Petestack Blog

24 April 2022

Kayak store completion and trolley

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 8:04 pm

It’s been a while because I’ve been doing other things too, but the store is now finished bar a cabin hook to hold the door open, and my attention is now turning to Fly and catching up with the garden. But first a quick rundown of my Sea Kayak Oban ‘Confidence Builder’ course on 6/7 April…

It was a windy week, but we found relative shelter on Lochs Etive and Feochan for two great days when we’d come that close to losing one or both, with conditions ultimately helping to make rather than break the course. There were three of us out with Phil and Laura, and SKO have some publicly-viewable photos on their Facebook page. I had their medium-volume Volan and made these lists of what we covered while it was still fresh in my mind. From day one on Loch Etive between Taynuilt and Bonawe:

  • In response to a specific question I put to Laura about what to do with your paddle while securing your spraydeck, wedge it under your PFD. It works a treat!
  • Forward stroke, watching each other for rotation and not fore-and-aft movement, and working a bit more at the catch.
  • In no particular order… how much skeg relative to wind direction, sweeps, edges, stern rudders, maintaining an edge and sweeping round Phil’s boat looking at him, paddling with eyes closed (these last two activities making us feel rather than look at what our boats were doing) and steering a wavy course by edging while paddling strictly alternate sides.

And day two on Loch Feochan between Knipoch and Minard Point:

  • Play in interesting conditions at the Loch mouth and return against tide using eddies along shore, during which we saw two otters playing between navigation buoys.
  • Low brace, where the need for rapid deployment effectively trumps any single prescribed method (no good adopting the ‘perfect’ position if you haven’t got time!).
  • Discussion about calling for help, then rescue stuff punctuated by a couple of stinging late hail showers… contact towing with boats facing same and opposite directions (towed paddler pushes end of towing boat while pulling perimeter lines), towing with a line (clip under one bow line so still attached if deck fitting breaks), heel-hook assisted rescues (paddler in water hooks outside leg in, rolls onto aft deck then over into sitting position) and wet exit (just me after the others decided they were done for the day).

And then I drove home through a stunning low rainbow arching over the east end of Loch Feochan. So overall great, mostly dry, conditions with fresh but manageable winds and really just a cold start to day two and those brief hail showers on the less pleasant side. Bonus otters and rainbow and excellent, friendly instruction, to which I must just add that I’ve now been out with all four current SKO staff and would happily go paddling with any of them again!

But wasn’t I supposed to be talking about the completed kayak store? So let’s go…

It’s three weeks since I fitted the bar to the door and the boards to hold up the ground by the fence. Which I should have done before I even started building because it was quite a grovel sorting the well-trodden edge afterwards, but sometimes you learn the hard way!

And a fortnight since I made/fitted the remaining trim and finished the roof at the back:

Here’s the trolley nearing completion:

And ‘test driving’ outside. There are three minor differences from my original drawing, which are 1. cutting the bottoms of the side braces vertically instead of horizontally, 2. making both gussets for each end as one continuous piece, and 3. incorporating a plywood panel above the axle to guard against the frame racking in plan view. But it’s essentially still the trolley I drew in February and I’m relieved to say it behaves perfectly on its wheels when I couldn’t be absolutely sure till I’d built it and tried it:

And finally with screw-on replaceable wood feet (where the trolley frame is otherwise all glued) and a boat (which is the whole point):

Postscript (25 April 2022): the cabin hook came today, so all done now! :-)

25 March 2022

Kayak store roofing

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 11:06 pm

Now we’ve covered the kayak store concept, posts, drainage, framing, cladding and sarking and door, what’s left? Really just the roofing and trolley, but the trolley can wait while I catch up with other things like fitting out Fly for the season, so today we simply complete (or nearly complete) the main structure with most of the roofing after heading briefly off-topic for my third and fourth Nevis Canoe Club pool sessions…

Last Friday I tried rolling, but really wasn’t ready for that (just wasn’t comfortable trying to put the paddle where it’s supposed to be) and have been practising low and high braces since along with some more wet exit and rescue stuff. Tonight I messed up my first proper head-in-the-water high brace when I failed to come back up because I apparently tried to lead with my head (remember ‘boat, body, head’!), then managed six successful ones (three to each side) before losing it again for the last two and getting some more unplanned wet exit practice, which is probably good for me anyway because it’s surely more ‘realistic’ when unplanned! But that’s this year’s block of four sessions done, so let’s get back to the kayak store build…

Tuesday’s roofing work started with spending the morning replacing a damaged skylight panel because I was careful beyond careful measuring, cutting, drilling and fitting the new one!

Before continuing with the black panels for the kayak store roof below, where I found my notched measuring stick/jig a great help in lining up the fixings:

I didn’t like the look of the clear caps/washers on the black stuff, so the first thing I did on Wednesday was swap them out while I still could:

Before fixing the rest of the corrugated panels to the store roof:

There might not be much obvious to see from Thursday, but here’s something to secure the ridge pieces to on this back wall:

And the long-planned piece to secure the front end of the roofing and provide a drip guard for the door, after which the whole exterior got its second coat of Demidekk:

Think this end is finished now (today) although I’m still contemplating a thicker drip guard below the line of the roofing:

But I can’t finish the back or make the vertical trim pieces till I get the wood I’m still waiting for:

That’s a stainless machine screw with penny washers securing the corner of the old roof to the new ridge piece, so no nail where there was nothing to hammer one into:

Pity I can’t finish this right now, but it’s essentially done and as far as I can go without the wood:

And that’s us bang up to date! :-)

20 March 2022

Kayak store door

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 7:55 pm

So I’d got the cladding and sarking done and the store now has a door, which first needed a finished doorway to measure up and fit it to…

Here I’m testing a piece of trim before deciding after nailing it on that it shouldn’t have overlapped the post below!

Despite much careful thinking on Tuesday, I still didn’t really think through that top screw, which is why I drilled an extra hole below and you’re looking at a shorter screw for the top hole that I eventually got in with a hex-shanked bit and shifting spanner. The back of the original shed trim has also been rebated to take the new trim behind, with a further new piece yet to be added to sit flush with the old:

I decided after fixing this trim I’d done it wrong too, so marked it to cut back with the multitool…

And refined the cut with a chisel. The vertical piece you’ll see in the next photo can now go to the top and overlap another vertical piece on the side wall although my after-the-fact cut didn’t need to be that neat when it’ll be covered by another sloping piece above the door!

I just clamped the vertical piece on to test because I hadn’t yet decided how close to the ground to take it, but later cut it to match the bottom of the door:

It was still definitely too close to the ground here:

Like I said, the join didn’t need to be that neat because it’s not going to show, but I’m me!

Something I fortunately realised the night before I built the door is that you need to watch the thickness of a door with a sloping top or it will jam at the top corner when opening. Because the roof (and top of the door) are at a 30° angle, the back of the door needs to be 30° lower than the front for the same clearance when opening and, because I also wanted to fix a lip inside the opening for the door to sit against, I needed more clearance yet. But, having worked this out, it wasn’t difficult to apply to the design and build of a door that actually works. It took time and much careful measuring and checking, but the final fit is good with the top of the cladding sitting proud of the frame to create the required front-to-back drop:

It’s difficult to keep weatherboarding exactly parallel when fitting, and here you see a slight mismatch between cladding and frame towards the top of the short side which I later planed off to restore the parallel fit I’d previously achieved between frame and doorway:

So I made the door on Wednesday and had hoped to hang it on Thursday, but left it till Friday because it was raining with sunny days forecast. And my only photo from Friday shows it all wedged in place before getting to work on the hinges:

Now here’s a whole sequence from Saturday showing not just the fitted door but all the pieces it sits against in the opening. While I’m still waiting on more wood to make trim like the overhanging piece above the door and roofing to get the roof finished, I’d say I basically have a store here:

And here I am today framing the additional weatherboard at the back and starting to paint some bits. These back bits are where I wasn’t originally sure what to do with the falling ground, but are better framed now they’re boarded:

Quite striking how much the sarking and the cladding have dried out and shrunk back already since I put them together with tight joints!

So I’ve got a coat of Demidekk on the door…

And any corners/joins I’m planning to cover with further trim…

And might yet paint the rest while waiting for the wood and roofing I need to finish things off!

14 March 2022

Kayak store cladding and sarking

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 10:00 pm

Following on from my framing blog of two Saturdays ago, the store is now weatherboarded and sarked and the long drain is finished. But first a quick résumé of Friday’s pool session, where I chose to practise wet exits again counting lengthening times before releasing the spraydeck and getting out the boat as well as heel-hook assisted rescues. And must say I’m much more relaxed about the wet exits now I know what I’d already guessed, which is that there’s really no need to rush at them when you don’t need long to find the cockpit coaming and work round to the tab with a calm, clear head and will probably get out quicker anyway remembering ‘more haste less speed’!

So here we have the long wall weatherboarded. Is it perfect? No! Is it still a good job? I think so!

Look along the line of the boards and you’ll see they finished up marginally higher on one side of the central join despite me setting them all as tightly together as I could. But that join will be covered and I’m not planning to spend my life lying between fence and store staring at that wall anyway!

I didn’t cut the ‘bad’ joint wrong but simply trusted the factory ends to be square. They usually are but, after discovering the error on the first board I fitted, I cut all the remaining ends square before cutting the boards to length. And, as already stated, that join will be covered:

This all worked exactly as designed!

I cut the edges off the top boards on the table saw, which was still set to 30° from cutting the roof rails. The chunks of CLS are my ‘push sticks’ because I needed a bit of weight and rigidity there:

I wondered whether I should have cut the weatherboarding flush with the end rafter before doing the sarking, but (as you’ll see) chose to fix the sarking on top when the join between them was all going to be covered either way:

Already less of a gap under the back end where I dropped the side boards to match the back, but later to be effectively reduced to nothing through the addition of gravel boards to retain the chippings. I’m still planning to frame these lower weatherboards along their bottom edges:

A study in wedges where I recently discovered the shed found had sunk slightly at the back corner and I’m also temporarily propping up that side board, but the real reason for this photo was to show off that nice rounded corner on my frame!

(What the vertical pieces above hide is that it’s also rebated to fit round the shed trim.)

Not much to say about the sarking except that it’s, well, sarking:

Not exactly a day’s work next, but these gravel boards gave me something to play with on a pish day! There’s maybe a bit more to this than meets the eye because I had to dig out about a bucketful of soil with a trowel, find a piece of wood for a mini post, shape it to avoid chipping away the existing shed found (which I didn’t want to do), concrete it in, fit a spacer behind to take the boards, and shape and fit the gravel boards (one of which I did twice because my first attempt used a horrible bit of sarking that didn’t meet the weatherboarding nicely). But still really just playing compared to the previous few days…

Here I’m taking a break from building after an abandoned attempt to start the corrugated roofing on Saturday to work on the drain yesterday. There’s two bulk bags of gravel gone into that, which proved to be the Goldilocks amount as I tipped the last of the second into the top of the former hippo pit to finish working downhill then back up. So here’s where it starts on my neighbours’ side of the fence:

And where it finishes just above the remains of the old field drain I found:

Still quite a lot of gravel to go in here:

I worked downhill along the trench…

Then back uphill…

Till the gravel ran out perfectly up at the shed end…

Then raked a fair bit of the ground back, which was probably harder work than doing the gravel!

It’s not all gravel in the hippo pit because I put some of the rubble back in the LH side:

And finally (for now) some more ground restoration/realignment today before I get back to building things. Who knows when I’m going to get working on Fly, but I’m guessing April now. Which is OK because, much as I’m looking forward to a good sailing season, I’m currently busy with this and want to see it done! :-)

5 March 2022

Kayak store framing

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 7:44 pm

Yes, the subject’s ‘framing’, but let’s talk a little more about drainage first…

Sunday was a good day for digging and my materials weren’t coming till Tuesday, so of course I dug! There’s 11m of pipe beyond the ‘hippo pit’, so the drain is > 11m long, a shovel wide and as deep as the top of my wellies, which is to say 400mm (this depth chosen so there’s no uphill to get out of the pit, but handy to have a quick measurement system like wellies!):

I broke into this ancient earthenware pipe (presumably an old field drain) at the bottom end of my trench. It’s about 10″ diameter with walls 3/4″ thick!

And here’s my drain again from the reverse direction. Since these photos were taken, the pipe’s gone into the trench but is currently still waiting to be buried in gravel:

Here’s Travis Perkins bringing my stuff on Tuesday. No rear-wheel steering this time, but plenty of room from the uphill side. Of course the CLS for my framing is packed below the weatherboarding and sarking! The gravel is for the drain and the plywood (under the tarp) to build a lumber cart for my workshop as well as the kayak trolley gussets:

I got all the remaining post holes fully concreted and domed for drainage the same day:

This next six-photo sequence from Wednesday might not look like much, but shows what’s actually quite a significant step in cutting back shed trim and attaching an angled rail to take the continuation roof:

I’ll need to cut back that gable trim further to accommodate my rafters and sarking, but will come back to it when necessary:

This joint was photographed without fastening since I was still considering how best to do it, but I later fastened it with Gorilla Glue and a single screw:

By Thursday evening, things were starting to look more like my drawing, but still wanting intermediate rafters (six out of eleven done here) as well as all the wall studding. It would be nice to work with straight timber, but I managed to pull the longer pieces straight enough and was relieved to get past the post-cutting stage in good shape! Nailing the top ends of the rafters has proved trickier than the bottom ends because the overhang of the existing roof gets in the way, but I’ve got there:

Friday saw the long wall fully framed, leaving the two short walls and remaining rafters for today. I’ll decide what to do with the gaps at the base where the ground’s falling away at the back (unlike my hypothetical ‘flat ground’ drawing) later. The reason I didn’t frame right to the bottom of the shed woodwork was keeping the long-wall cladding to seven whole boards where there’s no point going lower than ‘ground level’ along the fence, but I’m at least taking the end wall one board lower where the gap’s biggest:

And here we are today with the framing all done:

The weatherboarding comes in the stupid length of 4.5m, which is not a multiple of 0.6m, so the only sane way to cut it for my 6m wall is 3m lengths (keeping the 1.5m leftovers for the 1.2m walls), and the logic of the tripled stud is simply more wood to nail all the joins and a covering piece to:

I shot multiple angles of the frame before it all gets covered up, and am still considering how to deal with the falling ground at the back:

So that’s how things stand right now. In other news, I did my first pool session with Nevis Canoe Club last night and practised repeated wet exits with the spraydeck. I’m also starting to think about working on Fly now the weather seems to be improving, but still really need/want to get the kayak store finished first!

26 February 2022

Kayak store drainage

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 8:31 pm

So I talked in my last blog about standing water and drainage in our neighbourhood. Basically, we live on a hill, the ground sometimes gets wetter than it can cope with short-term and we all (through inevitability rather than intent) dump water on our downhill neighbours. Agreeing where and how to pass this water on is about all we can reasonably do about it…

If you’ve seen that blog, you’ll have seen photos involving mud, and here are two more from Tuesday afternoon showing the creation of an embryonic soakaway that quickly got dubbed the ‘hippo pit’:

Now obviously this pit wasn’t finished there when excavating it half-full of muddy water is a bit like shovelling mushroom soup, but it disappeared completely from sight for a while as that whole area flooded in Wednesday morning’s heavy rain! Sorry I’ve no photos of that (or the hippos!), but I do have two showing where a fair bit of the problem’s coming from:

But it’s clearest in my video shot at the same time:

We’ll come back to the solution shortly, but first here are a couple of shots from yesterday morning of the transition/ramp I cut down to the store on Thursday showing drier ground and how quickly things can change:

So I both needed to drain my own ground and wanted to divert my neighbours’ drain to come out below the far end of my kayak store, we discussed and agreed to a shared drain using some suitable pipe they had, and I dug the top end yesterday:

I deepened my original trench to keep everything moving downhill from where the drain comes through the fence:

Here I’m checking I’ve got a draining gradient the whole way before putting down fabric and pipe:

When I tried to drag the pipe behind me on my own, it wanted to kink and fold where it had been coiled, so I phoned Alan for help!

While my original (pre-pipe) plan for my drain was just a soakaway at the hippo pit, the remaining pipe will now get used to extend it down-slope:

And the last thing I did yesterday was dump my remaining round gravel in the trench to keep my new chippings for the top:

Today I put down most of the ton of chippings Twig and I collected from Banavie on Wednesday, but I’ve kept some back to spread round the posts when their bases are finished. And that’s pretty well as far as I can go till Tuesday’s delivery although I might get the mud off the shed walls!

These two posts are finished but I’m waiting on concrete to top up the others:

And here they are with chippings spread:

I should have just about enough chippings to finish the store area but will need more sometime for the extended drain:

And that’s it for now. The next instalment should be about framing the store and possibly even getting started on roofing and cladding, so we’ll see how that goes…

21 February 2022

More kayak store

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 6:32 pm

(See my previous blog for a quick rundown of the concept and image from my SketchUp model.)

While I was already planning to get building the store in preparation for a probable sea kayak purchase and had taken delivery of the first batch of materials (posts, gravel and concrete), the project gained added impetus from actually buying said boat (about which more another time) on Thursday. So I got to work pronto in some varied February weather, but let’s start with said materials arriving last Monday. And here we have an impressive truck with rear-wheel steering, a crane and a guy who can handle it all in tight spaces. He was even expecting Fly to be there because his boss (who turns out to be a former pupil of mine) told him there’d probably be a boat in the garden!

And my 14″ no-puncture wheels for the trolley came the same day:

I made a 1200mm square on Friday morning to help with laying out and setting my posts. It’s currently accurate to within about a millimetre, although of course not guaranteed to stay that way! And then I got digging for the rest of Friday and Saturday, with Saturday in particular being an unexpected gift of a day weather-wise just when I needed it.

Not such a good job on the first two holes, which ended up a tad wider than I meant as bits kept falling off the sides in the wettest ground, but I did better with most of the others although one got quite messy from a fight to excavate a piece of slab and pile of rubble occupying pretty well the exact space required by the post. That said, they were all hard work, requiring many passes with a bar to break the stony ground and keeping the spoons more for removing the spoil than doing much real digging.

While I had Alan available to help on Sunday, I nearly called off for the forecast, but was happy to go ahead after a wee look out and pleased to get five of the seven posts in after using all the concrete to fill them to an acceptable depth (for now). So big thanks to him for the extra pair of hands (and brain!), although I later realised we’d made one silly mistake (my fault), which was not levelling the line before measuring for the post spacing. But I went back out and checked and it’s going to make bugger all difference (whew)! I’d also gone knee-deep in one of my own holes earlier when I stepped in (on?) one I couldn’t see because it was full of muddy water; the standing water you see at the front of the store area comes and goes when the bank above gets saturated by rain, but should hopefully mostly go once I get round to dealing with it. To which I might add that it’s typical of this garden and neighbourhood in general when wet and disturbed. I’ve now cut temporary drainage channels to help that corner a bit, and know from experience that I can sort it all out for use. Most of it’s soaking through from my neighbours uphill (aka gravity), but I’ll get to it!

Since there were also deer tracks through my work area yesterday morning, I blocked off both ends with barrows to discourage them from taking that route before leaving it for the night!

This morning I went to Fort William to get more concrete and price the next batch of materials before getting back to the last two posts on my own. And these weren’t too tricky even solo because I’d worked out how to utilise what we’d already done last night, although I still had to be careful to keep enough height on the last one, which both requires close to the full length of the post and swallowed up an extravagant amount of concrete in the hole that had grown as I’d levered out that slab and pile of rubble.

So that’s the state of play right now. Four days’ work and the posts (on which the accuracy of everything else depends) are in, and I’m probably now waiting a week or so for materials to continue with the framing, roofing and cladding getting the posts right should have set up nicely. But I’m positively looking forward to the next stages now the crucial, temperature-dependent and accuracy-demanding first one’s accomplished with no major faux pas!

13 February 2022

Store, sea and canal

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 11:28 pm

I’ve got three things to talk about here, but am covering them in almost reverse chronological order…

Firstly, I’m building a sea kayak store along the side of my workshop shed. It’s a current project for which the only physical work carried out so far has been marking and clearing the ground where it’s going to go:

But you can see the bones of what I’m planning from my SketchUp model:

While I’d had a good Google to see what others had built, nothing I saw quite worked for me so I started from scratch in thinking through my requirements. In supporting the kayak(s) on adjustable broad webbing tapes, the trolley should provide a more user- and kayak-friendly method of doing so than fixed shelves or supports in an end-opening store. Of course there’ll be roofing and cladding and a door on the end, but the concept should be clear enough from the drawing as it is. I’m currently waiting for posts, concrete and gravel to be delivered so I can start building, so will move on just now and come back to the project as it takes shape in future blogs.

So that’s the ‘store’ of my title, and we can move on to the ‘sea’. Today Amanda and I joined four others from Nevis Canoe Club on a trip out from Glenuig, which, for those who don’t know, is a wee village and bay on the north coast of Moidart or south side of the Sound of Arisaig:

While it was a cracking ‘window’ in a spell of fairly inclement recent weather, being dry with a neap tide and almost negligible wind, the residual swell bouncing back off the shore still gave a new feel compared to what I’ve done so far. We paddled west then south, stopping for a break at the lovely little bay of Port Achadh an Aonaich inside Eilean Coille before returning via another stop at Samalaman Island and brief eastwards excursion. Since I have some scruples about depriving Amanda of her own boat again while she took Mal’s, I’m so looking forward to the day I can say I took my own, but still have to say I really enjoyed the group paddle… and her boat! I’ll keep this short tonight and just let the photos speak for themselves:

Time for the ‘canal’ now, and there’s not much to say here because it’s really just a footnote to this blog where I’d not have given it its own. On 21 January, I took the Safari along the Caledonian Canal from Banavie to Gairlochy. My cousin Eileen dropped me and the boat off at Banavie and she took the photos with my camera. The trip took me just under two hours, it felt comparatively carefree compared to the sea, and the hat didn’t stay on much beyond the photos because I was really quite toasty in this more sheltered environment:

16 January 2022

Kayak round Eriska

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 10:04 pm

It was Dave who, reading about my Appin paddle with Amanda, suggested the Round Eriska trip from Port Appin which he’d also previously done as ‘excellent, needing skill and cunning with tides.’ So of course I was intrigued, took a look (or two) and replied:

I’m looking at this again now because of course I want to do it, and can see three major factors:

  1. Tide of up to 4 knots at entrance to Loch Creran, so a complete stopper if going the wrong way.
  2. Tide of up to 2.5 knots at north end of Lynn of Lorn, so effectively as bad at springs but possibly fightable at neaps.
  3. Height necessary to float through that channel [An Doirlinn south of Eriska], where the chart’s not much help and Google’s not telling me any more so far.

Some further discussion established that, yes, he’d ridden the flood tide into Loch Creran, didn’t know if it flowed strongly through An Doirlinn (which had maybe a foot of water at the time) and carried the flood back to Port Appin. The bit I’d not got instantly was cheating the tide down the shore for the first wee bit from Port Appin to the point (Rubha Clach Tholl) north of Airds Bay, but it all made perfect sense as soon as I did. It should also be possible to circumnavigate Eriska anticlockwise on the ebb starting/finishing at South Shian, but the extra spice of the clockwise trip from Port Appin appealed and that’s what Amanda, Dave and I did yesterday. I’ll come back to how much water you actually need for An Doirlinn later, but let’s start with our actual track:

I had Amanda’s lovely boat again, but she kept her new paddle this time and I was happy with the old one. We tried to find the horse and otter sculptures (see Stage 5 and Stage 6 on Walkhighlands route) on the north-west side of Eriska and looked in the exact right area (just to the left/west of where we crossed from Airds Bay), but maybe you can’t see them from the water or they’re not there any more? The zoom ring on my Panasonic 12–32 lens came apart just after the last photo, which is a known and apparently self-fixable problem, but I’m not sure whether its impending detachment caused any issues with the pics, which looked less sharp than I’d have liked prior to resizing. So here we are approaching the bridge across An Doirlinn from the east:

And west of the bridge:

Amanda thinks she can get through here…

But finally backs off…

And follows us round!

We head back up the Eriska shore for a sculpture hunt and food stop:

And back past Rubha Clach Tholl with its natural arch (part-visible right of final two photos):

Now let’s talk about the tides and stuff. There were two things we just didn’t know and couldn’t find out:

  1. What height of tide you need to get through An Doirlinn, where neither charted drying heights nor Internet research including available kayak reports and location photographs without tidal specifics told us what we needed to know.
  2. How quickly the tide runs through there.

But the first was answerable by site inspection, so I went for a look at low tide (1.8m predicted height) on Friday and will post a thinned selection of my photos before sharing my conclusions. They start at the west end and follow my walk through to the east before crossing by the old crannog base, taking the Eriska shore to the bridge and crossing back to finish west again, but some are also further captioned:

Bridge from the west:

And from the east:

Poll nan Ron and east end, then Poll nan Ron and bridge from the east:

East end:

Poll nan Ron and bridge from the east:

Crannog base (mid-right in next photo), then looking east from crannog base:

On the crannog base, then crannog base and bridge:

Looking over the crannog base, then heading back to the bridge:

Looking south-west from the bridge:

Then east from the bridge:

And back at the west end:

So what else do you need to know about the tide? The channel was discontinuous and broken into some isolated pools with a couple of places where water was still draining gently in opposite directions. There wasn’t much apparent change in the 65 minutes I was there (from just before low tide till about an hour after). If the 1.8m prediction was accurate, you need a fair bit more just to float and a bit more yet for the kind of margin where you’re not too concerned about every boulder or striking the bottom with your paddle, so I suggested we wanted about 2.5m or essentially mid-tide Saturday on a predicted range from 1.7m to 3.4m. Since you clearly need a certain depth for a comfortable passage and people do kayak round Eriska, the inevitably adverse current at the required state of tide must be manageable. But how did the theory actually stack up in practice?

Well, we were going through about three hours after low tide and a little less before high tide or, more tidily, just after half-tide. So had maybe 2.6m above datum if the predicted time and height were correct. And had a couple of feet (sorry, mixed units!) of water most of the way. Now, while predicted Oban half-tide heights for the immediate future are all in the 2.4-to-2.6m range, they can be lower, for example (from last year’s tables):

  • 29 March 2021 12:32 0.4m 18:22 4.0m (range 3.6m, half-tide 2.2m).
  • 5 April 2021 05:52 1.5m 12:41 2.6m (range 1.1m, half-tide 2.05m).

So, while half-tide seems a good general rule of thumb for Eriska and you can probably still get through without grounding on, say, 2.2m or so, there are also days like 5 April last year when a ‘half-tide’ rule probably won’t quite do! Remember too that predictions are only predictions and can be affected by various factors, which is why (while they’re good enough for almost everything) I’ve kept stressing ‘predicted’. As for tidal speed through An Doirlinn, we just didn’t find it an issue when it wasn’t running quickly, we were through in ten or fifteen minutes and the most significant current encountered all trip was crossing the stronger flood on the return from Eriska to Airds Point.

So there you have it (what Google wouldn’t tell me before); to do this trip through An Doirlinn you want tide height in the low-to-mid-2-metre range and will typically, but not always, be comfortable at something approaching half-tide. If I’m exploring again with or without a boat I can always comment further, but we’re already in the right ballpark. And it’s a good, fun trip with considerable interest along the way! :-)

21 December 2021

Longest paddle, shortest day!

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 9:58 pm

It’s the winter solstice but, before I get to that, let’s talk briefly about PLBs. So here’s the Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 that arrived the other day (coins for scale!):

While some other models also had features I liked (e.g. inherent buoyancy without the pouch/tether or confirmation that your signal’s been received), there were several that really drew me to this one including:

  • Smallest/lightest.
  • Longest battery expiry date (seven years, or February 2029 here).
  • You can fly with this one because the battery contains less than 2g of lithium.

It would be nice if they could transmit from an unattended floating position like an EPIRB, but none of them do, and I might yet put an EPIRB on Fly sometime. Although this is probably good enough for the degree of offshore-ness I need when we’re not subject to Australian regulations here! But what a palaver it was registering it with the Beacon Registry service… had to specify a primary use (maritime, pleasure, for Fly, with callsign, MMSI number etc.), then second use (maritime, pleasure, small unpowered vessels) and third use (land, climbing, mountaineering, backcountry trips etc.) with so many boxes to fill. Just stuck ‘Scotland’ in the boxes for area of operation when they give some far narrower exemplars, so maybe try to be helpful and revisit that if I ever take it abroad. But seriously… nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Anyway, to today and my solstice paddle (in the Safari 330)… no photos because I didn’t want to be fiddling with stuff in cold air temps (c.2.5°C), so didn’t take a camera, but I did take my new PLB. Saw the strangest thing: a ship coming up the loch with its bow wave floating halfway up its bow (like these ‘hovering’ ships folk see in certain atmospheric conditions except that it was the wave apparently levitating, not the ship). Also quite a few seals, especially at Sgeirean Shallachain, where I almost had to get out and walk to pass inside at pretty well low water (1.5m height and the skeg touched the sand twice)! Total 11.6 nautical miles, 13.3 statute miles or 21.4 km over the ground, but had some help from the tide at times. Took about four and a half hours, and done today as probably the last suitable day of the current spell:

What else to add? The Safari is a well-behaved and capable wee boat; conditions got a bit choppy as the wind picked up from the port beam crossing from Sgeirean Shallachain to Ardsheal, but quite happy how the boat handled it as well as glad it’s self-bailing! Think I’ve got that forward stroke Amanda was coaching me in on Saturday working nicely now with the earlier/wider release she wanted, and the whole stroke works the same on the Safari as a narrower sea kayak, so no confusing modifications necessary for the different boat type. Also trying to relax my grip and making sure my top-hand push is really a push and not just a straightening of the arm, and have to say I was paddling more efficiently for longer and nothing’s sore today. It hopefully goes without saying that the straight northwards crossing back to Onich was done to cross Friday’s track for the continuous link-up that brought; otherwise I’d probably just have headed straight for Rubha Cuil-cheanna from the rock Sgeir nan Ròn at Rubh’ a’ Bhaid Bheithe, which I wanted to go round anyway. And that’s it for now! :-)

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