Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Big Paddle. Heading Home

While resting at Dornoch I had the sad news that my mother in law had died. This was sudden, but not surprising. It would be a couple of days before Mrs CWW could collect me for travel to the funeral, so I headed onwards across the Dornoch Firth to round Tarbat Ness. The weather here was considerably worse than forecast. The nautical chart shows an underwater feature called the Tarbat Ledge, which I guess accounts for the fact that it was remarkably rough. Landing was also very troublesome, due to bands of rock that fringe the shore. With some difficulty I finally got ashore and camped close to a restored castle.

Next step was a 20km plus crossing of the Moray Firth. Planning was a little difficult due to the fact that I was using a hand held compass to plot a course across 2 diagonally aligned OS sheets laid out in two foot high grass. As the crossing unfolded I was pleased at how well this had worked. My main problem on this crossing turned out to be keeping awake. My energy levels were definitely still on the low side.
The tedium was relieved a little by views of the distant Cairngorms, still with considerable amounts of snow after the long cold winter and spring. Just before landfall at Findhorn some dolphins came to have a look at me. I'm always impressed with how large sea creatures always seem to be observing humans more curiously than we observe them.
A coffee in the Findhorn watersports centre revived me, just as the rain began to fall.

A couple of hours, and one rather unnerving encounter with large unidentified finned creatures, later, I pulled into Hopeman to wait for Mrs CWW.
At this point I wasn't at all sure if I would be finishing my journey. There was the funeral ahead, I was tired, and the remaining days were not in the grand scenery of the north, north east and west coasts. I didn't expect to find fine wild camping spots either. Mrs CWW was well, however, and three days later I was back in the boat.
The Moray Coast has its attractions, however.

There are some fine spots and pleasant villages. Troup Head has a spectacular gannetry. There was a fierce offshore wind as I passed under it. Downdraughts off the cliffs made life very difficult for me and the birds. At one point I saw guillemots flying backwards!
The attractions of this coast run out at Rosehearty. It's a nice name but a grim wee place. The municipal camping site at Fraserburgh had a police presence when I arrived. After wandering round the town to look for a shop I decided not to go the pub that night. Having survived the journey so far, it seemed unwise to risk my life in any of its bars.

With only a few days to home, I was putting in some long days. There are some long beaches on the way south to Aberdeen. Long beaches rank with open crossings in terms of dull paddling.

Curious seals tended to follow me for long distances, though it was a bit unsettling to find a couple of dead ones in the water at the mouth of the Ythan river.
Camp spots were mostly better than I had expected. I had a particularly good spot in the mouth of a burn close to Slains Castle.

The following night I was in the carpark of a tiny harbour south of Aberdeen.
Montrose Bay was atmospheric and wild,

and at Arbroath I was hiding beside the railway line.

From here there was a temptation to put in a very long day to get home. I was weary, though, and the weather wasn't particularly good for the crossing to Fife. My rather old map of home still marks the lightship on Abertay sands. It has long been replaced by a very large buoy. Here I paused to let a ship pass. The skipper came out to give me a friendly wave, but I'm pretty sure he is meant to be on the other side of that buoy.

I had a final camp on the Fife coast, close to Kingsbarns. It's a lovely spot, within walking distance of good beer.

From here, an easy day of paddling took me to my finishing spot at Lower Largo. CWW junior (2) had paddled out to meet me, but,very strangely, we missed each other. Recovery operations for him took a wee while, but it gave time for the fizzy stuff to cool down.

1 comment:

  1. Good report and glad you finished safe and well.
    What about another river trip soon!