Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scotland journey - 3: from Oban to Scarba, Jura and the Slate Isles

Pulling down the tent on Belnahua - Lunga, Scarban and Jura in the background.
Fast water in the "Grey dogs"-tidal races between Lunga and Scarba
Paddling on a mirror in the Shuna Sound

The story continues: the report of the 3 stage of the Scotland-trip Govert and I made.

Sorry: the day by day report is "under construction". Click on the Picasa-miniature for a slide show/picture report.

Updated 4th July:
With new supplies from the Tesco (fresh food and drinks) and after a relaxed day around Kererra island, we were ready for the next challenge: a multiple day trip to the Slate Isles, Scarba, Jura and the famous whirlpool and tidal races in this area: the Corryvreckan, Grey Dogs, Dorus Mor etc. Places full of history full, legends and myths, still regarded with respect by seafarers all over the world. We took four days from Oban to discover this magnificent area – which is of outstanding beauty!

Sat. 31th. May : Oban-Belnahua, 25 km, SW 3-4 later Var.
Paddling late in the afternoon from Seil to Belanahua we heard an emergency-call on Channel 16 on the VHF-radio. A little vessel had serious problems in the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Two persons on board lost control. The coastguard contacted a fast RIB near the Gulf and started immediately coordinating the rescue operation. We heard glimps of it life on the radio. It turned out well, but it added to the myths of the Corryvreckan – the Whirlpool we wanted to explore the next day…
It was a nice paddle from Oban tot the Slate isles, passing by Seil and Easdale. South of Seil began the area with currents noticeably stronger than near Oban and Mull. We were paddling against a light breeze but had the current with us. It was a pleasant paddle, but not my luckiest day. I lost my (waist-mounted)tow-line. Probably because I had forgotten to gear it on after the break. Half way between Easdale and Belnahua I suddenly missed the tow-line. We paddled back to Easdale to look for it (meaning an extra 6 km paddling, half of it against the current – don’t mind - we like paddling ;-) but didn’t find it. And after this incident with unpacking on Belnahua I found that the rear compartment of my kayak was flooded with liters of salt water. Fortunately I had packed the essentials, like the sleeping-bag, in drybags, so the damage was harmless (only my notebook and the Rough Guide for Scotland were wetted). It was sunny, dry and windy on Belnahua (no midges!) so everything dried fast. On the following days the compartment stayed totally dry - so I suppose the leakage was caused by a not properly closed rubber hatch. Closing the oval Valley-hatches is always a bit critical.

Sun. 1th. June: Belnahua-Lunga-Grey Dogs-Scarba- Corryvreckan-Jura, 3-4 Bft. Var. later SW.
This was the day for the races. In the morning there was a light breeze, but that was gone when we started paddling in the middle of late after noon. We started late because we wanted to play in the Grey Dogs with tide full running and slack water in the Corryvreckan was at nine in the evening. One of the advantages of paddling early June is that the days are long! Crossing to and paddling along Lunga we had the tide against us, but despite this we made good speed using eddies along the west-coast of Lunga. This gave us plenty of time for a break before going in the Grey Dogs. We enjoyed the last sun of the day on a rocky isle before the entrance of the Grey Dogs. Heading in the Grey Dogs the sky turned very grey and it started raining, but we didn’t mind – we had just changed in our drysuits and the playing in the Grey Dogs is a wet anyhow! The Grey Dogs are a perfect playspot with a standing wave and a lot of eddies around the rock in the middle of the race. Water was pressed with high speed through the small passage between Lunga and Scarba. We left with paddling speeds up to 18km/h! When the tide was decreasing we paddled south along the Scarba coast – to have dinner at the south-east tip of Scarba- and to wait for slack water in the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Dining at Scarba wasn’t to pleasant – plagued by millions of midges – cooking and eating with a midge-net on the head ;-( So as we had finished out meals we decided not to wait any longer and to see how we could ferry-glide to Jura with the Corryvreckan still running. Which was surprisingly manageable – despite all the dramatic stories we were told. Water was running very fast (one big boiling pot) but as there was hardly any wind we managed to gain good progress in the eddies and arrived at Jura an hour before planned.

Mon. 2nd June. Jura-Corryvreckan-Shuna Sound-Torsa-Seil Sound- Bridge over the Atlantic-Seil, 30 km 3-4 Var, lat. 5/6 SW
After a rainy night on Jura we left early to paddle two hours against the ebb-stream in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, before the tide would turn and the flood would take us back to the Luing and the Sound of Shuna. The streaming water in the Corryvreckan was impressive: boiling water, whirlpools, suddenly holes in the water, eddylines everywhere, constantly changing. Even under these optimal conditions a place to be handled with care! A big contrast with the mirror-like Shuna sound – only a few hours later. The weather forecast told something different but in the morning clouds and wind disappeared. We had a coffee break in Toberonochy on Luing and were happy to change clothes – swapping from drysuits into shorts with t-shirt!
In the evening we camped on Seil and had a good meal in the Tigh-an-Truish Inn (Tigh an Truish means 'house of the trousers' and comes from the period after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion when kilts were banned in Scottish mainland. Islanders heading for the mainland are supposed to have stopped here to swap their kilts for trousers).
It was tempting to stay more days roaming around Jura, Scarba and the Slate Isles. The Garvelachs and Jura are still to be discovered, but we had other plans: we wanted to be back in Oban on Tuesday, because Wednesday was spring tide and the best day in the two weeks we were in Scotland to enjoy the Falls of Lora…

Tue. 3rd June, Seil-Sound of Kerrera-Oban, 10 km SW backing SE 4-5, 6 at times
With a backing wind a fast ride back to Oban. Regarding the weather: we were very lucky with our weather window! Continuously the radio was talking about rain and showers – we had occasionally some drops, but mostly sun – Scotland in a Mediterranean mood!

Click on the miniature for the GPS-tracklog, 85 km.


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Jenny said...

Wow.. So you have had a trip and tour in the countryside. It's a really lovey place. There are a lot of places to go in there like taking oban wildlife trips. Oban has a very diverse ecosystem. You'll see amazing animals, birds and more.