Monday, 10 October 2011
The windsurfing forum that I frequent has recently had a thread about Point Sands campsite near Tayinloan in Kintyre. I've long been a fan of Point Sands having spent quite a few camping trips there with various friends and family members. The campsite is situated right on the edge of a nice beach and whilst the facilities are a little dated it's heaven for watersports such as kayaking and windsurfing. As my surgery was canceled last week I decided to see if anyone fancied a roadtrip over the weekend to stay at Point Sands and try to get in some windsurfing. The uptake wasn't huge (not surprising at such short notice) but Iain was up for it and a new forum member Garyth expressed an interest too. David and Arran were also possibles.
Friday morning saw me heading to Kintyre with the van loaded with windsurfing and camping kit. It's a lovely drive and Kintyre is one of my favourite places, on this occasion I was blessed with sunshine too. I was at the campsite first and got my self set up after booking in with the pleasant couple who work as wardens on the site. Pretty soon Iain arrived too and we hastily rigged up despite the fact that the wind was a bit light. We sailed about for a while and Iain was struggling to get on the plane as he only had smaller kit with him. I had my big board and 7.2m sail with me so had a bit more success but it was lovely to be out in the clean water in such beautiful surroundings and sunshine. As time wore on we saw a caravan arrive towed by a Disco with boards on the roof. Taking a long shot we guessed it might be Garyth so we had a breather and wandered over to say hello. It was indeed Garyth and his dog Bruce so after a chat we headed back into the water while he got his caravan set up. The wind had picked up and pretty soon I had to change down to my 100 litre board and 6.2m sail while Iain started to enjoy himself more and more. The sailing was great as we headed out into the Sound of Gigha towards Cara island nicely powered up and with some nice chop to get air off. As I haven't been sailing much recently I started to feel a bit tired (especially swimming and waterstarting on the outwards tack) so I went and grabbed the video camera and took some footage of Iain sailing as the sun went down behind Gigha and Jura. Eventually we reluctantly had to call it a day due to the failing light but Iain said it had been his most enjoyable sail of the year so far. We got changed and I cooked us dinner under the gazebo then Garyth came over and we chatted while sinking a few drinks with the lovely mellow post session buzz that you get after a great sail. Bed came pretty early as we were shattered and Iain wanted to be up early to grab a quick sail before he had to head home due to family commitments the next morning.
I awoke to grey skies, drizzle and light winds, not ideal. Iain went out to attempt a sail but quickly lost interest in wallowing about underpowered and came in. David from the forum arrived and had a chat and a look at conditions while I was making and eating my breakfast. He decided to head down to Westport to see if he could get some wave sailing later in the day. Iain too left to drive home so Garyth and I headed out for a sail. The wind was frustratingly just too light for me to get planing consistently on my big board and sail (although I managed the odd run blasting in the footstraps) but it suited Garyth as he had never sailed on the sea before and is a relative newcomer to the sport. We stayed in the water for a few hours before calling it a day. I decided to treat myself to a hot shower then we both ordered fish and chips from a take away caravan on the site. While we waited I joined Garyth and Bruce in the caravan as it started to pour down. After a while the lady from the take away delivered our dinner to the caravan door for us which was very kind of her! We ate our fish and chips, had a few beers and chatted as the rain hammered off the caravan then at about ten thirty I made a run for my van. The wind was really strong during the night rocking the van about as the rain battered on the roof, I felt very cosy in my warm sleeping bag and was looking forwards to an exciting sail on my smallest board in the morning.
I woke to hear the wind still howling and the rain still pouring but as soon as I got up it started to moderate and after breakfast the wind had died completely. I couldn't believe it as the forecast was for strong winds all day. I slowly started packing my camping stuff up hoping that the wind would pick up again as predicted but I was out of luck. There was nothing for it but to say cheerio to Garyth and Bruce (who were staying on for a few days) and hit the road home.
It was a disappointing end to the trip but it was great to meet Garyth and the memories of Friday's fantastic sail were still fresh in my mind as I splashed my way home through the floods and puddles from the torrential overnight rain.
Back in September the tail of (what had been) Hurricane Katia hit the west coast of Scotland. I haven't been windsurfing much recently but Iain and Fraser were keen to try sailing in the strong winds. The bay we sailed in was quite sheltered from the waves but the wind was really strong and gusty (ripping the sails out of our hands at times) making windsurfing very difficult. Still it was fun trying. After we packed up I took a drive through town to see how big the waves were on the less sheltered sections of the Clyde.
Graham stayed up in Scotland for a week after the OCSG meet at Tighnabruaich. On his way home he met me at Duck Bay on Loch Lomond and we squeezed in a sail across to Inchcailloch for lunch and then back again. The wind was light and variable but I was pleased to get a sail and Graham was pleased to extend his holiday by a few hours. It was also a chance for me to try out my tiny new video camera that shoots HD footage. It works well other than on maximum zoom.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Sunday night I was on night shift at work so I loaded the van ready to go straight from work in the morning. I knew I'd be really tired but it was the only way I could make the meet.
The drive round to Tighnabruaich is very picturesque so it really wasn't a chore. I had the cold, lethargic feeling that I always have after a night shift but I knew this would pass if I ate breakfast and stayed active. I arrived at the campsite at Carry Farm Sailing School at about 7:30 in the morning, a few early birds were stirring around camp including Graham and Stephen so I chatted with them while eating some breakfast. People slowly emerged from their tents and Dave Stubbs gave me my new outriggers (which I was keen to fit and try out). The sailing conditions looked very light though so to save time I decided not to bother faffing about fitting new bits and just get out and make the most of the limited time available. The consensus was that a trip to the Burnt Isles in the Kyles of Bute would be good so that was the plan.
As everyone made their preparations for the trip the wind started to freshen with some lively gusts blowing through. Dave sought me out and said he'd fit my outriggers while I got ready as he felt the conditions now warranted their use. By the time I made it down to the beach it was clear that the weather had changed significantly. A few boats had already launched and were sailing about in the bay assessing the conditions and waiting for us all to form up. As I waited for my turn to launch at the top of the slipway a monster gust came through blowing Dave's boat off it's trolley and onto it's side despite the canoe still having it's sail furled! It was clear to me that we might need to reassess our options. I helped Stephen launch his boat then we put mine in. There was a bit of a shorebreak forming and sailing off the beach necessitated wading out to waist depth beyond the breaking waves before jumping aboard and sailing away. Any delay meant your canoe would be beaten back onto the beach by the waves. Stephen seemed to be having problems managing this so I offered to hold his boat while he got in and got ready to go, he declined saying that he was going to hold off and see what the weather did. I had new outriggers to test so I reefed my sail down (being unsure how well the outriggers would work) and set off. The canoe reared up as I sailed out through the waves but I made it out into the bay and started sailing backwards and forwards. I could see Greg in his Flashfire (a narrow high performance solo canoe) and Dave Stubbs (with Greg's daughter Hilaire onboard) in his Fulmar decked canoe landing on the shore further upwind. Graham, myself and Dave Poskitt were all still in the bay. Keith and Ann Peter and Penny and Jeff and Ellen (who'd all buddied up) were heading north towards the Kyles in their canoes.
I quickly realised that the outriggers worked brilliantly and wished I'd not reefed but I didn't want to brave the shorebreak again to go in and re-rig (besides I was having too much fun!) Dave S and Greg sailed back having decided discretion was the better part of valour while Dave P and Graham were hurtling about in truly spectacular fashion.
After sailing about for a while we all ended up landing for lunch and Greg took the opportunity to see if he was able to paddle his canoe into the wind.
We had lunch in the sunshine sheltered from the wind by my van in the company of two cheeky kittens from the farm (who were intent on trying to eat anything left unattended and explore anywhere or anyone!)
Monday, 3 October 2011
I first met Chris through cycling when we were both members of a local cycling club but prior to that Chris was a promising junior swimmer. When he started cycling seriously he drifted away from swimming (and went on to become a member of the Scottish Junior Cycling team). Recently he's started training again with a particular emphasis on open water swimming and a couple of weeks ago he won the Loch Ness Monster Swim (a one mile open water swim on Loch Ness) from a field of almost two hundred.
Shuzzy was keen to go on a trip last weekend and particularly wanted to go somewhere new but as I watched the weather forecasts evolving over the preceding week it was pretty clear to me that it was going to be pretty windy. Chris's mode of transport for the trip would be his Stand Up Paddle board (SUP) and they don't cope too well with strong winds or choppy water. I knew we could get sheltered water on Loch Lomond but understood Chris's reluctance to go there over a summer weekend. We've had a few trips that have been marred by less than desirable neighbours on Loch Lomond when it's been busy but since those trips I've found a few more remote, sneaky camping spots.
By Thursday evening it was clear to me that the Loch Lomond was the sensible option on this occasion so Friday afternoon saw us launching from the usual spot. We sailed and paddled out to the eastern shore of Inchconnachan island to find my secret campsite, the wind was strong in the straits between the mainland and Inchtavanach with a bit of a swell running but as I'd hoped we were soon sheltered by the islands. Unfortunately it was raining constantly and was a bit miserable. To add insult to injury the midgies made an unwelcome appearance too (although thankfully it was a short lived intrusion). We slung our hammocks and tarps and by the time we started to think of dinner the rain had abated so I lit the firebox and started cooking while Shuzz set about the firewood I'd brought with axe and saw.
Chris was keen to go for a swim so we settled on a circumnavigation of Inchconnachan. One of the hazards of open water swimming is that of the swimmer being run over by a boat so the plan was for me to stay as close to Chris as possible through the narrows between Inchconnachan and Inchtavanach which can be quite busy with boat traffic. The wind strength and water state varied wildly between the different aspects of the islands but we made it round intact and Chris enjoyed completing a new swim.
We had some lunch back at camp and Chris phoned Jenny (his wife) to ask if she could pick up the curry paste (that I'd forgotten to bring and that we needed to make our dinner) and drop it off at our put in point. She was kind enough to agree to do the drop off for us so after lunch we had a mission to complete.
We decided to sail over to Bucinch island as I wanted to show Chris another potential camp spot (for future reference).