Sunday, 7 June 2009

the Moray Firth

After a comfortable nights kip on John's lawn we were woken at 4.30am by a flock of crows who had gathered on the beach and were excitedly discussing whatever it was that the tide had brought in. The noise was horrendous and we dozed fitfully after that before accepting the inevitable and got up.

We were on the water by 8.30am heading south. The wind was NE F3 and there was still a swell running, albeit less than yesterday. Best of all the sun was shining and would continue to do so for the rest of the day.

The trip down the coast to Balintore was very pleasant with sandstone bluffs rising gently up from the coast. The only real issue with them was that their base was defended by a continous reef which made landing impossible other than at the obvious harbours. For us the next chance came at Balintore where we hauled out for a rest in the sunshine.

South of Balintore the geology changed and the cliffs got larger but also greener, with their flanks being covered in ivy, gorse, decidious bushes and even small trees. Eventually they lead to the stacks of North Sutor at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth and another sea bird colony.

As we crossed the entrance to the Firth we could see a number of mothballed rigs as well as the Nigg fabrication yard all waiting for the price of oil to rise again.

On reaching the Black Isle the geology changed again and the bluffs got greener in stark contrast to those we had passed further North.

We hauled out at Eathie for another break and saw other paddlers for the first time in two weeks.

Back on the water we headed down to Rosemarkie and then around Chanonry Point against the tide to get to the campsite at Fortrose. By now the wind had picked up to F4 and swung easterly making the trip round the point a little more entertaining.

All in all a pleasant days paddle down a very pretty section of coast.

Distance covered today: 37km
Total distance covered: 565km
Midgee ferrocity: nil.

A Big Crossing

By the end of Friday the wind had been touching F7. When we woke the it had eased but the sea was still on the rough side so we opted for a slow start and a chance to wash ourselves and our kit at the campsite at Brora, and to effect running repairs.

The night before we had concluded that pushing on down the coast to Embo would only reduce the crossing to Tarbat Ness by 3km in return for 20km of effort so we concluded that we should just head straight across once conditions were suitable. And so we waited.

By 2pm we decided that it was time, packed the boats and got going by 2.30pm. Three and a half hours later we landed at a wee bay just south of the Ness. It had been a long and uneventful crossing. The wind initially NE F3 had dropped to F2 as we crossed. The first half was punctured by frequent showers, but in the later half things had improved the Moray Firth being a haven of blue skies with fluffy afternoon cumulus forming over the Moray coast in front of us.

We saw no wildlife during the crossing other that a solitary juvenile Gannet fast asleep with head tucked under wing.

As we approached Tarbat Ness the 1-1.5m swell that had been a feature of the crossing started to kick up to a good 2m. Off the point there was a sizeable reef break waiting for the unwary but we spotted it in time and cut inside of it. Behind us the Far NE coast was wrapped in dark clouds with rain clearly falling.

Rounding the point conditions proved lively. Clearly the headland wasn't going to go without at least a bit of a struggle. As we cleared the worst of the clapotis we saw the first yacht we had seen since the Summer Isles. Behind it the Cairngorms were draped in fresh snow down to 2,500ft, it is still not exactly warm for June!

We continued down the coast to Rockfield where we managed to negotiate space for our tent on a lawn owned by very friendly guy by the name of John.. Good job too as landing spots are few and far between here.

Distance travelled today: 25km
Total distance travelled: 528km
Midgee ferrocit: nil