Dodgy quality mobile phone pic, taken at 11 pm on Friday night. We were off to paddle around the Needles as the first part of a paddle around the Isle of Wight.
The white rock of the Needles and the 500 foot cliffs behind are quite a sight, viewed by the glare of a full moon. Likewise, the multi-coloured beams of the Needles Lighthouse are something to behold, close up at midnight. But you’ll have to take my word for it, as the camera stayed packed away.
This fellow was spotted hunting in the brackish stream behind our tent on the beach at Horgabost, late one evening. Isle of Harris, Western Isles.
The sands of Luskentyre, Harris, Western Isles. Enough said.
A few photos from a great weekend with friends on local waters. We paddled around the Isle of Purbeck from Wareham to Ringstead with two nights out camping under the full moon.
The Pyranha Dart Fest event was enjoyable, and it was great to catch up with friends. Water levels in the rivers were very low due to the raw cold weather today, so (after a night of camping in -4 degrees C) we went walking. Standing on top of a granite tor amid flurries of snow, we realised that we could clearly see the Isle of Portland, a mere sixty miles away.
To my shame I still haven’t been near a sea kayak in the past month! Hopefully I will escape to the sea in a couple of weeks when the school term ends.
We haven’t been wasting our time, however; we’ve been planning the work and travel that we’ll need to do in 2009 for Savage Shores. The photo above was taken tonight on a new 600mm zoom lens I’ve acquired expressly for the purpose of photographing wildlife (seals, sea birds etc) for that book. Now I just need me something to point it at that’s alive and closer than 250000 miles away!
Other news … South West Sea Kayaking is selling well for Christmas, many thanks indeed to all who’ve shelled out for a copy! It’s now possible to get a detailed preview of the book, courtesy of Google. Also in print this month is an article I wrote about my big summer trip, where I’ve tried to convey some of the very real highs and lows of a long solo paddle. The article is published in the January issue of Canoe Kayak UK. I hope that it’s an enjoyable read.
This last weekend was the annual Adventure Paddler Weekend (APWE) down in Dartmoor. It’s a get-together of expedition whitewater paddlers with talks in the evening. This was the first year in a while that myself or one of my mates wasn’t doing a talk, so we were able to focus on the beer, with devastating and inadvisable results. The final photo of those below shows Heather looking rather pleased with herself. Not only had she completed her first ever running race that morning (the heinous looking Grim8 near Aldershot), somehow she arrived at the APWE and won the raffle for the expensive new helmet that she’s wearing.
Last weekend the heavy autumn rains came, and so we gave up on sea kayaking for another winter; the white water season began! This weekend we assumed that we’d be off to the River Dart again, but the weather Gods are being rather capricious. Confusingly, they’ve now given us a bit more of the fantastic settled sunny weather that aided our recent unseasonable passage to Lundy. Today I communed with fairies and goblins in and around our village*, and tomorrow we’re off sea kayaking … again! I nipped out and took the moon photo twenty minutes ago, it was more fun than checking the almanac as a form of tidal planning. What could go wrong?
*We Dorset folk don’t get out much.
As a small boy, I heard Paul* and Linda wailing to the accompaniment of bagpipes and the Mull of Kintyre was permanently etched into my consciousness. I knew that the Mull was a real place somewhere up in Scotland, but in my imagination it was as remote and inaccessible as the dark side of the moon. I’d never been there and in the intervening three decades, still never have done.
The weekend after next, I launch from west Cumbria. It’s then a long crossing across the Solway Firth to Scotland, and then the next few days will see a series of shorter crossings heading west to the Mull of Galloway. I then have to cross the Firth of Clyde to the Mull of Kintyre itself; either in a series of hops via the isle of Ailsa Craig, or in one long hop right across. The Mull of Kintyre is the beginning of Scotland’s west coast, effectively my start line for the paddle to Cape Wrath; Britain’s most northwesterly point and my eventual target this summer.
I’ve been mentally rehearsing this plan for several years now. It requires perfect weather and will take me about a week in such conditions. But it blatantly isn’t going to happen, or certainly not as I’ve hoped. The wind has now blown hard for a month straight, and the odds of me getting the settled conditions I need are very unlikely indeed. Right now, the Mull of Kintyre seems as remote as the dark side of the moon.
*This was post-Beatles but pre-Ebony and Ivory, Frog Chorus and Heather Mills showdown, when Macca still had a scrap of dignity left.
I’m afraid that I didn’t do North Devon’s Hartland Quay nearly enough justice in the book. Sorry.