Friday, 12 June 2009

Penultimate day

XC weather said that it would be light variable winds and sunny, which in anyones book is great paddling weather. So sure enough the day dawned with clear skies and as a result temperatures down at 5 deg.

We were up early, primarily to catch the flood tide up the Sound of Mull but also to take advantage of the fact that the winged fiends don't operate at low temperatures. We were on the water and away by 6.45am having logged in with Clyde Coastguard for the final time.. As we left we smiled hello to the resident otter floating on his back while consuming breakfast.

The sound was like a mill pond and with the help of the tide an hour an a half later we were pulling in at Calve Island in Tobermory bay to shed layers and refuel. As we landed a fight broke out among a small group of oyster catchers. Noisy birds at the best of times the racket was incredible. So intense was the exchange that they seemed oblivious to us.

Back out in the sound we made good progress using the last of the flood and by 10.30am were on the Ardnamurchan coast taking another breather and refueling.

We had originally planned to wait for the start of the afternoon flood tide before heading around the point, but with such favourable conditions we decided to go through against the head.

It worked well and the trip around the barren rocky promontary that is Ardnamurchan was fine and required little more than an increase in effort at the point.

Approaching the point first Canna, then Rum, then Muck and finally Eigg came into view with the Skye Cullin behind.

Finally we rounded the Point of Ardnamurchan, the final Turning Point on our journey and the start ofthe home run to Morar..

As we did so we spotted another group of paddlers and headed over to see them. It was Douglas, Jen, Dave and Jim on their way to Coll for some whale spotting who we thought we had missed but were running late. They were the first boaters we had spoken to in 3 weeks and the fact that they were friends was an added bonus. It was good to see them and we chatted for half an hour before going our seperate ways.

We headed into the bay behind Eilean Carrach for some serious refuelling and a siesta in the sun.

Refreshed we headed NE and then E along the N coast of Ardnamurchan passing along the edge of an ancient volcanic caldera. Don't believe us? Have a look at Google earth. Travelling along the coast we saw our first Shearwaters skimming low over the sea on hunting forays from their underground homes high in the hills of Rum.

After an hour or so we reached Port Ban and pulled in for break to obtain fresh water and to consider our next move. It had been a long day but the weather was superb and it would be a shame to waste it.

Fortified with chewy bars we continued on to the NE corner of Ardnamurchan. After a brief chat with a couple of local fishermen we decided to push on and make the crossing to Loch Moidart. An hour later we were ashore at the perfect campsite with a white sand beach and views out to Ardnamurchan, Eigg, Rum and the Skye Cullin. The sunset was to prove fabulous.

Distance travelled today: 62km
Total distance travelled: 807km
Midgee ferrocity: nil am. 4/5 pm.

Another Turn

We woke to a calm and sunny morning. Got up, got going and on the water for 8.30am.

For the first hour the sea remained smooth and the winds light; however as soon as the tide turned the wind picked up and by the time we crossed the mouth of Loch a Choire we had a N F3-4 to wrestle with.

The remainder of the trip along the SE coast of Morven proved a mixture of cross winds, head winds and periods of calm. We stopped at Camus Airigh Shamhraidh to refuel and enjoy the sunshine and scenery, and again just shy of Rubha an Ridire while we waited for the tide in the sound to turn. At an early point in the journey we even got a glimpse of the Paps of Jura away to the south of us.

Aside from the super quarry it proved to be a lovely section of coast with the mixture of reddish pink stone beaches contrasting with the fresh green spring growth on the native coastal woodland that appears to thrive along this shore.

As we got closer to Rubha an Ridire the wind became more persistently a head wind and we sensed that there would be a battle ahead. We weren't wrong. A km or so before the point a sea eagle emerged from the trees and rode the breeze past us up the Loch.

And then we were there. The third major turning point in our journey.
For 9 days since rounding Duncansby Head our compasses had read SW as we followed the line of the Great Glen fault southwards. Now as we swung round into the Sound of Mull our direction changed to NW.

And so battle commenced as we worked against a NW F4-5 to get round into Inrinmore Bay. It proved such a struggle that we started to think about our options for an early finish, but then the wind eased and before we knew it we were round Ardtornish Point and heading for Lochaline. However the wind wasn't done with us and we had to work hard to make the beach for a well earned rest.

The wind died down again so we decided to head on up the coast and make use of the flood tide. To begin with this was generally OK with occasional F5 gusts impeding progress but with 4km to go the wind settled to a steady F5 with gusts perhaps hitting F6 and we were forced to earn every inch of ground, crouching low over our spray decks to reduce wind resistance and making each stroke count. After what seemed like an age we finally reached the campsite at Fiunary and agreed to call it a day at that.

Our next challenge came when the third tent pole snapped as we were putting up the tent. Fortunately we still had additional spare poles and a hacksaw blade thanks to Alan so we were able to replace the offending piece. Not what you need after a hard day but there you go.

And then there were the midgees. Despite the fresh winds at sea the campsite was very sheltered and the wee darlings were out in force. We are talking midge hoods essential, eating only possible in the tent and clouds of them waiting at the door for you to leave again. What joy.

Distance travelled today: 43km
Total distance travelled: 745km
Midgee ferrocity: 4/5 am. 5/5 pm