Mallaig and District Canoe Club

Mallaig and District Canoe Club - Trips 2013

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May 11/12 - Helmsdale

The North East Trip
Or; The Trip of the Three Virgins

Hard to believe that because of the weather this was the first club trip of the year. Even then it felt like it had been squeezed in between windy outbursts of foul weather. It was a last minute decision to go ahead with it and seven resolute club members congregated at the campsite in Dunbeath on Friday night. It’s a nice wee campsite and can be heartily recommended and not just for its close proximity to the Bay Owl pub and restaurant, which can also be recommended.

The idea on Saturday was to paddle from Helmsdale to Dunbeath with a forecast of force 2/3 Southwesterly, which turned out to be about right. However, there was a residual sea left from the previous few days weather that made things a little boisterous. Lunch was taken at Berriedale. Landing places are hard to find along this coast especially in anything other than a flat calm and Berriedale is one of them. After two and a half hours on the water it was a very welcome stop.

The morning had been good but the afternoon was a crescendo of caves and arches and one free falling waterfall. The sea dropped nicely although the sun never quite made it out from behind the clouds. All the ins and outs and playing around made it a journey of 24 km. Food and refreshment was taken that evening in that suitable establishment near the campsite.

The weather forecast on Sunday morning was not exactly favourable so we decided to quit while we were winning. A return to this area is definitely on the cards for the club as there is much that is exciting to explore and see. Oh yes, why ‘The Trip of the Three Virgins’? Three new tents had their inaugural outing this weekend, that’s all. What did you imagine?

May 19th. - Rescue Day - Glenuig

14 paddlers braved the chilly waters of Samalaman bay to practice bracing, towing, bow rescues, assisted rescues, self rescues, paddle float rescues, re-entry and roll and rolling. New ideas were a variation on using a stirrup and the Kiwi method of assisted rescue. Paddlers were Mike, Sheila, Roger W, Michelle, Graham, Iain, Jo, Elaine, Roger L, Ruth, Jill, Kirsty, Bill, Allan. Shore assistance: Jane

June 2nd. - BBQ paddle - Arisaig

Thanks to our in-house photographer Roger W. for pics.

Applecross – the alternative route - June 8/9

We had 9 paddlers and 1 camp follower massed on Saturday morning for the trip from Shieldaig to Applecross. Roger W, Fiona, Dave, Moira, Iain, Jo, Roger L, Richard and Elaine. Despite the fact that the trip organiser vastly underestimated the time it would take for the shuttle we managed to get on the water about 11am… only an hour behind schedule.
The plan had been to lunch in Lower Diabeg but a breeze got up and combined with the out going tide would have made this a bit of a lumpy slog. We opted for a leisurely pace up the south coast of Upper Loch Torridon, we’ll save Diabeg for another trip. Roger and Fiona left us as we rounded the point and they headed back to their car, leaving 7 of us to carry on to our campsite in the bay at Ob Chuaig. Thankfully we got there with enough beach left to unload and move the boats before the tide came in. It was an idyllic spot, but the real gem was the old herring station we found tucked round the corner, it is not on the map but has the most impressive stepping stones to get to it. We were joined by Mark who walked in and as it was such a lovely warm evening Mark, Jo and Iain all went for a quick dip…. A very quick dip, the water was freezing apparently… more fool them. We wiled away the evening with exploring, bird watching, sunset gazing and idle chat.
We woke to a stunning day and were on the water by 10, having had to wait for the beach to reappear when the tide started to go out. Lunch was at Sand, where we had a look at Monty Hall’s croft, now back to a ruined shell. The view from here to the mountains of Skye was spectacular. We paddled on in to Applecross, decanted and shuttled before supper at the Applecross Inn.
It was Scotland at its best, to quote Iain, ‘this is the stuff you dream of’
Thanks to all for a great trip. EG

Applecross, Friendly Paddlers and a Magic Moment - - June 7/8/9

A doughty group of paddlers set off from Stromemore late morning on Friday the 7th of June in wonderful sunny warm weather. The first stop was the mouth of Loch Kishorn for lunch. The day’s journey was in warm sunshine, on calm seas with wonderful views of Skye and the Cuillin Mountains. That is until rounding the point at Rubha na h- Uamha into the teeth of large seas and a solid Force Four. As we approached the boulder beech at Uags several helpful chaps ran down to help them with a tricky landing. These proved to be members of a Tayside club who had been camping there all week.

Saturday morning saw a departure for the North corner of the peninsula to camp at Reaulay. The day started fair but on approaching Applecross bay, contrary to the weather forecast, the wind picked up to a goodly 3/4. A break was had for lunch at Sands and the decision made to return to Uags. We knew the other club group would be camping at Ob Chuaig and the prospect of battling into the wind to a possible cramped campsite sent us scuttling south.

The return to Uags proved to be an excellent choice; the camping on Saturday evening proved to be idyllic. Our new Tayside friends had gone and we had the place to ourselves.

On Sunday we headed back to Stromemore and it was the day of the magic moment. Our little flotilla of kayaks found itself placed in the middle of a pod of dolphins, which passed through our midst in playful fashion. The kind of wonderful moment that money can’t buy Although thwarted in its original intent the group had a wonderful weekend.


Loch Morar Family Day - July 14th

The weather Forecast had not looked good on the days running up to the designated "Family Day" on Loch Morar. However the strong winds that had been forecast earlier in the week did not materialise, and the five adults and three children who had bravely signed up enjoyed a day exploring the islands on the Loch in sea kayaks and a canoe. It was overcast and chilly with a brisk breeze, but once in the lee of the islands, the water was calm and the sun even blinked out briefly! Lunch was eaten on the jetty on Eilean nam Breac, the most southerly of the islands. After lunch the group paddled round the east of the islands opening up views up to Brinacory Island and beyond. After a leg stretch at Morag and John's bay it was back to the starting point at Bun an Loin bay where the children enjoyed mucking around in small boats while the adults loaded the sea kayaks and canoe on to the trailer. Big thanks to Josh Kingswood for driving the trailer.

Thanks to Kirsty for the pics.

27/28 July – Garvellachs trip

Our journey started on a sunny Saturday morning, when the nine of us met at Ellenabeich, opposite Easdale island, one of the slate islands which were once the centre of the British slate industry.

On the water (almost) by 10a.m. we headed straight across to Belnahua (Gaelic:  Beul na h-Uamha - The mouth of the cave) another of the Slate Islands. Although it once had a population of nearly 200 people, it has been uninhabited since World War I.  Deep water-filled cuttings and the ruined slate workers cottages remain as a testament of the industry.

After a short tea break and a jaunt to the high point above the cave, we headed south for the east coast of Rubha Fiola, the northernmost of the Lunga group of islands. The sea was benign, but the confused tidal movement was nonetheless in evidence.  Thanks to some cunning pre-planning, we were whisked along at up to 15km.p.h.  by the south-running tidal stream and it was no time at all before we reached our lunch spot at Poll nan  Corran, just round the corner from the Grey Dog, where we enjoyed a sunny lunch whilst  waiting for the tide to be in our favour for going through the fearsome Dog.  Hardly a ripple in sight as we travelled west through the Dog and round the north of Gulrasdeal, then headed NW for Eileach an Naoimh (or the Holy Isle.  Gaelic - rocky place of the saint). Having spread out a bit  we finally came together at the inlet below the monastery, arriving at the same time as two other paddlers, known to some of our group, so some banter was had while we waited for three Oban paddlers to vacate the narrow landing spot, which was fairly inhospitable at low water.

Once on dry land we soon set up camp and enjoyed a bit of social before eating then heading off to explore the various points of interest (beehive cells, graves and monastic buildings – see below for a little history of the islands). The trig point afforded panoramic views of the Firth of Lorne, Mull, Scarba, Jura and beyond. The grass glowed in the setting sun.

The Garvellachs (Gaelic:  Garbh Eileaich - Isles of the Sea) form a small archipelago west of Lunga and northwest of Scarba and have been uninhabited since World War II. The islands include Garbh Eileach, Dun Channuill and Eileach an Naoimh.
About 542, St. Brendan the Navigator founded a monastery on Eilach, possibly because of the combination of its isolation and good grazing. This may make the remains the oldest extant church buildings in Britain. Columba is believed to have visited the island and it is one of the proposed locations of the Columban retreat isle of Hinba. Eileach an Naoimh may be the burial site of Columba's mother Eithne.
The monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders from about 800. The island has probably seen only intermittent occupation since, which has contributed to the survival of the ruins of many of the monastic buildings, including two chapels, beehive cells, and a graveyard with three crosses and another circular grave. The oldest chapel is rectangular and may date from the 11th or 12th centuries  The monastic ruins are the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland (thanks Wikipedia).

The night was eerily silent apart from the screeching of an owl and the footfall of long-gone monks (or so I tried to think). The sea birds inhabit the south and west of the island so there was none of the usual oyster-catcher squawking.

Sunday morning greeted us with rain and cloudy skies. We were in no rush as we had plenty of time to explore the Garvellachs before catching the north-running stream back to Easdale later in the day. The tide was high so departing was much easier than the arrival. We headed south, round by the lighthouse, and up the cliffy west coast of Eileach an Naoimh, popping round the northeast tip to see An Clarsach – a high arch of rock. Progress was slower with a bit of wind and tide in our faces. We had a short stop on Garbh Eileach to try to see the Dun and Burial ground, but it was very overgrown and all we saw was a young woodcock hiding in the bracken. A landing on Dun Channuill to see the ruins of the castle (dating from 1400)  was only slightly more successful, but the views from up high were great and the confused waters to the north west of the island in evidence. Once the south-going stream slackened we set off for the tiny islands of Dubh Fheith, mid-way between the Garvellachs and Easdale. The final 5kms. of the journey were greatly enlivened by the huge numbers of yachts participating in West Highland Yachting Week. We were slightly concerned about getting mown down so kept a tight group, but we were fortunate to arrive at Easdale as the last of the groups were heading north and were able to tuck in and scoot round the north of the isalnd and back into Ellenabeich, where we ended the weekend with a welcome pint at the Oyster Brewery before heading our various ways.

Arisaig to Kinsadel, Sunday 4th August (an A paddle)
After some delays due to car troubles, nine paddlers set off from the oyster pier just west of Millburn cottage on the Rhu Road, Arisaig on a sunny morning with a forecast of decreasing winds through the afternoon. However the strong winds of the previous two days had left the sea in “grumpy” mood and the paddlers encountered some significant wave action on their 12 km journey to Kinsadel in the estuary of the river Morar.  The original plan was to take out at Beoraid slip, but as the Mallaig & Morar Games would be in full swing by the time they arrived and parking would be an issue, it was decided to carry on up the estuary as far as the sea pool where the river Morar empties into the estuary.
The tide was almost at its lowest as the group launched and set off across Loch nan Ceall (Arisaig Bay).  As the shortcut through the channel at Gorten was dry, the group had to go round Eilean Ighe where they overtook a group of kayakers from Oban who were exploring the islands of the loch.  This stretch of coast past Back of Keppoch, Bunacaimb and Portnaluchaig is dotted with white sandy beaches and skerries which make for interesting kayaking.  It is also home to numerous caravan sites whose residents were out fishing, swimming, sailing and paddling as the group stopped for lunch on a sandy spit just south of Portnaluchaig.  Lunch was over when the rising tide began to cover the spit and carry away the kayaks! 
The waves of the following sea began to increase in height as the group paddled north after lunch, and they were swept past the beaches of North and South Camusdarach looking forward to the shelter of the estuary.  There is a shallow sand bar at the mouth of the Morar estuary and here the waves really picked up and the paddlers found themselves surfing towards the quiet waters – a steep learning curve for some (no pun intended!).
After some play on the moving water of the sea pool it was back to Kinsadel beach to load boats on to cars and trailer before gathering at the Arisaig Hotel for post paddling drinks and chat.
A big thank you to Mike for driving the trailer, and to all the paddlers who braved the waves!
Paddlers: Roger L, Kirsty, Pat, Allan, Jenny, Dave, Jane, Michelle and Joan

Torrin August 23rd-25th
After a disappointing paddling season, with umpteen trips having to be cancelled due to bad weather,  it was a great relief to see an almost perfect forecast for the annual Torrin paddle.  On the evening of Friday 23rd August nineteen paddlers gathered at the Outdoor Centre in Torrin on the shores of Loch Slapin on the south west coast of Skye in the shadow of Blaven.  As the forecast was for light winds it was decided to opt for a paddle from Loch Beag to Talisker Bay on the west coast on Saturday. 

After arriving at Loch Beag the nineteen were joined by four other club members, making a large group of twenty three paddlers.  The group headed out of Loch Beag, crossing the mouth of Loch Harport and rounding Ardtreck Point before stopping for “first lunch” on the sandy beach of Fiskavaig Bay.  After lunch the group had a committing 7km paddle to Talisker Bay with no opportunities to land.  Having paddled under some amazing cliffs and waterfalls, the group rounded Rubha nan Clach and started to encounter swell which was breaking on the rocky coastline.  The highlights of this stretch were some caves and a sighting of a golden eagle.  Rounding Rubha Cruinn, the group got their first sight of the sandy beach at Talisker.  Definitely time for lunch number two and a comfort stop!  Their hopes were dashed when it was decided that the dumping surf would make it too difficult to get all 23 paddlers safely ashore.  Four of the group decided to give it a go and landed successfully.  The rest ate lunch in their boats and headed back for Fiskavaig to stretch legs before the last leg back into Loch Beag.  Two sea eagles were spotted on the cliffs just before Fiskavaig.

The evening was spent convivially at Torrin with a shared meal and a slide show before retiring to bunk or tent for an early start on Sunday morning.  It was great to be joined by two former club members Ewan and Andrea, who entertained the group with some amazing photos of their travels

It had been decided the night before to paddle on Sunday from Sconsor to Tianavaig and back via Raasay House for afternoon tea!  An early call (burnt alarm!) had the group up and about early on Sunday morning and they were packed up and ready to go by 9.30am  and heading for the new ferry terminal at Sconsor with car parking, toilets and a waiting room – treats!  The conditions were very benign with flat calm waters and blue skies and the group (22 in total) became a bit strung out as they investigated caves and cliffs along the way to Tianavaig.  Lunch was taken on a stony beach where a border collie named Meg insisted that sticks should be thrown into the water for her!  After an easy 3km crossing to the island of Raasay, the group paddled between Eilean Aird nan Gobhar and Raasay and landed on the beach below Raasay House.  Members of the group sat at picnic tables outside and drank their teas and coffees looking out over the Narrows of Raasay towards the Cuillin mountains.  An hour’s paddle saw the group back at Sconsor and dodging the arrival of the Raasay ferry.

Some info on Raasay House from Joan - for your edification!

"The original Raasay House, which was home to the Macleod chiefs of Raasay was burned to the ground by Hanovarian troops in 1745 after the battle of Culloden, along with islanders' homes. This was in retribution for coming out for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who crossed briefly to Raasay while he was on the run. It was rebuilt in time to receive diarist James Boswell and essayist Samuel Johnson during their celebrated Tour of the Hebrides in 1773. A blaze in 2009 left the grade A listed mansion house a smoking ruin after it had been taken over by the community in 2007 and was in the final stages of a £4.5 million upgrade. Work started again, and the house, tennanted by Raasay Outdoor Centre, was officially opened by Charles Kennedy in September 2013."

Boats loaded and cars packed, the paddlers headed back from what all agreed was a great weekend’s paddling!
Paddlers: Tony & Elizabeth, Roger & Fiona W., Moira & David, Iain & Jo, Mike & Sheila, Bill & Jill, Dave & Jenny, Lesley, Alison, Joan, Michelle, Roger L., Chris, John J.,  Kirsty, Ewan & Andrea, Ruth, M.A.

Distances Paddled:  Saturday – approx. 26km,  Sunday – approx. 17km

Ardnish  8th September 2013
The last “A” paddle of the season took 8 paddlers a distance of some 15km from Ardnambuth  in Loch nan Uamh, round the Ardnish peninsula, and on to Inverailort via Eilean nan Gobhar (Goat Island).

Winds were light and the sun was shining as the group set off on the ebbing tide across the mouth of Loch Beag and along the north west coast of the peninsula.  Turning south at the western end of the peninsula, the group caught sight of the ruins at Sloch before rounding Rubha Chaolais and passing through the narrow channel between Ardnish and Eilean a’ Chaolais and into Loch Ailort.  Lunch was enjoyed at the pristine sandy beach exposed by the falling tide just inside the loch.  Some beachcombing uncovered the remains of a recently dead otter and a bag of rubbish, that some kind person had cleared from the beach – the usual mix of blue and green plastic rope and tape.  The bag was too heavy to carry away in a kayak, so it was moved further up the beach to prevent it being carried away and scattered by the tide.

After lunch the paddlers crossed to Goat Island to explore the vitrified fort located at the island’s highest point.  After climbing through the tall bracken, those who gained the summit were rewarded with amazing 360 degree views of Ardnamurchan, the Sound of Arisaig with Eigg and Rum in the distance and the Roshven hills to the east.

Back on the water the group headed to the south shore of the loch to have a “nosy” at Roshven House before heading inland to the take out at the slip just west of Inverailort.

Big thank you to all who came along and for making it such a good day!
Paddlers: Roger L., Allan, David, Ruth, Pat, Roy, Joan and Michelle

Eilean Shona, Saturday 14th September

As the first storm of the winter was brewing out to the west, it was reluctantly decided to cancel the last club trip of the season to Laide.  The plan had been to paddle round Greenstone Point one day and round Priest Island the other.  However, with the impending storm, both these paddles were inadvisable.  As an alternative,  eleven of the paddlers who had signed up for Laide, left Samalaman just west of Glenuig on Saturday morning to paddled round Eilean Shona. 

The sun was shining and the sea was calm as the group set off past Samalaman Island, round Rubha Ghead a Leighe  and out of Loch Ailort.  Although there was very little wind, there was a noticeable swell and the paddlers stayed out from the shore to avoid the worst effects of the clapotis.  They passed the small township of Smirisary and paddled between the islands of An Glas-eilean and Eilean Coille before crossing the entrance to the North Channel and paddling along the rugged western shores of Eilean Shona. 

The plan was to eat lunch at the sandy beach on the SW tip of the island before heading down the South Channel.  However  another group of paddlers had beaten them to it!  Enough sandy beach was found on a small island just off shore for the group to haul their boats ashore and eat lunch perched on the rocky summit.  After lunch they set off down the calm waters of the South Channel until Castle Tioram hove into view.  Passing between Riska island and Castle Tioram, the group rounded the eastern point of Shona Beag and headed up the North Channel with great views of the Sgur of Eigg visible through the narrow gap to the open sea.  Second lunch (there’s always room for more than one!) was taken on a hidden sandy beach on Eilean na h-Oitire before heading out once more to the open sea.  Again the paddlers encountered swell  and confused seas for a couple of kilometres before turning into Loch Ailort and heading back to the take out at Samalaman. 

A big thank you to all who came along and made the most of the calm before the storm!!

Paddlers:  Michelle, Roger L., Mike & Sheila, Tony & Elizabeth, John J., Joan, MA, Ruth and Bill 
Distance paddled: Appx. 23km.

P.S. Some info on Eilean Shona:
The Island was leased to writer J.M. Barriein the 1920s, who used it as a summer holiday retreat for himself, his foster sons, and a few of their friends.  It was here he wrote a screenplay for the 1924 film adaptation of Peter pan.  In 1851 there were reports of evacuations and emigrations of 37 families from the island and the nearby settlement of Dorlinn in the wake of potato blight.   In 1856 the sale price of the island was just £6,500. It is currently owned by Vanessa Branson and Robert Devereux who purchased the island in 1995 for a sum believed to be in the region of £1.3 million.  The current usually resident population is 2, down from 9 in 2001.

....... Just waiting for the rest of the year's pics and reports!