Mallaig and District Canoe Club - Trips 2009

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April 5 - Glenelg to Ratagan

Seven paddlers. Winds force 4-6. Sunny and cold. Total distance 19.5km.
The plan to put in at Glenelg Bay was quickly dismissed when we saw the surf excitedly breaking into the bay, so put-in was re-scheduled to the ferry pier, as the ferry was not running. On the water shortly after 11a.m. we had a brisk push along the coast northeastwardsthrough Kye Rheaby the SW wind and a bit of tidal assistance. More compensating and bracing strokes than forward ones required. Once round the corner the sea calmed down a bit and we pulled into Ardintoul for "first lunch". Phil found a HUGE, live but battle-scarred, starfish. Continued north-east up Loch Alsh, past Eilean Donan Castle on the opposite shore, and into Loch Duich. With the wind still behind us we thought we were in luck, but heading across to check out the wind-against-tide action we soon found ourselves facing a stiff but manageable breeze that turned out to be the story for the rest of the paddle. "Second lunch" was a sunny affiar on the shingle beach beside the jetty between Leeterfearn and Duich House, then an amiable paddle up the rest of the loch to Ratagan and the awaiting shuttle cars. Phil went off to check ouyt the brochs at Glenelg then we met for a farewell cup of tea at the Cluanie Inn before heading our separate ways. A much better day than expected, given the windy and dreich forecast, and an excellent start to the Club's Touring season. Thanks Bill.

April 26 - Sleat Point. Armadale to Achnacloich

8 paddlers. Winds brisk force 4 with some good chop around the points. Total distance 22km.
On the water at Armadale by 10.30 after dropping most of the cars over at Achnacloich. 11kms to the Point of Sleat into a manageable headwind. As Rum and the rather disappointing lighthouse came into view the seas got livlier and heads were down until we rounded into the shelter of Eilean Sgorach and the Cuillins of Skye peeped through the gap. After a short breather we proceeded into some very lively sea and on the the shelter of Acairseid an Rubha, where we had a welcome lunch break below the cairns. Michelle's soup and Jill's cake were the faves of the day! With a good wind on our beam and some swell and waves to push us along we had to pay attention until we roundedRugha Charn nan Cearc, from where we had the wind directly behind ua nd we rocketed along, with a quick look into Dalavil for romatic reasons then on up to Tarskavaig Bay and a long trek up the beach. Plenty of time to visit the hostelry at Ardvasar before going over the bridg or catching the ferry home. Another great day out courtesy of a Skeoch. Thanks Jill.

May 16-17 - circumnavigation of Lismore

7/8 paddlers. Day one 27km, day two 19km - Total distance 46km.

Wildlife encountered:  otter, seal, Canada geese (with goslings), Greylag geese, a barnyard goose, heron, peregrine falcon, eider ducks, gannets dead and alive.

Under a forbidding sky, 8 paddlers set off from the large car park south of Appin House down the sound of Shuna with tide and the fresh easterly wind behind. We made swift progress down the east coast of Lismore, stopping for lunch on Eilean nan Gamhna opposite the interesting hamlet of Port Kilcheran. After lunch, one paddler had to return and the remaining seven carried on south to the lighthouse on the southern tip of Lismore, still assisted by wind and tide. The Lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson, and was commissioned in 1883 at a cost of £4260. The white tower is 26m high and the light flashes white every 10 seconds with a nominal range of 19 miles. It was automated in 1965 The original intention had been to camp at the lighthouse, but we had time in hand and Eilean Musdile, on which the lighthouse is situated, offered little shelter from the fresh easterly wind. So it was decided to paddle on to Bernera Bay and camp under the ruins of Achadun castle where we spent a comfortable night (we won‘t mention the broken coccyx conversation!). 

In the morning the winds had abated and the sun was shining. The rising tide allowed us to paddle through the narrows between Bernera and Lismore, and although tide and an unexpected north easterly breeze were against us we had an interesting and enjoyable “bimble” to Castle Coeffin where we stopped for coffee. Points of interest on this leg of the trip were the interesting geological formations caused by the limestone, old limekilns, the abandoned quarry at Grogan Dubh and the profusion of wild flowers that clung to the limestone cliffs. Castle Coeffin was built in the 13th century by the MacDougalls of Lorn on the site of Castle Rachal, and old Viking fortress. The name Coeffin is thought to come from “Caifin” a Viking prince whose sister supposedly haunted Castle Coeffin until her remains were taken back to Norway to be buried with her lover. The Castle was abandoned in the 17th century. From Castle Coeffin we made good time to Port Ramsay where we stopped for lunch. The last leg of the circumnavigation saw us heading round the northern tip of Lismore and crossing for a look at Castle Stalker. A great weekend - thanks to all those who came along!

Sunday 14 June - BBQ paddle

18 paddlers (at any one time). Distances covered - between 13.4kms. and 21kms.

Wildlife encountered: beach bums, cute kids, dogs and cuddly babies

Spoilt again by beautiful weather we set off from Arisaig, where the sea was right up to the car park, and paddled into a flat calm sea in the direction of Morar bay. We had a few barbie rookies, so we tried to behave and look responsible, but that went by the board on arriving at the beach to be greeted by John with a bottle of beer each. Thanks John - very welcome. The journey out was just over 10 k. No-one seemed to want to hang about, so we arrived in very good time, stripped off to our undies  to catch the rays and set about the serious business of lighting barbies and drinking in the sun. I had sent along a few barbeques in advance with John so we were able to start cooking straight away. John had also constructed a fantastic Robinson Crusoe style driftwood fire pit with a grill over it, which added that excellent authentic wood smoke flavour to everything. Willie, Nancy and Tilly turned up in their open canoe. Nancy’s dad, Donald, and the dogs walked in, as did Jane and the Turner family, all the way from Skye just for the day.
Kebabs were very popular this year - delicious too. Special mention must go to Roger’s barbied  Apple, Pear and Melon with crème fraiche and brandy - voted the best desert of the day. Also to Bill’s wacky idea, barbequed chillies covered with melted chocolate and sugar. It worked - made my mouth rather numb though. Gave Trevor and I hiccups too. We'll get you back next year Bill!







We split into three groups for the return journey the "I-can’t-bend-in-the-middle-so-I'm-going-to-Traigh" party, the "I-am-so-full-I-feel-sick-but-need-to-work-this-off-so-I-am-going-back-to-Arisaig" party and the "Sod-this-lets-get-as-near-to-the-pub-as-possible-and-go-to-Back-of-Keppoch, ooh surf, let’s-have-a-play-first" party. Guess which one I was in?

Footnote: When trying to surf, why do the best waves always move to the other side of the bay?

A very successful barbeque paddle this year indeed. Thanks to John for all his beach work.

Sunday 28 June - Incident Management Day, Arisaig Bay

Twelve paddlers (13 in the afternoon) with a wide range of experience got together and had a stimulating and instructive day working out possible solutions for a wide range of potentially dangerous incidents that could be experienced whilst on a group paddle. Mike started by pointing out some of the difficulties involved with leading a trip and the sort of ground rules it is worth thinking about that could help to avoid an incident whilst not impinging on any individual's pleasure on a day on the water .

The first incident was a new paddler who threw a wobbly and refused to wear a spraydeck. There was much discussion about the best way of dealing with this. Next the group noticed that a paddler was missing. After some heated debate it was decided to keep the group together and send someone to a high point of land from where they might be able to see amonst the rocks and skerries. The terns weren't impressed, but the paddler was found safe and sound, much to the relief of the rest of the group who were more worried about finding a lunch spot than an errant paddler. Lunchtime involved discussion about a wide range of incident possibilities and the afternoon saw everyone jumping into wet and dry suits and coping with a range of imaginary problems in a wide variety of ways.

Wild Roger has trouble with his trunk.

Graham convincingly disclocates a shoulder.

In the end everyone was happily splashing about in the water keeping cool on a very hot day and even Jane had a go at a capsize and a rescue - on only her 3rd. time out. Well done everyone - hope all the ideas bandied about today help to keep MDCC sea kayakers safe on the water.

Skye  10th - 12th July - Skye

6 paddlers: wind force 1-4:  total distance paddled - approx 45Km

The plan to paddle over two days round Neist Point on the Duirinish Peninsula on the  west coast of Skye was quickly scrapped on Friday evening as 6 paddlers foregathered in the campsite at Dunvegan and discussed the weather forecast for the weekend.  It was clear that at some time in the next 36 hours strong winds up to gale force 8 were due in the Minch - not weather to be caught on the unforgiving west coast of Skye!  So two day paddles it was to be, and the comfort of the excellent campsite! 
Saturday dawned clear and still.  Having shuttled a car to Meanish Pier in Loch  Pooltiel, we set off to paddle round Dunvegan Head with its amazing cliffs and views of the Outer Hebrides.  Winds remained light and we had completed our intended journey by just after lunch.  It was decided to paddle on round the next headland to at least catch a glimpse of Neist Lighthouse.  Having stretched our legs on a boulder beach, we headed round in the strong tidal stream into Oisgill Bay with its towering cliffs, Biod Ban.  By this time white caps were picking up on the Minch, so having caught sight of Neist Light, we turned into the slackening tide and strengthening head wind and headed back to the take out at Meanish Pier.  Points of interest on the day were a sighting of a sea eagle flying across the cliffs at Dunvegan Head, a large heronry at Husabost, and the numerous large ships plying up and down the Minch including a huge cruise ship.

By Sunday morning the wind had abated so we set off to paddle to Stein via the islands of Isay and Mingay.  The wind and rain at our backs, we made good time to the coral sand beach at An Dorneil where we lunched (the less hardy huddling in a group shelter!).  A circumnavigation of Isay (from the old norse meaning Porpoise Island), revealed the ruins of a large settlement on the east coast.  Early in the 19th century Isay boasted a population of 90 souls and had its own general store and fishing station.  It was cleared for sheep during the Highland Clearances and was briefly owned by the singer Donovan!  With a squally wind in our quarter, we paddled the final leg across Loch Bay to Stein with its crisp little white houses (and very good restaurants)  crowded together at the top of the beach - one of Skye’s many hidden gems! 

Points of interest were the huge number of seals we encountered, rafts of greylag geese around Isay, terns, oyster catchers and lots of black guillemot.
A great weekend - thanks to Tony for the organisation!

PS to track shipping in our waters go to and scroll down the left had side of the home page to AIS Liverpool.  Click on the area you want to view - see what is passing your window!

"Tobermory" - 16th August

The near gale force winds which had been blowing for two days hadn’t abated as expected as 8 paddlers gathered at Laga Bay on Loch Sunart on the morning of Sunday 16th August to paddle across the Sound of Mull to Tobermory.  After some discussion it was agreed to paddle across to Rhuba an Aisig Mhoir on the island of Carna and have a look at the state of the water outside the shelter of the loch.   This short paddle was a slog against wind and rain and Tobermory was soon ruled out in favour of a paddle into Loch Teacuis which would hopefully be sheltered from the fresh south westerly wind.  Paddling down the east coast of Carna two porpoises were spotted just before lunch stop number one.  The group paddled on into the picturesque Loch Teacuis past the outflow of the Barr River and on towards Eilean Chulaig where seals were hauled up on the rocks.  Having  paddled through the narrows and over to have a look at Rahoy House on the east shore of the loch, the group turned around, hoping to paddle through the narrow channel at Doirlinn between the island of Oronsay and the mainland which is only navigable at high tide.  Lunch number two was eaten in a sheltered bay on Eilean nan Eildean as the sky began to clear and the wind to drop.  Sunscreen applied, the paddlers set off through the Diorlinn channel (see pictures) and into Loch na Droma Buidhe.  Coming out into Loch Sunart once more the sea conditions became a bit “sloppy” as the group headed up the west coast of Oronsay.  The highlights of the trip were great sightings of  a huge basking shark and two sea eagles being mobbed by gulls on this leg of the journey.  Having crossed loch Sunart to Glenborrodale the group paddled up the north shore of the loch back to Laga bay.  This is a lovely coastline with the native oak woods, and scots pines much in evidence, as well as a heronry on Eilean an Fheidh.  Thanks to all who came along despite the weather and to the Gods for smiling on us!!!

Paddlers:  Tony, Elizabeth, Phil, Graham, Roger W, Roger L, Jill and Joan
Distance paddled: approx 21 km
Sightings: seal (healthy population!), otter, basking shark, sea eagle, buzzard, heron, porpoise, arctic tern, razorbill, oystercatcher.  

Torrin - Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August 2009

Over the weekend, fourteen paddlers braved poor forecasts to gather at the Torrin Outdoor Centre near Elgol in South East Skye for the penultimate meet of the season. 
On Saturday with strong westerlies still blowing, one group decided to paddle from Kylerhea to Kyle of Loch Alsh and back to Kylerhea.  With a stiff breeze at their backs the group raced with the tide through the narrows and round into the calm waters of Loch Alsh.  On the crossing to and from Kyle the group again encountered wind and heavy showers.  However by the time they headed back down the narrows the sea had flattened to an oily calm and the group had two close encounters with otters!   Meanwhile, the beginner group paddled down the west shore of Loch Slapin which should have been sheltered from the west, heading for the beach at Kilmarie, a distance of about 5 km.  Unfortunately the conditions suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorated but, although one member of the group became mildly hypothermic and two boats had to be retrieved from the east shore of the loch, everyone eventually returned safely to Torrin to enjoy an evening of  paddling slides.  It was great to see Alex, Suzanne, Joshua and Rory who joined us for the “party”!

Saturday - peace on the east But windy/wavy on the west Retrieving the boat Sunday - Ceolas Scalpay Calm before the not-so-calm

The following day a group of seven paddlers set off from Broadford Bay to paddle to Caolas Scalpay.  The sun made a welcome appearance and sea conditions were flat,  so it was decided to  return to Broadford via the south shore of Scalpay and round Guillamon Island.  The wind, however, had not read the script and, having rounded the island, they faced a slog against strong headwinds until they got into the lee of the Skye shore.
Once again Torrin and Skye lived up to their reputation of  throwing everything at the puny paddler and then some more!  However everyone on the trip agreed that they had learned from their experiences and are looking forward to getting back on the water.
Thanks to the paddlers:
Joan, Tony and Elizabeth, Sheila and Mike, Roger L, Roger and Fiona, Graham and Jane, Lesley, Elaine and Colin

And finally for 2009 - the AGM paddle, 13th. September. A gentle sortie into the skerries in Arisaig Bay to round off the season. 19 paddlers.  
See you next year!