Mallaig and District Canoe Club

Mallaig and District Canoe Club - Trips 2011

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April 17 - Lochs Ailort and nan Uamh

Meeting at 10.00 at the Lochailort jetty near the Castle, we unpacked gear and then shuttled a car to the L nan Uamh viaduct. During launch preparations, a dozen Fife SKC paddlers turned up , making  the parking and launching areas  quite congested. Popular activity this sea kayaking! We set off in windless, overcast conditions and this continued until we could see Goat Island, when we headed into a breeze of F2-3.  We landed on the island for lunch and sat on grass made colourful with  violets, primrose and common scurvy grass. Post-lunch, some of us we walked up to the vitrified fort where  Fiona told us of the theory that the lumps in  amongst the stones with the molten appearance  were apparently iron, but the circumstances of its melting were a mystery.

Our next objective was to round Rubha  Caolais  and head towards Slochd, at which point  we headed across the loch for the appropriately named Eilean nan Cabar, the tall pine trees on it being easily visible from Slochd. We rounded the island and turned eastwards to paddle into Loch nan Uamh.  There were a few seals on rocks just before we landed at the viaduct, where we reversed the shuttle and packed up. A good start to the club touring season was agreed by all. Paddlers: Roger and Fiona Wild, new members Dave and Moira Broadhead, Trevor Bell and Kirsty Cameron, John Jenkins and Elizabeth and Tony Laidler. Distance paddled: 17km.

Tony Laidler

5-7 June - Loch Hourn

On Friday 5th June six paddlers headed out from Mallaig bound for a weekend exploring Loch Hourn.  An evening paddle across the mouth of Loch Nevis and up the Knoydart coast under a glowering sky took the group to their first campsite at Camas Garbh just north of Inverguseran.  Landing in the near dark, the paddlers soon pitched their tents or laid out their bivvy bags on the perfect grassy sward above the steep storm beach. 

Next morning as expected, the wind had swung round to the north and freshened as the group set off on the short leg to their next campsite at Croulin on the south shore of Loch Hourn.  This proved to be another great spot for camping inside a large walled enclosure whose sole inhabitant was a black pony called Bessy whom the group  was assured by a local resident may try to steal their food!  However, Bessy was totally unphased by their presence and kept a respectful distance for the duration of their stay. 

On arrival at the campsite the group took time to admire the stunning views across to Isle Oronsay and the Cuillins beyond as well as the beautiful oak woods skirting the lower slopes of the mountains rising steeply from the loch. Two of the paddlers decided to climb one of these mountains, a nearby Corbet, Beinn na Caillich, while the others opted to paddle up towards Arnisdale and back along the north shore of the loch to the Sandaig Islands where Gavin Maxwell lived and wrote about his otters in “Ring of Bright Water”.  This accomplished, they crossed back to the campsite to meet the climbers off the hill and exchange stories of the day’s adventures.

Sunday dawned clear and calm and the paddlers were on the water early for a leisurely paddle back to Mallaig.  This is great otter country and the conditions were perfect; no wind and glassy calm seas.  The group were rewarded by two close encounters with these fascinating creatures. During a brief stop at Samadalan to explore the ruins of a chapel and various small dwellings, it was decided to paddle round into Sandaig Bay in loch Nevis for lunch.  Here the group pulled out on a white sandy beach overlooked by a colony on seals which was  very perturbed by the intrusion!  After lunch the short crossing to Mallaig was accomplished in jig time, the group landing just after 3pm.
After the horrendous weather experienced during May it was doubly pleasing to get two days of great paddling conditions and no midgies!!  Thanks to all who came along and made this a memorable trip for all sorts of different reasons.  And to those who couldn’t make it, don’t  worry, it’s a definite for next year’s calendar!

Paddlers:  Joan Smith, Andy Bryson-Challis, Roger & Fiona Wild, John Jenkins and Richard.
Distance travelled:  approx 58km
Point of interest:
 A storm beach is a beach affected by particularly fierce waves, usually with a very long fetch. The resultant landform is often a very steep beach (up to 45°) composed of rounded cobbles, shingle and occasionally sand. The stones usually have an obvious grading of pebbles, from large to small, with the larger diameter stones typically arrayed at the highest beach elevations.

Loch Nevis 18th-19th June 2011

On the morning of Saturday 18th June, 10 paddlers set out from Mallaig bound for the head of Loch Nevis, a distance of approximately 24km. This was an ambitious target for an A paddle, but the weather for once was playing ball and everyone was up for the challenge. First stop was a comfort break behind Eilean Giubhais before rounding Ernisaig Point into Loch Nevis proper. From here the route took the group past fish farm cages and the abandoned settlement of Stoul and on to Ardintigh Bay where lunch was eaten in the shelter of “Jock’s Lodge” part of the outdoor centre run by Tom "Moby" McLean. Here the paddlers were able to see the boat in which Tom twice rowed the Atlantic and the “Whale” boat which lies on the beach. After lunch and at slack water the group made their way through the narrows between Kylesknoydart and Kylesmorar and into upper Loch Nevis. The plan was to stop for another break at Ardnamurach, but everyone was feeling strong after the lunch break and elected to carry on to the overnight destination of Surlies bothy at the head of the loch. On arrival it was obvious from the hive of activity around the bothy, that it would too crowded for such large party, so the group decided to retrace their steps and camp on the spit of land separating Eilean Tioram from the mainland just east of Camusrory. This piece of land is a “dry” island which is probably only a true island at the highest of spring tides. The shallowness of the water and the stage of the tide meant that the paddlers had a long carry with boats and gear to the camp site. However, tents were soon pitched, and dinner eaten before the camp fire was lit and the party settled down to wait for the Kingswoods who were leaving Mallaig late afternoon. They were soon spotted on the horizon, and, assisted by a conveniently high tide which had circled round the back of Eilean Tioram, soon joined the group on the beach. The campfire and a light breeze blowing down the valley of the river Carnoch kept the midge at bay and a very pleasant midsummer evening was enjoyed by all.

The next morning dawned clear and still with beautiful views down the mirror calm loch.  It had been decided  the night before to set off by 9.30am to catch the outgoing tide.  In fact the group was on the water by 9.15am – gold stars all round!  By the time they reached the narrows, the wind had picked up and it was decided to stop for coffee at the bay just round from Kylesknoydart before heading along the north shore of the loch to Inverie for lunch.   Although it was pleasant in the sunshine outside the Old Forge at Inverie, the sea conditions were causing some debate as to whether the group should paddle straight for Ernisaig Point into the stiff westerly breeze, or take the more sheltered route round Inverie Bay.  Eventually it was decided to go for the shorter more direct route and after an bouncy 4km crossing,  the group was once again drawing breath in the shelter of Eilean Guibhais, before setting off on the last leg of the journey back to Mallaig.  Luckily the wind had dropped right away and the tired paddlers had a smooth passage past Mallaigmore and Mallaig Bheag before beating the Skye ferry into harbour. 
This was a trip of some 49 kilometers and the novices and relative novices in the group coped very well with the distances and varied conditions.  Hopefully it has given them confidence in their ability and whetted their appetite to further explore our beautiful coastline!  Thanks to all who came along.
Paddlers:  Iain Donnelly, Jane Carr, Graham Donnelly, Roger & Fiona Wild, Elaine Goldsmith, Joan Smith, Mike & Sheila Kingswood, Dave & Moira Broadhead and John Jenkins.

Summer (Isles) cruise 2011 - 27-30 June

This year’s summer cruise was relocated from the Outer Isles to the Summer Isles because of mishap and an exceedingly unsettled weather forecast. This was not to say that a good time was not had by all nor that good paddling was not had either.
We congregated on the Monday at the brand new campsite at Altandhu, small and cosy with excellent shower and toilet facilities and most importantly, immediately across the road from a pub. Many thanks to the Kingswoods for supplying the all important frame tent for the communal gatherings in the evening.
The weather forecast for the Tuesday was showing a southwesterly force four so we elected to chance our luck with the stretch of coast from Achnahaird to Inverkirkaig, on paper only a distance of only 10-12 k. but one that proved to have varied sea conditions, lumpy to smooth. This was because we hugged the coast, out of interest more than anything, constantly changing direction and thus varying the views.
With a similar forecast on Wednesday we chose the option of sneaking round as many of the Summer Isles as possible with Achiltibuie as our bolt hole should the weather prove too fierce. We set off from the beach at the campsite, trundled east of Isle Ristol took a fairly lumpy crossing to Caolas a’ Mhill Ghairbh, the passage through the islands west of Tanera Mor, found the rock arch on the south end of Tanera Beg to wriggle back between Eilean Fada Mor  and Tanera Beg to head along the north of Tanera Mor for afternoon tea at the tea room at that same island. Now, you do not get a better reception than a guy meeting you on the shoreline indicating the best place to land and the lady in the tea room saying that she had seen us coming and put some soup on for us, if we wanted it. Excellent, good soup it was too.
Fortified with tea and soup and other sundry nibbles we set off back towards Caolas Eilean Ristol to check out the beach on the North end of that island. It proved to be a beautiful place with ample, although not ideal camping but no water supply. Our paddling day was now over, we headed home for the campsite beach.
As the Kingswoods were leaving us the next day we marked the occasion with a meal in the pub to the enjoyment and satisfaction of all. Food was taken and wine and ale drunk, good times!

Day 1 Port a baigh campsite - great showers! Paradise Surfing into Inverkirkaig Day 2

Thursday was to be our last day and the weather was still forecasting the same and decidedly unsettled. The obvious target would be a trip round Rubha Coigeach but we could see the white horses out towards this point from the campsite and so had no stomach to venture there that day. We chose the sheltered side of the peninsula. Up to the point and back. A short paddle and it was to suit those that were making their way back home later that day. What an excellent bimble it turned out to be, with ample rock hopping, skerry dodging, cliff admiring and trogladitic activity to be had. A case of a long time to cover a short distance simply because of the interest of that stretch of coast and what excellent views of the Assynt hill on the return journey.
Now one would suspect that this would have spoiled Jill’s intended trip to the Summer Isles later in the year. Not at all, it simply whetted our appetites. We are all looking forward to returning there to explore this wonderful extent of coastline further.

Boy scount Bill prepared for a shower Arch at Tanera Beag Tanera Mor cafe Day 3  

Crowlin Islands 23rd July 2011
We set off at 1015 from the slip at Kyle with glorious views to the Crowlins, Skye, Raasay and Applecross. After an enjoyable but uneventful crossing we soon reached the south end of Eilean Mor, the largest of the islands and paddled around to the natural harbour where we stopped for a break at 12:15. The sea was calm but during our break we noticed white horses out to the west towards Skye.

Back in our boats we headed up the natural harbour and a plan evolved to head eastwards once we had reached its northern end. However, the wind proved too strong and we turned south and made our way back to the south shore of the main island. The merits of going back across to Kyle were discussed and instead we decided to head north-east to the Applecross peninsula. A short way on to the Caolas Mor the sea was getting bigger and we beat a tactical retreat back to the south shore where we landed to consider our options. 

We decided to wait for the winds to drop and had some friendly input from Robert who had stopped by on his yacht. The wind dropped eventually and this was accompanied by the onset of midges so we were glad to get back on the water and head to Toscaig at the road end south of Applecross. The landing site was right next to Robert’s house and he kindly arranged transport and accommodation with friends Billy and Morag whose Highland hospitality knew no bounds. After several cups of tea and bacon butties we turned in for a sound night’s sleep.

Paddlers: Chris, Fiona, Jill, Richard, Graham, Roger.

Rubha Reidh 6 - 7 August 2011

Distances:  Day One 30kms. Day Two 20kms.
Wind: Force 0 - 2 most of time with max of 3 late Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Direction was Northerly, causing an awkward swell on Sunday.
The weekend trip to Wester-Ross was attended by 10 paddlers. Paul had completed a recce of the area and co-ordinated the car shuttle during the Friday. Most folk arrived on the Friday evening for rendezvous at the Big Sands campsite a few miles along the coast from Gairloch. Saturday morning launch down at the beach at the foot of the campsite made for a handy put-in around 9am. Escaping a few morning midges we headed out North West for a few K’s through the small strait by Longa Island we then turned Northerly, skirting along the Western side of the peninsula, investigating  a few of the caves along the way until 13k’s of paddling revealed Rubha Reidh lighthouse (now a hostel/outdoor centre). Once past the Jetty and turning East around the headland a stunning section of sea stacks unfolded before us with beautiful a background of scenic cliffs and rock contrasting against the aqua-marine seascape embellished in the sunshine...OK, guess it looked alright! Landing at Camas Mor (noted for its disappearing sands) we had lunch on the beach (as it happened to be going through a sandy phase), sharing the beach with a few others and latterly a herd of small dogs and a hornets’ nest. We then continued for 5k’s rounding the more exposed headland for the 3k hop across the mouth of Loch Ewe passing the WWII gun emplacements of Cove to our destination and wild campsite at Slaggan Bay. We camped by the deserted crofting/fishing village of Slaggan (abandoned in 1942). The breeze gifted us with a midge free evening to relax and enjoy the surroundings and certainly justified the slightly enhanced kit ferrying duties up to the elevated camp spot above the beach.

A morning surf launch saw the group heading back out of the bay. After edging out around Gob a’ Cheodha and going North the sea became quite big with swell and so it was decided to cancel plans  for Greenstone Point and return back along the sheltered Eastern shores of Loch Ewe. Passing the townships of Mellon Charles and Ormiscaig we hatched plans and made for landing at Aultbea. After refreshments on the shore below Aultbea Hotel (some also taken in the hotel) two of the party abandoned their boats and kindly headed off by foot to retrieve their shuttle vehicles located 4k’s over the peninsula at Laide. The remainder of the group continued the paddle past the naval installations and around Loch Ewe passing Loch Thurnaig and rounding the promontory of Inverewe Estate to Poolewe village where the shuttle cars were ready and waiting.
Notable Sightings: Otters, Gannet & Bonxie
Paddlers: Paul Cromey & Isla Kinnear.Tony Laidler, Bill and Jill Skeoch, Joan Smith, Chris Carter, Roger Wild, Stuart Coulthard, Richard Gwatkin.

Rescue/wet session - Sunday 28th August
Ten intrepid paddlers gathered at Samalaman to practice bracing, turning, towing, capsize rescuing, paddle floating and much more. Well done to all for boundless enthusiasm and energy. Paddlers were Mike, Ian, Jill, Jane, Elaine, Graham, Fiona, Tony, Iain, Roger. Shore support team: Dave

Torrin, Skye - 3-5 September

True to form the Torrin weekend kicked off on Friday 2nd September with strong winds and rain.  However the forecast promised that the winds would abate and the weather improve over the following two days.  Plans were therefore hatched for paddles on the west coast of Skye; Loch Bracadale on Saturday and Elgol to Torrin on Sunday.  
Saturday morning dawned misty moisty and eerily still.  By the time the ten paddlers put on to the water on Loch Beag (45 minutes drive north from Torrin), the mist was beginning to lift and patches of blue sky to appear.  The group paddled to Ardtreck Point at the mouth of Loch Harport then round to Fiskavaig  where lunch number one was enjoyed before setting off round Gob na H-oa  to view caves, awesome cliffs and waterfalls on the south shore of Loch Bracadale.  From here the group paddled to Oronsay in strengthening winds and seas still ruffled from previous gales.  At Oronsay the group split; one half paddling round the island of Wiay and the other circumnavigating Oronsay and exploring the mouth of Loch Harport.  Both groups arrived back at Loch Beag around 4pm – plenty of time to drive back to Torrin and prepare for the Saturday evening feast and slide show (not to mention a bit of cattle rustling!).

The forecast on Sunday morning promised improving conditions so it was decided to go ahead with the plan to paddle from Elgol round Rubha na Easgainne and down Loch Slapin to Torrin.  This is an exposed coastline open to swell from the south and the seas quickly became lumpy and confused round the headland.  However all twelve paddlers acquitted themselves well in coping with varied sea conditions.  After rounding the headland into Loch Slapin, the following sea drove the paddlers past amazing cliffs and caves, opening up magnificent views of Beinn Dearg Bheag, Beinn Dearg Mhor and Blaven.  Lunch was taken in the sun on a small boulder beach where the group was entertained by a lone otter feeding in the glittering waters of the small bay.  As the group paddled deeper into Loch Slapin the sea flattened out, enabling the paddlers to enjoy the scenery,  practise some paddle strokes and experiment with paddle feather.  The icing on the cake was an amazing sighting of a young sea eagle flying overhead and landing on a tree branch just above the group!
The Torrin weekend yet again has proved a winner, with amazing paddling venues, great company and scenery unrivalled anywhere on the planet.  Roll on next year!!
Paddlers: Joan Smith, Michelle Macdonald, Graham & Iain Donnelly, Tony Laidler, Dave Cummins, Elaine Goldsmith, Chris Carter, John Jenkins, Moira & David Broadhead, Margie Hemingway, Roger Wild

Ardnish  Sunday 18th September 2011
Having run a shuttle to Inverailort, eight paddlers set off from the beach at Ardnambuth under the railway viaduct just west of Lochailort on a sunny September Sunday.  They paddled round the two small islands of Eileen Gobhlach and Eileen Cean Feidh before crossing to the north shores of the Ardnish peninsula, past the narrow inlet of Port an Sluichd and round the headland of Rubha Chaolais where two otters were spotted by the keen eyed!  Some choppy conditions were expected rounding the headland, but the sea state was relatively calm and the only excitement was a bit of confused water between Eileen a Chaolaish and the mainland.  Now into Loch Ailort, the paddlers hugged the north shore until they came to Peanmeanach where they stopped for lunch.  After a lazy lunch in the sunshine admiring the stunning views over to Eigg and Muck, the paddlers explored the eight or nine ruins which make up the abandoned settlements of Peanmeanach and Glasnacardoch.  All agreed that it was an idyllic spot, but that it would have been a difficult place to stay with a 6km walk over the hill to get to the main road! 

After lunch the group headed down the north shore, past Laggan and through the narrow channel between Eilean nam Bairneach and Ardnish.  Here the paddlers practised some ferry gliding and breaking in and out of the outgoing current as it squeezed between the island and the shore.  One member of the group was even feeling brave enough to practise rolling during the final stretch down the loch towards the take out at the slip at Inverailort.  An impromptu rescue session rounded off a great day’s paddle!  Thanks to all who came along!
Paddlers: Roger & Fiona Wild, Graham & Iain Donnelly, Lesley Gorman, Elaine Goldsmith, Michelle Macdonald and Joan Smith