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Old 23 April 2015, 03:46   #1
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Ganavan to the Garvellachs and back again

Perhaps it was my little jaunt into Loch Leven that inspired me... or possibly the continuing good spell of settled weather we are enjoying ... but this week I thought it time to get my sea going SIB on the water as well as my small Seago SIB.

With the Scottish SIB outing fast approaching.. I thought it fitting that my first journey of the year was along the proposed ďfair weatherĒ suggested route. This would hopefully give others an idea of the location..iron out and possible difficulties.. and give rough ideas of transit times and fuel requirements. Im sure this adventure will answer most questions.

It was a 5 am start for myself and my youngest daughter. Unusually..she asked if she could come along and as I donít see as much of my daughters as perhaps I would like...or should ..I agreed. We reversed down the huge slipway at Ganavan Bay to the north of Oban town at 7am. There was not another soul is sight. The sea was perfect..with an early morning har ..burning off the water ..in the heat of the rising sun.



It has some hidden benefits having my daughter along. She kindly snapped my launch process so you can follow how a frail pensioner launches a 150kg SIB and 50kg of 25HP engine. I reverse the trailer to the waters edge and pull the boat off..it slides easily on the long carpet bunks of the trailer.



I transport the engine in my car.. it sits on a sack trolley and easily slides in and out my car without having to lift the full weight.



I wheel the sack trolley and engine into the sea to around one foot in depth. Reverse the SIB back into the engine mounts.





I push down on the SIB transom and float it under the engine mounts...then release the transom and it floats up into position. Mounts are then tightened... and 25HP 2 stroke engine is now on the SIB and I have not lifted the engine once..Im still hernia free at 60 years old.





The sack trolley is then untied from the engine and slid out by pushing the floating boat. Of course..it does help when there are no huge waves hitting the shore.




Finally.. after attaching the Aux engine and loading the boat.. I top up the tubes to working pressure with the hand pump.





Moments later.. and we are off ... silhouetted by the low morning sun .. and another adventure begins.... the Gurnard way ....





To be continued ...
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Old 23 April 2015, 04:11   #2
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Ahh! brings back memories, we used to camp at Ganavan many moons ago when it was a camp site, & before they built the horrendous yuppie housing estate. Our daughter was a toddler then, she's 24 & living in Manchester now, how time flies.
Looking forward to the next instalment.
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Old 23 April 2015, 04:12   #3
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hi gurnard

perfect conditions know that slip very well we used to dive the BREDA years ago just round the corner in ardmucknish bay.

jeff
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Old 23 April 2015, 06:14   #4
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Thanks for looking in guys..and Im glad it brings back memories. Ganavan Bay is my first choice launch point for Oban..it costs £2 to park in the car park for the day..and there are well kept toilets in the car park .. which my daughter certainly appreciated.

Some facts and figures of my latest journey.

My daughter baulked at the thought of wild camping for a two day adventure.. it was to be a one day trip.. we arrived on the slipway at 7am and landed again at 4pm in the afternoon.

Distance travelled was 54 miles and I did an average speed of 13 mph on the calm water..and slowed to around 9 mph in the tide races and choppy parts to save my daughter getting soaked. She sat in the bow box up front .. so the boat was a bit nose heavy for going much faster. I donít like prolonged WOT anyway.. I prefer my engines to last.



I used somewhere between 20-25 litres of fuel in the 25Hp two stroke. I carried 50 litres as I was not sure how far or where I was going to go..until I went there. In other words..I was following my nose and instinct with sea conditions. I had half planned on going through the Grey Dogs..but a slight increase in wind and swell put that notion out my head.

Forecast for the day was Sunny.. Metoffice and XCweather consulted
Winds at 7am 3mph gusting to 5mph : at 10am 3mph gusting to 6mph : at 1pm 4mph gusting to 9mph : at 4pm 6mph gusting to 11mph.
I had comfort knowing the following day was forecast light winds again..so if things changed en route..I would land and wait for calm conditions to return.

In truth..the winds were not far from that although I suspect around 6mph and gusting to 11 mph as I was negotiating the tide races and exposed Garvellach crossing..dropping to 3mph gusting to 5mph in the afternoon.

Low Tide at Oban 3am and again 15.30pm : High water at Oban 8.50 and again 20.58

I knew that once past Easdale....I was entering a sea of fast flowing tides ...and occasionally unpredictable tidal surges. I knew where to meet the worst of the tide races so they would not be unexpected. Depending on tide times..you can sometimes cross them in calm waters..then when the tide changes and flows fast ..they can seem a bit daunting to a newbie if you have to re cross them on your return journey.

Although I was open to my actual route.. I had all the above information before contemplating this adventure. This map shows my GPS tracks of the actual route we took.



We both wore buoyancy type waistcoat life jackets at all times...I prefer that type as it helps keep the wind chill down. I realise that in the water..they lack some of the advantages of other types.

I had an Aux engine in case of breakdown of the main engine. I carried a hand held VHF radio for emergency ... a couple of hand Flairs and a Rocket Flair.

I printed paper OS maps at 1:25 and used the boat compass. The plotter is my android phone. I use the fish finder to keep an eye on depths. My daughterís friends knew of our journey and she text them of progress .. including photos.. and when we expected to arrive back.

This info is mostly to assist those not so familiar with small boats going to exposed parts... everyone will have their own ideas.. but I have never gone wrong follow these kind of processes.


To be continued...
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Old 23 April 2015, 11:15   #5
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Not long after leaving Ganavan Bay we had to cross the North Channel coming from Oban Bay. It is plagued by the scourge of all small SIBbers in this area ...the mighty Cal Mac Car Ferry.

A quick look down the channel between Maidenís Island and the Island of Kerrera proved that it was safe to cross. Of course ... I already knew it was safe ..even before I could see down the channel. Cal Mac always announce their arrival in Oban Bay on Channel 16 of the VHF...but best to visual check anyhow.




Then we were skimming our way smoothly down the west coast of the Island of Kerrera.





I felt a little guilty... leaving a long silvery scar across such a calm and peaceful blue sea. It was such a lovely morning...crisp clear air..and silence ..only broken by a noisy 2 stroke engine .. right beside my ear. Perhaps I should have rowed this stretch.





The boat danced on regardless the noise it was making..and I knew we were nearing the southern end of Kerrera when we saw Bach Island approaching. It is the small island to the right of my daughter in the following photo.





Because the sea was so calm..my plan was to head directly to Easdale.. by the most direct route ..which involved being off shore a little. Soon even Kerrera was being washed away in the distance by my wake.




As we approached Insh Island.. I told my daughter about the owner of the island..and how he must be a bit of a recluse like myself. He often spends time in the summer.. living in a cave on the island.. a castaway. I told her that I would show her the cave house on our way back. You too will have to wait for the return journey to see it.





Passing between Inch Island and the Isle of Seil .. we saw a large private cabin cruiser heading up the sound of Inch. I though.. if that belongs to the guy who lives in the cave house..then he is nothing like me at all.. I own three SIBS.





Soon we were pulling into Easdale Sound ..I wanted to show my daughter that there were still some normal houses inhabited by normal people on the Slate Islands.





I started to slow the chattering engine to displacement speed.. I didnít want to disturb the sleepy village. It was still early.. it had taken us one hour to get from Ganavan to Easdale


To be continued....
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Old 23 April 2015, 11:33   #6
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Nice account thanks for taking the time to post in such detail
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Old 23 April 2015, 15:12   #7
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Been almost stuck launching on that beach at low tide a few times now. Well mainly trying to retrive.
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Old 23 April 2015, 15:44   #8
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Thanks for looking in guys..its appreciated.

The tide was almost full out when we landed West Coaster.. I have never had an issue recovering from there..however my SIB is put on inflatable rollerboats to get it the 50 yards or so back to the concrete slip. Even though I have four wheel drive.. I would never put my vehicle on any sandy shore... no matter how firm it looks. I have pulled a heavier boat up by either ... waiting for the tide to reach the ramp..or use a rope with the car always on concrete Thanks for pointing it out though.. just in case some tries taking a car onto the sand


The sound of Easdale was .. as expected .. a sheltered sleepy place. The little village of Ellenabeich looked very picturesque in the silence of the early morning sun.



On the other side of the sound is the Island of Easdaleís little harbour. I noticed there was some life there. Three or four people seemed to be getting into a large inflatable.. there were one or two RIBs moored there too.




I told my daughter to note the neat rows of cottages on the island. Easdale and Seil are two of a group of Islands known as the Slate Islands. The other islands in this group are Luing, Lunga, Torsa and Belnahua.





They are the Slate Islands because..surprise..surprise.. at one time ..they quarried huge amounts of Slate. You can still see the deep pits or quarries the slate came from..mostly filled with water now. This photo is of one at Ellenabeich.. which I took a few years back.. it shows an old slate quarry full of sea water.





I mentioned to my daughter that we were now going to visit Belnahua.. which was a busy slate island at one time too..but is now uninhabited. With a flick of the throttle..we were soon leaving Easdale and Seil islands in our wake too.



Far ahead we could see the white shape of Fladda Lighthouse which is to the left of Belnahua. My daughter is hiding Belnahua in this photo..but on the right of her you can also see the Garvellach Islands.




The sea was now beginning to form some swell as we crossed to Belnahua. Belnahua is just to the right of my daughter. Apologies for her getting in the way of the views .. but I enjoyed her company.. therefore you will just have to get used to seeing her back on this adventure.




Last week ..even though fair winds were forecast .. my brother abandoned a sea crossing in this area..due to heavy swell and a spring tide. He was hoping to paddle through the Corryvrechan in his sea kayak.. which he has done quite a few times in the past. A strong spring tide..heavy swell ..and some wind make this part of the world quite difficult for small boats.. sometimes you have to be prepared to turn back .. even in good forecast days.

Belnahua is surrounded by strong tidal flows.. however it was no problem for us. The small triangular waves generally indicate a strong current..it is when they start leaping higher and turning white ..that you know just how strong the flow can be.. and things can change quickly. They stayed little dancing darlings as we passed through them



Tomorrow I will post about landing on Belnahua ...to be continued
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Old 23 April 2015, 15:47   #9
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I never tire of reading your stories. They make me wish I didn't have to work all week!
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Old 23 April 2015, 16:39   #10
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Yeah my rib is 6.5 m so is very heavy. A BMW x5 isn't great on a sandy beach. A long rope is now my method aswell.
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Old 23 April 2015, 17:49   #11
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Captivating and educational read as always Gurnard
Keep 'em coming
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Old 24 April 2015, 04:28   #12
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Thanks again for commenting guys..its appreciated. A1an..your day will come soon enough and then you too will be in the promised land. I find it hard to believe..just how many of my co workers ..my age..dont want to retire.. ďwhat will we do all day without work ? ď I feel sorry for them...I love mid week adventures when few are around.

I made sure that I was not approaching Belnahua from the north. A dangerous reef extends from the point and in 1936 a Latvian ship .. the Helena Faulbaums was wrecked here with the loss of 15 lives. Four survivors were picked up from the shores of Belnahua.



We passed down the east coast of the island.. looking for a suitable landing spot but didnít see much. It was quite and exposed steep shore. There was a jetty here quite a few years ago.. but the strong tides and winter storms have removed all trace. The ruins of the store house and a rusting boiler are seen in this photo.





I decided the southern shore was the best approach for a landing. The long row of abandoned workerís cottages were waiting patiently for us to explore them.



It was not a problem landing on the southern shore and I set up a two anchor system to keep the SIB afloat while we explored. The tide was still falling and my boat is too heavy to drag about on rocks without a lot of effort.



That is when I found that out the blue and totally random .. a large swell would suddenly appear and lift the boat ... trying to hurl it onto the beach. I had a bruce anchor out the rear ..but the force of the lift from the large swell started dragging it. It was having difficulty biting into the slippery slate sea bed. If I had known this.. I would have dropped the rear anchor around fifty yards from the shore before landing..but I was now too lazy to go and reset it. It did bite at times.. but I was not happy with the set up. I left my daughter to watch the boat and shout me if it moved an inch.


Incidentally..I always take the VHF ashore in such places..just in case the boat drifts off and strands me. If camping here in the Scottish SIB outing ..all boats will have to be lifted well clear of high water mark. I have also been informed that my brother landed here a year or so back.. the tide was falling and only half way out .. so they were happy their kayaks were safe. Then an unpredictable tide surge brought the water back up the beach.. they were lucky to get the kayaks safe before they floated off.

Belnahua had over 100 slate workers living on it in its hay day. It was a very hard life..the women manned the water pumps that kept the deep quarry dry while the men dug the slate. There is no reliable source of fresh water on the island..it had to be brought by boat from Luing.. across a fickle tidal stretch of water. Eventually .. during WW1 the men left the island to fight in the war or build ships on the Clyde. Not long after..the women and children left too.. the island was abandoned.






The worker lived in two long rows of cottages. I wanted time to savour the history of the place. To imagine the hard life the people lived..what they saw and worked at..hear the noise of the pumps and breaking of rock..feel the bitter winds and breaking waves of winter.. but alas.. it was not to be. I was too concerned about the safety of my anchor system..so only had time for a few photos.







I also couldnít help notice..but someone had started rebuilding one of the cottages. The island was still abandoned ..and no one on it..but perhaps soon..there will be a holiday home there ?



To be continued....
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Old 24 April 2015, 05:36   #13
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We need to come up with a solution to this anchoring issue......some kind of temporary running mooring ??
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Old 24 April 2015, 06:51   #14
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If I had been prepared..I donít think it would have been the same problem Last Tango..but thats why I went..just to suss the place out in real time. I didnít expect the swells so landed then waded out as far as I could before throwing the rear anchor out. It didnít have enough length of rope or chain in the water.


With hindsight.. I will drop the rear anchor twenty or thirty yards from shore..it should grip then..the bottom seemed to have weed a bit deeper and not small skimming stones as on the shore. It is still quite exposed though.. and strong tides all around the place .. so its weather dependant.


Perhaps a better solution is this...a very sheltered bay ...just across a major tide race .. but on another deserted island.



I will tell about it later..first I have to get to the Garvellachs in this adventure ... to be continued
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Old 24 April 2015, 07:36   #15
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hi gurnard

would the inflatable rollers been any good or wont they travel on large stone [not used rollers myself so might be a stupid question].

jeff
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Old 24 April 2015, 10:42   #16
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Hi again Jeff ..yup the inflatable rollers are ideal for this type of situation. Why didnít I use them ?

I confess that it would be less trouble hopping back in the boat.. letting it drift out 30 yards.. drop the rear anchor so I had a long enough warp for it to hold..paddle back in ..feeding out the rope as I went.. hop out SIB and plant the shore anchor. In truth.. I was too lazy to do that.. so inflating rollers and pulling it clear of the water didnít even cross my mind.

I am also using a little writerís licence to highlight the nature of landing on this island. It must be remembered that on this adventure.. it was perfect condition.. 3-6 mph winds. In the photo of the anchored SIB..the sea is flat calm..yet ..even to my surprise.. once every 5 minutes or so a roller appeared from nowhere.

If ... on the Scottish SIB outing day there are 10-20 mph winds forecast .. I hope folks will realise it can be a dangerous water for small boats (Im talking Inflatables with engines..not RIBs) and an alternative should perhaps be considered if the winds are fresh ? I wont make that decision though..it will be a group decision.

I will also add that I am not responsible for anyone on the trip except for myself. ..Im just a fellow SIBber who is trying to assist with some previous experience of the area.
Iím sure others know this area too and their input will be welcome too.

I will certainly make sure my SIB is above high water when I camp overnight on Belnahua and will use the rollers to do so. I would not do what I normally do if tide times are right on the night.. let it dry out on the shore then refloat on the incoming tide in the morning..just in case there is a surge during the night.

Before continuing.. here is some previous researched info I had about the area.. worth remembering the spring tide was only two days before this adventure.

The spring rate is 6-7 knots through the islands at the N end of the Sound of Luing. On the N going stream a strong tide race extends from Rhubha Fiola to Ormsa then past the SW side of Belnahua. Between the Garvellachs and the Black Islands the spring rate 2-3knots. On the west side of Lunga the spring rate is from 3-3.5knots. South of Insh Island, the spring rate is 1-1.5knots. Eddys are frequent, especially round the north end of the Garvellachs.


Having seen a little of Belnahua ..we were now keen to be on our way to the Garvellachs. Both anchors were hauled back on board and we were off. Not far from shore..we saw a long dark line with some white tops breaking the surface of the sea. This was the tide race we had to cross.




The little dancing triangular waves were a touch bigger but still nothing to worry about. The slight breeze was blowing with the water flow. If the wind changed direction.. as it had several times that morning.. and got a bit fresher.. this water would look quite different.



The sleeping but still fast flowing race was strong enough to cause some boat drift



Looking back towards Belnahua.. the white crests give an indication to how strong the tides are around this little island in the sun.



But the SIB hardly noticed the sleeping menace as we crossed.. and we were now on the other side.. heading for the Garvellachs .. on a far more predictable surface.



Tomorrow..we will go to the outer Garvellach ..looking for the ruins of an ancient monastery..beehive prayer cells ..and the grave of St Columbaís mother.. to be continued
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Old 25 April 2015, 05:22   #17
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Looking forward to the rest of this trip log Gurnard. I am now officially even more hacked off that I cannot make the SIB gathering!!
I'll just have to visit the area another time
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Old 25 April 2015, 05:31   #18
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Sorry to head that Warder..but there will be more trips to this area..Im pretty sure of that. Just need to know various route options and escape plans in case the sea turns nasty



The Garvellachs ..roughly translated to Rough Islands or Islands of the sea.. are a group of rocky uninhabited islands that lie at the extreme end of the Firth of Lorne. They are exposed to the Atlantic swells that can funnel down the firth. We were now approaching Dun Chonnuill and the Castle..the most North Easterly island in the group. There can be eddys around these parts but all was calm today. The eddyís form when two different direction tidal flows slide along one another.





Then we turned south east and ran along the coast of Garbh Eileach ..the largest of the islands





There is a house on this Island that is owned by the estate and is kept locked. You can only stay in it by invite.





Finally the reefs and furthest out island of Eileach an Naoimh were clearly in view. They showed the half way mark of our dayís journey.





I gave the reefs a wide berth as Im not familiar with this area. Although the fish finder shows the depth.. under water reefs can suddenly appear in front of the boat and the finder canít see them until the transducer is over them. Its important to keep an eye on the water surface disturbance in front of the boat as well as the sounder. Many years ago..it was my job as cabin boy on my fatherís yacht.. to test the depths with a plumb line. Fortunately electronic transducers save that manual performance.





Then I rounded the southern point of the last of the Garvellachs.. we were now exposed to the swell.





I headed north up the exposed east side of the island for a little while as I wanted to see the great Stone Eagle of Eileach an Naoimh. Its a cliff that many think look like a huge eagle with outspread wings. The sun and angle for this photo were not great..but I could just make out the shape of the eagle.





Although I was keen to continue up the east coast..we had not found the beehive cells or monastery ruins..





... and my daughter was feeling the swell motions in her stomach. She has not been on this boat before..and is not used to the sea.. so I turned round to head back to the calmer side of the islands.




To be continued...
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Old 25 April 2015, 10:32   #19
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Once clear of the swell again ..we both scanned the island for signs somewhere to land.. or to see if we could see any old ruins on the hillside. I should have researched where the ruins were before coming but I thought they would be easy to find on a small island. We saw nothing.



I guess that means I will just have to return..another day. I asked my brother where they were when I returned home. It turns out..there is a lagoon behind the reef on the left of this photo..and off the lagoon is a narrow opening in the rocks where you land. The ruins are on the hillside at that position. Unfortunately..I kept well out from the reefs..so didnít see anything.



He sent me a couple of photos he took of the beehive prayer cells..so these photoís are courtesy of my brother Douglas. I will return to get my own soon enough.





I had vague notions of going through the Grey Dogs tide race if things stayed as calm..but on our return crossing .. the wind started to freshen a little. I soon lost any notion to go to the dogs.. instead I set course for Eilean Dubb Mor and a more sheltered spot.



I wanted to check out another possible wild camp spot..and we also wanted to land ...



...and have our lunch on a lovely sunny sheltered stony shore...



... stretch our legs..and take a few posing photos ....



.. while the resident sea eagle got in a flap and flew off in disgust.



To be continued...
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Old 25 April 2015, 14:17   #20
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Awesome as per usual - The Gurnard is like the Hamish MacInnes of the seas
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