The Pirates of the Causeway Coast invadeScotland. When a plan comes together itis a great feeling. On 27th September2013 four paddlers from the CCKA laid down a marker by paddling their singlesea kayaks from Ballintoy harbour to Port Ellen on the island of Islay,Scotland. The plans where finalisedunder the cover of darkness in Robbin boat house, Ballintoy harbour. These four paddlers call themselves the Piratesof the Causeway Coast. Their names are John Vance under disguise as JackSparrow, Martin McClenaghan as Captain Manic, Francie Ross as Captain Pugwashand Stephen Smith as Captain One Eyed Willy. We arose at 0400hrs with only a few hourssleep, packed our boats, had a huge breakfast and set off at 0550hrs under the coverof darkness and paddled towards Rathlin Island with the Bull Lighthouse as ourguide. It was a lovely paddle; calmwaters, bright stars overhead, the half moon was glowing brightly with a haloaround it. Weather wise; winds were SE,8-11mph with gusts 10 to 20 mph, no sea running. Tides were neaps, perfect conditions forcrossing these treacherous waters. Anhour and half later we hit Rathlin.
Highwater Dover was at 0600hrs. Thedeparture time was to be 0500hrs so we could get the last hour of the Eastgoing tide. We left at 0550 hours which I knew would cause a smallproblem. The flow plus the eddy started togo West so we had to alter course to find a place to rest for 10 minutes beforewe started the main crossing. Weinformed the Coastguard of our invasion on Scotland. Captain Manic always wanted to paddle toRathlin but not in the dark he chirped. Thewinds were strong on the Western side of Rathlin which is normal. The sea wasflat so we started off towards Islay. The tides run clockwise around Rathlin no matter if the flowis coming from the West or East. We knew we would get help from the tidebut the wind was counteracting that assist. We laid down a bearing of 035 degrees NNE. The plan was to have a rest every hour for 10minutes, check our position, speed, heading and alter our course as required. Captain Manic led the way with his deck mountedcompass. It was very important to restand refuel ourselves with fluids and food (jelly babies are the best pluspeanut butter sandwiches). Always drinkplenty of fluids when you are paddling and have plenty of snacks - I alwayskeep telling people that (you never know when the sea state will change andbite you in the backside!).
Instead ofhaving 6 hrs of West going tide we only had 4.5hrs which was nothing to worryabout. The East going tide would push ustowards Port Ellen. At about 4 to 6miles into our invasion of Scotland the sea state changed from 3 to 4+ with a lotof white caps. I made the decision for CaptainManic to contact the safety boat (which was crewed by Barbara and Jim) to meetup with us sooner than was planned just in case the weather deteriorated. We were on the edge of not having any phonesignal (For future expedition planning purposes, be aware there is limited ifnot any mobile signal in the middle of the crossing). We took a vote whether to continue or not; weall decided to go for it like REAL PIRATES. So off we went, hitting large waveson our beam, adjusting our compass bearing as we went along. We could not see Islay as there was a big seamist covering it. 4 hardened Pirateslooking at a compass bearing of 030degrees. ‘No Islay, no Rathlin, just four wee boats on a big sea,’ I said tomyself. The chat was good, the food great; Snickers and Mars bars. We were permanently sucking on jelly babiesas well. After a number of hourspaddling we started to see the shadow of Islay which give us a lift; somethingto aim for. So we sharpened our paddleswhich gives us a rock to our boats. Atthis stage the sea state was decreasing to around 2. Captain Manic and Captain Pugwash claimedthey saw a whale (the Pinocchio whale). I didn’t see it but I videoed the sea so I could verify this later. Having verified the video evidence on return,I could see no whale, so presumably they were hallucinating from the stress ofthe invasion!! Islay started to getbigger and longer and longer as we approached. Only 3 miles to go... the longest 3 miles of my life. The safety boat arrived; all was fine so wesent them on their way. We had VHFradios on the deck of our boats (not good for reception). They need to be up higher in order to getbetter reception. Also some form ofstrobe lighting should be mounted up high so the safety boat can see us. Jim and Barbara had problems contacting andseeing us when we were only 200-300 metres from them. I was going to suggest spec savers to them asthere is a special on!!!
We started to tick off land marks as we went alongkeeping the mind focused. We all crossedthe finished line together, 10 hours and 26 Nautical Miles later. Getting out of the boats was funny. The moans and groans were like the noises ofa seal colony. After a few photos wewent to our B&B for a hot shower, a lovely meal in the Indian restaurant(which was an eye opener – lovely place to eat) and obviously a pint or two.
What can I say... 3 old dodgers and whippersnapper called Captain One Eyed Willy made the crossing from Ballintoy to PortEllen going across the flow. If we cando it the rest of you can do it too. Weall had different reasons for taking on this challenge. I had been talking about doing it for thepast ten years but had never got around to it. To me sea kayaking is a lovely way of keeping fit; it cleans yourmind. The people you meet along the way,the friends you meet, and it all brings a smile to my face. This crossing was a trail run. The next timewe do this paddle we will be in double sea kayaks along with a variety ofpeople who come from a diverse background, many of who will have disabilities. We aim to paddle from Cushenden, Torr Head orBallintoy to Islay or the Mull of Kintyre and raise money for their respectivecharities. At the end of their trip theywill be presented with a pirates mask and initiated as a Pirate of the CausewayCoast. There are four already and wehope there will be many more. This iswhat it is all about; many hours of training and paddling in all types ofweather and waters. And with the rightpeople around you, you can accomplish a lot and at the same time have a lot offun. The Isle of Man next; this timesailing. Well done guys!!
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