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Middle Fyne 22/9/16

Paddlers: Pete, Geoff, Boo, Vee and Anne

Weather: Beautiful, sunny and flat calm morning which clouded over and started to blow at midday.

Route: fyne2

Report: We met at 10am at the car park opposite Old Lachlan Castle on a beautiful flat calm day. The tide was right out so after a short walk we floated the boats out down the river to the main loch. The morning was made for photos.


Lachlan Bay


Looking Across the Loch towards Crarae


Looking south

Our first stop was Minard Castle. Built by the Campbells of Knockbuie in the eighteenth century, Knockbuie House was renamed Minard Castle in the mid-nineteenth century, when a new castellated front was added. After periods as a hotel and then up-market B&B it is now a private house.

Minard Castle

Minard Castle

After a welcome coffee we headed on south into an increasingly strong wind, the objective being Loch Gair. We expected to have a number of wonderful beaches for lunch but ended up sitting on a rapidly flooding shingle bank.

Port House at the entranc of Loch Gair (with waes)

Port House at the entranc of Loch Gair (with waves)

After lunch we set off again back across the loch. The original plan of a direct line back was swiftly abandoned as it became clear that our least experienced paddler was unable to cope with the rough seas. As in so many cases, instability and lack of directional control led to “dipping” rather than paddling resulting in lack of progress, further instability and even less control. As we slowly progressed across the loch the problems seemed to mount for the paddler until Pete decided that a tow was required, primarily to stop the boat broaching and allow some progress. It also allowed a second experienced kayaker to raft up alongside to try to improve morale (and stability).  It should be said that at the time some of us doubted the wisdom of a tow but now concede that this was actually the most appropriate action. When we reached the other side our shaken novice was landed with a flask of coffee whilst we headed back up the loch to the vehicles.

The paddle back up was excellent with a strong push by the wind and tide, although the following waves were rarely big enough for surfing. We covered the 8km in about an hour, enough time to have a quick inspection of old Castle Lachlan from the sea.


Old Castle Lachlan

The Old Castle is a fifteenth century fortress occupying a rocky headland overlooking Lachlan Bay on the east side of Loch Fyne. It was the major building of the local clan, the Maclachlans. There has been a castle on the site since at least 1314. The old castle fell to ruin after the Clan of Maclachlan supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.  Their chief joined the Prince’s army but was killed at the ill fated Battle of Culloden (1746).

Back at the car park the high tide substantially eased kayak loading and we eventually left to pick up our fifth paddler just after 5.45. This was completed without a problem and we were back in Rhu by 7.30 after an excellent day with all of us a little wiser.

Lower Loch Fyne, 14th Sept 2016

Paddlers: Geoff, Pete, Lee and Boo

Weather: Warm, Sunny intervals, Breezy F3/4 from East

Route: lower-fyne

Report: Because one of our group had only the Ardrishaig-Portavadie section of the Argyll Sea Kayak trail still to complete. we decided on Portavadie as the launch site. The journey from Helensburgh took just over 1.5 hours and at Portavadie there is a small car park and a rough slip on to a flat beach that dries out at low tide. We were on the water at around 10.45.

Our intial thought was to go as far north up Loch Fyne as possible. This was then amended as we thought a crossing to Kintyre was more attractive and challenging and, given the strengthening south-easterly there was an easy escape route on the ferry back (compared to a long slog south). The section going north was delightful, pushed on by the southerly wind. Pete demonstrated the merits of carrying  sail and shot away to the islets of Eilean Buidhe where there was a huge sea colony (c 100seals). fyne-002sail-and-sealfyne-001fyne-003

The crossing to Barmore Island (which is joined to the mainland by a causeway) was quite bumpy and we were all looking forward to the first break. Sadly the beaches that appeared to be quite landable had a fringe of jaggy rocks which when combined with the surf were too high risk. So we struck south into a strongish breeze and some swell to reach the shelter of East Loch Tarbet. This proved quite tough on the least experienced member who blistered his hands and quite understandably decided to use the ferry escape route. Lunch was taken on the quite pleasant beach by the ferry terminal.


The paddle back was very enjoyable; it was sunny and bouncy without too much of a headwind. We arrived back at 3.45 pleased with another excellent day

N,B. The ferry is hourly and the single fare is £2.60. There is no charge for a kayak.

Clyde Sept 2016

Paddlers: Tim, Allan, Dave, Lee, Pete, Geoff

Weather: Calm and quite Warm

Route: Craigendoran-Kilcreggan-Royal West (Gourock)-Craigendoran

Report: A very late arranged trip on a well worn route. Coffee and Cake at Kilcreggan and lunch soon after at the RWBC. Of note: Demolition of Coastguard Building at RWBC now complete giving a totally different view of what will become a really attractive club house. Arrival of member is century old rowing boat who showed us round the hsitoric boat house and its superb working collection of rowing boats (and sea kayaks). Passage through a pod of porpoise (or were they dolphins) in mid channel. Left c9.30; back just before 2pm. An excellent day


[Remember to double click on image for full size]

Initial Programme Autumn 2016


Tues 23rd   Pool Re-Opens for individual practice

Week 23rd-29th Sea Kayak Outer Hebrides. Contact Hugh

Tues 30th   Pool Session


Tues 6th. Pool. Basic Skills Course Starts1

Tues 13th. Pool.

Sat 17th. Outdoor Basic Session. All welcome particularly improvers

Tues 20th Pool

W/E 24th Sea Expedition to North West

Tues 27th Pool


Sun 2nd Pinkston White Water Course

Tues 4th Pool

Sat 8th Outdoor Basic Session. All welcome particularly improvers

Tues 11th Pool

Tue 18th Pool

Sat 22nd Outdoor Basic Session. All welcome particularly improvers

Tue 25th Pool


Tue 1st Pool. Basic Course Ends

Tue 8th Pool. Sea Exped. Course Starts

Tue 15th Pool

Tue 22nd Pool

Tue 29th Pool


Tue 6th Pool

Tue 13th Pool. Sea Exped. Course Ends

Tue 20th Pool

Wee Cumbrae (or Peace Island) 16th August

Paddlers: Geoff, Colin, Lee

Weather: Fantastic


Report: Portencross is a cluster of houses around a small castle. By the castle is a tiny dock that provides easy launching but no parking. Fortunately 135m before there is an excellent car park so it is recommended that you drive to the dockside, unload and park in the car park.

Leaving Portencross

Leaving Portencross

The weather was superb with just a light breeze and a gentle swell to keep things interesting. Arran looked wonderful in the glaring sunlight.

Heading for Wee Cumbrae with Arran on our portside

Heading for Wee Cumbrae with Arran on our port side

After rounding the headland we headed for the old lighthouse station.

The old lighhouse station

The old lighthouse station

We landed at the foot of the cliff on rocks and broken concrete that once formed a dock for the lighthouse and its community. There was once a considerable complex here with three houses, the lighthouse itself, a huge fog horn and numerous ancillary buildings. From the ruined dock materials were transferred by a small railway  then lifted up the cliff by a jib crane. A steep long set of steps provides access on foot.

Lee recovers from a landing mishap

Lee recovers from a landing mishap

The Complex

The Complex

Looking down to the dock from the lighthouse

Looking down to the dock from the lighthouse

The Crane

The Crane

Exploration of the site and an extended lunch break in the sun added the best part of an hour to our journey. The choice was then to cross to Bute or go for an ice-cream in Millport on Great Cumbrae. We opted for ice cream.

The paddle across to Millport was surprisingly bumpy. Just off the beach we met a mature trio from Clydebank Canoe Club out from Largs for a paddle in the sun. The beach itself had a coating of small children and mature enjoying the sun. The ice cream was delicious.

Millport Seafront

Millport Seafront

From Millport we paddled back into a stiffening breeze, to the east side of Cumbrae where there is another small castle and a lovely house passing hundreds of seals and a variety of sea birds including Geese and guillemots.

Common (or Harbour) SEals basking in sun

Common (or Harbour) SEals basking in sun

Seals, Geese and Wee Cumbrae Castle

Seals, Geese and Wee Cumbrae Castle

View from Wee Cumbrae castle towards Portencross

View from Wee Cumbrae castle towards Portencross

The cluster of houses and the castle belong to an Indian doctor who, with his wife, is a devotee of an Indian sect based upon Yoga and meditation. Wee Cumbrae appears to be an important centre of the sect. The castle is well preserved, fully open and well worth a visit.

After a prolonged coffee break in the sun, we headed back across the sound to Portencross.

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The return to Portencross

It was a hugely enjoyable paddle. Wee Cumbrae is thoroughly recommended as a destination and Portencross a recommended departure point.


Jura 23rd to 28th July 2016

Paddlers: Hugh, Sue, David, Robert, Ken and Geoff

Route: IMG_0103


Jura is a wet, windy, midgey lump of granite and peat bog and offers some of the best sea kayaking in Scotland. As those who have attended Hugh’s Sea Exped course will know, to the north is the dreaded Corryvechan whirlpool, to the south the tide races up and down the Sound of Islay, to the east is the fast running Sound of Jura and to the west an unforgiving coast exposed to Atlantic swells and high winds. Circumnavigation, our original plan, therefore needs excellent, calm, stable weather. Sadly it was wet and windy, Corryvechan looked to be too dangerous and we had to retrace our steps. The following describes our journey and hopefully generates both interest in doing the circumnavigation and some useful information if trying it.

Day 1: Saturday  A major consideration was getting on a south going tide (and the north current up the Sound of Islay after low water). The choice appeared to be a very early start from Helensburgh or an evening drive and an early start the following morning.  With a strong wind from the SE forecast for Saturday we opted for the evening drive. The three of us who ate in the Tayvallich Inn would strongly recommend the food. The chosen departure point was Keilmore jetty (on the Sound) but there was no available parking for 1 car let alone 3, so we came back to Loch na Cille where there is a launch point and some adjacent rough camping. The rain rained and the midges swelled their stomachs. The agreed departure time was 08:00.

Camp 1

Camp 1: Loch na Cille

Day 2: Sunday

At 7.15 Hugh and Ken arrived from their superior site just up the road and by 8am we were away into a  foggy but wonderful peaceful and calm environment.

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A misty morn



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Heading South

We headed almost due west across the Sound being gradually taken south by the tide.

After 3hours we took our first break on Jura, some 20km from our start point. There was an unusual urgency about the trip because of the need to make the tides. In the next period we wanted to be at the islands at the mouth of the Islay Sound by 2pm so we pressed on past Craighouse to the boathouse at Ardfin where there is a small beach just to the west of the jetty and, importantly, a picnic table.

The Boathouse at Ardfin

The Boathouse at Ardfin

Jura is a very strange place with a total population of 196 for an island of 367sqkm, the lowest population density in Scotland. For comparison Lewis has a population density 20 times that of Jura. On this remote place an Australian financier is building an 18 hole golf course for “his friends” which stretches down to Ardfin. At the boat house in 1992 the “acid house” pop band KLF burnt £1m in notes as a cultural/artistic gesture. More stupid than £2m a golf course?

From Ardfin we were helped up the Sound by the tide passing Port Askaig (and its tiny Jura counterpart) Feolin, stopping for a further break at Bunnabhain.P7240047



Passing Port Askaig and the Lagavulin distillery

Passing Port Askaig and the Lagavulin distillery

From here it was another 18km heading west into a strengthening wind and then north west. The cliff scenery was excellent but the wind and intermittent rain made for a tough few hours.P7240050057jura 016

We finally arrived at our target, an excellent beach at the end of Glen Battrick at the mouth of Loch Tarbet. We were all surprised to find in this very, very remote spot (18km by hill track from the nearest single track road and 21km from Port Askaig) a family holiday home, with putting green and some rough cut fairways and greens. We sought permission from the cook/housekeeper to camp on the mowed green area adjacent to the sea and quickly settled down to a meal and bed. Like all of Jura there was no wood for a fire, rain and 10 million midges for company. A rather grim end to a tiring day (60km in under 12 hours). {Note: It appears that the family due was that of David Cameron. Samantha’s stepfather, Viscount Astor (or to be precise an offshore trust based in the Bahamas) owns this part of Jura. There is a video of Cameron taken at the cottage at which gives views of the surroundings, house and camp site }.



camp site 2

camp site 2

Day 3 Monday

As forecast  a brisk F4/5 wind from the west was blowing and it was decided to explore Loch Tarbet. This is a huge sea loch that nearly bisects Jura and effectively has 3 parts. The outer and middle are joined by a wind exposed channel that was “lumpy” as the strong westerly hit the outgoing tide. Inevitably the photographic record does not include the roughest passages.loch tarbert

The inner is reached by a thin passage between cliffs; a quite extraordinary feature. Inside the wind was less of a problem. At the far side of the inner loch a good track runs to the road providing, we were glad to note, an escape from the hostile west coast.


After a luch in the inner loch we headed back out and tracked across to the MBA bothy Cruib Lodge.

Cruib Lodge

Cruib Lodge

From Cruib we battled in to the wind back through the narrows and the outer loch to an excellent beach and camp site near a ruined farm called Ruantalain. The wildlife consisted of 5 Black Goats and 20 million midges. What do midges live on when humans are not around?110124

Looking across to Camp 2

Looking across to Camp 2



Despite a massive search for driftwood none was found. Where does it go on Jura? And so to bed.

Day4 Tuesday

A major problem always faced is when to turn back. Corryvechan is safe in calm conditions for about 1 hour at Neeps. In an F5 or outside the slack it is dangerous. There is usually a period of light wind in any system (e.g. in the early morning) but it has to coincide with the slack water. The forecast was continuing north westerleys F4/5 eventually switching to north easterlies. It seemed likely that if we had carried on in fairly rough water, we still could not have gone through and quite possibly have been stuck for  2 or 3 days or even more. So it was decided, with some regret, to retreat.  The paddle back was windy but we caught the tide in the Sound and were back at Ardfin for a late lunch.138


From Ardfin the travel north was both windy and very wet and the stop at Craighouse very welcome.


jura 048

Camp site 4 (&5)

The campsite at Criaghouse is adjacent to the shore, perfectly green and flat, well sheltered and has excellent showers and a large dryer. It is adjacent to the pub (where you pay and get the shower block key) and at £5 per tent it is excellent value. A shower, good meal, dry clothes and a beer then bed.

Day 5 Wednesday 

The tide north finished at 11 and did not restart until 5. If we were to get back we needed to either leave early or at the latest 5pm (unless we wanted to paddle at night). Sadly a strengthening wind made both impossible and so we spent a pleasant day waiting for the wind to drop and debating about when to go and what to do if the strong winds did not ease. For reference the eventual escape route plan involved the drivers going on the afternoon Craighouse-Tayvallich Rib service and a taxi back to Loch na Ciche whilst the others got a trailer down to Feolin with the kayaks and carried them on to the Feolin (Jura) and afternoon Kennacraig (Islay) ferries. The drivers would then drive round to Kennacraig.




Thankfully by the late evening the wind had eased and an early morning (6am) departure was agreed before the winds got up again and the tides turned.

Day 6 Thursday

5am in Craighouse was flat calm and grey. With relief we managed to be packed up and ready to go by 6am, just as the only sun of the day broke through the clouds.DSCN0858P7280063267

We paddled north and after a short break after 2 hours crossed the Sound. As on most of the trip we were often accompanied by seals, both grey and common.


The crossing was uneventful, the only slight difficulty being locating the entrance to Loch na Cille.


By 10 am we were back on shore having had an excellent few days.

jura 055


Lessons and personnel

The key lesson? Do the most difficult, weather dependent section (in this case the Corryvechan) as soon as possible when the forecasts are most reliable. It is still not clear when we could have got through safely given the wind changes. The second lesson is that even in adverse conditions, sea kayaking is wonderful.

This last section is simply to provide space for photos of colleagues taken on the trip


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Arduanie, Shuna, Torsa, and Seil

Paddlers: Geoff, Hugh, Vee, Robert

Weather: Dreadful. Wind from SW F4 moderating to strong F3. Continuous Rain. Poor visibility

Route:  arduanie

Report: This is a great kayaking area and it is a delight to report that the new carpark and canoe slip at Arduanie are first class. However the weather forecast was dreadful and it did not lie. It rained almost continually, sometimes moderate and sometimes heavy, until we completed the trip at around 17.30. The wind was always present and the return was a slog. These next two photos illustrate the views of the  landscape:

Arduanie 006

Arduanie 002

The Good Bits? The company, otters, geese, birdlife in general, playing in the channel between Luing and Torsa and finding the beached/wrecked boat at the end of Shuna.

Arduanie 005

A reasonable list long enough to suggest a day well spent.

River Leven, Balloch to Dumbarton, 9/6/16

Paddlers: Kerry, Rowan, Jenny, Jean, Jamie, Stewart Tac, Stewart Tay, William, Bella, Rosie, Adele, Finn, Mike, Finlay, Geoff, Euan, Allan, Colin, Ross (19)

Weather: Sunny and Cool. A lovely evening

Report: An excellent evening and a lovely river for Beginners. We met by the old bridge in Balloch and after the normal car transfer, proceeded downriver to the portage at the barrier at 18.45. For reasons unknown the downriver gate was locked but otherwise the portage was easy and quick. A little bit of “ferry gliding” practice in one of the swifter water sections, and a couple of groundings apart, the trip was a pleasant, uneventful, enjoyable introduction to moving water. We arrived just on 21:00.13411838_10154118333478564_3793910560201396485_o13403853_10154118334438564_7258553167567161981_o13415408_10154118334518564_3445299934665970329_o13416907_10154118334653564_3290422403573622058_o13433167_10154118335158564_6615924055417591782_o


Paddles May 19th to June 8th 2016

Gathered  are short reports for a very active period of trips and training sessions

Luss:  Thursday 19th. Some 22 paddlers turned up at Luss for the training session. The beginners paddled out to Fraoch Eilean to experience seal launches whilst the more advanced headed for Inchtavannach before meeting the beginners for their own session of seal launching. As usual getting very wet by jumping off the pier was popular.

Kidston: Thursday 26th. One of the biggest groups (23) ever undertook the Beginners crossing to Rosneath Caravan Park. There was an easterly breeze which coincided with a tide running fast out of the Gareloch and produced a sizeable chop. This was enjoyed by the most experienced but was quite traumatic for some of our smallest paddlers in small boats.Whislt the youngsters waited for chips the more experienced paddlers carried out an exploration of the yards at Rosneath.

Arden: Friday 27th. This was a training session for group 1 of the Scouts from the 1st Helensburgh at their camp site at Arden

Loch Lomond Canoe Camp: Sat 28th/29th. The usual end course canoe camp on Inchtavannach was brought forward this year. In addition it was combined with an Explorer Scout Camp so that , in all we had some 16 youngsters aged 14-18 and 2 adults. The group set out from an extraordinarily busy Aldlochlay .



Departure, Aldlochlay

As usual the route to the camp site involved a stop off on Inchconnachan to see the ruined summer-house and hunt for the elusive wallabies. With every beach host to a motor oat and tents, not surprisingly none were seen.


We were very surprised that the semi permanent inhabitants of the corner of the site, the Balloch Boat Club, were not the in residence. Tents were pitched and food eaten before we embarked on a short tip out to Inchgalbraith and then back to Inchmoan.

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It was a lovely evening around an excellent fire.


The trip in the morning was uneventful and we arrived back early for the lifts back to Helensburgh. Suffice to say all in all an excellent trip.

Day Trip: Dumbarton – Helensburgh. Wed 1st June

Paddlers: Geoff, Allan, Tim and Mel

Weather: Glorious with sun and no wind

Route: Dumbarton- Newark Castle-Craigendoran.dumbarton trip map

Report: Because of time constraints on two of the paddlers the trip started early and finished by 12noon. WE took cars and boats to Dumbarton and launched from the steps on the west side of the river just below the old bridge and weir.

Launch Point

Launch Point


The river is quite pleasant although the towering edifice of the old distillery building is not attractive. On this glorious morning the Castle looked oustanding.1-IMG_4004

From the river entrance we cut across the Clyde and headed along the shore to Newark Castle for a break.


From Newark we cut straight across to Ardmore and then on to Craignedoran arriving just at noon. A lovely trip.

Sea Kayak Training  Wednesday 25th, Wednesday 1st, Sunday 5th, Wed 8th

The Sea Kayak Expedition Training has 3 parts. Part 1, in the pool, is concerned with rescue techniques, particularly deep sea and solo (paddle float assisted) rescues. Part 2: In the classroom  looks at planning and how to avoid dangerous situations (such as rough water caused by wind against tide). Part 3 is concerned with practice; developing strength and experience in long paddles and demonstrating rescues in the cold water of the sea or loch.  On th 25th paddlers did a timed run from Duck Bay  to Balloch, back up the loch past Arden and then back to Duck Bay. On the 1st it was a non-stop paddle from Craigendoran to Gourock and return. On the 8th it was a run up the Gareloch from the RNCYC.

Four people (Colin, Boo, Jeanette and Francis) did the Rescue section at the RCYNC with Hugh and Geoff in attendance. All managed to rescue, to be rescued and to rescue themselves using a paddle float. 027029038 1-035A thoroughly useful and enjoyable Sunday morning.

Loch Long: Thursday 2nd

Another excellent turnout (18) for the Beginners/Club meeting, this time at Finnart. A beautiful evening.

Sheial and Kerry

Sheila and Kerry

The 3 youngest;William, Alex and Jamie

The 3 youngest; William, Alex and Jamie


Friday 4th/Saturday 5th: Arden

A further 3 training sessions for local scouts, 1 group on the Friday night  from 1st Helensburgh (group 2) and 2 groups from 1st Rhu on the Saturday morning, who were camping at the site for the weekend. Weather was lovely, water warm and swimming popular!


1st Helensburgh Scouts


Rhu Scouts

Rhu Scouts

Day Trip: Wednesday 8th Clyde

Paddlers: David N, Lee, David H, Damien and Geoff

Weather: Misty at first but clearing into another beautiful, hot and windless day

Route: Cove-Holy Loch-Dunoon, Gantocks, Cloch Light, Gourock -Kilcreggan-Coveclyde trip map

Report: Another early start-early finish with all paddlers on the water by 8.50 and off by 14.05. Another beautiful day after the mist cleared. Coffee and Scones at Dunoon west beach, lunch in Gourock and a lot (23km) of very relaxed paddling.

Looking south midway across entrance to Loch Long

Looking south midway across entrance to Loch Long


Coffee and Scones in Dunoon


By the Gantocks


Beach at Gourock

An excellent day.


Staffa Continued

Staffa is undoubtedly a mecca for sea kayakers and for the outdoor community as a whole. IN additon to our own phots we have had photos from the sea kayaking colleagues we met on Ulva and, most recently, from an outdoor group visiting that took the ollowing photos of us at Fingal’s Cave.


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