Sunday, 28 June 2009

Day 4 - R&R

Sometimes, you need to go somewhere you know.....

To reflect......
to renew...........

and to refresh.

My favourite sea loch...........

Day 3 - Loch Sunart

Chez Vince for night 2. A pleasant enough bay with room for a couple of tents but exposed to the northerly wind that was blasting away for most of the evening and which lulled me in to a deep sleep very quickly. I was visited by a red deer doe, which came within a yard of the tent, grazing the grass around where I had pitched. I lay still and quietly with the tent door open and watched her. Absolutely brilliant.

My stove was still playing up and the strong late afternoon winds that seemed to have set in to some sort of weather pattern preyed on my mind so I made the reluctant decision to return to Reisipole rather than travel further along the Ardnamurchan coast. I needed some hot water to give the stove a strip down and good clean: Moral of the story - use Coleman fuel rather than unleaded petrol, or get a gas stove. I paddled across to the Ardnamurchan shore and turned east, passing Glenborrodale Castle and a maze of rocky islets.

The trip back up the loch was basically a paddling slog and fairly boring. My destination was
below the summit of the distant hill.

Salen, a small village on an inlet favoured by the yachting fraternity, provided a brief interlude from the drudgery of the inner stretch of the north shore. A couple of interesting islolated bays also offered decent enough food stops.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Drambuie - day 2

After a night disturbed by the wind and the clanking of anchor chain, caused by the crew of the ketch having to up-anchor to change position at least once during the night to seek better shelter, dawn came with the low sun and mist gradually moving from sea level up the hills as it was burnt off by the rising temperature.

The plan was to pack up quickly, get on the water and continue heading west towards Mull, possibly getting to Tobermory or thereabouts and then seeing how things were. Oh for the best laid plans..... The reality was a little different. My multi-fuel stove was playing up and while it would cook food and heat water, it was taking a long time and ultimately I had to strip it down, thoroughly clean and then re-assemble it...... twice. A filthy job that wasted a lot of time. The other niggle at the back of my mind was the way the northerly wind had been getting up in the afternoon for the last couple of days and blowing a real hooley at F5 in the relative shelter of Loch Sunart. What if I got across to Mull and was then stuck on a north facing shore, unable to move due to the high wind, with a stove that was playing up? When you are alone your mind can start to play these wonderful games.

So after a later then intended start I pressed on to Auliston Point, the entrance to Loch Sunart and the turning point in to the Sound of Mull. I arrived there as the tide turned to the flood, so any crossing would be against the tidal flow and if the wind got up, then the wind would be against the tide. It's funny how these things gang up on you. Although I was seemingly miles from anywhere, the picture above shows Mull, the lighthouse at Rubha nan Gall and some aerials on the hills behind. For the first time for a couple of days I had a mobile phone signal! So I phoned the management to let her know I was alive and kicking and watched the tide rise towards my beached kayak.

Yachts were taking advantage of the switch in tidal flow and were coming in to Loch Sunart on the flood tide.

Under foot the ground was covered with the insectivorous butterwort (above), cotton grass and marsh orchids (left). En route I had paddled around a headland only to spook an otter, which launched itself from 6 feet up on rocks, in to the air, landing with quite a splash in to the sea by the side of my kayak. My first flying otter!
Given all the circumstances I decided to retreat back to Loch na Droma Buidhe, a well known anchorage to the yachting world and therefore suffering a name corruption to Loch Drambuie. I passed these rather wonderful rock formations en-route. The loch lies between the Sunart Peninsula and Oronsay with a navigable entrance on the west but a severely constricted and tidal dependant outflow to the east. I just made it through the rocks and kelp beds in my kayak on the risng tide. I enjoyed the loch with its inlets and creeks so much I totally failed to take any pictures of reasonable quality! Breeding terns are on some of the islands in the loch and seals haul out on the rocks near the eastern entrance.

I was now nearly back to where I camped the night before, but not wanting to camp in or near the same place twice, I set about searching for another suitable location. I circled around Oronsay and crossed over to the Ardnamurchan shore in a rising northerly wind searching for a suitable camp site. What looked like attractive beaches from the distant Sunart shore turned out to be steep boulder beaches with no where to pitch a tent, or reasonable beaches with sodden ground behind, that would be a real midge fest in the morning if the wind dropped. I wasn't that desperate so retreated to Oronsay where I had identified a suitable spot when passing in the morning. The wind was well and truly up and waves were breaking over the back of my kayak in the loch. Time to go and do battle with the stove again.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Big Trip 2009, day 1

Launch was from the campsite slipway on the north shore of Loch Sunart at Resipole. They allow cars to be left for £2 a night. The kayak is loaded up with provisions and water for a four day trip. The sun is shining and the sea loch is almost mirror calm. It was good to get on the water and start paddling.

For the first day the plan was to follow the Sunart (southern) shore. The Sunart Oakwoods are an internationally important site for mosses, lichens and liverworts as well as various vegetation communities, birds and animals. Much of the southern shore of Loch Sunart has this important semi-natural woodland dominated by oak, but there are also enormous conifer plantations and significant areas of rhododendron, which thrive in the climate here. The alien conifers and rhododendron are being removed.

There are massive areas of clear-fell and jetties exist in a number of places to facilitate the removal of the timber by coasters. This particular one looked more redundant than used.

This coaster had arrived on Monday evening for loading at a jetty on the southern shore of Loch Sunart opposite the Resipole campsite. I had seen it earlier that day heading south down Loch Linnhe near Fort William, so presumably the timber is going to the pulp mill at Corpach. 24 hours later it was loaded up and on its way back.

After a few hours of gentle paddling I reached the island of Carna, an island with narrows on either side that is at the entrance of Loch Teacuis. The hill in the background is Ben Laga.
I came across this urchin shell on top of a rock that had presumably been used as an anvil or lunch place by a gull or perhaps an otter, which are plentiful hereabouts.

The channel on the west side is narrower than on the east and has quite a few submerged rocks. The tide really rips through here and it was fascinating watching the changes of the tidal flow as time passed by.
It was at this point I decided to make my campsite. It was a very warm day and as it was my first days paddling I didn't want to over do things or become dehydrated. I'd only paddled for about six hours, perhaps covering 25km, but sometimes it is best to quit while you are ahead.

The ketch on the far left seemed to be some sort of research vessel that came in to anchor on the north side of Eilean nan Eildean. A couple of tenders were working the channel and there appeeared to be some sort of observation of the sea floor and collection going on. Apparently there are some important reefs hereabouts. Later in the afternoon the wind started to blow a real hooley from the north west and during the night the ketch had to be moved around the Eilean for more shelter.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

2009 "The Big Trip"


It's 1st June 2009 and I've scheduled four days to solo paddle a fair chunk of the Sunart and south Ardnamurchan coasts wild camping and fully self supported before moving on to the luxury of a cottage on Skye and day tripping. Time to get away from work and retain my sanity.

Three kayaks

Well more accurately four kayaks actually! Earlier this year we tried out the new P&H Scorpio and Scorpio LV. My daughter and I took them out in huge seas to Roscolyn Beacon off the west coast of Anglesey in February. As the sea state was so mad there are no photos on the water so this is as good as it gets, the LV on dry land. Both boats handled superbly, up wind, down wind, cross wind with the sea head-on, following and on the beam. On the downside, I'm not too keen on the new P&H pinched skeg slider, particularly if fingers are cold, and my feet (size 8) don't fit in the LV too well with my kayaking boots on, so it would be the Scorpio for me. Highly recommended. Thanks to Pete Braas at Summit to Sea for the loan of the boats.

Last summer we made our usual trip to relatives in Pembrokeshire with the loan of an Avocet LV from Valley via Desperate Measures in Nottingham for my daughter to try out. The car rack is as good a place as any to see the difference between the Avocet LV and my standard Aquanaut. The volume difference is huge!

The Avocet LV handled well but the depth at the cockpit was too shallow for my daughter and I've since heard a couple of similar comments. Maybe the boat is something of a work in progress but it would seem there is a market for a smaller sea kayak.

Spot the backend of the boat in a cave at the entrance to Milford Haven.

Cruising the coast