Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pyranha Octane PE surfski

This is the new Pyranha polyethylene surfski called the Octane. It will be available shortly at £1095. It is based on a Think composite surfski design. I had a good look at these in the GoKayaking store in Perth back in January. They look like fantastic boats and I had a good chat with Cam Allan about them.

A lot of my friends are interested in surfskis but the thought of spending north of £2,000 on a composite surfski is putting them off. That is why I am delighted to hear of  the PE Octane which will provide an affordable intro to the world of surfskis. It will shortly be available in Corelite PE and I do hope it will be available in the new stiff light CoreLiteX PE construction later on. I got an email from Graham Mackereth MD of Pyranha confirming that it would also be available with a sail. Whoohoo! Even better I have just heard from Mathew Wilkinson from Pyranha/P&H marketing dept. that just possibly one might just find its way in my general direction for a test. Whoohoo! :o)

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Sunset at Fidden: episode two.

 Although Fidden on the Ross of Mull is a commercial campsite, in many ways it really is like a a wild camp site with showers. After a nice warm shower we returned to the tents to discover that the wind had dropped and the midges had come out. Ian and I set up our chairs on a little knoll to eat our meal. A little breeze up there mitigated the midges somewhat and the view was excellent.

 After dining we set up a small fire (we had brought logs) below HW mark. While Ian and I opened cans of our favoured Irish sports recovery drink, Alan and Donald were already checking through their numerous sunset photos!!

 Not to be out done, Ian and I soon got snapping too.

As the sun dipped to the horizon it took on first an... glow before turning...

 pinkish red.

Of course living so far from the equator has its advantages. Very often the twilight after sunset is even better than sunset itself and so... proved. This was an hour and a half after sunset.

Behind us the white buildings of Fidden were still illuminated with a delicate warm glow and were standing out against the inky black night sky behind.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Hard rock, hard saints, rotting corpses, banished cows (and women) at the Ross of Mull.

On our return from Market Bay on the north coast of the Ross of Mull the wind got up and in truth it was a bit of hard work to get back into the shelter of...

 ...the islands at the north end of the Sound of Iona. From here we entered...

 ...the Bull's Hole a safe but tidal anchorage between the Ross of Mull on the left and Eilean nam Ban on the right. Today the Bull's Hole is the anchorage for many of the tour boats which operate from the Sound of Mull to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles.

Donald had waited for us on a little beach at the  NE of the rocky Eilean nam Ban. Although St. Columba was beatified by the church he was not exactly a saint in terms of modern understanding of the word. Not only had he caused the death of death of 3,000 people (men)  after starting the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne he fled to Iona then banished all cows (and women) to this barren and rocky isle.

The Bull's Hole can be quite a brisk paddle if the tide is running strongly but we only had a slight current to contend with and soon arrived at Tormore Pier at the south end of the Hole. It was here that blocks of pink Ross of Mull granite were exported to build parts of Iona Abbey, University of Glasgow, Ardnamurchan, Heskier. Skerryvore and Dubh Artach lighthouses, the Jamaica and Kirklee bridges in Glasgow and Blackfriars, Holburn Viaduct and Westminster bridges in London, docks in Glasgow Liverpool and New York not to mention buildings and monuments further afield in New Zealand and USA. A tramway leads up from the pier to the quarry at Torr Mor.

Above Alan's head at the base of some low cliffs you can see the dark opening of Uamh nan Marbh, the cave of the dead, where coffins were left before final transport to Iona for burial. The cave is really only big enough for one coffin and has a ventilation window at the back.This was probably quite important as corpses were brought here from all over Scotland and some would undoubtedly be in an advanced state of decomposition by the time they got here.

 Due to the fresh N wind and the building N going tide in the Sound of Iona we decided to leave exploring the Abbey until the following morning but Donald nipped across the Sound of Iona in his F-RIB as we...

 ...continued south to Fionnphort and the ferry terminal. The ferry MV Loch Buie was just about to leave and had already lifted its ramp when two young women tottering on high heels and pulling heavy suitcases on wheels made their way slowly down the slip. The captain clearly thought more of women than St. Columba and lowered the ramp while they sauntered (rather too slowly I thought) down the slipway. Ian gave the captain a quick call on the VHF and he replied that we had plenty of time to cross in front of him before he left.

From Fionnphort  to Fidden the coastline consists of a delightful series of pink granite tors and offshore islands and reefs. Alan enjoyed a try of my Greenland paddle and...

...before long we could see Fidden farm at the end of our long day.

Friday, July 01, 2016

A beach named desire.

We left the dark gneiss rocks of Iona and Eilean Annraidh and dodged the high speed tour boats in the Sound of Iona. This is Staffa Tours MV Ullin of Staffa. In the background you can see The Dutchman's Cap  or Bac Mor in the Treshnish Isles. It is a former volcano and consists of a central volcanic plug surrounded by a sill of basalt.

 On the east side of the Sound of Mull we returned to pink granite bedrock and the delightful village of Kintra which is derived from the gaelic Ceann Traigh or head of the beach. My good friend, colleague and former climbing partner, the late Dr John Tolmie and his partner bought one of these cottages. He hoped I would get him started sea kayaking but sadly he died in a climbing accident in March 2014 before we could get on the water. What a loss, I have no doubt he would have taken to sea kayaking.

 We were headed for Market Bay on the...

 ...north shore of the Ross of Mull.

 We floated in to the eastern most beach of the two beaches that open from the bay.

 The sands here were devoid of visitors though the...

 ...other beach Traigh na Margaidh (market beach) often has walkers. The beach we landed on is more difficult to access and is called Traigh Eilean an t-Santachaidh (beach of the island of lust). Why our ancestors called this remote spot the beach of the island of lust I cannot begin to imagine.

 Traigh Eilean an t-Santachaidh is a truly exceptional beach with...

 ...bold tors of pink granite backed by dunes topped by... machair which falls away to a...

 ...beach of perfect pinkish sand which reputedly reflects...

...your heart's desire when wet.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paddle strokes in the wake of the brush strokes of the colourists at Eilean Annraidh.

We were now paddling towards the north end of Iona and the dark reefs of Eilean Annraidh (commonly thought to be island of the storm but may also mean island of the prince).

We were not the only ones enjoying the waters of Iona. This is MV Benmore Lady the Benmore Estate's motor yacht.

Donald nipped ahead in his F-RIB to our next rendezvous at...

 ...the truly stunning tombola beach at the east end of Eilean Annraidh. The quality of the light here is remarkable and produces vivid contrasting colours in the clear water of the sea ranging from ultramarine to green to turquoise. The dark rocks also contrast with the dazzling white sand and the deep blue of the sky contrasts with the white and grey of clouds thrown up by distant Ben More.

 We drifted slowly into the beach wanting to savour the moment as long as possible.

 The water was so clear that we almost felt we were floating in air above the sand and rocks on the sea bed.

We had this amazing spot to ourselves but just across the water...

 ...on Iona the beaches were crawling with tourists.

We spent some time beachcombing for pebbles and cowries before...

...enjoying this view over our second luncheon. Even though you have never been here you might find it strangely familiar, especially if you grew up in Scotland in the 1950's. In the years of austerity following WW2 there had been few  ornaments in peoples' houses but as the economy improved so did the desire to hang things on the wall. Many chose three flying ceramic mallard ducks. However, in some homes a print of a painting by one of the Scottish colourists was the order of the day.  Eilean Annraidh was particularly popular as in this...

 ..painting by Cadell or...

...this one by Peploe. Their bold brush strokes and contrasting colours were influenced by the French impressionists but there is an accuracy in their painting which still allows individual rock formations on the beach to be identified over 100 years after they were painted.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Just when we thought it could not get any better, we came to Eilean Chalabha

It was with some reluctance that we left Port Ban on Iona's west coast.

Our course now lay up the NW coast of Iona and it was not long before we spotted...

...the Treshnish Isles on the horizon.

I really could not believe how benign the conditions were. This is my fourth visit and it is not always like this. On my first visit it was so windy we had to stay in the Sound of Iona and though the second visit was in light winds there was a huge swell and we had to stay well out the whole way round and could not land.

As we paddled north we began to catch glimpses of distant Ben More on Mull then we caught sight of...

...Donald waiting for us on Eilean Chalbha (calf? island). The tide was running strongly over the...

...shallow sandy bar and it was a surreal experience paddling hard against the flow in just a couple of inches of luminous green water.

Then we were through to the deeper water of the north coast beyond.