Tuesday, 24 January 2012
On the last of a forecast run of calm, clear days I made a late decision to do a short paddle on the Moray Firth. My favourite local paddle normally starts at Sandend, but this time I decided to go from Portsoy to Sandend and back. Although this is only a short distance, there's so much interest among the tiny bays, cliffs and rocky channels here that it always takes much longer than expected.
Portsoy harbour was virtually deserted as I got on the water, in total contrast to the annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival held here, when the harbour is full of boats and the harbourside and surrounding streets are absolutely packed with people, musicians and food stalls.
On the Moray Firth, the swell is a major limiting factor on sea kayaking. The coast along this section is predominantly rocky with low cliffs and the outer firth is exposed to the north and east. Today, although it was calm, a residual swell kept up interest; it's rarely completely flat here.
When I launched at Portsoy the boat was still covered in the morning's frost and ice. Paddling into the shade of the north facing cliffs the air got even colder. In the winter these small bays don't see the sun at all and frosts become deep and penetrating.
I spent some time playing in a few of the rocky channels, which are great for practising boat control and there are so many of varying widths and commitment that you can choose your difficulty level. Given the air temperature of minus 3 degrees and a sea temperature of 7 degrees Celcius, I wasn't too bold - I just didn't fancy an unplanned swim!
Soon I was approaching the West Head which separates Portsoy from Sandend Bay.