Saturday – The Journey
Six Hundred and sixteen miles and 12 hrs later we arrived.
Good start to the day. Mike was on time and I was not ready. Made it to Colin’s and transferred the kayaks and kit. Left Colin’s at 8.30am. I don’t know how we got all that kit into the car and us but it fitted.
Stopped at Loch Lomond for tea and a huge chocolate chip biscuit. Admired the scenery, the Loch and mountains looked good too and listened to a piper playing for the ferry passengers.
Stopped at a pub called the Cluanie Inn at Glenmoriston around 7pm.Forced to drink beer!
Clive arrived with Harvey, which was a surprise as they were supposed to be well in front of us.Clive had visited Celtic football ground for some reason; perhaps he was looking for a proper football team after supporting Bristol City. Leonie, Thomas and Gran (Leonie’s mum) then arrived.
Arrived on Skye at 8.00pm. Wonderful full on red sun set. Arrived at Bungalow at 8.45pm. Unpacked. Frog marched by Mike 200yards down to the local pub and forced to drink beer again. The locals welcomed us by having a knife fight in the bar. Ian and Sid turned up in time for last orders 11.30pm after being held up by four motorway accidents.
Sunday – The Islands
Got up at 8am, met with fog, rain and wind. The sun last night had lied.
Cut ¼ inch off the neck seal of the new cag. There is something strange about taking a pair of scissors to a hundred and fifty pound new cag.
Launched from Fiskavaig beach and headed for Oronsay in a force 3 to 4 wind, drizzle and 2ft uneven swell. After paddleing for 1km we were met with a causeway. Being a neap tide the causeway between the main land and Oronsay was still dry. So a short portage of 10 meters, a welcome stand up, and a re-assessment of the route, we set off with the wind and tide down Loch Bracadale. After 20 minutes we headed across the channel swell and wind, to the rear end of Tarner Island. Loads of Jelly Fish were encountered as we made for the lee behind the island.
Another dash across the wind and swell and drizzle we made the sandy beach at the end of Harlosh Island.
After lunch we set off around the head land into choppy waters slapping off the cliffs. Clive found a cave which he tried to explore but chickened out half way in.
A difficult paddle found us at the end of the island and heading back across Loch Bracadale to the South end of Wiay Island. Much easier going back with the 2ft swell waves and lightening winds.
Across the top of Wiay Island, the first highlight of the day occurred, when an Eagle took to the air and lazily flew back over the island and out of sight. Continued to paddle around Wiay, then across the channel back to Oronsay Island. Here a hundred shags tried taking off from their small stack, belly flopping onto the water before making it into the air.
Several sea caves were explored and strange holes and caves in the cliffs were seen.
Back to the causeway, which was now a large sandy beach, for a coffee. Looking back over to Harlosh Island, the lunch time stop, the rock or the sheep was bathed in sunshine, typical.
One final leg back to Fiskavig beach, in clam conditions, and a long carry back to the cars. The tide was out!. Back to Clive’s for a well earnt cup of tea.
Monday – A day with Gordon Brown
Up at 7am. Packed kit still damp from the day before. Still grey and miserable. Weather forecast grim, SW four to five going SW six to eight. Here we go again.
Met with Gordon who suggested we paddled out of Ord. Paddled down the coast towards Eilean Ruair Island, lots of seals and an otter with a fish which myself and Colin did not see.
Were coached in bow rudders, cross bow rudders, bow jams, edging, edging with rudders and getting out on rocks with a lumpy sea running.The barnacles drew blood in 10 different places on my hand.
We continued to be coached when Leonie spotted a dolphin, two dolphins, three dolphins. A pod of 15 dolphins came across where we were paddling. Gordon suggested that we paddled towards them as they would stay and play. As we started to paddle towards them, they dived and we did not see them again. We then paddled down Loch Eishort to a beach and waterfall for lunch.
The waterfall had a huge plunge pool and had cut through several layers of limestone, exposing two thick bands of fossils, one containing devils toenails and one containing shells
After lunch we paddled back up Lock Eishort, as the wind picked up, passed Sgeir an t Struith with its seal on the beach, to a small Island covered in shells and old coral. Every step crunched as the coral fragments became smaller.
Here Gordon started the rescues, but first we tried paddling the boats sitting on the back which produced the inevitable capsizes. Gordon then paddled his boat whilst standing on the back. He went through paired rescues and self rescue. Sedge lost fifty pounds on a bet. He bet Sid that he could not kiss the front of his boat whilst keeping the balance. After the second attempt Sid managed it, but Sedge changed it to a pint as he said he meant the first attempt. Several rescues and attempts later saw us rescued out. So we paddled back into Ord. Gordon’s helper, Tim, demonstrated a new way to launch a boat. Taking a running leap and landing in the boat feet first. The boat shot forward and launched itself with him in it.
After a pint and meal in the local hotel we returned back to the bungalow. As I opened the door, a large green and brown frog hopped into the room. Sedge tried to catch it but it went under Sid’s bed so we left it there.
Tuesday – The Big Storm
Woke about 4am to howling wind, lashing rain and Sid snoring. Got up at 8am, still the same. Had a large lazy breakfast.Drove to Dunvegan Pier.
Mike and Clive decided to paddle in the slightly sheltered conditions down Lock Dunvegan into Stien.Tried finding them at Claigon but gave up. Drove back to Dunvegan, passed Loch Suarda which had risen two feet and was now flooding the road.Drove down to Stein along flooded roads and past interesting waterfalls and streams in spate.Parked at the slip at Stein and was forced by Colin to go the pub for a pint to await the arrival of Clive and Mike.
About 3pm, Clive and Mike were spotted on the wrong side of the loch battling against the wind.
Sent Colin out to let them into the cars and had another pint.On the way back, the radio report said “that some of the roads were closed on Skye due to floods and land slips”. Five inches of rain fell in 24 hrs.
Wednesday – Around Calpay – 23km
Woke up to another windy day, SW 5-6 dropping W 3-4. Looked for a sheltered paddle. Got in above Luib in Loch Ainot. Wind waves of 2ft and blowing quite strong. Turned right and paddled down Loch na Cuiridh on the wind waves with the wind on our backs. With a little effort we were doing 6 Knots.
Stopped for lunch in a little cove past Camas na Fisteoch. Out of the wind the stop was quite warm, and the midges found us. A bumble bee took a fancy to Clive and chased him around the beach, Yellow cag, big flower!
After lunch, paddled around the end of the Island and back into the wind, keeping close in to gain some shelter from reefs, small stacks and points. Stopped off at one of the points and looked behind and fourteen seal heads were out of the water, the seals were following us.
We passed a small island which was under cut by the waves, which was made up of conglomerate dumped by the last ice age.The twenty first century caught up with us as we were buzzed by two low flying fighter planes.
Pulled in at Canas na Geadaig for a coffee. By this time the wind had dropped and we had turned the corner back into Loch na Cairidh.Deer were spotted on the hill side.
A long stretch across the Loch and into the shelter of Mount Meall a Mhaorl. The wind returned with a vengeance through the gap in the mountains as it funnelled down the valley of the Mall River. A short haul around Maol Bar found us back in Loch Ainort. A long paddle up against the wind and ferry glide across the loch found us back at the cars.
Thursday – Eagle Day – 22km
Set off at 10.30am from Fiskavaig Bay. Had to get out again and portage over the sand bar. Clive reckoned he saw an otter, but the rules were that two or more people had to see one, so it did not count. Hard luck Clive.
Paddled into large caves and past high cliffs. Jurassic Park came to mind. The wind was on our backs and the two foot wind waves pushed us along. Before the point of Rubha nan Clach, spotted our first eagle high above the cliffs, circling above on the updrafts and thermals.
As we turned the corner at the point, we were met with a three foot Atlantic swell which took us by surprise. The swell was at ninety degrees to the wind and wind waves.After an hour and half we paddled into Talisker Bay, where the Atlantic swell developed into a one wave surf brake, 2-3ft and dumping. Looking over your shoulder you could see the next flat spot before the next set came in.
Belting past Leonie, I made it straight in, no waves. Poor Leonie got hit and dumped on by two of the breaking waves, but did well to survive.
We were supposed to meet Ian here, but he was not in sight. His excuse was that Harvey could not walk fast enough. Harvey’s excuse was that he was only little.Ian and Leonie swopped over.
After a long coffee and sandwich we set off around the stack on Talisker Point and headed down the coast towards Loch Eynort.The wind and waves pushed us along past cliffs rising two hundred and fifty metres plus, straight out of the sea.
Another Eagle came down off the cliffs, so low that you could see each of its light brown tail feathers, reeled about and soared along the cliffs. Two minutes later another Eagle followed the first and then a pair soared over making a spectacular sight.
We paddled inside Stac a Mheadais and around into the mouth of Loch Eynort. Here the wind whistled down the Loch and the tide pushed in. We looked for a landing, but could not spot one. We paddled across the Loch’s mouth to a small beach on the far side. For a while the tide was winning against the wind, as it pushed us up the Loch, against the wind, as we fought to make the beach.Ten metres form the beach a grey seal popped its head out to see us past.
After a well earnt coffee, we headed down the coast towards Loch Brittle. On the way we saw another three Eagles, soaring above our heads and a strange stack built like a two roomed chimney, with a hole through it.
As we turned into Loch Brittle the wind went mad and the tide turned. We had to fight every inch of the three kilometres up to the cars, using every rock, point, the slop off the cliffs, tacking and ferry gliding to make it.
A very long day with twenty two kilometres covered and the best bit seeing eight Eagles.
Friday – Otters – Vikings
A cold start, eight degrees C. We changed in the rain and set off down Loch Brittle at low tide, which meant a long carry down the beach and over the mussel beds. Paddled down the Loch with lighter winds than the day before, pushing us down the left side of the Loch. Ian and Sid had gone storming ahead, whilst Colin and myself lagged behind, sore for the day before.
Looking along the coast, I said to Colin that this would be a good place to see Otters, lots of floating kelp and low rock shelves. Within two minutes of this conversation, I saw something move. I thought it was a rat. But no it was two small Otters fighting over a fish. The looser took a look at us and dived out of sight into the water. The other Otter carried on eating the fish. We must have got to within five metres from it, when a big Otter came over the boulder with a fish in its mouth, gave out a call and both Otters dived into the water. We must have watched the small Otter feeding for three to four minutes. Clive tried to get a photo but by the time he got out of his boat, got the camera out of the hatch, the Otters were long gone. We continued around Rubh’an Duncun well chuffed we had a confirmed sighting of not one but three Otters.
We paddled around Sgeir Mhor into a small bay for lunch. After a scrabble out over seaweed covered rocks, we explored a Viking Lock.
Here the Vikings hauled their boats out of the sea into dry dock and into Loch na h Airde, for repairs and hiding. Very interesting walls and building remains were observed and what looked like three dry docks. You could almost hear the conch shell blowing a welcome and Clive wanted to run along the oars, but this seemed a waste of time as he only had one!
After lunch we quickly headed back as we were on a mission. The wind picked up. As we went around Rubh an Dunain point again, the full force of the wind and swell hit us. We battled along into deep troughs and sharp waves until they eased because of the shelter from the other side of the Loch. A long paddle along the shore line, exploring caves and inlets found us back at the beach and a short carry to the cars.
A quick change, and we were off to visit Talisker Distillery, at the end of the village.
A very interesting short day’s paddle of Fourteen Kilometres, Otters Vikings and a large dram at the end, not bad.
Saturday – The long journey home.
Not a memorial journey, stopped for breakfast, stopped at Loch Lommond, went past a accident, stopped for Dinner, saw a large fire in Birmingham, stopped for Tea. Made it to Colin’s. Unloaded, re loaded Mike’s car, glad to get Home and stand up.
A very enjoyable week, thanks to Colin for organising the trip and inviting me.
Ian Segebeer, Sid Dawes, Russell Blackmore, Forest Southway (sorry Mike) ask him about his new friend, Colin Sands, Clive Merrifield, Leonie Cousins, Harvey, Tommy and Gran.
Ad it’s true, Clive spent a pound a bag of sawdust.