Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Rum, Eigg and Muck trip that wasn't

In the days leading up to the first of three expeditions I had planned to guide, my heart sank as the weather forecasts got progressively more extreme. The plan had been to go out to Rum, Eigg and Muck by ferry and paddle our way back to Mallaig over the course of five days. The best plans are made for changing, and so five of us set off from Loch Ailort heading towards Penmeanach Bothy where we thought we would get some respite from the predicted force 8 winds overnight.
Next morning the sky was leaden and the wind had not abated. We spent the morning gathering firewood in preparation for another night in the bothy. By the afternoon conditions had improved allowing four of us to go for a play in big swell in the gap between Eilean a' Chaolais and Rubha Chaolais.
The bothy again provided us with a comfortable night away from wind and rain. Next day, the wind had dropped and we set off for further adventures.
Paddling past Glenuig and Samalaman Island we noticed the dark humps of marine mammals in the distance. To our delight they came closer and before we knew it we were paddling amongst a pod of dolphins. They swam in between our boats, circled us and then decided that we were of no interest and left. Everything happened too quickly for photos, and sometimes I think its better to simply enjoy the moment.
Here's a bit more evidence that the area is full of wildlife. We didn't see the otter that made these footprints but we were very much aware of our amazing surroundings.
This was our first campsite of the trip, and a stunning place to stop.
As the sun set behind Eigg and Rum we found more otter prints in the sand, explored the beach, ate lots of food and had a very comfortable night.
Thursday morning gave us our calmest weather so far, so we explored along the coast northwards in the direction of Loch Moidart.
Had lunch at castle Tioram and then made our way to my favourite campsite at Smirisary. Here we met a French paddler, who was out by himself in his inflatable kayak. Next day he paddled with us into Loch Ailort as far as Roshven. We then headed further into the Loch to our starting point. Most of the day was paddling into strong headwinds but the last couple of kilometres the wind turned in our favour and pushed us quickly, our paddles held up as makeshift sails.
This wasn't the trip I had planned or had hoped for, but it was a good way to make best use of a week of very mixed weather. Thanks to Colin, Ian, Pauline and Genevieve for making it a week to remember.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Paddy's Milestone

Ailsa Craig, or Paddy's Milestone is a prominent lump of granite sitting about 15km west of Lendalfoot, near Girvan. What paddler could resist the draw of an island that looks so close?

Laura and I set off for what we thought would be about 2 hours paddling. It was the sort of crossing where the target didn't seem to get closer at all.

Eventually we arrived and were relieved to find that the landing would be easy. We had planned to set off early enough to allow a return paddle if we didn't fancy our chances landing. This would have been a very bad place to damage a boat.

There are a number of old buildings on the island and we soon found a sheltered place for our tents. Next job was a bit of exploring. Following a path we came across this sign. You can probably guess what we did next.

The bridges and walkways took us to the site of the curling stone quarry. There was plenty of evidence of curling stone cutting.

As the temperature began to drop we retreated to the shelter of one of the old buildings where we cooked dinner and sat around a small camp fire. I wasn't sure we were going to find wood on the island so I carried some over, ready cut to fit in my tin can fire bucket. I needn't have bothered, there was masses of dry wood washed up.

As the sun dipped we were treated to a lovely pink sunset.

Next morning it was again cold and dry, we made a quick porridge breakfast and set off back the way we came to Lendalfoot. This time with the wind behind us we enjoyed an occasional surf. It wasn't obvious which bit of shore we were aiming for but Laura's directions were good and it wasn't long before we landed at the vans for a well earned coffee and lunch.

Thanks Laura for planning this and making it happen.