Before crossing to Skye..I had already spent almost a week wild camping around the Ullapool area. I follow the access code to the letter. I set up my chosen spot in the evening..and leave early morning.. with not a single trace of my overnight stay.
Everything is transported inside the car.. which is the reason I chose the small F-Rib in the first place. It is put outside ..under the tarp when I retire on my bunk to sleep in the back of the car. I bother no one..and no one bothers me.
I enjoy camping like this ..its not because Im a stingy barsteward .. its because I enjoy the freedom ..the silence .. the isolation ..and the views. I shared this spot with a small adder. Unfortunately..it was photo shy..and wriggled into the flowering broom before I got my camera ready.
Arriving on Skye..my initial plan was to camp on the edge of Loch Ainort ..ready to launch the Guppy there in the morning. However to reach Loch Ainort..I passed the boat centre at Strollamus ..and noticed they now have a small campsite.
It was in a perfect location for my adventure..easy launch facilities.. showers and toilet.. security for parked car ... so I stopped to investigate.
Its run by a lovely friendly couple . It small with meagre facilities..but very clean. I had no problem booking in for three nights ..at £6 per night. I was happy to put up with other snoring campers not far from my tent.. for the facilities on offer...and I though it excellent value for my meager pension money.
I was up at 7am to get the Guppy ready for its journey. My plan was to circumnavigate the Islands of Raasay and Rona before returning to the campsite in the evening. A journey of approx 50 miles round trip. Forecast was for light winds from the South East ..veering to northerly in the afternoon ..sun all day ..and a calm sea state. Perfect conditions.
I was on the water half an hour after getting out of bed..and happily speeding up the Sound of Rassay at around 13 mph. Wind and tide was assisting my passage. The only thing that troubled me slightly.. was the small white clouds beginning to appear above the Cuillin hills. I know from experience of the area.. they normally indicate a change in weather.
Sure enough.. as I was passing the end of Scalpay and start of Raasay.. a wave began to form.. I initially put it down to tidal flow from the gap between the two islands.
As i headed north .. along the west coast of Raasay..I could feel the wind beginning to freshen. I cursed those small clouds again.
Half way along Raasay .. I began to realise the sea was beginning to move around more than expected. I was now in the middle of a force 4 squall.. on a coastline with very few places to land..and one that I was not familiar with.
The Guppy was not complaining..she was happily surfing with the tide..wind ... and wave flow. However as it was another 12 miles to my destination .. and the sea state was definitely deteriorating quickly.. I knew I had to make a decision... and soon.
Carrying on to Rona could mean a 25 mile return battle into the sea..which would get worse when the tide turned and flowed in opposition to this wind .. I ruled that option out.
Turn round and go back ..that would shorten my day..and I would still have to fight the sea as it was.. I ruled that option out.
Try to land on Raasay and wait to see the outcome of this un forecasted wind .. I liked that option..but could only see white waves breaking on a rocky coast line ..so that option was ruled out for me.
Cut across the sound of Raasay to mainland Skye..and find shelter in Portree bay. Its approx 2 miles across. I knew from my trip in Mull that the Guppy easily planes parallel to wave ..so that is the option I chose
All I had to do was dodge the waves that were breaking ..as one could fill the Guppy if it emptied into her. Mid channel the waves were around four foot high and heaving in all direction.. nothing for a larger vessel to worry about..but requires a certain degree of seamanship in a boat only twice as long as their height. The waves started to diminish as I approached the Skye headland.
And by the time I reached Portree bay.. the sea was calm again.
Again .. I cursed those small clouds .. as they grew closer ..before disappearing all together.
I have taken time to write this out..as I think its important to know when to change plans using small boat in remote areas. I know Rona will still be there.. but I was uncertain what would happen to me if I continued.. and the squall didn’t pass as quickly. I didn’t push the boat or myself to anywhere near limits..I prefer to play safe.
Call me a whimp if you like..but Im a surviving whimp.
To be continued...