Friday, 24 September 2010

Sea Kayaking

Almost ten years ago we bought three sea kayaks. We knew nothing about kayaking but felt that it must be a good way to see the stunning coastline we have around West Ardnamurchan. Our first steps were tentative - we considered it a big deal to paddle out as far as the public mooring buoys in Kilchoan Bay. Now we venture a little further, and the sport has far exceeded anything we expected because, as well as enabling us to travel distances, we can stick our noses into every beach and small bay, and paddle close to seals and sea otters. Our most exciting moments have been with basking sharks and dolphins.

West Ardnamurchan's coastline has high cliffs, hidden beaches, and great clefts down which burns tumble to the sea. Kayaking along the shoreline, looking up to where seagulls soar against the jagged rock face, is wonderfully peaceful, and the beaches offer tempting places to rest and have a picnic or barbeque. We've also kayaked with snow on the hills, in half a gale, and with a frost whitening the shore.

The geology, famous across the world for the great Ardnamurchan volcano which erupted some 55 million years ago, is vividly exposed in the cliffs. Here, dark intrusions of what was once liquid, molten basalt have been forced into the paler limestone rock that lay beneath the volcano when it formed.

But kayaking in this area has many hazards. As we found out early on, sea conditions can change dramatically, not only with the weather but as a headland is rounded. Our worst fright occurred on our first long voyage. We rounded Rubha Aird an Iasgaich, by Mingary Pier, and suddenly found ourselves in viciously choppy waters. And the wake from a passing ship - particularly, for some reason, Cal-Mac's Clansman - can easily turn a kayak over.

The view from the sea, even of familiar stretches of coastline like this one, along Ormsaigbeg, offer a completely different perspective. This photo was taken in August, and the heather-clad hills of the common grazings seem almost to sit on top of Trevor Potts' campsite, an ideal place from which to launch a boat.

We have never regretted the investment in our boats but we are well aware that the beauty of this coastline conceals many hidden dangers, so we have learnt to be cautious and well-equipped.

No comments:

Post a Comment