This is the second of two posts catching up on a number of sea kayaking day paddles around the northeast of Scotland during July 2016. Having managed to entice Mike north with tales of the dry and sunny climate of Aberdeenshire, Allan and I rendezvoused with him at Findochty for a trip to Sandend which would take in some of the best bits of the Moray Firth coast. It was indeed sunny and warm when we met up in the morning.......
.... but it didn't last! A torrential rainstorm hammered down for an hour or so, and strangely this actually added enjoyment to the day.
The rain passed through soon enough and we were left with calm conditions - perfect for this part of the coast which is prone to swell - and perfect in particular......
....for Mike to experience paddling through this iconic arch near Portknockie and so become a "Bow Fiddler".
A different day but similar weather on the Moray Firth - Lorna heading through one of the hidden channels to the west of Sandend - a rockhopping delight even in the rain.
Another day with outbreaks of rain when one tactic was to shelter in caves from the heavier bursts! This is one of the many caves near Portsoy , one which which Allan, Lorna and I hadn't previously explored. It turned out to have a blowhole and the landward end and became very tight at the back - the scrape of paddle on rock the only indication that there was a paddler within!
The coincidence of calm conditions with rainy days continued right through July - Allan and I made our way to Collieston on a day of rare flat calm on this exposed part of the North Sea coast. We drove from inland Aberdeenshire through very heavy rain which continued on and off all day. Heading north towards Cruden Bay, we took the opportunity to explore close inshore while the conditions were so calm, passing noisy seabird cities and paddling amongst large rafts of Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Fulmars.
This part of the coast has been the scene of many shipwrecks, documented wrecks include the 1594 destruction of a Spanish (actually believed to be from the Spanish Netherlands) sailing ship "Santa Catherina", from which various artefacts have been recovered.
In more recent times there have been numerous wrecks, a combination of wild weather, a rocky coast with little shelter and a busy shipping lane all contributing to the numbers. This rusted piece lodged at the back of a rocky cove looks as if it may be a ship's boiler.
Just north of Collieston we came across the entrance to a cave which is entered through a curtain of water dripping from the cliff above.
The rock is quite soft and porous here and the roof of the cave was marvellously featured with calcite formations. Probably the violence of swells driven in here will prevent the formation of stalactites, but it was still one of the more striking caves we've explored.
We rafted up to get headtorches out and explored deeper into the cave. It splits into two tunnels deep under the cliff and the left hand branch goes back a good way to where we found a tiny beach of exquisitely coloured pebbles
The air in the cave was markedly cooler than outside and there was a strange absence of the echo normally heard in caves - a remarkable place. Half-tide and absolutely flat conditions are needed to explore this cave - the roof is quite low and it would be hazardous in even a small swell....it's well worth waiting for the right conditions though.
Sea kayaking in sunshine on blue seas is, of course, perfection....but grey skies and heavy rain aren't bad either!