Sunday, 28 February 2010

Helicopter Training ... But not as expected ...

Yesterday, Sea King 177 from Gannet was supposed to come across to do some safety training, mainly for some of the newer Team members.  With heavy snow on the Friday night up North, plus a few inches in the Borders, together will low cloud, it was little surprise tha they had to postpone and attent an incident for real.  The incident that they were diverted to was in Glencoe - details here.  They had planned to fly down tot he Borders after dealing with this incident, but unfortunately had to turn out to another job.

We carried on with the planned exercise.  Mid way through deploying the guys, the Team was paged to assist the ambulance service in Peebles with the evacuation of a casualty with head and suspected spinal injuries.  So 10 of us were sent to Peebles to assist.  An aircraft was requested, and a Sea King from RAF Boulmer was deployed.   A helicopter circled the scene very quickly.  However, it was a civillian aircraft and not the one we were looking for.  About ten minutes later, the Sea King duly arrived, picked up the casualty, and transported to hospital. 

So a varied day ...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Farne Islands - A Bird's Eye View

Walking from Bamburgh Castle to Seahouses, the Farne Islands are passed.  I've kayaked out to them a few times, but today an alternative mode of transport was spotted.  Looked fun, but I bet they were cold !

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Solway Sands

Elizabeth Craigmyle

TWA race doon by the Gatehope-Slack,
When nicht is wearin’ near to the noon,
He on the gray and she on the black;
Her faither and brithers are hard on the track,
And Solway sands are white in the moon. 

Strong is their love, but their loves may be twined
Or ever the lady grant love’s boon;
Elliots and Armstrongs hold chase behind,
Their shouts and curses ring down the wind,
And Solway sands stretch white in the moon. 

Annan rins fu’ frae brae to bank,
But Katharine’s lover is nae coward loon;
Into the good gray’s foam-flecked flank
In the rowels o’ the gray steel sank,
And Solway sands wait white in the moon. 

The water ’s up to his bandelier,
It ’s up to the waist o’ her satin goon;
“We ’ll win to the shore and never fear,
There ’s never a Elliot will follow here,”
And Solway sands glint white in the moon. 

The steeds and the riders are safely o’er,
Through the swirl o’ waters that waste and droon;
“We try the swimming this night no more,
The boat is waiting on Solway shore,
And Solway sands shine white in the moon.”

Through the gray tide-water their horses splash,
Through the salt pools left on the sea-sand broon;
Then on to the waiting boat they dash,—
Their midnight riding is wild and rash,
And Solway sands gleam white in the moon. 

“To-night the boat’s rough deck I trow,
Next night the bridal in Carlisle toon.”
But nights shall come and nights shall go,
O’er their bride-bed deep in the quicksand’s flow,
And Solway sands stand white in the moon. 

The boat rocks light on the Solway wave,
The turn of the tide is coming soon,
But slowly they sink in their ghastly grave,
Wrapped round in the dark with none to save,
And Solway sands laugh white in the moon. 

The cloud wrack breaks, and the stars shine fair,
The sea’s voice sounds like a mystic rune,
The skipper looks out, but none are there,
The glimmering coast-line is wide and bare,
And Solway Sands are white in the moon.

Sweet Jenny by the Solway Sands

Sweet Jenny by the Solway Sands,
Fair Jenny by the Cree;
This rose that once lay in thy hands,
Still speaks and breathes of thee.

Again the spell my fancies weave
Still shows thee standing there,
While all the winds of summer leave
A glory round thy hair.

The winds come from the Solway Sands,
They touch thy gentle cheek,
Then bear away to other lands
The thoughts I fain would speak.

Ah! hope that comes, and hope that grows,
With visions sweet to see;
Thou paler sister of the rose,
Thou lily not for me.

But I shall dream, and, in my dreams,
Shall see thee standing there,
The flowers beside thee and the beams
Of summer in thy hair.

Sweet Jenny by the Solway Sands,
Fair Jenny by the Cree,
Ah! that this rose that left thy hands
Is all I have of thee
Alexander Anderson 1845-1909

Monday, 22 February 2010

Hestan Island Revisited

Came across the following on the Auchencairn Community website....

Beryl spoke of the 1950s when with her husband John she frequently visited this forgotten corner of Scotland on camping holidays in their motor cycle engined Bond Mini car. She loved the car - even if it did have no reverse gear and she had to lift it round to go in the opposite direction and despite it's habit of overheating when faced with a hill and it needing to rest for a while before continuing the journeys.

Their holidays eventually led to the longing to move to the area and thus in 1956 they started looking for a place to live in Galloway. By chance they found out that the sole occupant of Hestan Island (a place that they often viewed form their regular camp site near Rockcliffe), was planning to leave. After visiting the island and meeting Mr Houston they had a few months to wait until it was confirmed that the lease was theirs.

Beryl told the enthralled audience of tales of daring crossings with all their wordly goods balanced in small boats and how they tried to make the small island cottage more habitable after the many years of it being occupied by the solo and some might say a bit eccentric Mr Houston. He for example survived on a a daily diet of a large loaf of bread and a quantity of black (for black read burnt) bacon. He also had a love of condensed milk and retained hundreds of the empty tins in the front porch as potential balast for his boat. All facilities were to say the least - basic, but gradually got improved.

Their main income was £50 a year for wintering sheep, £50 a year for tending the light on the island's lighthouse and another £50 a year from husband John playing the church organ at Colvend on the mainland. This meagre income was supplemented by growing vegetables on a patch outside the cottage where they used seaweed as fertilizer. They found that they competed for the top few inches of the carrots with the rats that were at that time prolific. However Beryl said that the bottom parts were salvageable.

She described their relationship with local fishermen and how they learned the safe routes to walk across the sands of Balcary Bay to the Shore Road that leads to Auchencairn. They were well warned by Mr Parker, the salmon fisher, about avoiding the 'quackin quass' (quick sands) beyond the stake nets.

As her husband John was a keen organist he developed his interest as far as starting to manufacture pipe organs on the island. This provided a bit of a challenge when it came to transporting them to the mainland as they had to go by fairly small boat. He sold the organs with 1 manual and a single row of pipes for £250 each. One was fitted in Southwick and Dalbeattie Episcopal Church (another takes pride of place in our kirk here in Auchencairn).

Beryl and John left Hestan in 1960 for a slightly easier life on the mainland but she still dreams of their days on their own Galloway Island and of course has written her book recording the whole episode.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Selkirk Rhinos ...

Selkirk has a long tradition of rugby, and Selkirk Rhinos are the town's mini-rugby team, made up of primary school age kids.  Today was a fundraising walk up a local hill called the 'Three Brethren'.  Between the kids and the adults about a hundred people made their way up.

The Rescue Team was doing first aid cover.  Nothing more than the odd blister on the way up.  The kids are raising funds for their own equipment ( such as strips ), and also for a forthcoming tour.  The weather gods shone and it turned into a fine morning, although anyone heading out for a quiet Sunday morning walk got a bit of a surprise.  View from the top was good.

Dave at the wheel !

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Solway Sojourn

With light winds and a smooth sea forecast, conditions looked promising for a quick jaunt on the Solway.  High water was at 15:00, so that left plenty time for an easy drive down.  There was no real plan - just go down and take it as it came.

I went down sharp as I wanted to see how quick the tide came in.  I wasn't disappointed, as it was still well out when I arrived...

It was about three hours after Low Water before it was more or less up to the bay above.  Set off heading for Rough Island, a stop being required to fix a stuck skeg.  Using a skeg today was never likely, but it seemed daft not to fix it.  Rough Island is a bird reserve, and owned by the National Trust for Scotland.  There were certainly plenty of oystercatchers about.

Having spent my youth in Galloway, part of the attraction about paddling parts of the coast, is to revist places I went to many years ago.  See them from a different perspective ...

From Rough Island, meandered along to Balcary Bay Hotel.  On discovering alcohol in my tender years, Balcary Bay Hotel was frequented more than once, although always by the front door ...

My trip across was only interrupted by the Haaf Net Fishing poles.

Turning left, I heading out to Hestan Island and Balcary Tower.  Conditions, as can be seen, were "challenging"

A couple of fishermen were trying their luck.

Rounding Hestan Island brought me round to a modern "lighthouse" !

Whilst the cottage on the northern shore, although protected from the Southerly gales, looked decidely cold ...

But the bright lights of Kippford beckoned ...

Met three other kayakers on the way back.  One from Kippford, and a couple from Kirkgunzeon.

A short, but enjoyable, 16K...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

First Paddle of Year ...

Between work commitments and the weather, opportunities to get out on the water have been few so far this year.  However today say the first paddle of the year.  For a change, headed across to the West Coast, to Fairlie, and had a shortish paddle across to Wee Cumbrae, in the company of a few folk from Cowal Canoe Club. 

We left Fairlie in calm water, and slipped by Hunterston Terminal ...

After crossing over to Milport, there was some discussion about whether or not to go into Milport or head round Wee Cumbrae. 

With talk of torches, compromise was reached, and we headed to the castle on Wee Cumbrae ...

A quick lunch, the I headed back to Farlie.  The others headed into Milport for "light refreshment" ...

On the way back, the "Baianhai" was docking at Hunterston ...

Tempting though it was to play chicken, common sense prevailed and I paddled round it's stern.  The ship is a touch under 300 metres long, and registered under a Chinese flag. 

So an easy and enjoyable start to the year.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Helicopter Training

At the end of this month the Rescue Team has a training exercise with an aircrew from HMS Gannet ( based in Ayrshire ).  We try and train with helicopters at least once a year, mainly to give new members the experience of being winched and get a full safety brief. 
Today it was reported that HMS Gannet is likely to close, with operations being transferred to Glasgow Airport.  It was also announced that the Search and Rescue capability provided jointly by the RAF and the Royal Navy is to be privatised in 2012.  This isn't really news - it has been known for some time that this was going to happen.  But have been involved for over twenty years, I suspect it will feel a bit like the passing of a friend.  The RAF and Navy Sea Kings have been a feature of the Scottish mountains in much  the same way as rain is.  I guess the new "service" will be just as good, but privatisation is usually associated with profit, and, I suspect, it may not feel just the 'same'.  Can't really explain it. 

But hats off to the aircrews.  They are real unsung heroes.  Unlike the politicians.

Photo courtesy of Allan McGee.  Taken on a casualty evacuation in the Moffat Valley.  Note the curvature on the blades.  No photoshop trickery there.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Marine (Scotland) Bill - continued.

After yesterday's news,  thought, rather naivelly, that it would be simple to find out a bit more about the Bill.  In the best of British traditions, the rules aren't the same between Englannd and Scotland.  Additionally, for Scotland, some aspects are controlled at a local level, some are controlled by our absentee landlords at Westminster.  As with all such legislation, there are different opinions as to whether the Bill goes far enough, and concerns over differences in interpretation.  In principle, everyone appears to support the Bill, which has got to be good news. 

There is a concern in some quarters that the voice of the fishing lobby has been given more attention than other respondents, and, as such, the Bill is weighted in their favour.  Whether it is or not is debatable.  Time will tell...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Scottish Marine Bill

The Marine (Scotland) Bill has now been passed by the Scottish Government.  The aim of the Bill is to provide a framework to safeguard our marine environment and to manage the seas properly to ensure that they continue to deliver economic benefits for future generations, within environmental limits.  It strives to achieve a balance between extracting opportunities for the more traditional sectors, such as sea fisheries, aquaculture, and oil and gas, with the demands of our new sectors, such as renewable energy and wildlife tourism.  It also attempts to deal with emotive subjects such as seal culling.  For anyone interested, the bill can be found here.  This is probably not it's final form.  At about 150 pages, it will take some reading.  If you are really sad, the various stages / debates / discussions are all the be found here

An important piece of legislation, that has by and large, went unnoticed.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Motivation ....

Last night I had a choice.  I could go for a run, or I could sit beside a fine log file with a bottle of Becks.  With the ambient temperature outside about freezing, the decision was not a hard one to make.  I enjoyed the Becks. 

Tonight my conscience got the better of me, and managed to do about six and a half miles round the road.  Running on the Border roads isn't perhaps as bad as it may sound.  There is next to no traffic and there is usually something going on in the fields to take your mind of the tarmac.  It made a pleasant change to be out in daylight.  Being honest, going round the fields is much more interesting.  Perhaps struggle to find a steady pace, pausing to open gates or loup fences.  But at the moment the fields are pretty bottomless, as the snow has been thawing today.  Forecast is for it to turn colded again at the weekend, so perhaps a wee jaunt round the fields will be in order then.

I've been running more regular so far this year than I did all last year.  Here's hoping I can keep it up, and stay free from injury.  I've never managed to get into the running mindset though  -I just go for a run and don't know much about recovery runs, fartleks, etc ...  I  just run.  I think at my age, I'm just happy to be out in the fresh air keeping ( or at least trying ) to keep fit.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Inspiration ...

Over the last ten years or so, I've subconsciously started to visit most of the larger Scottish Islands.  I couldn't put a date on when I started, but I kind of became aware of if after cycling round the Western Isles one year, followed by Orkney and Shetland the year after.  It's not as clinical as  doing a round of Munros or ticking off a list.  It's more like just as and when the notion and the opportunity afford. 

I've been to Skye many times over the years.  I've no doubt looked onto Raasay many times and never given it too much thought.  Lately though, when I was snowed in, I started to read  this ...

Whilst I knew of the road, I had no real knowledge of the history and heartache behind it.  It's a real compelling read.  So much so that I can see myself kayaking round Raasay this year and looking round some of the places mentioned in the book.  It will be a slow, contemplative trip - not a mad circumnavigation of Raasay ( and perhaps Rona ) in a few days.  Like a fine malt, I'm sure it will be a trip to savour.