Saturday, 26 May 2012

Ailsa Craig Adventure Part 1

Because I spent a great deal of my life living and working in south Ayrshire, I often wondered what it would be like exploring Ailsa Craig or " Paddy's Mile Stone " as many locals refered to it. Many years ago, my brother Douglas spent a week on the island and much to my envy, told the family many stories of his visit. I often dreamed of setting foot on the island for myself.

Even when I got the boats, I still only dreamed of seeing the place. The Ailsa Craig lies 10 miles off the Ayrshire coast and is in a very exposed part of the sea. At full throttle my boat will only travel at an approximate speed of 5 miles per hour, making the crossing duration at least two hours. Anyone who knows the sea will know that wind conditions can be very unpredictable and a flat calm sea can form white breaking waves in a matter of minutes. I know when the waves start to break, my nerve and the boat's ability start to strain and its time to head for shelter. There is no shelter between the mainland and the Ailsa Craig.

However, the fine spell of calm weather we have been enjoying this week, plus my brother mentioning that he and a couple of friends were going to kayak across to the island, built up enough courage in me to attemt the crossing. Why have a boat and only sail it on ponds ?

We arranged to meet at Lendalfoot at 8.30am. A quick glance at the tide tables ment it was low tide at 8am so I knew I would have a struggle launching my boat off the chosen beach. I arrived 7.00am hoping to catch the last of the tide before low water rocks barred my way to the sea.

I will be honest and say it is the worst launch point I have ever had. It took an hour and a half to get the boat into the water on my own. I used planks to keep the wheels from sinking into the soft gravel shore, pushed and hauled over small rocks and just before I reached the waters edge, the trailer wheels jammed solid behind some large bed rocks. I then had to push the boat off the trailer.. move the wheels over the rocks, winch the boat back onto the trailer and kept repeating that process until finally I got the boat afloat. I hope to never have to repeat that process..but it was all good experience. This photo shows where I got the boat to single handed.

I finally got the boat anchored in time for the rest of the party to arrive, however I then had to carry the engines and my gear for the day down. Not an easy task after exhausting myself getting the boat into the water. It was a very hot morning too..but there was not a puff of wind.

It took the kayaks ten minutes to load up and transport across the same beach, then we were off.

If the wind gets up, the kayaks are far more sea worthy than my boat. Breaking waves cannot get into the kayaks as the paddlers have a spray skirt around the cockpit to keep water out. If one of them is unlucky enough to fall over, they can easily roll back up and continue the crossing.

If my boat gets swamped by a breaking will quickly wallow and easily turn over with no way to right it again. The engines will fill with salt water and not start again.. in other words.. if the wind got up during the crossing.. I was in hot the cold Clyde

The kayaks can move fast and effortlessly due to their slim long lenght. We were soon leaving the misty mainland hills behind

My boat is even faster and goes with far less effort..but at a cost of hearing a noisy four stroke outboard.

It looked a long way across the ten miles of sea to the Ailsa Craig. I knew my throttle wrist would be very tired by the time we got there..if we ever did.

To be continued...


blueskyscotland said...

I visited A few years ago with freinds who own a fairly large powerful rib.Even then in calm seas the crossing seemed to take ages and a four foot boat wash containing several large waves hit us out of nowhere halfway across with no obvious culprit in sight so well done Donny for doing it in your smaller craft.Its a belter of an Island.

Donny Wilcox said...

Hi again Bob.. yup.. it was hard wondering whether I should risk the crossing in such a small boat.. but because I was in company and there were several VHF radios in the party..I decided to chance it.. it paid off nicely :-D

It sure is an interesting island