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Archive for June, 2012

Great news, as we approach the 900 mile mark, we have now raised just over £9,000!

Thank you all so much for your generosity!!

Andy and Geoff

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Well here we are, in the only coffee shop that we haven’t yet tried in the beautiful village of Tobermory.

From here we’ll be paddling round the western most point of mainland Britain. The evocative sounding Ardnamurchan point. Unfortunately it is living up to it’s reputation and blowing a F7 at the moment so we’re spending a second day eating cake and chatting to the friendly locals.

Apparently the children’s BBC show
Balamory is filmed here. For those that don’t know, it is a 20 minute story with fluffy/hairy characters interacting with strangely dressed humans doing daft things and who are clearly not embarrassed to look a little different from the norm.

Can’t imagine what that must be like. Ahem….

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Gratuitous beard shots

Succumbing to some recent demand for more beard photos…..here are a couple of close ups. If you look closely in Geoff’s beard you can see what he’s been eating over the last few days.

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We met John on the beach at Seascale in Cumbria. We had stopped for some lunch and he took these photos as we launched. Thanks John!

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Yesterday we set off from Keil Point on the Mull of Kintyre at 5.50am. We got a great push from the tide around the Mull and northwards again.

Heading north again was such a morale boost having spent the last week negotiating five significant open water crossings including getting round the Mulls of Galloway and Kintyre.

The first 18 miles flew by and by 10am we were in the Ugadale Hotel in Machrinhanish. A stunning refurbished venue which is helping breath new life and opportunity into the village.

If you like golf and Scotland then get yourself up there. The staff are brilliant and made us rather untidy kayakers feel very welcome.

Thanks in particular to Shaun Galbraith who looked after us and also made a very generous donation to our charities.

After eating ourselves stupid we set off to Point Sands Holiday Park near Tarbet. We were followed by a number of very friendly seals and after another 18 miles we were rewarded with amazing views of Gigha, Jura, Islay and Cara. We pitched our tents, managed to get some clothes washed and dry and were in bed by 9.30 and asleep shortly after.

Slightly later start this morning as we wanted to stock up on supplies at the campsite shop. Rebecca Maxwell Macdonald, the owner of the site was there. She chatted about our expedition and the charities we are supporting and with that she told us to help ourselves to provisions – they would be on her. Wow another wonderful example of the generosity shown us in this trip. Thank you so much Rebecca! Hope your son retrieves his Crocs off Cara!

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Decisions, decisions. The problem with open water crossings is that sometimes you have to make a call on whether to commit yourself when the weather could frankly go either way. Yesterday the forecast was for F4/5 and occasionally F6. It was due to be coming in from the NE and backing to N later in the day.

We were setting off from Maidens (just north of Turnberry golf course) and would hear NW towards Holy Island just off the south east corner of Arran. This would mean us hopefully counteracting the effects of the wind and arriving at the Seashore Campsite near Kildonan.

We hoped the winds would stay around 4/5. Well they did for the first 4 miles of the 14 mile crossing. And then they strengthened more 5 than 4 and gusting for long periods at 6. The winds had also shifted round more northerly meaning rather than hitting us on the side, they were more head on.

Still we made good progress. Looking over at Geoff he was now disappearing out of view every few seconds and we both descended into troughs between swells. The odd large set that came in demanded more attention and the occasional brace to prevent capsize.

We discovered later that we had both ‘had a word’ with ourselves to keep the nerves under control and convince ourselves we could handle the conditions. Which of course we did.

The navy destroyer and sea container ship that we had to wait for before we made the final push to Arran just added to the excitement of the day.

Not the longest crossing by any stretch but one of the more ’emotional’ ones as Mike would have said.

Still, great campsite and bar right on the coast and today we are off to Mull of Kintyre – tomorrow we will be heading north again. Hooray!

Thanks to Sarah Cowan and Catherine McNeil who made a generous donation to our charities in the bar last night!

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We couldn’t have timed it better. As well as missing out on the Jubilee celebrations we are of course going to miss the Olympics as we paddle our way around the coastline. So it was a lovely surprise to see the Torch Relay pass by our B&B this morning. Well from a distance anyway. The runners stopped and climbed back on the bus and onto the next village about 100 metres before it got to us. So enjoy the picture of the bus instead!

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Last night Geoff and I found ourselves a bivvy spot beside the tee for the 5th at Port Arthur golf club near Montreith. It was a perfect spot to launch our crossing to the Mull of Galloway. Only challenge is that it is best to go with the ebb tide (after high water) and the next day that wasn’t due until 12.30 lunch time. Around the time that the Met Office was forecasting strong variable winds.

However the advantage of it being summer and so far north is that it is light much earlier and so, (can’t quite believe we did this voluntarily) we were up at 2am, packed up and were on the water at 3am to catch the last three hours of the ebb tide. Aside from a few clouds, it was a perfect moonlit night.

The strong streams that flow through the Solway Firth carried us west at around 5kn. Around 20% faster than without stream. That’s the kind of efficient paddling we like. Although there was a head wind, it wasn’t as strong as it might have been.

By 6.15am we landed in Drunmore, made a cuppa and tried to catch up on some sleep whilst we waited for high water and the next ebbing stream.

We were back in the boats just before high water and used the eddy streams to make our way down towards the Mull of Galloway. Just about everyone we talked to over the last few days about this stage of our journey took a sharp intake of breath and then questioned our sanity. We’ve gotten used to some of these reactions at other stages like Lizard Point, Cape Cornwall, Ramsey Sound and the Menai Straits – all of which were more fun than scary. The thing is that kayaks are better suited to rough confused water that a deep keeled yacht. But for some reason we were a little apprehensive about this one. As it turned out we were right to be so.

As we rounded the headland, we were keeping close into the rocks which had been the consistent advice, what appeared to be a small race turned violent and strong rapidly and shot off towards the Isle of Man. We fought to keep our boats upright as waves seemed to hit is from all angles.

But as fast as it began we found ourselves in the eddy and making out way north again. For the next 6 hours we enjoyed the boost that the ebb stream afforded us. The strong winds forecast didn’t arrive, so to make the most of it we stopped in a cave for lunch and got back in the stream. Eventually it brought us to the tranquil harbour of Portpatrick. 40 miles in all today which helps to make up for the day off in Kirkcudbright because of the strong winds.

We carry on north tomorrow and hope to make the crossing to Aran the day after.

Need some sleep but we have the chance to wash clothes tonight so we’re doing that first!

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It was our first morning waking up in Scotland. It was a slow start to the day. We had left St Bees head around 10.30 the previous day, stopped briefly at Whitehaven as it had been such a slog against a F4/5 headwind all the way round the headland.

After cappuccino and carrot cake we made our way towards Workington where we planned to cross the Solway Firth. In the end we decided to cross from Harrington, a few miles earlier making the crossing just a bit longer around 22 miles.

It was nearly 16.00 and a close call as to whether we should attempt it that evening or wait till the morning. A check of the forecast made the decision for us. The wind was due to pick up to a F6/7 the next day. To wait would trap us in England and we were keen to push on.

A few weeks ago a crossing like that (the size of the Bristol Channel) would have filled us with some apprehension. But now we know we can cope with them even after having already paddled for a few hours.

The winds and tide would be against us all the way but so long as we could achieve 3Kn moving average we felt we could make it before midnight. We would have light till 22.00 and moonlight after that.

Well it was certainly a slog and the stream and wind combined to push us east further than we hoped. After 12 miles we were in a wind farm and could see how strong the stream was against the pillars. If we stopped paddling we moved south east at around 1.5kn. So no time for long stops.

We pushed on, feeling slightly apprehensive as the sun started to set, but just then, around 7 miles out, we spotted our intended landing spot and started the long slog in.

We landed, tired but elated, gave each other a big hug and before we pitched tents we had a very large dram.

So today was always going to be a slow one. The wind was up and although in our favour (easterly) it had also whipped up a lively sea.

We carried and launched over the huge round bolders that covered the beach. It would have been so easy to twist an ankle or drop and break the boats. But finally we were afloat and after mopping up the water that had managed to get into our cockpits before we got our spray decks on, we were off.

The wind, tide and following sea had us flying along at around 5-6kn. Geoff recorded 9.5 maximum as he surfed down one particular wave. The cliffs seemed to whizz by. Great progress but also quite stressful paddling. It would have been easy for either of us to capsize. Some of the sets coming in over shallower ground were around 2.5m and quite steep causing the noses of our kayaks to burry at the bottom of the waves.

So after a couple of exhilarating hours we pulled into the shelter of Kirkcudbright. We made out way up the estuary as far as the RNLI station. The lifeboat was out on a shout and we got chatting to the operations manager John Collins. Within minutes John had the kettle on for us and even lowered the launch cradle for us to lift both our kayaks up the slipway. How cool is that!

When the Lifeboat and it’s crew returned we chatted to them all before they gave us a lift into town in the RNLI Landrover. Well that made my day.

I wrote the first half of this yesterday it is now Sunday. Today the wind changed for the worse and so we stayed off the water. The RNLI team had another shout (that’s 3 this weekend) so we got to see the them again and get to hear about their day and also got some good tips on places to stay and the tides.

Such a nice bunch of people, it was a real pleasure to meet them all. Geoff and I reflected later how chatting to them gave us a really great insight into the local community. Meeting people like that is one of the privileges of an expedition like this.

Thank you John and team for your hospitality!

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Thursday night we stayed in a campsite in Silecroft on the Cumbrian coast. As the campsite was a few hundred yards from the beach we were a little cheeky and asked at the very first house overlooking the beach if we could store our kayaks in their garden. The owner, Julia, was so friendly and interested in what we were up to and gladly let us store them away. That was a big help in saving us a long carry.

Julia also gave us a great tip for a place to eat that evening as the local pub had unfortunately closed because of a fire. So it was there after a walk into the next village of Kirksanton, that we found ourselves in the very welcoming atmosphere of the King William IV pub. Run by Barry Van Der Vyver, a South African from Port Elizabeth and ex pro cricketer who met his wife in the area and settled down. What a great guy. He rustled us up an amazing 500gm steak with some Monkey Gland sauce (Tanya, Ivy and the Rogers will know what that is) – just what we needed for the next day.

Barry also ran us back to the campsite at the end of the evening. How about that for a special personal service from your landlord!

Thanks Barry and Julia!

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