Archive for the Paddling Category

Arbroath to Auchmithie

Posted in Paddling, Sea Kayak on January 23, 2017 by Jinja Coo

A very leisurely start to this year’s paddling – just 13km along the stunning coastline between Arboroath and Auchmithie – with every cave cutting into the soft, red cliffs explored to some extent.

As we set off from Arbroath a coastguard helicopter and RNLI boats seemed to be training together and made for an impressive sight, with the helicopter hovering low above the sea at times, whipping the surface up into the air.

The cliffs are peppered with caves, mostly tall and narrow, but others are much wider and squarer, occasionally of the size of a large house. Looks can be deceiving, often the narrow entrances lead to a widening cavern behind and at times we could turn our 5m kayaks inside with room to spare, others had to be cautiously reversed. Some have more than one entrance, even leading to hidden beaches and some have stalactites – not something I can recall seeing on sea caves before. All have colourful walls (when you can see), partly a result of the colour in the rock itself, partly due to growth on the surface – lots of oranges, purples, golden hues and greens too.

Though the sea was relatively calm, on a couple of occasions we experienced unnerving amounts of swell and chop suddenly within the caves, which act as funnels for all the water entering them. As well as being on the scary side of things, it (and the lighting) makes it difficult to do the caves any justice with the camera – too much movement, too much contrast and too little light.

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This is definitely a stretch of coastline to return to, there is more beyond Auchmithie for a start, but also to return to the same caves and try and capture the experience a bit better with the camera next time.

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Garvellachs

Posted in Paddling, Sea Kayak with tags , , , on November 24, 2016 by Jinja Coo

Finally, after three previous attempts I made it to the Garvellachs, a group of islands between Mull and Jura. Two contradictory things struck me, they were much closer than I expected and they were much bigger than I expected, the latter (combined with the amount of bog and bracken) thwarting my intentions of exploring the bulk of our chosen home for the night on foot.

The choice of the Garvellachs as a destination for the weekend was a late one, when a few days before there had been a reasonable forecast on the cards, unlike each of the previous times when paddling had been limited by weather and resulted in less exposed paddles nearby, looking across at what should have been.

We set off from Easdale and headed southwest under bright skies with the black silhouetted Garvellachs lying single file ahead of us. Contrasting the blackness of our destination was the warm colouring on Mull’s long, southern coast – a palette of oranges, browns and greys … somewhere else to visit someday.

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With three main islands, we managed to alternate our way down the west, east then west coast of the chain before rounding the southernmost skerries and landing first at the historic, religious site on Eilach an Naoimh for a wander and snack. Another surprise for me – I knew of the ruins from the map and research, but would have never expected such an extensive or well kept site on such a remote spot.

As well as interest in the ruins, we had good views of Scarba, Jura’s northern end and in the distance Colonsay and Islay too. No doubt the monks who stayed here will have enjoyed the views from time to time, but it must have been an uncomfortable and hard life here.

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Slight swell and smooth reflective surface had been enjoyed west of the islands on the way down, now on the east, we were exposed to the winds and the sea became a bit choppier and a drop in temperature was felt too.

We both managed to squeeze our tents into small patches by the pier on Garbh Eileach and were changed and warmed up in time to enjoy the colours of sunset on the eastern shore and hills to the east. We passed on seeing the actual setting sun over Mull which would have involved a walk over rough, boggy ground, but it was impressive all the same.

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Clear skies continued later with a starry night – no photos though, I messed up my camera settings in spectacular fashion.

Next morning, sunrise gave us more nice colouring on the scenery to the east and the promise of more good weather for our return journey.

Leaving Garbh Eileach, we island hopped our way back via the Eilean Dubhs (Beag and Mor) and Belnahua, where we sat in glorious sunshine brewing up tea then wandering among the old slate mine ruins. This is somewhere I have always fancied spending a night and exploring more in detail. There is no shortage of flat, dry ground to pitch a tent, it is a short hop out and back and there is tidal interest and great open views of all the other islands and hills around … another one for another day.

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Looking back to the Garvellachs (centre) with southeastern Mull on the far right…
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Tides (neaps) were picking up by now and we had to slog a bit to get up to and across Cuan Sound and the final scenic leg back to Easdale bringing a long overdue paddle with good weather to an end.

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Views from Loch Torridon

Posted in Sea Kayak with tags , on November 23, 2016 by Jinja Coo

It had been too long since I was out in my kayak with too many other hobbies getting in the way, but finally I made it on to the water and though it didn’t seem like the best choice at first, given nearby alternatives, it turned out very pleasant with calm weather and clear views of the stunning Torridon hills surrounding us.

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As well as the usual seabirds and eagles, we saw some porpoises on the water but no otters. It is over a year since I last saw one, perhaps another sign I have not been on the sea as much as I used to.

Loch Lyon and Beinn Heasgarnich

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Open Canoe, Paddling with tags , , on April 16, 2016 by Jinja Coo

My first time in the canoe for ages – more than a year and a half – as time just has been passing too quickly and other commitments taking up weekends.

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Two of us headed to Loch Lyon to take advantage of its sheltered setting, which would allow us to paddle without too much trouble despite some forecast winds. We set off from the dam at the loch’s east end, loaded with comforts and both dry – after sitting out a shower in the car for a few minutes. Winds above were clearly evident as clear patches and ominous clouds swept across the sky, warming us one minute and cooling us a few minutes later.

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Within a couple of hours we had paddled all the way to the west end, including a lunch stop at the north arm of the loch, and having discounted a potential site suggested by the map at the west end, we retreated back to another one we had passed en-route. It offered a good starting point for a hill walk and looked to have some flat ground too.

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Flat ground does not necessarily mean dry as with so much runoff from the wet hills above, we struggled to find a suitable pitch and we ended up on the well drained gravel of the shore instead. All good so far, but a snapped pole and consequent hassles meant it was a cold hour before we were able to get changed and into warm clothes … and the fire on too. Chairs up and food on the go, we could properly relax and enjoy the noise of curlew flying about as darkness set in. The fire did its job keeping us warm on what was a cold night. Cold enough for snow to fall and lie as low down as the lochside. We woke early to a much wintrier scene with the hills white against a blue sky.

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Over breakfast we made use of the firebox again, using some of the wood and coal leftover from the previous night and were in danger of not getting up the hill behind us, Beinn Heasgarnich (Sheasgarnich), but motivation returned as the sun rose and soon enough legs were straining up the steep ascent, gaining height and views as we went. Views were coming and going with the wind driven cloud up high clearing every now and then. Up top we had a quick bite, but views to the south stubbornly refused to reveal themselves and it was just too cold to hang about any longer, only clearing after we had descended to the flat shoulder sitting to the north, still impressive even from there.

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Most people approach this hill from Glen Lochay in the south, so our ascent might well be a route less traveled, but no reason for that as there is a good 4×4 track in from the Loch Lyon dam and our route seemed to avoid the bogginess referred to in route descriptions from the south.

Early Morning on the Forth

Posted in Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak with tags , , on April 13, 2016 by Jinja Coo

A quick morning paddle before work, passing Inchkeith and with a breakfast stop on Inchcolm. Not quite early enough to catch the full changing light of dawn, but lovely to start off a week with sun rising over the Firth of Forth.

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