Sunday, 10 May 2009

Shapinsay (with lessons learnt)

May 2009

On Saturday 9 May, Peter , Angus, DaveM, Antje and Romain set off from Craigiefield. We crossed the String with tail end of east going tide and an 18mph tail wind to pass just south of Heliar Holm. We continued towards the south coast stopping for a break just short of Ness of Howe.
Once round the south east corner, we encountered a pleasant but big slow tidal swell which took us past north up to Linton Bay.
Here we stopped for a long late lunch (waiting for the tide to slow before the Ness of Ork) and chat with Kenny Meason. The sun only stopped shining when Romain took his cag off! We continued on in now very pleasant calm conditions to pass a colony of seals before rounding the Ness of Ork.

Once west of Ness of Ork we encountered some short wind generated chop which was hard work for a short while. However a short break improved body and weather and we had a pleasant paddle for last 2 miles into Lochend where we camped for the night. The sun continued to shine even while we pitched tents.

Catering was thanks to Angus Romain and Antje!

For Starters: Assorted savouries with salad
Main: Steak and sausage with baked potato
To Finish: Hot apple pie

There were a few wet squalls throught the night. Contrary to the forecast, the wind did not settle completely: there was still a significant nor'westerly. We dithered and set off later than planned. We made slow progress to Galt Ness due to the headwind, arriving at gone 9:30. There appeared to be some flatter water close to the point and Angus and Peter dipped their noses into this. only to be quickly swept into a very jumbly tidal stream. Deciding to back off and go back, Peter and Angus collided, resulting in Peter ending up in water a few yards from the shore. It took a short while to establish a tow to take Peter out of the rough stuff, by which time he had been swept north a considerable way. Angus's valiant attempts to tow back to slacker water in the lee of the Galt made no headway against a strong tidal stream. Even after Peter transferred himself to the back of Dave Malcolm's boat, no headway could be made made. After about 10 minutes non-productive towing, Angus rightly put out a Mayday call on the VHF.

The Mayday call was received not only by the coastguard but also by several nearby vessels. After a short time, Dave Gentle and crew arrived in a small fishing boat - "Fair Fortune" - pulling Peter out of the water 13 minutes after Mayday call. A hot cup of coffee was very welcome. A second fishing boat - "Millennium" - arrived about a minute later to take Peter's kayak on board. A rescue RIB which had also been launched from the North Isles ferry "Earl Sigurd" followed shortly. The RIB escorted Dave and Angus in their kayaks back to the shore where Antje and Romain had sensibly taken refuge. Not long after, the Kirkwall lifeboat arrived and took Peter and kayak on board. The lifeboat crew kindly offered to take all paddlers and kayaks back to Kirkwall which we gratefully accepted.

Many thanks to "Fair Fortune", Shetland Coastguard, "Millenium", "Earl Sigurd" and the Kirkwall Lifeboat "Margaret Foster".

Lessons Learnt:

Correct use of VHF can be lifesaving!
As stated in our original plan , we should not have tackled the Galt after 9am when tidal flow was into 3rd hour (approaching its maximum spring rate)
Without a second experienced paddler, the group was in difficulties following Peter's capsize
A second available towline could have made a big difference (one was around Peter's waist)
Flares should have been more accessible (they were under hatch in capsized kayak)
Further rescue practice for all in rougher but safe water would be worthwhile
eg Scapa with onshore wind