Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Norway.

It was good to paddle through a partial lull in the terrible weather with Jess and Ian this weekend. We went from Port St. Mary to the Sound. It was pretty rough in places and it was nice to have the security of some company. Of late I've been paddling alone as my work related travels continue. It's Orkney next after 3 and a half weeks in the Outer Hebrides. The regular paddles we enjoyed each weekend are probably over as we all have new and different commitments. People's lives change and evolve and new paddling opportunities arise.
Speaking of changes there is a small new section on the main web site, . I've been emailed by a couple of contacts in Norway to perhaps put some Norwegian content on the site. Of course is principally about paddling on the Isle of Man. But I was impressed by my Summer paddling experiences in Norway, and so a small "site within a site" has been created which you can find here. I've been promised more content from Norway and I'll post it if and when it becomes available. In the mean time I've written 3 pages about kayaking in Norway and about Noway itself and how to get there, plus a page which focuses on kayaking on the Island of Senja. Any comments or suggestions or inaccuracies noted then please feel free to let me know.
Photos above by Sion Scott in Sogndal, Norway, 2009.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Harris to Man.

I went the long way round for my return journey from the Western Isles back home to the Isle of Man. I swapped ferries and sailed from Tarbert on the Isle of Harris down to Uig on Skye. This journey is made easier these days now that the Skye Bridge is toll free. Never the less, a gruelling 6 hour drive to Glasgow awaited me. There weren't quite as many camper vans as I had previously encountered in Lofoten in the Summer, but I certainly had plenty of time to take in the stunning scenery. One such observation was the ferocious tidal race pouring under the Bridge at Connel. These are the Falls of Laura and are a famous play spot for kayakers. Millions of gallons of sea water pour over a shelf under the bridge from Loch Etive, creating whirlpools, standing waves and boils. I'd observed several races on the way down as various Lochs emptied into the sea, but I'd never seen anything like this. I broke my journey and parked up to take a look. The waves weren't huge, but whipped up by an opposing wind a gnarly high speed torrent lay before me. I had never been in water moving this fast before. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to venture in, despite having my kayak with me. There were quite a number of sea kayakers parked up by the race. They were obviously on a schedule too, as all kayaks remained firmly lashed to roof racks!?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Isle of Man Kayaking - Western Isles.

It's nearly time to leave the Western Isles and return home to the Isle of Man. It's been a very special 3 weeks in many different ways. The sea kayaking up here is exceptional. There is everything a paddler could want from stunning Atlantic surf beaches, to sheltered lochs, open inter-island crossings and stunning scenery and wildlife. Be prepared for rough water and bad weather, but if you are an all season paddler then the Outer Hebrides are well worth a visit. Nothing else for me can compare to the magical trip around Scarp I undertook a few weeks ago, with it's white beaches, sparse but friendly inhabitants and the atmospheric abandoned, but slowly being reclaimed, village.
Finally, many thanks to the Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway who have looked after me so well over the past 3 weeks.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Kayak Sailing in Stornoway

The weekend in the Outer Hbrides has been marred by gales and rain. It may be August but rather like at home on the Isle of Man, the weather has little regard for the seasons. And so it was a force 6 or possibly 7 that confined me to Stornoway Harbour. This wasn't paddling it was kayak sailing. Having battled my way up to Arnish point from Cuddy point, hugging the coast for any meager shelter I could find, I spun the boat around and sailed back. Paddling was unnecessary. Alternating left and right stern rudders kept me on course, and the only time I did need to paddle, frantically, was when a large Norwegian fishing vessel threatened to mow me down. I stole a glimpse through the narrow gap which leads from Stornoway Harbour into the Minch and witnessed a steaming, slow motion, boiling ocean. If I'd gone out I'd never have made it back in as the gales would have taken me off to Point and beyond!
I had a great time but I'm not sure that the two paddlers from Stornoway Canoe Club did as they struggled with their Coach 2 and Coach 3 assessments! With a coach over from the mainland they couldn't cancel and the assessment continued, despite being out of remit. Many thanks to the club for letting me use their facilities and for the warm welcome they gave to me.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - 3 Piece or Not?

The photos above are of my Rockpool Alaw Bach 3 piece kayak taken just before a paddle down Loch Seaforth on the Isle of Harris. I also have a regular 1 piece Alaw Bach which I use when home on the Isle of Man. But is it worth investing in a 3 piece boat anymore? You can expect to pay about £500 more for a 3 piece over it's 1 piece equivalent when purchased new! I originally ordered mine about 2 years ago and subsequently flew it on the now bankrupt Zoom Airways to Vancouver Island. It cost me £60 each way on top of my conventional ticket price, which I thought was a bit of a bargain. I had a fantastic holiday, but since then many of the airlines have clamped down on taking sports gear on board flights as baggage. Many will still take kayaks, but specify that they must be plastic and not fibreglass, and some put size limits on the boats. I couldn't find an airline willing to take the Rockpool to Norway this Summer. Instead I posted it using TNT, at the hefty cost of £560!. The boat made it late, and with terrible bureaucratic problems with customs. Once again I had a great time with the boat in Norway, but I wouldn't repeat this exercise.
So what is the point of having a 3 piece boat? Well, I still think it was worth buying, and I would certainly replace it if I were to lose it. I travelled 400 miles in the car to get from the Isle of Man to Stornoway. The road trip was much more speedy for having the kayak safely in the back of the car rather than flapping around on the roof rack at 70 miles an hour. It has been known for a certain ferry company to charge extra to car passengers with long kayaks on the roof. And finally, the boat is secure in the back of my car rather than readily accessible to kayak pirates if it were to spend 3 weeks on the roof of the vehicle.
So, although the World has changed since I originally took delivery of my 3 piece boat, I still wouldn't be without it.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Loch Seaforth.

The photos above are of Scarp, Outer Hebrides, and were taken a couple of days ago. As Douglas of Sea Kayaking with said in his comment on my previous post, there is always a special light around Scarp, which certainly helps the photographer. The same cannot be said of Seaforth Loch (below) on the other side of Harris. It was a grey, dull, miserable, damp day as I paddled from Marig to the Minch through Loch Seaforth. To confound the situation, the wind was blasting straight down the Loch which acted as a wind tunnel and the outward trip was more like a hard gym session than a pleasurable paddle. Still, all was not lost as I rocketed back to my starting point with a following tide thrown in for good measure.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Scarp.

I was last in Huisinis, Isle of Harris, 7 years ago. I was in the Outer Hebrides doing a locum anaesthetic job, much as I am now. Those were different times and I had dreams of living and working in such a place as this. I stared across the turbulent sound which separates the Isle of Harris from the much smaller Island of Scarp. I could see the now abandoned crofts and longed to be able to cross the sea to explore them. I kept revisiting Huisinis in my free time, never dreaming that one day I would full fill this ambition. Of course back then I didn't paddle but now I do, and so today I made the crossing through the calm but highly tidal gap which separates the two islands, landed and explored the village.
The inhabitants of Scarp scraped together a living through crofting and fishing. Towards the end of the 19th century the population peaked at 213. However, by the 1940s the population had declined to just over 100, and the closure of the school and post office saw the last permanent inhabitants leave in 1971. Today, there are no permanent inhabitants but holiday homes were occupied, and indeed being renovated at the time of my visit.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Scalpay Circumnavigation.

I crossed the cratered, moonscape terrain of the Isle of Lewis, scarred by centuries of peat extraction, and reached the more mountainous Isle of Harris. Harris is reminiscent of Norway, with craggy mountains and long fjords or lochs penetrating the intricate coastline. I was in search of a paddle after 4 days of consecutive "on call" but the weather was conspiring against me. But I've lived on various islands now for 7 years and I knew all I'd have to do is wait a little for the ground cloud and drizzle to clear. Eventually, I settled for a circumnavigation of the Isle of Scalpay in Loch Tarbert on the South East side of Harris. I'd been told that there may be a tidal play spot under the bridge that serves the island but I'd timed it wrong. The location compensated me with the company of a sea otter as I left the small main harbour. Rounding the south west corner beneath the light house, I was battered by the exposed Atlantic rollers, many of them breaking over me. These were perhaps a little bigger than I would normally have been comfortable with whilst paddling alone in unfamiliar waters, but the views across to North Uist and the Isle of Skye made the risk worth while.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Kayak Isle of Man - Outer Hebrides.

I arrived in Stornoway, the Western Isles, on Thursday. It took over a day to get here with an overnight stay in Ullapool. One of the problems with living on one island, and going to work on another, is that there will be at least two ferry rides. From the Isle of Man I used the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. The four and a half hour trip cost me over £300 with the car. In contrast, from Ullapool to Stornoway I used Caledonian MacBrayne. This two and a half hour trip with the car cost a little over £80! Not surprisingly, Ullapool and the Western Isles are buzzing with tourists from every corner of the World. This is great for the local economy but not necessarily for me. I am up here working and the surge in population can only mean that my job as Consultant Anaesthetist is likely to be somewhat more busy than might have otherwise been the case. Still, after this initial 4 day stint of on call I will be off on Tuesday, at which point the 3 piece Rockpool will be assembled ready for it's first Hebridean trip.