through the natural arch and cave that are tucked away in the cliffs. The arch isn't that obvious when you are paddling away from the cliffs, and it is only navigable towards high tide.

Journey end at Bull Bay
A fairly short paddle, but enjoyable all the same. Given the conditions there were not many other options.

12.7 km paddled according to my GPS.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Stacks - 20th July 2016

With an excellent weather forecast I made plans for a mid-week trip to Anglesey. Warm sunshine and negligible winds coupled with neap tides meant I headed for Holy Island with a target of paddling around North and South Stack headlands.

I wanted to make the trip a reasonable distance, but I struggled to find a parking place and ended up parking and launching from a pebble beach just north of Trearddur Bay - which later to prove a mistake.

Great launch site.... but at high tide only!
It was just after high tide when I set off, and it was so nice just to be paddling in a tee-shirt and beach shorts. Such a change from the restrictions of a dry-suit.

Paddling solo I could take as much time as I wanted, and with flat seas I explored all the possible inlets, caves and arches of this wonderful piece of coast.

I was paying so much attention to my exploring that I didn't recognise passing Porth Dafarch and continued round to Penrhyn Mawr. With no appreciable flow, I was pre-occupied exploring and again didn't really register where I was. I rounded the headland and South Stack lighthouse came into view and to my surprise I realised my location.

I was in need of a comfort break, so I stopped off on the rocky/pebble beach of Porth Y Gwyddel and had a quick chat with Roger Chandler who was leading a group that had also stopped there.

I set off again and made my way over towards South Stack. It was getting near the end of the nesting season, but there were still quite a few birds on the cliffs, so I didn't go in too close. I sneaked through the channel between South Stack island and the mainland and entered the magnificent Gogarth Bay.

I headed for the cliffs and large arch of Wen Zawn and watched a party of climbers on Dream of White Horses. I must have surprised them, because one member of the team was relieving himself from his hanging belay... not the best view!

Wen Zawn cliffs
I stuck my nose around North Stack and had a look at the flow created by the ebbing tide. Some small waves were being kicked up, but nothing serious and I crossed the flow a couple of time before starting to make my way back.

I paddled back a bit more directly, and returned to my launch spot. Only problem was that the nice pebble beach at high tide had been replaced by a very rocky shoreline at low tide. It took a number of attempts to find a spot where I could get out, and I had to carry my boat quite a way back to my car. This didn't detract from a fantastic paddle.