Thursday, 22 June 2017

Traighuaine looking good in the summer sun




The Gorgeous Garvellachs

When the weather comes good then the place to be is the Scottish Islands and Highlands. We had a perfect 36 hour weather window on Monday and Tuesday. 

Tim, our team motivator, made sure that we ignored the morning mists and had our boats in the water ready for the afternoon sunshine. The sun came out on queue and we pointed our kayaks at the delicious Garvellach Islands - the little known jewels of the Hebridean Sea.


A light wind ruffled the water and the tide pushed us towards the green and lovely Garvellachs. We camped where St Columba had landed and where he buried his mother. Wild flowers, otters, seals, fine views and solitude were reward for our efforts. Fantastic.


The place was perfect as was the paddle home to Traighuaine through the Grey Dogs, the Sound of Luing with a couple of sea eagles along the way.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Kayaking Traighuaine and the Garvellachs

Sea Kayak trip with Tim, heather and Denzil from Seil Island to the Garvellachs and back to Traighuaine. A perfect mid-summer outing.

Below is a light hearted slide show of the kayak trip.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Watering down plans - the weather decides!


The planned epic kayak expedition from Barra to Harris gradually got whittled away by strong wind forecasts. No matter which weather app we used they all spelled out the same message. Blustery winds from the south and south west were forecast for at least a week or two.


Plans evolved and ambitions got curtailed. It looked like Lochmaddy afforded plenty of shelter for day trips and we found, on the internet,  a cheap and cheerful outdoor centre there which meant we could base ourselves in a midge free, dry and comfortable bunkhouse to avoid the worst of the unsettled weather.

Our first night was with Pete and Irene Smith in Uig who tolerated our invasion without raising an eyebrow. Their luxury motor home proved the perfect start to our less epic adventure but the rattle of rain on the roof light in the morning confirmed the accuracy of the forecast. 

The Minch was at peace despite the forecast and within an hour of docking in Lochmaddy we had our kayaks in the water and were paddling north against the last of the ebb to our base camp - the Lochmaddy Outdoor Centre.

We launched the next morning with the wind hard behind us. The tide was flooding against us and we inched our way north under the foot bridge. 


Beyond the entrance to our channel there was an angry tidal chop whipped up by the wind that now had some easterly in it. Gingerly we hooked around the corner and instantly started to worry what conditions would be like when the tide changed to oppose the wind. Anyway it was all too much for Sally and me who were missing the all terrain capabilities of our trusty K2 Feathercraft! Instead we drifted around the very sheltered passages before retiring to Lochmaddy for coffee and internet.

The wind forecast remained resolute but with a narrow, more settled, weather window opening up on Thursday. Our outdoor centre sadly is in it's death throws and it was the surveyor that woke us up at 7am as the place is soon to go on the market. His early visit meant that the boats were in the water by 8am and this time the wind was several knots lighter and the easterly component had gone back to west of south. The sea was less agitated and we shot off hugging the coast to stay out of the worst of the wind and the chop.


I am assured  that we whizzed past 20 seals and an otter before the rain came but neither Sally nor me caught any sight of them. The tide  and the wind were behind us as we nosed through narrow, seaweed choked passes guarded by herons and oyster catchers. 

A strengthening tide met a strong opposing breeze at a narrow pass and once again Sally and I bottled it and, instead of pushing through, we hauled out on a narrow isthmus to admire the view. Lunch was spiced with sunshine and a vista of glittering sea strewn with green islands and distant mountains lurking under threatening clouds.

The wind shoved us north and the chop increased but after a few minutes we ducked behind the lea of yet more islands. Using them we dodged our way to windward resting occasionally in the dense gardens of seaweed that offered secure  'parking' at regular intervals.

At last we abandoned the islands and paddled directly into the wind which, thankfully, had now lightened a little. It looked a long way but it wasn't and we were soon close into the shore below the village of Lochmaddy threading the last island pass before hooking right to haul out and stash the boats in the tiny marina next to the ferry terminal.

As soon as we had tied down the boats for the night the rain arrived and we slipped effortlessly into cafe life all be it a little tousled by salty spray and lashings of Hebridean rain.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Prins Christian Sund - 2 months to go.

The passage through Prins Christian Sund will be a key part of our summer cruise and we are watching the ice conditions carefully. In two months we leave Ideland for the last time and sail down Greenland's east coast to enter PCS. In this beautifully satellite photo published today the entrance is clearly seen - still choked by sea ice. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Glittering Fjords and wonderful wilderness

Glittering Fjords and wonderful wilderness.

Overnight the fog melted away and we were awakened by a shaft of brilliant sunshine in our cabin. Bed tea followed soon afterward by a lazy Sunday breakfast. It's a hard life in the wilderness.

It was a perfect day so we pulled on our walking boots and set off across the bogs and followed streams gushing with meltwater towards Geldingafell via the col to it's east. Bog quickly gave way to boulders strewn with exuberant growths of lichens, mosses and squelchy mud. We climbed up onto the snow patches and watched a plume of fog temporarily engulf the boat a couple of hundred metres below us. Mostly though the air was clear and views spectacular.

The last three hundred metres to the col were a trudge up softening snow until we regained the ridge where the wind had blasted away all but the rocks and lichens. The summit itself was another one hundred and fifty metres of rock, mud and snow. To the north below us was a snow filled valley and a rescue hut on the shoreline then the blue Arctic Ocean stretching away to the fog belts lurking offshore. To the south fjords and snowy mountains, their tops scraped soft by ancient ice, marched inland to the Drangajokull Icecap. A fantastic place to be.

We descended quickly down the now soft snowfields and some of us were soon back at the shore washing away the sweat in the frigid meltwater streams. Afternoon tea back on the boat ended a perfect expedition.

We pulled in a forecast which mentioned mid week southerly gales so we have decided upon an early Monday departure for Isafjordur 25 miles away. That should give us plenty of time to settle the boat onto her mooring and prepare her for the next phase of her summer adventures.

On 15th July we will fly back to Isafjordur and set about an ambitious cruise to Tasilaq on the East Coast of Greenland then south and through Prins Christian Sund and then north up Greenland's West Coast to Aasiaat in the Arctic. That is if luck, the weather, the ice conditions or the boat maintenance trolls don't decide otherwise!

Back in the Hornstrandir National Park for the 4th time

Back in the Hornstrandir National Park for the 4th time.

Strong winds and generally wintery and unpleasant weather kept us tied to the dock in Reykjavik for longer than we had planned but the time there was well spent. There was the obligatory trip to the hot tubs and outdoor pool as well a  successful mission to source a new rotor for the wind generator. Now the old blades fit and we are carrying a spare set!

Our last night in Reykjavik was one of culture. Tim & Heather bought us tickets for a performance of "Icelandic Sagas - the greatest hit".  Two very energetic actors romped through  all of the Icelandic sagas in 75 minutes performing to an international audience in the Harpa. Great fun followed by ice creams on the dock.

The winter cobweb of mooring lines, fenders and car tyres started to come off as the wind died and, at 07.30am on Friday, we let go the wharf and motored out into Reykjavik harbour. The throttle stuttered as we passed the Opera House but soon came back to life and then we were out, once more, into the open sea. 

The Reykjavik skyline sparkled in the morning sun and at first the SE breeze pushed us on our way but that died away sooner than forecast and the fog came in. The familiar drone of the engine came on and tested patience for 30 misty hours until the anchor went down in the West Fjords.

We caught up with boat chores on Saturday morning until the sun burned away the fog and revealed the beauty of the fjord in which we were anchored. Perfect calm with no noise except the gush of a melt water stream, the trumpeting of swans and the crooning of eider duck. The hilltops were still caked with wet winter snow but spring was busily emerging from the lower slopes. Everywhere a rich carpet of mosses and lichens. An occasional avalanche from the corniced ridges sent giant snowballs floating past us on the morning tide. A lovely relaxing day at anchor in the far northwest corner of Iceland.

After a sunlit supper the fog rolled down the fjord smothering us with a dense, cold blanket and reducing visibility to 25m. As we went to bed I fretted about navigating out of the fjord in dense fog with a compass that complained of a "huge deviation". Sure enough I had noticed, whilst sitting on a large rock, a small magnet I was carrying stuck to the rock. There's plenty here to fool the navigator!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Receiving the Vasey Vase from Tony Vasey

On Saturday evening we were thrilled to receive the Vasey Vase from Tony Vasey.

We were awarded this by the Ocean Cruising Club for our summer cruise to Scoresby Sound in 2016.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The new kevlar kayak

Paddling south on the early morning ebb from Oban to Arduaine

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Our Greenland article just published in Flying Fish

Our account of our Arctic Summer has just been published in Flying Fish together with some professional mapping graphics.

There are some other good accounts in there too of cruises in South Georgia and Scoresby Sound.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Plans for 2017

We had originally planned to push on in 2017 to Canada pausing only briefly in Greenland. That plan was driven by historical ice and weather patterns. Prince Christian Sund, described by some as one of the finest cruises on the planet, is usually blocked by ice until the end of July which means we would emerge on Greenland's West coast in early August. There would then be a lot of pressure to push on to Newfoundland to avoid the lashings by the southerlies that predominate later in the season. With the clock ticking exploration on Greenland's West Coast would have to be rushed.

We therefore changed the plan. With the help of Clive Woodman (S/V Cosmic Dance V) and John Andrews (S/V Suilven) we began exploring the possibility of hauling out and over wintering on Greenland's West Coast. This now means that when we emerge from Prince Christian Sund we will be able to hook north and potter, at a leisurely pace, up the western seaboard of Greenland. There is a crane at Nuuk that could haul us out but we have been advised against this due to security issues. Thus we will push on up to Aasiaat at 68 40N where we have booked with a shipyard to be slipped and stored ashore in one of their steel cradles from the end of August until May 2018. As the ice clears early on this coast we will then be able to have an extended cruise during the summer of 2018 and enjoy some boat based ski mountaineering and climbing trips before crossing the Davis Strait and cruising south down the Baffin and Labrador coasts to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

So our itinerary for 2017 will hopefully look something like this:

  • May 2017 sail north from Reykjavik to Isafjordur with ski touring along the way 
  • mid May to mid June we will leave the boat on a mooring in Isafjordur 
  • July 15th fly back to Isafjordur and, when weather and ice allow, re-cross the Denmark Strait to Tasilaq Late July cruise south from Tasilaq to the entrance of Price Christian Sund Last week of July. 
  • First week of August transit Prince Christian Sund to emerge on Greenland's West Coast August 2017 sail north visiting Nuuk and Sisimut to arrive in Aasiaat at 68N at around 21st August 
  • End of August haul out, winterise and fly home. 
  • May 2018 re-launch and head into the fjords to find a ski mountaineering adventure 
  • Early July 2018 team up with some climbers to attempt a big wall climb from the boat 
  • Mid July when weather and ice allow cross the Davis Strait and begin cruising south down the coasts of Baffin and Labrador to reach Newfoundland by mid August and Nova Scotia by early September when we will haul out for the winter of 2018/19. 

It's not going to be the fastest circumnavigation but the above programme should make for some fantastic adventures!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

I am in the process of creating an Adobe Spark presentation. It may take a little time to open depending on your internet speed. Shimshal in Greenland