Just completed a wonderful weekend in the Killyleagh Outdoor Education Centre on Strangford Lough this past weekend. Great facilities available in the Centre, including access, camping, hot showers, excellent drying room etc not to mention its stunning location with its own slipway on the shore of Strangford Lough. It is located just 4 kms from the Narrows with all that has to offer to the paddler - the Routen Wheel and Angus Rocks. This was an ISKA meet which was being hosted by the BKC who had all bases covered. Most of those attending were BKC paddlers but they made every effort to make all ISKA paddlers welcome. Day 1 Sat turned out to be very windy with F5/7 Southerly winds blowing up the lough. There were two paddles organised on Sat with one for experienced and one for inexperienced paddlers. The experienced group broke into led teams of four and all launched from the slipway at the Centre with a shuttle arranged for the two paddles planned. One long paddle of 20 kms to the Mount Stewart area near Newtownards and one shorter paddle of 10 Kms to the Whiterock area. The strong winds fairly hoovered us all down the Lough. Some brave souls tried out their sails to varying effect including capsize. The longer more experienced group travelled outside the many islands to get the benefit of the following sea while the less experienced group stayed in the relative shelter of the islands, island hopping down to the pick up point. Lunch on Transnagh Island for the long haulers was followed by an increasingly rising downwind run across the lough to Mount Stewart. This proved the more difficult half of the journey with the wind quartering over the starboard stern requiring the use of skeg, heeling and sweep strokes to stay on course. I wished I had loaded some rocks in my stern hatch at the lunch stop. Great paddle that Sat followed by dinner in the very comfy pub in Killyleagh.
Day 2 the Sunday, was a totally different day with flat calm wind and some residual sea action on the outside of the Lough. The longer 24kms paddle left from Ardglass with several kms to reach the entrance to the lough. The shorter paddle left from Kilclief Castle area for a 13kms paddle. Launching from Ardglass the residual sea action from the previous days high winds produced heavy breakers inshore which kept most outside but a few braver if more 'adventurous' paddlers tried their hand inshore which brought about one capsize requiring rescue which made for an interesting diversion. A bit of fog meant the visibility was reduced for the first half of the trip to Guns island where we stopped for lunch. Clear skies and sunshine greeted our entrance to the Lough after lunch where we had a short play in the overfalls at the Angus Rocks and then zoomed up the Lough at 7.5 Knots while hardly paddling. Great to be able to admire the beauty of the Narrows while on the conveyor belt of the Lough in flood. The Routen Wheel appeared quickly but as it works better on the ebb just two of us played in the benign boils before rejoining the main body for the last 4 Kms crossing to Killyleagh for hot showers, change and quick cuppa before the journey home. Strangford is a really great place to paddle in all kinds of weather where you are almost always sure to get a paddle no matter what direction or strength the wind is. Thanks again to the BKC and especially Peter Clanaghan for organising this meet.
Trips reports submitted by members
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