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Old 15 May 2016, 04:15   #1
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The Guppy rounds the Ross of Mull

I had been watching the approaching forecast of a warm weather spell with interest . With over a week still to go it was predicting temperatures reaching 20 C at least..but strong winds .. Force 3 gusting to Force 6. Every day the wind speeds changed as the warm spell seemed to get hotter .. four full days of sun and wind was on the cards !!

None of the weather stations I monitor .. would agree on the wind speeds ..however ... all of them said it would be “fresh to strong winds” from the East or North East. That unfortunately put an end to my plans of going to Raasay and Rona off Skye.. as those islands would be getting the full force of the winds.

However .. it did not mean that I was going to be a land lubber and miss four days of warm sun on the sea. On Monday.. I received the expected phone call.

My Brother .. “Hi Gurnard .. due to the weather forecast.. we are going to go round the Ross of Mull ..which includes a circumnavigation of the Island of Iona .. the winds are forecast for F3 to F6 .. but we are on the weather shores most of the way.. would you like to come too ?”

Me .. “ White horses won’t stop me ..Im on my way”

We agreed to meet at Bunessan .. with a quick proposed route .. illustrated on the map below. Three nights wild camping should see us round the Ross of Mull.



I was going by “The Guppy” .. my brother and his friends were going by Kayak. I spent Tuesday readying my camping gear and kitting out the F-Rib 275 ready for some serious adventuring.. in strong winds. The rear Tarp was to keep all my gear from bouncing out the back... as well as to try and stop some water swamping the nine foot boat with six foot waves.



I caught the mid day ferry from Oban to Mull on Wednesday. The wind was from the East and around Force 4 to 5. I was on my way to the agreed meeting place of Bunessan for a two o’clock launch...and finalise the route plan.



Five of us met ..and discussed the proposed sea journey. The winds were still gusting around Force 4 and forecast to touch Force 6 during the night.. coming from the north. This had us worried that we may get trapped by a wild sea in our first wild camp spot at Market Bay.. on the north coast of the Ross of Mull..so would be fully exposed to the winds. My brother suggested that due to the forecasts for the next few days.. to base ourselves at Fidden Campsite ..on the sheltered east coast ..and do day trips from there.

I was happy with this decision .. it mean a far lighter boat in heavy seas ..a hot shower at the end of the day .. and although its a public campsite.. it is in an idyllic situation in the Sound of Iona. Who could complain.



We didn’t take long pitching tents .. carrying boats twenty meters from tent to shore ..and by four o’clock in the afternoon..we were ready for our first exploration trip. ..to David Balfour Bay on the Island of Erraid ..via the Tinker’s Hole.



The Guppy was first in the water and ready to go. Although the winds were still strong .. they were from the East. They only scratched dark patches on the surface of the sea .. because it was an off shore wind. No heavy seas expected on this journey.



However ..it was hot ..around 22 C ..and sun all the way......

To be continued...
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Old 16 May 2016, 04:37   #2
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Leaving the campsite launch point .. I kept the outboard on tick over.. but still covered ground at a fair rate of knots. .. by wind power.



Small boats in a strong offshore wind is not to be recommended for newbies ..if anything goes wrong.. the light boat will be blown out to open sea within minutes ..and of course..in the open sea are large breaking waves.

However..with some experience.. boating the windward shore is the best way to go in strong winds.

While I waited for the kayaks to launch.. I looked around for markers to use on my return. Its very easy to loose bearings on a strange water..and forget where you launched from.

Outside Fidden Campsite is a rock with the remains of a small lighthouse.. so I noted its position and after that..it was easy to find my way back to shore.



I have learned many things from different types of boaters. I often read on the internet that people recommend at least a 10Hp outboard for going to sea.. anything less..and you may not get home again.. which is just not true.

Kayaks go to sea all the time.. with a paddle. However they know how to work wind and tides to their advantage. I used to be a kayaker ..so will happily go to sea with as small an engine as a 2.5Hp. I do research tide flows in the areas I go to .. to prevent getting caught unaware.

The kayakers were using the ebbing tide to help propel them towards the narrow channel between the islands of Eilean Dubh and Erraid.



The northern end of the channel is quite shallow.. so at times I switched off my outboard and went with the flow too. I was on an adventure..so had all the time in the world.. I had no reason to rush around on the plane and miss the scenery.



Once in the narrow channel..the water is much deeper..so I restarted the engine and caught up on my friends.



Just off the channel..in a rocky bay ..that some describe as an old granite quarry.. is the famous yacht mooring called “The Tinkers Hole”. It is one of the few places in the area where boats can anchor in even the roughest of weather. Not surprising..there was a boat moored for the night..its crew sunning themselves on deck..did I say it was around 24 C is the warm sun ? Hard to believe it was snowing the week before !



The strong winds had dropped a good bit by the time we cleared the Tinkers Hole.. so I headed for open sea to get the engine working at speed... and also admire the rocky scenery from a distance.



I passed a lovely trimaran who’s jibs were still rolled up .. I guess the wind was still strong in the Firth of Lorn from where it had come.



I then spotted the agreed meeting place to rendezvous with the kayakers. David Balfour’s bay .. which is another famous location .. because of the book Kidnapped



To be continued....
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Old 16 May 2016, 06:04   #3
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Brilliant Again! You need your own section on the forum so your posts dont get lost!
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Old 16 May 2016, 06:24   #4
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Nice one Gurnard!..well done! (again)...one of my favourite places!
A couple of years ago we ran through there with a Sea Eagle 25 feet straight above us for about half a mile!..we were so mesmerised we didn't even speak (a very rare occurrence for my missus!) or think of taking a photo!MAGIC.
Keep the story's coming
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Old 16 May 2016, 07:33   #5
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Thanks for the kind words Steve.. I guess folks can search for Guppy..I try to give ideas for adventures in the West Coast of Scotland ..where to launch.. what to see etc..with my posts. I cant compete with the Clyde Cruiser almanacs ..but hopefully it will help small boaters

I saw one Sea Eagle this trip Maximus.. but plenty buzzards ..owls etc..even saw a rare Corncrake ..though heard plenty of them around the campsite


Robert Louis Stevenson .. the non engineer in the family of engineers who built Lighthouses ..used this bay to describe his hero in Kidnapped ..being washed ashore ..clutching as spar from his sinking ship which hit the Torran rocks. He knew this coast line well.

I now know it too ..and you can be forgiven for thinking you are in Greece .. when the sun shines through the water and reflects off the white sands of the bay.. its paradise.



I hauled my boat up the sand.. to give me time to wander around...



And wonder..where else could I land..which was so stunningly beautiful ..yet there was no sound or sign of other humans...not even a footprint in the sand ?



Then my silent solitude was broken..by the arrival of my kayak friends



I guess it was warm work for them paddling to paradise.. as they soon stripped off and went swimming..



I had not had much exercise..so instead..clambered the hill to get a bird’s eye view of the bay



Where I found a sheep’s head..complete with horns ...



I was going to attach it to the Guppy as a figure head ..but changed my mind when I remembered that I was going to Iona the following day. I felt it too much of a pagan ritual .. for such a Christian location... so I gave it a decent sea send off instead



After the bathing and photo session.. we then did the only civilised thing to do... in such a wonderful setting.. have a toast of Glenfiddich 12 year old and a wrap snack to celebrate the start of our adventure.



To be continued...
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Old 16 May 2016, 11:05   #6
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Perhaps it was the result of the Glenfiddich nips ..but I now saw a different perspective of David Balfour Bay...



So decided to head back to sea ...and saw lowering sun bring out the colours and shapes of the red granite cliffs...



I decided to have a quick run up the Sound of Iona ..to give my companions time to paddle back to the campsite ...



As I wanted a quick glimpse of Iona Abbey.. now that the offshore wind was dropping.. to a calm...



I returned to the campsite around the same time as the others.. and we parked up the boats for the night ...



Then went into the dinning room and enjoyed the biggest and best venison stew and potatoes that I have ever tasted..thanks to Iain who made it previously. Of course..it was washed down with generous helping of dark gravy... it was well made too...



It put us in the mood for a campfire..so we retired to the living room ....



To watch the sunset over Iona ...



Some little nips of my brother’s Jura Supertsition really brought out the colours nicely ..



And we swapped tales of sea adventures .. until the moon told us it was time for bed.



I slept like a log..as I now find adventuring at sixty years old..quite hard work

I was looking forward to the morning.. the plan for the day ... to circumnavigate the Island of Iona...

To be continued....
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Old 16 May 2016, 11:24   #7
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great story and photos as usual Gurnard, looking forward to the next instalment
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Old 16 May 2016, 11:32   #8
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Another mouth-watering trip report which has me twitching for August.... if there's any sun left over... if I may say Mr G you have used up quite a lot of Scotland's yearly allowance over the past couple of trips!!
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Old 17 May 2016, 03:24   #9
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Thanks for commenting Chris..and Im happy you are enjoying the report

Good to see you too Fenlander.. and dont worry..this summer is predicted to be great one for Scotland..well..compared to last year anyhoo.


Although I slept well.. I was up with the early birds .. knowing I had a big adventure ahead of me. The map shows the route we took which covered approx 25 miles of some of the most stunning coast line in Scotland.



The forecast of Force 6 gusts during the night never happened .. which is probably why none of the weather stations could agree on wind speeds during this astonishing warm spell. This day was predicted force 3 gusting to force 4 ..which suited us much better. Early morning start meant calm waters

I skimmed across the Sound of Iona on a flattish sea.. the 6HP engine pushing me on nicely around 15 mph. I was heading for a small sandy beach just south of Iona village ..to wait my paddling palls cross the sound at their respectable speed of around 5-6 mph.



Landing on the beach..I clambered a small hill to get a good view of Iona village and its world famous Abbey



And when I got back to the beach..the kayakers had arrived.



So we set course for the southern tip of Iona.. planning to go clockwise direction round the island...this meant tides would help paddlers momentum.



Kayakers like to get themselves into small spaces to explore uncharted channels ..so it takes time to go round the island.



Not that I mind ..as I like to take my time too. I wont go into every small geo..but I enjoy landing on beaches or going round reefs further out..which they don’t do. I pulled up onto a small pebble beach to have a sandwich..enjoy the sun..and to look for shiny souvenirs of my visit.



It only took a few moments to find some nice coloured granite stones.. a piece of flint (top right) and a small piece of serpentine ..which is a semi precious stone (Very bottom) I have a stone grinder..so know they will polish nicely.



Then I set off in pursuit of my palls..now paddling through the reefs and rock gardens on the southern tip of Iona



And as we went round headland after headland ..I couldn’t help thinking the scenery seemed to get better and better ..as the morning got warmer and warmer..and the sea ..flatter and flatter



Soon we were travelling up the outer side of Iona..which is famed for its beauty ...to be continued
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Old 18 May 2016, 03:22   #10
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Once again..the forecast was wrong with their wind predictions. It was only a gentle breeze and we were sheltered from the north east wind .. the sea turned flat calm.. as I slowly motored through the rocky reefs on the southern seaward side of the island.



Its not a place to hurry on a calm sunny day.. but a place to slowly soak in the atmosphere of granite rock surroundings.



Rounding every headland ... and there are many of them...



The views seemed to get better and better..



But not only in front of me... the views kept changing ..and I didn’t know which direction to look for the best photos.



Luminous green patches appeared regularly .. where the sun light touched on the white sand sea bed. The only sounds were the occasional cry of the seabirds.



But then..rounding another headland .. we heard a deep muffled explosion. It happened several times.. I imagined I could feel the power of the explosion in the vibrating sea ?

Cautiously we moved forward to try to find the source of the sound.. it was only once in a while... and not in a regular time period ... .



One of the kayakers cried .. Watch ... I think its coming from here ? ...



A few moments later ..another muffled explosion occurred and shot a column of water ... forty feet into the air ...



We have just witnessed Iona’s spouting cave. A place where the sea s gets trapped in a confined space.. then a rising swell forces the water out through a small blow hole. On a day with a large rolling swell..it is an amazing sight.. and sound ..as it can reach the cliff tops.. a hundred feet above.

However it was still very impressive on this calm day.... and a sight not to be missed..... to be continued
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