The Gulf of Corryvrechan is an extremely dangerous place for small boats.. so if you are following this adventure please don’t think that you too may easily pass through. It requires an in depth knowledge of the tides and times in the area. It is perfectly safe under certain circumstances .. but it is not as easy as saying “high water at Oban is xxx time ..so it will be the same at the Corryvrechan” ... it is not! It can be difficult to calculate as even air pressure or wind direction can change the time of the turn.
A Channel 4 TV documentary about the Corryvreckan called Lethal Seas
featured an interesting experiment.
Equinox episode guide - Equinox, Channel 4's premier science show in the UK
A weighted dummy wearing a life jacket was dumped into the sea just before the Corryvreckan whirlpool. It disappeared within moments. It was recovered several miles out to sea half an hour later. A dive meter showed that it had been down to at least 200m and the dummy's life jacket had gravel in its pockets and straps.
It was a last minute decision made by Poly, Willk and Myself to go through the Gulf.. based on a lot of experience and knowledge.
Although it is many years since I had been through it in a 24ft yacht .. I has consulted my brother often about this trip. He has kayaked through it many times.. although even then ..sometimes he get it wrong.. as this photo from his web site illustrates...credits to Seakayakphoto...and also thanks for calculating possible times for calm conditions.
With the decision to face hell at high water made.. Poly took the lead in a mad dash to get through the Gulf in the half hour safe time slot.
It was not only the outboard engines that carried us towards the whirlpool.. but a natural force under the water also assisted us forward into the gap.. it was the still flooding tide.
I let the others pass me..under the pretence that I wanted to photograph everyone heading through the greatest tide race in the UK.. but in reality..it was because I wanted to see if they disappeared under water.. before I had to attempt it.
Poly took us over the top of the pinnacle that creates the whirlpool. I watched my fishfinder depth and at one point it read 100ft.. so knew I was in the heart of the whirlpool.
Of course..it wasn’t swirling.. the tides had now stop flowing. I don’t have any photos as it was still a bit choppy..and I had to hang onto tiller as well as the boat... so camera was in its box. I did see a couple of small vortex draw air down into the grey depths..as opposing current flows rubbed each other..but saw nothing spectacular or worrying.
Then moments later.. we broke out the Great Race.. which can continue for over five miles out to the sea.. when the tide is in full flood. Not a place you want your engine to break down.
There was a slight swell on the west coast of Scarba..but it felt like a mill pond after the lumpy pot holes of the ”Vrechan”
The white knuckle SIB ride was only half way through.. the sky ahead looked dark and ominous ..as Poly now headed straight for the Grey Dogs.
I followed from a safe distance .. then my heart stopped.. his boat suddenly disappeared ... had he been sucked under ? No.. he had just turned the dog leg channel in the Grey Dogs tide race.
In truth .. the Grey dogs were like gentle puppies.. there was no teeth to their bite..as it was still slack water. I waited in the calm race for the other guys to pass. The white knuckle SIB ride came to a peaceful end.
Moments later.. five extremely satisfied small SIB skippers (and Willk) landed on Belnahua.. we had all battled with ... and won .. the Great Tide Race !!! It was now time to celebrate....
To be continued ....