Rab, Leigh, Sandy, Hannah, Pat

This trip was carefully named to reflect the difficulty of predicating where you might end up depending on the tides and wind conditions in this area. We had hoped for Garvellachs but it became apparent as the week progressed that we would get there but couldn’t be sure whether we would get off the island anytime soon. We settled for Belnahua, an island at the north end of the Sound of Luing where we would camp and set off early the next day to escape the worst of the weather.

We launched from near Craignish point, west of Ardfern. It was F2 and we were slow to make progress across Dorus Mor against a 2 mph tidal stream to Dearg Sgeir which lay 1 ½ km off shore. We then headed for Scarba with the Corryvreckan opening up to the west. As we got closer, we could hear the roar of the body of water passing through the sound between Jura and Scarba. We caught the North going tide up the east coast of Scarba to the Grey Dogs. It was thanks to Rab’s local knowledge that we reached the Grey Dogs at a time that we could paddle through, with a sense of how exciting this transit would be in an hour or so time. Earlier, we watched a RIB play on a standing wave but resisted temptation as we made our way though. We paddled up the west coast of Lunga and on to Belnahua, laterally paddling against the start of the south flowing tide.

The sky was blue and there was still a warmth in the day as we pitched our tents on the island, once a thriving slate quarry. We checked the latest update on the weather forecast – as we scrolled through each site, it was clear the conditions were deteriorating for tomorrow and winds were picking up earlier. We debated the options – an early rise (at 0400 or maybe 0300!) or break camp now and head back the same night.

It was a no brainer – we packed up and were on the water by 1900, Sandy launching in his handsome new boat down the steeply sloping slate beach (a christening of sorts). We caught the last hour of the south flowing spring tide. The return journey was a joy – Rab called out our speed as we waved good bye to Belnahua and raced along the east coast of Lunga.  We reached speeds of 20km/hr as we paddled with the tide. 6km in 25 minutes on otherwise still water with hardly a wind as we reached the Grey Dogs to the west. It was a magical night paddle though by dusk Leigh was beginning to feel uneasy as land became indistinguishable from sea. Hannah, tired out but a real trouper, had mastered her first 30km paddle as we reached shore, guided in by Rab. An hour later we were on the road and on our way home. It was a great day, rich in variety – a huge thanks to Rab for setting this up and guiding us so confidently on these waters.

Trip report by Pat