Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ben Lui and the muddy forest path

Although the weekend weather since my Kyle of Bute adventure has been reasonable, the fresh northerly winds put me off trailoring the boat to the sea. I was also aware that I wasn’t getting as much exercise as I like, by sitting on a boat letting the engine did the work. I felt it was now time for a good hill walk to get my legs and lungs pumping. Fresh northerlys were good for my cooling system which tends to overheat on summer hill walks.

I decided to climb Ben Lui simply because I did it around 25 years ago in the mist and never saw a single view. I always remembered that climb as I ascended it with a friend by its “Central Gully” route in full winter conditions. We didn’t use a rope because we didn’t have one but I will never forget seeing the cornice at the very top. I took the cowardly stance and let my climbing partner cut the route through. I often wondered what it looked like in decent weather.

This photo is of Ben Lui in winter condition. Central Gully goes straight up the front of the mountain and reaches the summit between the twin peaks of its top. Its a very long and exposed route but not too difficult for anyone with a head for heights.

My head for heights has long gone and I now get a nose bleed looking out my first story bedroom window, so this time round, I was going to climb it by the tourist route. Here is another photo taken in summer on my way to the start of the hill walk.

I parked in the carpark off the A82 main road from Tyndrum to Oban. It was a beautiful morning and I had the place to myself. Form this angle the mountain doesn’t look so spectacular and its hard to believe the summit is 3700feet high.

The first obstacle to overcome on the tourist route is the river Lochy. It was running low so I crossed by the stepping stones. I was over the moon crossing without getting my feet wet.

I followed the Eas Daimn burn and then cut off at its tributary through the forest to gain access to the open hillside. My lungs felt raw gasping in the cool morning air as I tried to find my stride. Its over a year since I attempted a decent hillwalk and I felt it.

The cascading water of the burn distracted me from the pain of lack of exercise. However it must be the muddiest path I have ever walked on. Although I didn’t photograph it, at times I was half way up to my knees in muddy slime. It was at the worst parts the path would narrow to cut through the trees so there was no way round the quagmire except trying to balance on broken branches laid by previous walkers

Finally I reached an open part and saw the end of the forest secrion. I couldn’t wait to get onthe the dry open hillside, in fact, if I had the energy, I would have ran. I didn’t have the energy and already, I felt like crawling.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Kyles of Bute and the Waverley

It really was a thrill for me, boating with the queen of steamboats. Hearing the distinctive noise of her side paddles beating the water and watching the crowds gathered on the decks enjoying the experience of “going doon the water” once again.

I thought of myself as a youngster exploring the passageways, rummaging in the gift shop, eating ice cream cones and spending time with relatives long gone. Yup.. it made my day ..and what a great day it was too, my best boating trip so far this year.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Kyles of Bute and some rules of the sea

As I headed back up the west Kyle, the yachts were zig zagging their way down. There were lots of them and all different sizes and colours.

I kept a good lookout for them and tried to anticipate their intended paths but it was quite difficult to know when they were going to change direction.

They even started heading my way from the opposite direction. I knew enough rules of the sea to know that steam must give way to sail so I tacked and changed direction to keep well out their way.

However not everyone appeared to know the rules. Keep a close watch on these two yachts behind me.

Hmmm..I wondered if they has seen each other.. From where I sat, their intended courses seemed to cross ?

Oh..Oh .. they have now seen one another but is it too late ?

Starboard ... Starboard ..STARBOARD !!!! you blind boat owner !!

I never knew yachting could create such adrenalin amongst normally quiet fellow boaters.The collision is avoided but I wonder if they both knew who had the right of way ?

Then the surprise appearance of another boat really made my day. All the rules of the sea were broken as I watched sail give way to steam. Not one person shouted starboard either. But when a boat has a reputation for crashing into various rocks and piers of the Clyde, I would advise anyone to keep out its way.

Yup.. it was a true delight to see the last of the sea going paddle steamers in the world heading for Tighnabruaich Pier and sail gave way to steam all the way. The PSS Waverley had arrived :-D

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Kyles of Bute and Ettrick Bay

Just as I was contemplating finishing my fishing, a whole shoal of sail boats came through the narrows. Unlike motor powered boats, they cant go in straight lines and have to tack back and forth to head in the direction of the wind. As the wind was coming straight up the west Kyle, the boats had to sail back and forth across the narrow stretch I was fishing in. I felt it was time to move on.

I soon left them far behind as the wind direction suited me fine. I decided to explore the west Kyle of Bute.

A lovely view of the island of Arran opened up as I headed south in the west Kyle.

A lone yacht was heading for the little island of Inchmarnock, just off the south western end of Bute.

The sea around Bute had that lovely green sheen which happens when the sun shines on the water and there is a sandy bottom. Sadly the trees didn't seem to have the same green sheen ? I couldn’t help notice how autumn coloured they looked and this was the beginning of July ? Its been a funny year this year.

There were more rust coloured leaves around the village of Kildavanan, in fact if it wasn’t so warm a day I could have been fooled into thinking it was autumn. I blamed the world recession and falling pound for the lack of greenery.

Next stop was Ettrick bay which is a popular place for the locals to collect on a sunny day. It was so popular that I decided not to land but to drift with a strip of mackerel on my line instead. Sandy bottoms are supposed to be good for flat fish. I never caught a thing so I guess its not such a popular place with the plaice ?

I contemplated about going round Inchmarnock Island and was on my way when the wind started to freshen and the sea rose slightly. I decided against it as the water was very open and exposed to the south westerly wind.

I headed for the mainland just noth of Ardlamont Point instead and was quite glad as the waves did get up for a little while mid channel. I then turned north and started heading back up the western Kyle .... straight into the middle of the yacht race ...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Kyles of Bute and the Maids of Bute

The Kyles are quite a busy boating lane as I soon discovered crossing from Loch Striven to Bute. A large and fast launch headed up the Kyes towards the narrows and I watch a mini tsunami wake wave spread across the path in front of my boat. I crossed it bow first and it was no problem, just some spray flying from my bow as the boat crossed three steep and close together wake waves. However I was glad I was not drifting with a fishing line down because if the wake hit side on, I could have got quite wet or worse. I made a mental note to watch out for large wake waves .

A number of yachts were also appearing as I approached Port Bannantyne. Their wakes caused no problems but then again, they were hardly moving in the light breeze.

I noticed another couple of huge slipways on Bute, some not bad sized boats were sitting on them waiting to be launched

I went close to the shore at Port Bannantyne for a good look at the village, then I stopped and drifted with a fishing line down. I caught a small coddling on a rubber sand eel but it was too small to keep so I let it go without bringing it on board for a photo.

I decided not to go round the corner to Rothesay as the large ferry was approaching and there were two or three other bigger boats around. After my earlier tsunami experience I gave them a wide berth and headed back towards the narrows again. Even these small motor cruisers caused quite a wake as they sped round the Kyles.

Back at the narrows I wondered who had right of way. My boat or the one heading my way. He was going quite fast but I managed to nip through before he arrived although he did slow down a little to let me through. If he was any bigger .. I would have waited regardless who had right of way. I need to learn some of the rules of the road.

I then sat off the Maids of Bute doing some more fishing. The maids are two rocks painted to look like fisher wives and the story goes that their husbands went to sea on a fishing boat and never returned. The two maids waited for them that long they turned to stone. They have been painted for over 100 years. When I saw them, I could understand why their men didn’t return, but I had a little luck there too. Under their watchful eye, I caught another couple of coddling. Both were set free to fight another day. There are too many worms in cod for my delicate stomach.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Kyles of Bute and Loch Striven

There are some lovely big houses hidden away on private estates around the Kyles. I could happy live in what looks like the boat house in this photo.

I was very watchful of the ferry service that runs between Colintraive and the north of Bute because I was too small to argue who had right of way, and presumed the ferry did anyway. I waited my moment then quickly crossed its path on the other side, well out of its way.

Looking back towards Colintraive once I was safely out the ferry’s route. If it wasn’t for the ferry..I could have passed the village without knowing it was there.. its so small.

A yacht was also heading down the Kyle towards Loch Striven. It was under engine power as there was not a puff of wind.

The fields looked very green against the white washed farm court yard. It was a lovely morning to be on the water.

Occasionally the sea surface ruffled as gentle thermals moved along the Kyles towards Loch Ruel.

I saw the first seal of the day sunning itself on the headland point at the entrance to Loch Striven.

I was curious to see if the Maersk Line container ships were still stored in Loch Striven. Due to the recession affecting the shipping trade the container shipping company had parked around a half dozen of its boats in the loch. I guess things have improved as the boats had gone. I bet the locals are pleased to have their beautiful scenery back.

I didn’t go far up Loch Striven as I had seen enough, besides, because it was still calm I decided to have a look at the Island of Bute instead.

I about turned and headed full steam ahead for Port Bannantyne and Rothesay

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Kyles of Bute, Loch Ruel and the Buttock

I stopped the engine off Buttock Point which is the most northerly bit of Bute, and let the boat drift to a halt. There was not a puff of wind from Buttock hill so I dropped my flies into the water and started jigging them up and down. The fish finder was showing quite a few fish below the boat but still not a nibble on my flies ? When I peered into the deep still depths, I saw lots of jelly fish instead of silvery fish.

The water was like a mirror and the sun felt warm in the still morning air. It was one of those days when I really was glad to be alive and out of doors, if only I could catch a fish I would have been in paradise.

A little bored of getting no bites, I lifted my lures and crossed the west Kyles to investigate an unusual looking lighthouse. It looked like it was moulded from clay.

On close inspection I found there were two clay “lighthouses” One at the entrance and the other at the exit of a hidden harbour behind the island Eilean Dubh which is at the junction of the east - west Kyles and Loch Ruel.

In a moment of madness, I opened the throttle to distort the mirror image of the land reflected on water. I was heading into Loch Ruel for another spot of fishing.

I wasn’t the only one fishing in Loch Ruel. This commercial fishing boat had a continuous “belt” of mackerel flies being turned round a winch wheel. The belt then disappeared into the water below the boat. The mackerel were hooked then pulled onto the deck where they fell off into fish boxes before the flies disappeared over the side again. It was catching a few too.

On the shore just to the left of the boat I could see another couple of anglers fishing from the rocks. I caught a couple of mackerel here too but then stopped as I only wanted two. One for breakfast and one for bait. I wasn’t relying on the fish to pay my bills though.

I started to head for the narrows at the junction of the East and West Kyles of Bute. This is the nearest I got to photographing a porpoise. The wake in the foreground was left by it's fin after it disappeared again. They are fast as lightning.

I watched the depth on the fish finder as I approached the buoys which mark the deepest part of the narrows. It read 19 feet deep at low water.

This time I passed the buoys the right way. The green buoy was on the side of the green fishing rod.

The red buoy was on the other side with my right looking towards the rear of the boat and the buttocks of Bute. I could see the tide flowing and trying to push the buoys along but it wasn’t strong enough to slow my boat. I was now through the narrows and heading for Loch Striven....