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Archive for July, 2012

We were up at 6am this morning and launched from the beach at Crail by 7.30. After a relaxing paddle a few hours later we landed in North Berwick for lunch. Happy memories from childhood holidays here with my grandparents.

Photos of us with Bass Rock and Hayley and Annie from the Rocketeer Restaurant.

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A few people have asked about what our typical morning is like when the weather is not so good. Don’t we feel like staying in bed? So here it is.

Around 6am alarm goes off. More recently though the wind and rain on the tent usually acts as our early morning wake up. We’ll check the inshore forecast again and for double measure, peer outside the tent at the sea state. If all looks well, we’ll start by packing up the inside of our tents: sleeping mat, sleeping bag, phone charger, shore clothes, journal etc. Next we climb into our base layers – leggings and either one or two long sleeve tops depending in how warm we expect it to be. Yep, normally two then. If these were damp from the day before we normally keep them between the sleeping bag liner and the bag itself overnight – that normally dries them out and warms them up for the morning, although I’m sure it does nothing for the general odour of our kit!

Next the slightly unpleasant bit – pulling on damp paddling kit – either a dry suit or two piece cag and trousers. Now we can brave the rain. All the kit is packed into dry bags and the trick is to squeeze them inside the three hatches in the boats. Each bag has its designated place, pack them in the wrong order and nothing fits. If it is raining, we try and wipe each one down before packing to keep the hatches dry. After 75 days of packing an unpacking – this bit is now down to a fine art.

Next we’ll eat breakie and hope that the wind will dry the tents (if it has stopped raining). Once tents are packed we’ll check radios, GPS devices and route plan for the day and get on the water.

Of course, if there is a cafe open nearby we do feel it is rude not to pop in and get a strong coffee.

Finally, when I’ve procrastinated enough, we’ll get on water.

Immediately the negative thoughts about being damp and cold disappear. We are where we should be, covering miles and getting absorbed into the scenery and wildlife. It can rain all it likes in the water so long as it stops when we land.

One consequence of being this damp for so long is that our hands look like we’ve been soaking in a bath for too long. All wrinkly. Even when we think they are dry, all you need to do us wash them and instantly they go wrinkly again.

But 75 days into this little adventure of ours and we have come to the conclusion that damp and cold isn’t all that bad. The experiences that we have daily more than make up for minor discomforts.

Having said that, there are a few things that help us get by: Eccles cakes, carrot cake, decent coffee, chocolate. Oh and the bottle of 16 yr old Lagavulin that makes a regular appearance at the end of a day!

I

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We’ve seen what they get up to on land, but here’s a look at what the guys get up to on the water.

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The boys in Arbroath

“Geoff, what’s that round orange thing in the sky? It hurts when I look at it.”

Yes indeed. For ten minutes this morning the sun made an appearance. And like a couple of beached seals we stretched out in the sunshine.

Off to Crail today ready to cross the Firth of Forth tomorrow!

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Hooray! On the move again. After being pinned down in Portsoy for 3 days with F6 northerlies and heavy swell, we made a break for it yesterday and despite some dramatic clapotis in the first few miles we managed 30 miles to Inverallochy, just south of Fraserburgh.

So good to get back in the water!

Portsoy was a nice place to get stuck in however and we now know all the cafes, pubs and bakers pretty well – so if you are visiting and want some tips, let me know. Highlight though had to be a lightening fast visit from my brother, Mike and his daughter Hannah. They had travelled from London by train and then hired a car to come and see us only to have to turn around the next day and head back! So great to see them if only for a few hours.

Ok so the journey to Inverallochy was uneventful, we pulled into the old harbour and pitched our tents just metres form the water. Just a few hundred yards off shore lays the wreck of a prawn trawler. It had run aground five years ago and the sea has since managed to tear open it’s hull on one side. Talking to some local fisherman, apparently the skipper had fallen asleep as he came into Fraserburgh Harbour. No one hurt except the skippers ego.

I said the journey to Inverallochy had been uneventful but that changed when we landed. The same fishermen had popped down the harbour because they had had a call from a friend in Fraserburgh to say that a pod of Orca were heading our way. We spent the next half hour watching between 5-7 Orca making their way south. Stunning!

This morning we were up at 4am to catch the last of the flood tide round Rattray Head. We were clearly back in seal territory (suspect it wouldn’t be for long if the Orca appeared here). We saw several large colonies. We paddled 34 miles and as we pulled into Newburgh this evening we paddled up the river a few hundred yards to camp and were greeted by the sight of around 200-300 seals! Talking with the gillie, apparently they love the area because of the trout that make their way up river to spawn.

He also cleared it for us to camp in a great little spot. Back on the water again at 6am and off to Aberdeen for breakie.

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Helen and David Corrigan, who we met in the Harbour at Portsoy on Friday night, very kindly put us up at their home last night. Fantastic to spend a night out of the high winds and rain, lovely home cooked food and company!

But what’s happened to our hairy faces? We woke this morning and it ha all gone. I think Angus and Bruce may have had something to do with it.

Thank you so much guys for looking after us so well!

In the photo from L-R Angus, Geoff, Bruce, Andy

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Well today was a much shorter one after our 44 mile and 12.45 am finish yesterday (or rather early this morning)

We woke and peered outside the tent to see the stunning Spey Bay. A gull was chasing an Osprey over the mouth of the river and the sun was beginning to come out from the blanket of cloud that seems to have followed us down the east coast.

The kayaks were perched on top of a shingle mound, the tide now well out. Anyone passing might have wondered how they got up so high.

We had camped in the dark hoping we had found the Dolphin Centre and Wild Cafe. We had.

We made a plan for the day from the comfort of our tents. First things first, breakfast. Alpen and Weetabix Chez Kayak (alfresco). At 10.30 we’d be in the cafe for a large cuppucino. Then we’d paddle 25 miles. Ok so the first breakfast was consumed on time. We started the second in the cafe on time at 10.30. However, a variant in the plan was introduced about 12 midday, when I suggested lunch.

Truth was we were feeling tired from the day before and felt confident that 6 or 7 hours would be enough for a 25 miler.

So we were on the water just after 13.00. After around 7 miles we could start to make out the details of Findochty harbour. We needed a pint of milk and that looked like the best place to stop as it was on a headland an so no need to add mileage by pulling into a bay.

Just as I looked up from the map trying to determine the best route in to the harbour, two dolphins broke the surface and flipped over, opposite directions to each other. I called over to Geoff, we both turned our cameras on and paddled over to get a closer look.

Over the next 15 mins we felt like we were in the middle of a dolphin dual carriage way as pod made it’s way towards Spey Bay from where we had come from. Our kayaks were on the central reservation as they passed both sides sometimes as close as 6 feet. Hopefully some of the video shots will come out.

Finally when they all seemed to have passed, we pushed into the harbour. There was a group of kids jumping off the wall and climbing up again to do the same. Reminded me of Portscatho harbour in the summer, except this one was twice as high – brave kids! We stopped and filmed some of them jumping in just in front of our boats.

Geoff popped up the road for milk while I checked our map and route. Truth was we weren’t going to make 25 miles today. The sea state was up, there was a fairly heavy swell coming in from the North East and that was bouncing off the cliffs now and creating quite a heavy sea. So we agreed to aim for Portsoy – that would be 16 miler. We rationalised that that was still 60 miles over the 2 days and so was good progress.

We encountered some severe clapotis over those last 8 miles or so and whilst we could handle the conditions fine it was a relief to pull into the calm shelter of Portsoy, and before the forecast strong winds had arrived.

A few children had spotted us on the way in and followed the kayaks to the slipway where we had landed. They and their parents came over to chat. Pretty soon the children were sitting in the boats, trying on the helmets and trying out all out gadgets – radios, GPS etc.

Such a lovely couple of families. We chatted to them for quite a while about the area, their backgrounds, why they loved where they live. They asked us about our trip and the adventures we have had.

To be honest, we are always a little taken back by the enthusiastic reaction we get when we tell people what we’re doing. It does seem to ignite something inside people. Maybe our story sparks thoughts of the adventures they have had or would like to have. I hope so, and if it encourages people to go out and do something like this for themselves that would be fab. We are just two ordinary blokes (now with out of control facial hair) and very average paddlers with some time on our hands – if we can do this…well then…

Meeting lovely interesting people like this at the end of a day is a real highlight for both of us on this trip. We both reflected later just how moved we have been by the warmth and kindness of people.

As we said our goodbyes they very generously gave us a donation for our charities. Ten minutes later one of them was back – with a fish n chip supper for us! Lump in throat time.

Guys I know you and the kids will be checking the website this morning. I’m sorry I didn’t collect your names but you know who you are (and just to make sure that’s your children in the photos!). It was lovely to meet you and thank you for your generosity!

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Well after a couple more weather bound days in Brora the wind had died down just leaving the thick fog so we decided to chance the 27 mile crossing to Burghhead (via Tarbet). We popped the co-ordinates into the GPS and set off on a bearing of 170 degrees.

Visibility was down to 100 yards or so. Quite peaceful paddling at sea surrounded by a blanket of fog. Although it is a little unnerving when the GPS says you only have 0.4 mile to go and you still can’t see land. You start wondering whether you entered the co-ordinates correctly!

But we had and after a brief stop over at Tarbet we pushed on to Burghead. We pulled into the harbour and asked Jake Hay, a fisherman from Orkney, if there was a cafe nearby. There wasn’t, but he kindly invited us on board his trawler, “The Illustrious” and made us a tea. How cool Is that!

We pushed on another 7 miles to Lossiemouth where we planned to camp but we were feeling so good we decided to get a takeaway and do another 7 miles to Spey Bay. That’s a total of 44 miles today – not bade. Mind you paddling till 1am is not what we plan to do everyday but hey makes up for some of the lost time.

We pitched our tents by a little cafe at the mouth of the Spey. Hope they open early!

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We spent last night at the Inver Caravan Site and B&Bin Dunbeath. It’s run by Rhona Gwillim and her husband. Such a lovely couple and a fabulous site. If you need a place to stay up here then book yourself in – you won’t regret it.

We enjoyed their company so much we didn’t launch till 10.30 today. Still only 25 miles to do. Wind was forecast to be F4-5 and North Easterly and so it was for most of the way – helping to push us south west down the coast towards Brora. We stopped off at Helmsdale for a bite to eat before knocking out the last ten miles. Unfortunately the wind had picked up now and was frequently gusting F6. That was fine as it was still helping, except the waves and swell were picking up too.

Geoff and I could no longer chat as we were starting to concentrate a little more. One eye on keeping the kayaks straight in the following sea, one eye on each other, and another eye on the incoming cresting swells that threatened to knock us sideways. I know, that’s three.

The miles ticked away fast but we were both conscious that what was helping us now might turn round and bite our bums as we tried to land.

We were aiming for a campsite just off the beach on the east of Brora. Worryingly the sets were getting quite large as we approached and so we had to call off that idea. We were frequently losing sight of each other as we disappeared into troughs. We moved on a couple of miles thinking we would get into the harbour. It has a narrow entrance which unfortunately was getting the full force of the swell and because it was just after low water it was pretty rough and surrounded by rocks. No good either.

Just when we both thought we might be spending the night paddling around trying to find a place to land we spotted a rocky reef which afforded some protection behind it for us to land. We paddled hard back out against the wind and avoiding the now barrelling waves, and ducked into the sheltered landing area. Bit of a carry but at least we were on land.

Easily our hardest landing so far.

Found a great pub in town, great food and a great whiskey collection! Now camping out behind the beach.

Little video attached

Oh and 1225 miles completed now….

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