West coast of Scotland

Places, technique, kayaks, safety, the sea...
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Douglas Wilcox
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West coast of Scotland

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 11, 2003 1:31 pm

Taking a lead from Mark's recent comments about paddling on the sea when the rivers are empty, here are photos of a few places I have been lucky enough to paddle over the last six months.

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...yaking.htm

Of course the West Coast would take several lifetimes to explore properly......

My favourite part of the West is Skye. Rock climbing one day, exploring the wild coast in the company of whales the next; magic days!

Unfortunately I have not worked out how to take photos in rougher conditions, I either vomit or fall over. (Rolling is an essential skill for sea kayaking photography :o )

Hope you can kayak the West Coast, there is plenty of room!

Douglas

Edited by: guidebook at: 5/11/03 1:41:41 pm

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Jim
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Re: West coast of Scotland

Post by Jim » Sun May 11, 2003 5:09 pm

Some great photos there Dougie!

As for taking pictures in rough conditions, you have come up against the "Force 4 rule", which is quite simply that in force 4 and above you need both hands firmly on the paddle, so photography becomes impossible :-)

I think I may have broken the force 4 rule approaching Lochinver the other week using my waterproof camera - the film isn't finished yet, and I had no chance to check for spray on the lens so I don't yet know if I had any success. Of course I came very close to losing my paddle and lost momentum against the conditions considerably, I really hope I have that shot of the double with waves breaking against the lighthouse a km away or so! Balance wasn't too bad, I paddle a sea king and I'm used to using a camera in turbulent eddies on the river!

JIM

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Douglas Wilcox
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West coast of Scotland

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 11, 2003 7:17 pm

Thanks Jim,

My other force 4 barrier is that this is when you can start having fun windsurfing. Windsurfing photos can be taken by dropping into the water, getting the photo then waterstarting onto the board again.

Here are some examples taken about a mile offshore in force 6.

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...ndsurf.JPG

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...edder2.jpg

I see the reentry roll as pretty analagous to the water start (given suitable sea temperature/protection, low volume cockpit and an electric pump) so once I have convinced myself it works in suitably rough conditions, I will give some "in the water" kayak photos a try, albeit in a controlled environment!

I don't always remember to take my medication.

Douglas

Alec
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West coast of Scotland

Post by Alec » Mon May 12, 2003 9:38 pm

Douglas I really like your photos taken from the kayak. The pics of Soay have really inspired me, that is exactly what I imagined seakayaking to be. I live on the north of Glsgow and took up seakayaking last year. So far I have been to Loch Lomond and Largs but now I want to go further. hope you dont mind me asking but you said your pics are from the last six months is that how long you have been kayaking? Is it safe to go "wild" if like me you have limited experience? I had planned to go up North for the bank holiday but have been put off by an article in canoe&kayak this month about some "beginners" getting a bit out threir depth with a lucky escape of Ardnish.
cheers

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Jim
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Re: West coast of Scotland

Post by Jim » Mon May 12, 2003 11:24 pm

There are several clubs in the strathclyde area that do sea kayaking. I used to be in Glasgow Kayak club, and I had a feeling that several of them were heading towards just doing sea kayaking (I left to expand my river paddling). If I recall right the regional coaching organiser is a sea kayaker too.

It's well worth getting in touch with one of them to make sure you have the basic skills required to "go wild", navigation and planning for tides and weather are actually more important than paddling skills, and are much easier learned from others.

However, there are huge areas of the firth of clyde where tides are not serious and by paddling up, down or accross the various sea lochs you can find shelter. Loch Fyne can be as scenic as many areas further North (no island hopping, but plenty wild with lots of places to bail out and hitch if it gets too rough). I'm sure if you stay sensible, stay near the shore until you are condfident in navaigating in zero visibility and strong winds, and avoid obvious tide races (corryvreckan, falls of lora, grey dog) and potential races (narrowings on tidal lochs, exposed headlands) and select areas with plenty of bail out options (check the map for contours to make sure there are beaches and not cliffs, roads are also useful) and you should be OK. It boils down to common sense, you can find amazing places to paddle without fighting strong tides or dodging around rocky cliffs if you study the map a bit, if you can get charts or a tidal stream atlas, even better!

The vast majority of sea kayaking is actually done by selecting the areas where you don't need to do many calcs, by identifying such areas on maps and charts.

Enjoy it, I'd offer to join you but my boat lives in England, I don't have room in Glasgow!

JIM

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Re: West coast of Scotland

Post by Mark R » Tue May 13, 2003 12:01 am

'have been put off by an article in canoe&kayak this month'

Please, trust your judgement, just go and do it!

I'm sure you'll find some sheltered water that suits you. Use your instincts and if in doubt, ask a local (fisherman, coastguard etc.) before launching.


-----------Mark Rainsley

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Douglas Wilcox
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West coast of Scotland

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue May 13, 2003 8:04 am

Hello Alec, definitely join a club.

www.scot-canoe.org/clubin...bindex.htm

I joined Grassyards CC in Ayrshire, you can learn rolling and recovery in a pool and also do some whitewater which helps a lot. Although I just got into sea kayaking in October 02, I have sailed the west coast since 1959 and windsurfed it (in up to 55 knots)since 1979, not to mention throwing up on various calmac boats, so I had a wee bit of a start....

Soay and the adjacent Skye coastline is a bit committing with almost nowhere to land but Jim is right, have a look at Loch Fyne. We had a great day in March:

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...h_fyne.htm

Time on the water, gradually pushing what you are doing will give you the experience to recognise situations which are dangerous to your level of skill.

For me, one of the attractions of the sea is that there are very few rules. We enjoy the freedom and responsibility to make our own decisions about the level of risk which will provide the excitement we seek. As long as your experience, ability, equipment and sea/weather conditions are matched, you will have many happy days on the water.

Just get out and do it!

Douglas
:o )

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West coast of Scotland

Post by Jimbo » Tue May 13, 2003 9:54 am

I am very impressed by the clarity of the "on the water photos" in the web site above. Mine all come out blurred and skys tend to be burned out by the bright sunshine and the kayakers are always too dark. What film and cameras do people use? any other tips? Thanx

Jim

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MikeB
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West Coast

Post by MikeB » Tue May 13, 2003 11:19 am

I'll echo much of whats been said already, especially with regard to the joining a club suggestion. Where "North of Glasgow" are you?

From the SCA site you'll find club details but certainly Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Kayak Club does a lot of sea paddling and has people from Newcastle and Dumfries amongst the paddleing contingent so distance isn't necessarily an obstacle.

It could also be worth while talking to the usual suspects about a course of some sort. North Uist OUtdoor is a great place, informal yet informative, superb paddling. Also talk to DAve Felton at Knoydart in Keswick about the trips he runs and speak to Stirling Canoes as well.

As has been suggested, learn about weather, tides and navigation (and by navigation, we mean map & compass not a sextant and charts - although charts can be useful!) and get out there and do it. Helensburgh and that area is surprisingly nice - for intro to "wild" go up to Loch Goil - for good surf go to North Berwick and the beaches around it.

I think the crucial thing though is to go in a group, even a group of the same ability. Know how to do do rescues. Learn to look at the forecasts and make informed, objective judgements and you'll be fine.

Even somewhere like Loch Lomond can be a seriously comitting undertaking when you are in a westerly force 7, there are no other craft on the water and you're bouncing over the waves around some of the islands!

The Sound of Jura on a calm day is a doddle - out thro the Grey Dog and heading for the Garvellachs! But if that lovely calm was the calm before the storm the next day you are royally fecekd. You're even more fecekd if you are in the middle of it when it blows in!

And finally - the SCA Touring Trips are a great way to get on the water, in a variety of conditions and in a range of areas on trips which are graded according to standard.

THey are a friendly crowd and you'll be made welcome. Dont be put off though when the trip organiser wants to know about your paddling skills and what you've done - thats standard practise for most groups when someone is new to the group.

See you on the water sometime. Mike.

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West coast of Scotland

Post by Alec » Tue May 13, 2003 12:25 pm

Thanks for the encouragement everyone!! My pal has a friend who has just joined the Drumchapel and Clydebank KC so I think we will go along there. I stay in Kelvindale and their pool sessions are just down the road.

I cant roll yet and I think that is what is worrying me. My pal and I tried paddle float and T rescues last year at largs but it didnt really work.

Alec

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Douglas Wilcox
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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 pm

Alec, A chap called Donald from South Glasgow who has a Quest just joined DCKC so I know they have a sea kayak section.

Rolling cetainly gives you confidence but hopefully you will never need it.

As for rescues, I am bound to get shot down as a newbie but coming from the windsurfing background, the reentry roll must be the way. I tried paddlefloat, (makes a nice cushion), T rescue in waves? Great way to crush a hand! Most of the books/videos are shot in flat calm.

Mike's suggestion of surf at North Berwick is also good. Can I also suggest Troon South beach in an onshore wind?

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...urfing.htm

It is a great place to practice surfing and surf landings and broaches. I recently had my Quest there in a force six, the wind was so strong I could hardly paddle out. I rolled it 8 times came up 5 times and swam in 3 times, all no more then 200 yards from the beach.

I now have my asbestos coat and fire extinguisher ready to take the flak for having the audacity to make comments about recovery techniques in the prescence of real experts.

Douglas

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Jim
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Photo tips

Post by Jim » Tue May 13, 2003 12:54 pm

I use 2 setups for most of my pictures (see the summer isles report for examples).

Some are taken on a waterproof compact, they generall ysuffer from blurring due to water droplets no matter how hard I try and keep the window clear - dunking in water works well but the extra film reduces sharpness throughout. I don't think any of these are in the report, I usually use Sensia 400 process paid slide film - fast with excellent colours.

The rest are taken with my SLR - this is definitely in calm conditions only! Again I use 400 Sensia, its a great film for fast action shots. I like Velvia 50 for landscapes but have never been in a boating situation where I could use such a slow film (Did have to in California last year, but it was far from ideal). I use sports continuous mode to get the fastest shutter possible and allow me to use a telephoto zoom - you'll notice that the seals on the rocks are a bit blurred, 300mm tele from the boat was a little ambitious!
You could also use Aperture priority at the widest for the same effect, I don't like to use shutter priority in case I miss a chance to go even faster. Manual is impossible at sea, try reading the settings in the viewfinder in a hurry and making adjustments, and composing and focussing and keeping steady and upright.....

The best addition to your outfit at sea is a polarising filter for several reasons:
- A lot of light is scattered by the waves, the polariser can cut a huge amount of this out leaving a blue sea with sparkly bits rather than a white expanse.
- It will help to saturate colours by removing some of the scattered light.
- (this is really the same as above but a specific example)When you want a nice bright blue sky, shoot at about 90 degrees to the sun and you can cut out a lot of that scattered light that normally turns the sky white and make it go deep blue again. If it was already deep blue, beware you can also make it go virtually black....

When using the polariser you have to turn it to get the effect you like the best - again this is a bit tricky afloat but can be done, unless you have a hood on the lens when it all becomes too much again!

The disadvantage of a polariser is that it can take away up to 2 stops of light (depending on how much you rotate it) which will cut down your shutter speed a bit - it's definitely worth using the fastest lenses possible, although you'll kiss goodbye to depth of field!

Another filter that may be of use is a neutral graduated filter. Basically it starts grey at one end and gradually becomes clear. You need to use a filter holder so you can position the grey area over the lightest areas of the photo. Now when you meter there is less difference between the bright and dark areas and you can make an exposure that brings out some of the detail without leaving the bright areas blinding white!

Of course telephoto isn't the only way to go, for scenery a standard or wide angle lens is great. With these camera shake is less of a problem and you can probably use shutter priority to good effect, using the old rule that a shutter speed of 1/focal length will cut out normal shake (may need go a little faster afloat). For example if using my 28-100 wideangle/standard zoom I could set in a shutter speed of 1/100, or maybe 1/150 to be on the safe side, knowing that I can probably always acheive that speed at any aperture with the given amount of light, and then just compose and take pictures at any zoom with reasonable depth of field. I could also decide that I won't need more than 50mm on the zoom (100 is actually telephoto, it's a very multipurpose lens!) and set to 1/50 and then just keep an eye on my lens to make sure I don't zoom in to more than 50mm, thus getting a better depth of field and steady photos.

On land I would mess about in manual using depth of field preview and a tripod and getting a good depth of field into landscapes with the available light and filters (Both types I mentioned cut down the light entering the camera so require longer exposures) - you simply can't do that on the sea so it's worth learning how to make the most of your preprogrammed modes!

I know what you are thinking, I use a digital compact not an SLR, well a hell of a lot of digitals have modes equivalent to SLR modes so most of what I have been saying (OK you don't have a choice of lenses and fitting a filter can be awkward - Nigel mentioned custom made ones?) can be applied to digital compacts! RTFM as they say, and what I said should make some sense, I hope :-)

JIM

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Douglas Wilcox
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West coast of Scotland

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue May 13, 2003 1:00 pm

"What film and cameras do people use? any other tips?"

Jim, I use a Sony digital in a waterproof housing. Digital seems to have a wider exposure latidude than print and definitely transparency film.

I also use photoshop to create two layers, I adjust top layer's levels for sky, bottom layer's levels for foreground (foresea?) then blend them top to bottom. In extreme cases I will take a photograph of the sky then tip the camera down and take a photograph of the sea then blend the two seperate photos using panorama software.

This one was taken using four photos, top left top right sky and bottom left and bottom right sea. You can just make out the join in the sea as the waves would not keep still.

www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgene...lzean2.jpg

Panorama software at

www.panavue.com

Douglas


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rescue techniques

Post by Jimbo » Wed May 14, 2003 12:37 pm

Thanks for the photo tips, I am now thinking of replacing the compact and going digital as the thought of an SLR and water is not pleasant.

I learned to seakayak many years ago when I lived in Vancouver and went on three courses, we were taught the T rescue as a basis for group rescue and the paddlefloat rescue as the basis on unassisted rescue, admittedly on flat water. Is Douglas really right to dismiss these trusted techniques, (with due respect to your relatve lack of experience Douglas). I have never been involved with a capsise on a trip but I say this as last May I was a passenger on the "Loch Fyne" ferry that had to come to the assistance of 2 seakayakers who had not been able to self rescue. They were scooped up by the ferry ramp. Surely we all must become proficient in self rescue and the T rescue and paddlefloat rescue are the basis of rescue techniques.

Thanx for any thoughts
Jim

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Jim
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Re: rescue techniques

Post by Jim » Wed May 14, 2003 1:00 pm

All rescue techniques are valid, but be aware of the limitations.

If caught in strong winds you will drift a hell of a way during a rescue which will throw your navigation out.

If caught in big seas the wave action may be too severe for either T-rescues, rafted rescues or paddlefloat rescues, only leaving re-entry roll.

_Most_ sea kayakers find it fairly easy to stay in their boats until the conditions get so severe that rescue has become more than challenging. Loch Fyne can get choppy, but you are probably right, the group should probably have been able to rescue themselves if they knew what they were doing.

Self rescue is generally used as a term to mean not assisted by another kayaker, rather than not using the emergency services - like I say if you are getting thrown about by big waves you don't want to try and approach someone else's boat!

JIM

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"Loch Fyne"

Post by Jimbo » Wed May 14, 2003 1:40 pm

Jim The "Loch Fyne" is actually one of the Sound of Mull ferries: Lochaline/Fishnish, I was on a hillwalking trip crossing from Ardgour to Mull.

I think the paddlers were from the Lomond club but I did not feel it was an appropriate moment to introduce myself as another kayaker.

I see the logic of your comments, thinking about your arguement tho, If it's rough enough to fall in it's too rough to paddlefloat/T rescue? Why do Canadian courses (UK/BCU as well?) make such a deal of these techniques? Initially I was a bit sceptical of Douglas's comments, as anyone mad enough to windsurf in Force whatever is clearly not on the same piece of water that I'm on! Sorry Douglas but you did say you forget to take your tablets.

Jim

Alec
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Ferry Rescues

Post by Alec » Wed May 14, 2003 3:03 pm

Guys,
All this talk of "Ferry Rescues" is making me nervous again.
Alec

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MikeB
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Rescue

Post by MikeB » Wed May 14, 2003 3:06 pm

I must admit that I've only ever practised any form of rescue in the relativly mild sea conditions which typically are the place such things are taught and practised in!

Which raises an interesting point in itself! I suppose we fear (if thats the right word) trying a rescue in larger seas and more challenging conditions because we worry about the whole thing ending up horribly pear-shaped and turning into a "real" rescue situation!

I suppose one potential solution is to try and engineer something training-wise where there is back-up on hand in the form of a RIB (or even a handy Cal Mac ferry).

But that said, if the technique has been practised, even in conditions which aren't too testing, then at least it's been practised and there is some chance of it working in real-time.

It might be interesting to look at what the perceived problems of the T rescue actually are and see if there are any common threads, or even perhaps if there are improvements we could suggest.

For starters, mention has been made of "crushing hands" - what is happening here??????

Also, is the rescuer being supported in any way? (ie: does he have someone providing support on the side away from the side he is trying to rescue on????

Is the bloke in the water able to help - if so, how????

How does the water baby get back in? Between the boats or over the side/stern of his own boat using deck lines on the rescuers boat????? (This works for me - we discovered that even a smallish lady paddler could make this work although there was no way she could keep the boats together if I was trying to come up between them!

Is there merit in just turning the capsized boat over (using a curl technique), sticking the paddler back in and pump it dry?????????

On the subject of pumps - what/how/when/where/what type(s) work best??????????

What is the best way to make the "re-entry and roll" work ??????? (Working on this one meself!)

Mike.

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MikeB
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Rescue

Post by MikeB » Wed May 14, 2003 3:17 pm

Alec - dont get nervous - just be aware that these are real-life examples of what CAN (and does) happen!! It's a risky sport - which doesn't mean to say that the risk can't be minimised even if it can't be controlled.

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Douglas Wilcox
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recovery

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed May 14, 2003 3:32 pm

I first sea kayaked off Seil in 1967 but did not step into one again until September last year. The thing that put me off was lack of recovery options in event of capsize, so I stuck to dinghies, yachts, cats and even a trimaran before getting into windsurfing.

So, having finally made it back to kayaking, I have spent some time concentrating on recovery and rolling at both Troon and in the Solway in pretty rough conditions.

If you are out the boat with a lifejacket on, you need to re-enter from the side. (In a pool you can get in upside down.)

You need to stick blocks of foam into dead space to reduce cockpit volume.

I have a Quest with a deckmounted hand pump. I can't work it on my own in rough water so I have a battery operated Attwood pump mounted on the cockpit floor between the footrests, with another exit valve on the foredeck. You can switch it on with your foot.

I am still having problems getting the spray deck on, but I have problems getting a spray deck on on dry land.

But with min. vol. cockpit/large volume paddler approach, I can paddle a big boat like the Quest in pretty rough conditions, even with cockpit flooded. For fun, I recently paddled from Portavaddie to Asgog bay with a flooded day hatch and a half flooded fore hatch..... I took my tablets (no offence taken Jim) and emptied the boat for the paddle back!

Just a few thoughts from a newbie, so I am now putting my asbestos coat back on....

Douglas

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Jim
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Re: recovery

Post by Jim » Wed May 14, 2003 4:14 pm

"If you are out the boat with a lifejacket on, you need to re-enter from the side. (In a pool you can get in upside down.)"

Re-entry and roll works best, even with BA if you start facing aft (for me with the boat on my right). I reach under and grip the opposite cockpit rim, and obviously grip the near side and keep the paddle between me and the boat (if you roll on your right you probably need to set up with the boat on the left...). Take a deep breath and bounce down bringing your knees up through your arms and into the boat - the restoring force of the BA now helps you wriggle in. Roll quickly and worry about getting comfy after!

The key is in swinging your legs through quickly. Maybe the boat will adopt an "on the side" position at some point before I start the roll, but this seems like it is going to be easier than getting in with the boat on it's side. I will say I haven't tried the latter, but the former always works OK. It is also possible to surface in the cockpit for air and a straighter entry before actually getting in, only problem with this is that the boat may adopt a sideways position on the opposite side to your paddle....

Well that works for me, you just have to find what suits! I used to practice re-entering dancers and stuff on a lake years ago. It was shallow so we could stand on the bottom and seesaw the boats over our heads, throwing them upright onto the water, then climbing up the rear deck and getting in without the aid of a paddle float (just the paddle helps you balance). In calm conditions this would be fine in a sea kayak, in heavier weather I doubt it would work well even with a paddle float. My point is, I think in this case I would get out of the water ASAP and then rig the paddle flat for balance whilst pumping out.

All practice is useful, even if you can't apply a technique directly you will be better equipped to invent a new one on the spot!

JIM


Alec
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ferry rescues

Post by Alec » Tue May 20, 2003 10:29 pm

Hi guys took last Thursday (the sunny day) off and went paddling Loch Fyne on Jim and Douglas's suggestion. Brill day, thanks to all for encouragement, without this we would probably have gone back to Largs!
Alec

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