30th to 31st of July, 2010 – Inching

For a while I have wondered about paddling the four Inches of the Firth of Forth (Inchcolm, Inchgarvie, Inchmickery and Inchkeith) in one go and after looking closely at the distances involved on the map and deciding it was possible, I started to think it may be more interesting to split it over two days with a camp or bivvy out and enjoy some of the west bound paddling in to sunset followed by some of the east bound paddling in to sunrise the following day.

After floating the idea to others, plans were made and eight of us gathered at Aberdour where we would start and finish.

First off, the short hop over to Inchcolm with easy paddling along the way. On arrival we joked about whether a landing was required, just a passing touch or even a walk up to the highest point for us to count each of the islands we wanted to cover during the whole trip. In the end I settled for touch, some got out for a pee break at the handy toilets and others stayed afloat offshore.

Almost immediately on leaving to continue west, we were held back by the ebbing tide in part, but more so by the early arrival of forecast winds. We struggled against this double whammy, making slow progress up to North Queensferry where we gathered and discussed plans for crossing under the Forth Rail Bridge to Inchgarvie. By now it was getting dark and that, together with the faster current of the narrows under the bridge, and the wind’s effect on us and its howling through the girders above, made for an exciting crossing. The general lumpiness and swift moving water resulted in there being no discussion about going close enough to land / touch the island.

The moon rose above some cloud in the east and shone a path in the direction of our final destination for the night. By now, tiredness and hunger from the upstream battle and proper darkness had us keen to get east to Crammond Island and off the water as soon as possible. However, it wasn’t as quick a journey as it might have been as the receding tide had us falling foul of the sand bars that lie far out from the high tide line. After a few hassles of getting stuck and separated before re-grouping, we eventually arrived on Crammond Island to a muddy and long walk up the beach to close to where we would camp for the evening. Character building stuff!

Tents up, nibbles, some chat and eventually bed for a very comfortable and solid … four hours or so of sleep before up, breakfasted and ready to be back on water by 7am.

From Crammond, we headed out to our third Inch, Inchmickery and again no contact, just a brief pause before taking advantage of the current and following wind to blast our way down to Inchkeith, 9km in just over an hour with a good bit of surfing on the waves en route.

We stopped briefly for a second breakfast on Inchkeith (still only 9am) before paddling round it then over to the Fife coast knowing the final leg of hard work was yet to come, the struggle west against tide and wind again up to Aberdour. It wasn’t the final struggle, we had a final lengthy, muddy carry of gear and boats up to the cars.

All in a great trip but not surprisingly hard work with the winds we were dealt. I wonder if it is worth doing again but all in a single day and with more time on each island – of the four Inches, I’ve still to stand on Inchgarvie.

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