Friday, January 19, 2018

End of day in Carsaig Bay.

As we left the lonely rock of Ruadh Sgeir the tide was still carrying us back towards Carsaig Bay and as it was nearing the end of our expedition, it was nice to take a break from paddling. The light was beautiful and...

 ...we enjoyed views to the Paps of Jura which had dominated the horizon on much of our trip.

Nearing the end, we broke out of the tide into the sheltered inlet behind Carsaig Island.

 We had to start paddling again but...

...the water was calm and we enjoyed the warmth of some late evening sun.

At the SW end of the channel we came across the lovely wooden yacht Wild Rose. We had last seen her in Tinker's Hole on the Ross of Mull and off the west coast of Iona the previous year.

 As we cleared the SW end of Carsaig Island, the Paps of Jura briefly came into view for the last time until...

 ...our journey came to an end at Carsaig Bay on the Argyll mainland. It was from here we had set off 4 days previously.  Ian, Sam and I had originally intended camping out one last night further down the Sound of Jura...

...(at a delightful spot I had camped at in 2003, see above) but I was done. I was waiting for treatment for a significant health problem and I had run out of steam. I was grateful that Ian made the decision to stop at Carsaig Bay and stay the night at the nearby commercial campsite in Tayvallich. Despite the wonderful location, overlooking the Sound of Jura, I really could not have faced another night and morning of unloading and loading boats.

It was a bittersweet moment, unloading our boats in the sunset for the last time. Sad because it was the end of an unforgettable trip but happy because we were already sharing great memories.

Although Maurice and David were driving home that night, we all had dinner in the Tayvallich Inn. The staff very considerately took our food orders well past their normal last order time (we had forewarned them of our late arrival).

 So Maurice, David, myself, Sam and Ian enjoyed our last supper together on this trip. We recounted some great experiences but above all, a successful sea kayaking trip (like so many things in life) is greatly enhanced by those you share it with.

Over the four days we covered 140km on our sea kayaking pilgrimage to Oronsay and Colonsay via Jura. Unfortunately it was to prove to be my only sea kayak camping trip in 2017 but what a trip it was! :o)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Taking a break at Red Rock.

After transiting the Corryvreckan, we arrived in the Sound of Jura. The ebb tide had built rapidly and we were making 10km/hr with little paddling effort. Our destination was our starting point at Carsaig Bay. This lay 12.5km down tide but 6.5km across tide on the far side of the Sound of Jura. It did not take a mathematician... calculate that we needed to paddle across the sound at a high ferry angle to avoid...

 ...being swept past our destination and out to the open sea beyond.

So we paddled almost straight across the Sound so that the vector of our paddling and the tide would take us safely to our destination. The Paps of Jura seemed to get nearer very quickly!

Fortunately there is a good marker of whether we were making sufficient progress. The tide swept islet of Ruadh Sgeir (Red Rock), with its little lighthouse, lies in the middle of the Sound of Jura and is in a straight line between the Corryvreckan and Carsaig Bay.

Despite being carried along at 11km/hr as we approached the lonely rock, we managed to cross uptide of it so we were bang on course. It was a beautiful evening and despite being very tired...

...we enjoyed passing so close to this  seldom visited little rock with its views to the Paps of Jura. Sam and I even revelled in breaking out of the tide into the eddy on the far side of the rock....

Some edge control was required to break back into the stream that was running round the rock at 14km/hr! The tide then continued to carry us on towards Carsaig Bay and the end of our journey.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A traverse of the Gulf of Corryvreckan disturbed only by a shoal of fish.

As we set off from Glengarrisdale Bay towards the Gulf of Corryvreckan which lies between the isles of Jura and Scarba...

...the morning's cold front began to clear leaving...

...Glengarrisdale in full sunshine.

Colonsay and Oronsay were now distant bumps on the horizon behind us.

All attention was now on the western entrance of the Corryvreckan ahead. As we approached, we could still see breaking standing waves on either side of Eilean Mor but our timing was impeccable and... we slid our bows into the jaws of the 'vreckan, it had fallen fast asleep.

In fact at one point the water was so slack we had to resort to paddling.  However, within 5 minutes of slack water we were travelling at...

...8km/hr with minimal paddling effort. Even Maurice began to relax due to the mill pond conditions as we crossed the mouth of Bagh Gleann nam Muc (Bay of the Glen of Pigs) and inside Eilean Beag. It is at this point that unstable standing waves appear at the end of the flood (especially if there is any swell from the west) and a race and anomalous waves develop during the ebb.

All of a sudden the water beside Maurice's boat began to boil and he nearly jumped out of his dry suit. He thought the tides were about to engulf him. However, it  was just a large shoal of fish driven to the surface by either the tide or a predator such as a seal or a cetacean.

 Leaving the Bay of Pigs our speed increased to...

...12km per hour as we approached Carraig Mhor and a quick glance astern...

...showed that Eilean Mor was already over 2km behind.

This telephoto shot through the Corryvreckan shows our last distant view of Colonsay on the horizon beyond Eilean Mor.

As we rounded Carraig Mhor, the narrowest part of the Corryvreckan, at 14km/hr David had his sail up and then proceeded to take his legs out for a stretch. Sam's only comment was "Legend!"

I have been through the Corryvreckan many times but this was easily the calmest. Just in case you think it is always like this, have a look at...

...this photo, taken when Tony and I were entering the Corryvreckan from the NW, it might just give you second thoughts..

As we passed Port nam Furm at the east end of the Corryvreckan, we entered the Sound of Jura and the last leg of our journey to Jura, Oronsay and Colonsay.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The skulls of Glengarrisdale, Jura.

We made our way up to the former shepherd's house which is now a well maintained MBA bothy. The last shepherd left the glen in about 1947.

 On this occasion the bothy was empty but we soon...

...had it feeling homely by lighting the fire with a bag of charcoal and the last few logs which we had brought.

 We also lit the macabre skull candle holder on the mantle-shelf above the fire.

 It was most satisfying to be able to cook a hot dinner in the shelter of the bothy, wash it down with a mug of hot tea then write up our story in the Bothy log book.

 After we had warmed up and cleaned the bothy, we went out for a little explore. David was most taken with this whale jaw bone...

...but not even his veterinary skills could resuscitate any of the patients in this box. Glengarrisdale has a long history of bones and skulls. It used to be called...

...Maclean's Skull Bay. A gruesome skull and femurs sat on a rock at the edge of the bay for many years. They disappeared in the 1970's. The skull had a "sword" cut in it and allegedly belonged to one of the defeated Macleans from a battle in 1647. Modern legend says it was situated in a cave at the east of the bay. However, in John Mercer's book "Hebridean Islands, Colonsay, Gigha, Jura" published in 1974, the above photo shows the sad relics on a rock at the west end of the bay. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Some very unpleasant things happened in Scotland's history.

Glengarrisdale was a Maclean stronghold in the mid 17th century. Their stone built fortification, Aros Castle, no longer remains but its site is marked by an isolated stand of trees not far inland from the bothy. It was here that the Macleans were defeated by their nemesis the clan Campbell.

 Time had now marched on and we retraced our footsteps to the bothy to collect our things...

 ...and make our way back down to the waiting boats. In the distance the flood tide was still pouring out of the Corryvreckan and I rather hoped that Maurice and Sam did not notice the large tourist RIBS that were buzzing about and regularly disappearing in breaking standing waves.

I think Maurice must have seen the white water in the Corryvreckan because as we carried the boats the short distance to the water* he asked "What do you think it will be like?"

"What will what be like?" I replied, ever so innocently.

"The Corryvreckan." said Maurice in a very hushed tone.

"Oh, will be flat as a millpond." I said, confidently. I could see Maurice was far from convinced.

*note the impeccable timing!

Read Ian's account here.