Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lights out at Covesea

Last weekend saw one of the biggest spring tides of the year, with the full moon very close to the earth. The forecast was for bright weather though still cold for May and for light winds and low swell on the Moray Firth. I headed up to Lossiemouth to do a half day paddle west along the coast to Hopeman. It's a paddle I've done several times and it has some good variety.

I arrived at the West Shore about an hour before high water.  The sandy beach which gives an easy launch had already disappeared and it was a surprisingly tricky launch from the steep rocky area below the sea wall.  After clearing the small dumping surf and pumping out the water from the cockpit I paddled across the bay towards Covesea lighthouse.

First lit in 1846, Covesea was automated in 1984.  Following a review of navigation by the Northern Light Board in 2010 which indicated that modern vessel traffic patterns were further offshore than in earlier times, it was proposed to discontinue the light.  The offshore Halliman Skerries were marked with a North Cardinal buoy bearing an X band radar beacon in February 2012 and the light from Covesea was extinguished for the final time on 2nd March 2012.

Whilst the reasoning behind the decommisioning of lights such as Covesea is understandable, as a seafarer it feels to me like a loss.  The beams from lighthouses on a dark night give more than navigational warnings, they're a part of the fabric of our coasts.

The swell was in line with the forcast at a little under a metre.  The spring tide was allowing swells to hit the rocky areas of shore higher up than normal and producing some impressive conditions.

This small cliff seemed to be at just the right height and angle to throw up a good wave - about ten metres into the air.  I stayed well clear.....

Beyond Covesea is a stretch of pebble beach with a cave system and detached stack at its east end.  It's a nice spot to stop as the pebbles here are beautifully coloured.  The swell was easier to manage and with a bit of timing I was able to land quite easily.

As soon as I landed the boat (and my yellow drysuit) atracted thousands of tiny sandfleas.  Possibley they'd been confined to the narrow strip of moist seaweed being pushed up by the high tide.  Fortunately they didn't seem to be of the biting variety.

The sun was pleasant here despite the cold northerly breeze which has been such a feature of this Spring. After a cup of tea from the flask I set out to wander along the beach.

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