Saturday, 10 July 2010

Isle of Islay 30-2 to 2-7-2010 (Final Posting)

The Final Instalment (thank goodness).
30/06/2010 to 02/07/2010.

Due to the 24 hour weather forecast it was decided we would stay off the water. From Ardnave Point to Portnahaven is a pretty exposed coast line with few roads to get the kayaks of the water and back to the ferry if we were caught out. The forecast for evening was: increasing winds 5-7, with gale force 8 expected. It was essential that we got the ferry back on Friday 2nd July as it was my wife’s (Jayne) Birthday on 3rd July. However, this would give me plenty of time to explored Ardnave Point. It was another beautiful morning as I explored Ardnave’s dunes, machair and coastline round to the westside of the point at Eilean Nostaig. Loch Gruinart is noted for the diversity of birdlife due to the estuary and machair.The westcoast of Ardnave Point

The walk round the point as well as revealing that it is a fantastic area also demonstrated that it is a haven for birds, wildlife and butterflies. During the walk I spotted a flock of about 20 Coughs feeding on the machair, an assortment of Terns fishing many coming from Nave Island , Skylark song filled the air, Curlews, Snipe, Corncrakes rasping, Hen Harrier, Sparrow Hawk and the list could go on and on.Early afternoon it was again time to fish the estuary channels of Loch Gruinart for Sea Trout or Sea Bass. I had been watching the seals fishing the estuary since we had arrived. It was an exciting event: Seals crashing, twisting and rolling on the surface of the water before diving with explosive speed in pursuit of their meal.
It’s a tuff life but someone has to do it.

Sea Trout, one of a brace caught.
As the day went on the clouds built up and the wind steadily increased. I walked across the dunes and machair down a track then road to check the estuary channels out and visit Kilnave Chapel and the 5th Century Cross.

Later in the evening we prepared for the coming gale: only the essentials were kept in the tent, just encase it came down or it had to be moved, kayaks were moved to try to deflect some of the wind, paddles were lashed down and a few extra guy-ropes were attached to the tent. The winds started to build but nothing to worry about and I feel asleep about 11pm. At 2am I was wakened with torrential rain and increasing winds. The inner tent was dry but was leaning slightly with the wind, it was reassuring that everything was ok, and again I fell asleep. At 5am I was again wakened by the tent poles hitting me on my back. The tent was lying at 45 degrees, on occasions lower. I didn’t fall back asleep this time!!!!!However, the tent and I made it through (unhurt/damaged) the worst weather we had camped in.
In the morning Loch Gruinart had changed its character from a tropical looking lagoon into a grey caldron of anger. The open sea must still have been hellish because for the first time Gannets were fishing in Loch Gruinart. However, no matter what the weather was like it was a special day: It was Jim’s 60th Birthday. Yes he does look only 57!!!!! The rest of the day: Jim hitched to Port Ellen to get the car (during this time the winds fell the skies cleared and the sun returned), a short paddle and the boats were unloaded for the last time. We headed to the Port Askaig area to look for a camping spot.
The Paps of Jura from Islay on our last night.
The fine weather had returned as we waited at Port Askaig for the ferry. For me the saddest moment of any kayaking trips to the Islands is watching the ferry sailing into the Port to take you to the mainland (reality awaits).
The End.
David A

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Isle of Islay 29/06/2010

Bagh an Da Dhoruis to Loch Gruinart.

Oyster Catchers are better than an alarm clock. Their shrilling call which had been our companion throughout the trip now indicated that it was time to get up. Even before I unzipped the inner tent door I could tell that it was a fine morning. The sea was flat calm, mostly blue sky, the waves broke gently on the beach, Red Deer were feeding on the ridge above the cliffs, Seals floated with their heads pointing skywards (sleeping or just floating?), Ring Plovers trilled, Turnstones twittered. You got the feeling that it was going to be another great day on the water. We would wait for the tide to rise before setting off so this gave us a few hours to explore the beach and coast line again; but first breakfast and lashings of tea.
More Otter tracks on the beach, this time near our tents.
Further on in the week I was talking to the Skipper of the Port Askaig to Jura ferry about the number of Spider Crab shells and limbs that I had found at Bagh an Da Dhoruis (I thought we didn’t get them round the coast of Scotland). He explained how trawlers (didn’t say where from) had been discarding their catch of Spider Crabs north of Islay if they could not get them to market before they died. Since then these spiders have grown in numbers to such an extent that some of the Scallop beds are unfishable. The Spiders that are caught by the Lobster/Crab fishermen (due to their size) are taken from the outside of the pots as they cling onto the netting.I was going to assemble one together from the many parts lying about the beach, but I was not sure how many legs they have or what direction the legs should be placed in.
Spider Crab
Arctic Tern nest and eggs.
Beachcombing is one of my favourite activities when kayaking. Bagh an Da Dhoruis being a storm beach was ideal. Buoys and rope from fishing activities were sprinkled along the high water mark pushed up with the storms. Lobster pots, a few new but most in varying states of decay also held my interest. Wood that had been sculptured by the sea, sun and sand is always beautiful to look, also useful for firewood. However, in the caves near the sea there is plenty of evidence of the problem that plastics/plastic containers can have on this environment. This last comment does not take away anything from the beauty of this area. Time to leave Bagh an Da Dhoruis and head along the rugged but beautiful shoreline. Just as the Seals had escorted us into Bagh an Da Dhoruis, they also escorted us out. The cliffs west from Bagh an Da Dhoruis are a testament to the battle that rages between sea and land. Which element is winning this battle is highlighted by the numerous numbers of caves, arches and collapsed arches that are littered for miles along the coast. The scale of some of these features were only conveyed by Fulmars flying from them or nesting on the otter cave or arch walls. Every rock cove, stony beach or sculpture rock formation seems to invite you to explore the area more closely. It would take a full week or more to explore this area fully. The rocky out crop at Rubha Bholsa held some of the largest colonies of seals we had observed.

Looking southwest down the coast towards Ardnave Point we could see that the landscape would soon be changing.
We decided to explore one last beach near Gortantaoid Point.

After a short break it did not take long before we were paddling along the deserted blazing white sands and high dunes of Traigh Baile Aonghais. Numerous numbers of Terns were fishing in the almost tropical coloured sea. This area we were entering is associated with sand, dunes and machair. Islay is so diverse in landscape and wildlife. A magical place for the sea kayaker. We paddled across the entrance of estuary of Loch Gruinart, west from Killinallan Point. There was just enough water to avoid stranding the kayaks on the sandbanks and landed on the east side of Ardnave Point to find a campsite.
Landing on the East of Ardnave Point.

The after- glow from the evening sun further enhanced this wonderful environment.

Did have a short walk in the evening but mainly sat trying to absorb the stunning beauty of this area. Once again the seals this time lying on the sandbanks sang us to sleep.

Isle of Islay 28/06/2010 (Part 1)

Isle of Islay 28/06/2010 (Part 1)
An Clachan to Port Askaig
28/06/2010An Cladach to Bagh an Da DhoruisIt would be hard to leave an cladach. However, the beautiful morning eased the sadness. Breakfast was once again a leisurely affair. The kayaks were packed, the Bothy was tidied and left in the same condition as we found it. We tried to absorb as much of the atmosphere of this area before leaving.The lupins looked vibrant as they directed your view up Gleann Ghaireasdail towards Sgorr nam Faoileann. A single Seal cruised near the rocks. The Adder I had spotted sunning it’s self yesterday on the rocks near the Bothy was nowhere to be seen (I was hoping for a pic of it). Oyster Catchers shrilled from the beach, the call of the Curlew drifted down from the hill and a Buzzard soared on the warming thermals. Everything in the world seemed perfect. Gleann Ghaireasdail towards Sgorr nam Faoileann.
We again would have the flow and breeze pushing us North up the Sound. However, if we needed more speed Jim would use his prototype ‘Quad-Matic Sea Kayaking Power Paddle’.
Time to leave an cladach.
The wind freshened slightly as we were guided up the Sound. What a difference a following tide and breeze makes. Before we knew it we were at Port Askaig. Jim never used his prototype paddle!!!!
Port Askaig.
It was quickly decided to have lunch at the Port and catch up with the news and World Cup results. Lunch was washed down with a pint of shandy made from the finest German Lager.

Isle of Islay 28/06/2010 (Part 2)

Isle of Islay 28/06/2010 (Part 2)
Port Askaig to Bagh an Da Dhoruis
The cloud cover was steadily increasing as again we headed back onto the water.
The Sound with Jura and the Paps of Jura in the background.

The coast line north from Port Askaig is delightful to paddle: so much to see as the west coast of Jura opens up and draws your attention. There was the obligatory seal here and there but there was a notable drop in the number of sea birds. I was determined to see not only a Basking Shark, but see a Basking Shark close up. I had been scanning the seas intently for days now without any luck. Today was no different; perhaps tomorrow? As we rounded the north point of Islay the Island of Colonsay reveals itself on the horizon. The birdlife also increased as the swell from the Atlantic was felt for the first time.
The northern headland of Islay: Rubh’a Mhail and Rhuveal Lighthouse.
After rounding the northern tip of Islay it was a short paddle of about 1km to Bagh an Da Dhoruis (beach) were we would camp. It was an exciting feeling as the Atlantic swell. The sea was calm and serene as the swell lifted and dropped the kayaks gently, but you are left in no doubt that given the wrong weather conditions this part of the coast could be a very dangerous environment. A small colony of massive seals were spotted as they basked in different position on the rocks and skerries. Leisurely they came off the rocks to inspect us from a distance; before coming closer and following us. As always the high point of these encounters are the typical front fin slap on the surface as the seals semi- breech from the water to chase us off their territory. They eventually got bored with us and left, no doubt, to go back to their slumbers. We were soon at Bagh an Da Dhoruis and paddled to the west end of the beach which would give us some shelter if the weather deteriorated and the breakers got higher: we would still be able to launch without getting wiped out. Before landing we were once again escorted towards our landing site by an ever increasing numbers of seals.
Bagh an Da Dhoruis
Making camp.

A 5 star view from my tent door (I suppose it will do!!)
Relaxing after something to eat and taking in this fantastic wilderness.

Later in the evening we explored the beach and the caves at the east end of the beach.

Fresh tracks and markings of an Otter at a cave entrance.

End of another perfect day on Islay.

As I lay in my sleeping bag with my eyes closed that night, I was serenaded to sleep by the seals singing and the waves breaking on the beach.


Isle of Islay 27/06/2010

27/06/2010, Aros Bay to An Cladach.

I was wakened, by a Cuckoo calling from the hillside near the campsite. The heat was already building up in the tent. The morning was glorious: blue skies, blue seas and a light warm breeze and Terns dived and chattered in the bay. A good start to the day. Breakfast was eaten and then it was time to depart from Aros Bay.The kayaks were launch from the bank into the river that flows as short distance to the bay and walked down to our departure site.

We stopped for a final view of the bay.

Jim checks the map one more time before heading onto the water

Cliodhna and Sumarlidi II ready for the day ahead.

The weather was perfect for leisurely paddling: we had a following tidal flow and breeze.

Jim, the old sea dog demonstrates his internal compass!!! That’s the way to the Bothy at Proaig, isn’t it ?

Pushed along with the tide it did not take use long to reach Proaig Bothy were we would explore. Although the Bothy has a solid roof on it, eternally it is neglected and had pigeon/bird droppings in it. However, it could be a safe haven if the weather blows up or in emergencies and there are adequate camping sites in the walled garden near the Bothy Proaig Bothy and the old disused sheep dip pit.

We noted our names in the visitor book and left to head further up the Sound.

The flow increased as we rounded Mc Arthur’s Head and the lighthouse. This area is where the Sound begins to narrow and we increased our pace as we headed up the Sound.

We also wanted to explore the Bothy at An Cladach before moving further up the Sound past Port Askaig towards Rubh’a ‘Mhail at the North tip of the Sound with the view of camping at Bagh an Da Dhoruis beach. However, our plans were torn up as we reached the destination. The Bothy and the environment cast it’s magical spell on us; or should that be me. I might not have an opportunity to stay here again. Yes, the tidal flow was heading through the 3 and 4 hour. Jim could see that I was smitten by the Bothy and the surrounding. The decision was made to stay the night.

Hopefully the picture will display the magic that the Bothy and the surrounding environment emanates.

It was a wonderful night: the smell of wood and peat from the glowing fire, the call of the Northern Divers, the stillness and good company. The Chadwick family have left a wonderful legacy to their son Mike Chadwick that we can share in and appreciate and celebrate his life. Thank you.

Other instalments will follow