This thread was split from the original to preserve it without the interspersed chat.
With the warm winds of summer now a long distant memory, I sit in my house huddled over a little electric heater. Outside... the winter gales try their best to rip the tarpaulin off my SIB which is stored in its winter berth, on a trailer beside my house. As torrential rain and sleet slide across the glass of my single glazed windows .. I have to remind myself that summer will return.
I guess Im one of those SAD bar stewards (Seasonal Adjustment Disorder) so to cheer myself up a little.. I turned my thoughts back to last summer ... and although it was not the best SIB year for me ... I did manage a couple of epic journeys.
Without doubt my fondest memories of last summer SIBing was of a 100 mile journey taking in Loch Nevis and two of the Small Isles.. the Islands of Eigg and Muck. It consisted of a three day wild camp adventure.
Below is a small map and beyond the map.. the start of my wittering prose and photographs of the journey. I hope they help bring a little summer SIBing inspiration to you too.
My adventure started at a campsite just north of Arisaig. Although I often wild camp ..if Im going to be SIBing for a few days.. I prefer leaving the car and trailer in a campsite . .rather than abandoning it beside the road. It gives peace of mind the car will still be there on my return. Besides..I like Portnadoran Campsite.
There is lots to do at Arisaig.. it is famous for its seals and skerries ..and the water is always crystal clear. The island of Eigg is off shore and under cloud.. in this photo.
Because it is very tidal and has lovely sandy shores..its easy to set up a mooring when the tide is out. I have a large galvanised cork screw which I sink into the sand .. and attach a buoy and rope to the screw with a suitable length of chain. I have been known to moor at the end of this sheltered bay.
However I was not parking my SIB up on this adventure ...so shoved SIB and trailer down the grass bank beside my camp pitch.. hauled it across the rocky shore .. wrestled SIB off the trailer .. then went to set up camp as I awaited the returning tide.
After pitching tent.. having a coffee ..and the predictable after coffee pee.. the tide was soon lapping at the back of the boat.
Moments later I was cruising happily along the coast towards the town of Mallaig ..which sits at the entrance to Loch Nevis.. arguably one of the remotest and most beautiful sea lochs in Scotland.
Thanks for looking in Chris... and I agree .. the Arisaig Area is a truly magical land.
As I neared Mallaig, I was delighted to see a long column of smoke and steam .. chugging and chuffing its way along the seafront.
I instantly knew it was “The Jacobite” steam train which runs herds of tourists between Fort William and Mallaig...and back again.
Many nickname the train the “Hogwart Express” after the Harry Potter movie which featured the train crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The train was taking Harry and his mates to the magic school which featured in his movies.
I wasn’t going to a magic school.. but I knew I was about to embark on a magical journey ..into an enchanted land.
To be continued ....
Hey ...thanks for all the kind comments guys.I get a lot of fun reliving my adventures and posting about them.. so only too happy to know you enjoy them.
Perhaps I should add that a SIB adventure into Loch Nevis is not to be taken lightly. I had been planning this journey for a while ... waiting patiently for a three of four day weather window with calm seas. It was the last week in June when the high pressure area finally arrived and I made my way past Mallaig. It was just a pity the calm seas didn’t coincide with sunny sky ..but I couldn’t have everything.
I momentarily poked my nose into Mallaig Harbour ...but the eight foot high cement sculptured fisherman and daughter who guard the pier .. seemed to beacon me on my way. They were conceived by a local sculptor who lives on the remote Knoydart peninsula
Leaving the fishing port.. I turned right..and looked straight into the wide mouth of Loch Nevis. Brooding clouds capped the summits of the majestic mountains surrounding this remote loch, however they didn’t distract from the atmosphere of the area
I decided to savour the moment by first crossing the mouth of the loch to the far side and then exploring Sandaig Bay. It is a sheltered sandy beach surrounded by some rocky islands. Even in a calm sea, there was still a considerable swell which reminded me how things can quickly change if a wind started to blow. I love the feeling of acceleration as a large wave picks up the SIB by its rear end and starts to hurl the boat towards the shore. I try to stay on its crest for as long as I can by adjusting the outboard speed.
Landing on a small sandy beach near Sandaig Bay, I quickly turned the SIBs nose into the oncoming swell and anchored it by the bow. The tide was now on the turn and my boat is too heavy to move on my own if left high and dry by a falling tide.
I wanted to investigate a small hut that I had noticed from the sea. It seemed strange to see such a man made structure in the barren landscape. When I got closer..I realised what it was. It was the cable hut where the submarine telephone cable came ashore to feed the remote Knoydart community. From a distance..it looked like it needed more than a lick of paint to freshen it up.
Closer inspection proved it was still working. I spent twenty years of my youth repairing BT lines so smiled when I saw the state of this cable hut. It is the best example of BT neglect that I have ever seen.
However ..it didn’t surprise me. Knoydart communications are almost non existent. The community is not connected to the road network of Scotland. .. and to reach the village of Inverie involves a seven mile boat journey ..or a twenty mile hike over the mountains.
I also knew that shortly.. my handheld VHF would be as much use as a chocolate telephone. When SIBing in remote Loch Nevis.. you are entirely on your own. Only the stags and eagles will hear you scream if things go wrong.
Thanks again for the encouragement guys. I have more adventures than Para Handy had to tell... I just need the dutch courage to post about them.
Beerbelly.. Im certain you will love Luing.. the Cuan Sound in full flood on springs is a great place to play in a SIB ..but only on calm days. If you feel really adventurous .. a trip to the Garvellachs is a must. Im hoping for a wild camp there next year .. among the beehives the monks of old made for meditation. They went there in coracles ..so a SIB will easily do it in good conditions.
I get nose bleeds if I go too far South Black Pig..Im a Teuchter by heart.
Back to Sandaig Bay.. it is a lovely remote area ..and the only footprints on the shore..were actually hoof prints.. of the wild stags that roam the area. It is unfortunate the sun wasn’t shining for my photos.
I did catch one glimpse of the sun as I left the bay. In a split second of brilliant light ..it cast a spell and turned the sea a lovely emerald green. Then it was gone ... and I was back to a grey and white seascape.
I was now heading east into Loch Nevis itself...
You know you are in Loch Nevis when you pass “Plastic Mary” standing on a rocky knoll.. giving her blessing to all who pass.
Actually “Plastic Mary” is a very unfair term for the Madonna. She was placed there in good faith by the Catholic Community and she is actually made of GRP..not plastic.
Moments later I was passing the inner cross ..on my way to Inverie
This is what Inverie looks like with slightly less Scotch mist on the hills.. I took the photo on my last visit there..but went by commercial ferry and not SIB
I was now looking forward to a night in the most remote pub in the UK ....
If Inverie looks a little depressing under the heavy sky in this photo.. it was anything but. It was warm with hardly a breath of wind. It was also still a little early in the year for the dark clouds of midges that can descend from the heights on nights like this ...in a few weeks time.
I passed the village and landed on Long Beach. There is a lovely community campsite there and it is where I intended staying for the night. I wasn’t too happy leaving the SIB on the exposed shore.. and tide times were a bit out of sync to re launch it early in the morning if I beached it.
So searched around and found a more suitable place ... a river mouth at the end of the campsite. The perfect parking spot for my boat..and it was deep enough so I could get an early start in the morning.
I chatted happily with the Aussie accented guy living in this boat. He mentioned he first arrived ten years ago..and has never left since. I confess... at the time I envied him a little.. but now.. listening to the wind howl outside my house ..and how cold it is in December..I no longer long for his lifestyle.
I set up home for the nigh near the boats in the river. Home was of course my trusty Tesco Value tent. Since then... I have retired it. When my old mom passed away and left me a little inheritance.. I splashed out and bought a brand new Vango banshee 300 tent. Im looking forward to trying it out in the spring.
Once camp was up ..I took a walk along the campsite. It is quiet and mostly hillwalkers that use its facilities for the princely price of four squid per night.
Which is worth every penny as there are toilets and a wooden shelter plus BBQ area. Loads of free firewood too..
Then I walked the short distance into Inverie village itself. I was looking for the “Old Forge”..the most remote pub in the UK.
Its not difficult to find either... there are only a dozen or so houses on the main street
I settled down to scoff the house special. Fresh Loch Nevis Langoustines.. almost the size of lobsters.
Oh..and a glass of their delicious “Black Magic Juice”.
In fact ..I had several glasses ..which had a very strange effect on me.. as you will find out in the next instalment ....
I left the Old Forge feeling as happy as a sandboy. My belly was full of finest Nevis seafood and my bladder had filtered off the best parts of a gallon of black magic juice. I was now heading along the tree lined avenue back to the campsite.
Perhaps it was the fresh air .. or the euphoric feeling of freedom in this magic land ..or perhaps an after effect of the magic potion.. but as I walked.. I had a feeling of being watched from the woods ?
Then there were more ... even though they looked a little bored with my passing pace ?
Soon .. strange plants started to sprout before my very eyes ...
I quickened my step to get out the woods as soon as possible and headed for the shore.... only to discover strange objects were now coming out the sea to see me ?
I decided enough was enough.. so had an early night to sleep the potion off. It wasn’t going to be much of a sunset that evening anyway.
During the night.. I had wet dreams of surfing six foot standing waves in the fast flowing narrows at the very heart of Loch Nevis.
Hi Olly..at least the new tent is long enough to cover my feet..the Extra Value one was kind of sparse in that area
I woke in the early morning to a flat calm and a cloud of midges. I was not imagining them either, as the black magic juice had long lost its effect. I didn’t hang around ...so with head net on.. I dismantled the tent..and was on the water before the blighters had time to suck the blood out of my Guinness.
That is the beauty of wild camping with a boat. Midges don’t have good eyesight .. they cant find you once you are fifty yards off shore. The drizzle started to sizzle and sing on the mirror flat surface of the loch as I made my way slowly into the deep depths of the loch.
It was the wetting type of Scotch mist too.. soon every surface was soaking wet..including my waterproofs. I decided to land at the ghost village of Stoul. I prefer walking in rain . I’m afraid that sitting in it ..even in a boat... is always my least preferred option.
Besides.. I love wandering around old ruins... trying to imagine what the people were like that lived there a hundred years or so ago. As I walked ... I knew I could hear the same sounds they heard..and see the same scenery they saw. I guess life was hard to leave a life in such a scenic location.
The rain eased a bit..so I clambered back on board the boat and sat a hundred yards of shore.. to see if I could catch some of the fish those folks ... of long ago would have eaten. Within moments I hit a shoal of mackerel.. and they were not small fry.. they were large mackerel. I concluded it wasn’t through starvation that the village was abandoned ?
I really only fish for the pot..so didn’t linger any longer at Stoul.. but made my way further up the loch. As I went.. I saw some dark shapes break the surface of the water.. before they disappeared into the heavy mist. I knew they were probably porpoise as there is a healthy population of them in the area. Then.... suddenly .. through the mist I saw a huge fish shape appear.
Actually I know a whale is a mammal and not a fish.. but I also know this fishy mammal is not a whale but is in fact a boat. It belongs to Tom McLean an ex SAS man and lone adventurer who has rowed across the Atlantic. He went round Britain..2000 miles trip .. in his whale boat... I bet he could tell a good adventure story too.
Soon I was SIBing past the small living village of Tarbet..
I knew I was not far from the narrows now.
The Loch Nevis narrows were as flat as the rest of the lochs surface.. so I had nothing to worry about..on this adventure. However because the tide flows through them at up to seven knots.. even a slight wind in the opposite direction can kick up quite a storm. Its worth remembering if you are not familiar with sea lochs and perhaps think they are as docile as fresh water lochs. There has been a few times my passage through “narrows” in sea lochs has been delayed until the tide turns and starts to flow with the wind...its when the water starts to settle again.
This photo shows the narrows at Loch Nevis..beyond is a huge basin of water.. trying to rush through a narrow gap into the main loch.
Here is a photo of the stunning scenery on a better day. Sometimes the wind whistles around the mountain tops..screams down the glen of Loch Nevis then hits the incoming tide running at seven knots .. causing huge overfalls and standing waves. Even large commercial boats tend to steer clear on such days.
A fast launch from Camusrory Estate came screaming through the narrows as I went up them. I got a cheery wave as they passed then a wet wave as its wake washed my boat. I didn’t mind..I knew the boat was in a hurry to meet the Mallaig Train..possibly to collect another wealthy tourist to bring them for a week’ s shooting and fishing. It can cost from £1000 to £2000 per night for the privilege of staying in the lodge and killing a deer or catching a salmon.
However I too decided to open throttle in retaliation and put another white scar across the innocent surface of Loch Nevis.
I was now beginning to feel the cold .. having sat in the rain all morning. My waterproofs proved to be not so waterproof and even my shirt was wet. The evaporation of water from the damp shirt seemed to chill me even further..so I decided to land and change into dry clothes. The rain had stopped and I didn’t foresee any other speeding boats around to soak me.
I also heated a tin of soup in my camping cooker and sat on the shore happily slurping it as I admired my surrounds.
Half an hour later I was warm and toasty in dry clothes and my waterproof chest waders. I headed on to the head of the loch.
At the head of the Loch .. I read the unwelcoming notices of the private pier at Camasrory estate . They didn’t trouble me.. because I knew if I wanted to land..I could stop on the rocks.. then walk .. such are the laws of Scotland. Paupers like me can walk where kings only tread.
I then wondered if the wealthy guy spending £2000 per night.. could enjoy themselves any more that I did.. and my overnight say cost me £4. ... I had thoroughly enjoyed my visit into Loch Nevis..and will return in 2015.
In the next instalment ..I will tell of a tale told to me by a local fella in the Old Forge.. it concerns the hairy arsed virgin of Loch Nevis...and if you are like me.. and like poking your nose into juicy gossip .... do come back to find out the secret....
Thanks again to all who stop and read this prattle and also to those who comment..its appreciated. Jeff..I will do a special spread on the SIB soon
I had a good nosey round the head of Loch Nevis.. but didn’t land. Instead I watched in awe as the mist started to lift and reveal some of the sides of mountains that reach the sky.
A little rain doesn’t stop me enjoying visiting such remote places.. only the wind does. The narrows were still running as smooth as silk on my return passage. The fast Launch was still in Mallaig but I didn’t miss the cheery wave of its return passage.
Although the area is very remote, there are one or two houses perched on the edge of the loch. Access is only by boat and one of the most impressive is Sir Cameron Macintosh’s house. He produced famous musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera.
I made my way back to the entrance to Loch Nevis and landed in a small deserted bay. I was on a mission. On the evening I spent supping the Black Magic Juice ..I was told a tale by a local story teller and I wanted to see if it was true.
He told me that the Virgin Mary had a hairy arse ? I had to find out for myself..and I can assure you all... he is right. In the name of decency to Mary .. Im not posting a full frontal of her petite derrier ..but look carefully and you will catch a glimpse from this side shot.
I think in the future.. I could be easily tempted into spending the night with her .. hairy arse or not ... by pitching my Vango Banshee tent at her feet.. to watch the sunset with her blessings.. while looking over the view she enjoys every day.
It was now time to head back to my campsite at Portnadoran. The afternoon brightened considerably as the SIB lay in mooring while I drove back to Mallaig in my car... to refill the SIB fuel tank.
I was heading for the isle off Eigg first thing in the morning. Do come back after Xmas and read the next instalment .. crossing the nine miles of open sea.. only to get Eigg in my face on my return two days later.
Till then... Have a VERY MERRY XMAS everyone .. and as you sit with the family for turkey dinner.. dont do as I do.. and bore everyone with boating adventures ...
Hi All... I hope you had a great Xmas .. and are looking forward to the New Year
Time to continue my Small Isles adventure.. by crossing the sea to the Island of Eigg. It is nine miles of open sea crossing (as the seagull flies) so is not recommended for the weak of heart or inexperienced Sibbers.
I always like to have a plan “B” for my journeys in small boats but on such crossings ..but there is really only a plan “A” . Therefore to give the best chance of a calm sea.. I do them early in the morning or late in the evening. That is generally the calmest time of the day. I also try to avoid being mid channel at the “turn of the tide” as quite often a wind can get up around that time too.
It was 6am when I fired up the engine and left Portnadoran Campsite. The high pressure area was still over the west coast and light winds with no gusts was the forecast of the day.
The tide was on its way in so I knew my crossing would have a tendency to be carried slightly northwards by the flow as well as westwards by engine. I pointed the bow half way along the island, and expected to arrive approx 45 minutes later .. near the northern end.
At the half way mark..looking back to the mainland..everything was looking good and engine running well. I wouldn’t consider such a journey without an Auxilliary engine. I also knew it would run well if something happened to the main outboard.
There was not another boat in sight so I didn’t need to worry about hitting wakes from large ocean going boats. Eigg began to look bigger as the expected time of arrival grew nearer.
I suspect I felt a little like Christopher Columbus must have felt.. when I saw the shearwater gulls swoop and dive in front of the boat. They are a sure sign that land is near.
And land was indeed near.. I could now make out the colours of the grass and sea cliffs.. instead of everything looking a distant blue grey colour.
I turned and headed northwards on a steady plane. I was not too far out on my predicted drift by tide.
Soon I was approaching the northern end of Eigg..and as the cliffs grew higher.. I moved closer to shore. I knew the next part of my journey was going to be particularly scenic .....
When boating in areas with sea cliffs, I always take a note of places that I could land on in an emergency. If my main engine failed for any reason.. I would use the smaller auxiliary to power the boat to the beach. I noticed a good shelving beach on the north west corner of Eigg.
Then the sea cliffs started to rear up to dizzy heights... straight from the sea edge
Further round the northern end, although the cliffs still looked impressive.. they stood back from the water’s edge and again, an emergency landing would be possible.
However the remains of a ruined wreck, jammed in a sea cave, proved it was not always possible. This is the remains of a Clyde puffer called Nellie. She ran aground on the sunken reefs off the northern point... then the winter storms forced her hull into the cave.
There are numerous caves in the northern cliffs but I decided not to explore any. I was going to explore the caves on the southern end of the island. They hold a very dark and sinister history ... as you will soon find out.
Unfortunately the battery in my fishfinder / depth sounder was flat after my two days in Loch Nevis. I took things slow and careful as I negotiated the treacherous reefs off the northern tip of the island.
The cliffs continued to rise to the sky and now a descending mist came down to shroud their tops in silver.
I took a last look back to the mainland and the distant hills that surrounded Loch Nevis. They were still clear of cloud... I guessed the rain was set on following me round Eigg.
Thanks again for the comments guys..and here is the next part of the journey
I could feel a “shift” in the weather as I rounded the point off Blar Mor .. heading for the Bay of Laig. My maps showed the reef extending some distance out from the headland ..so I gave it a wide berth to be on the safe side.
I navigate by OS maps and compass on my adventures and realise some of you guys frown at this practise.. however in my defence.. I have successfully navigated round most the west coast of Scotland by this method..as well as most the mainland hills..and never once been lost.. not have I ever dinged a propeller on rocks ..so I must do something right. A compass doesn’t have batteries that go flat either.
It was now time to land on Laig Bay..to stretch my legs and have a wander round the deserted sands. It really is a beautiful place and must be stunning under a blue sky.
The SIB was anchored by its nose.. facing into the rolling swell. I also had an anchor rope off the transom and had it secured to the beach. This was to stop the SIB turning side onto the swell by the slight off shore wind. This photo has been my computer desktop picture ever since that day.
Soon it was time to head south again on my anti clockwise course round Eigg.
The wind started to gust and the rain was driven into my face as I passed mile after mile of seacliffs with no obvious place to land in emergency.
I was now approaching the south west corner of Eigg and wondered if the sea would turn choppy off this point. I had heard it can be a bit tidal in this area..and if it was against the wind..it could prove interesting in a small SIB.
In reality..it was nothing to worry about. The wind was dropping again and the rain started to ease
The sea leg going east between Eigg and the island of Muck offered great views of the Sgurr of Eigg plateau.
The sea proved calm in this area too..I enjoyed riding the swell as I made my way to the main harbour port of Galmisdale on Eigg. I had not seen another boat or person the whole way round Eigg. I wondered if the locals were in hiding ?
Then I caught my first glimpse of the huge Cathedral Cave on the south coast of Eigg. However I was looking for another..far smaller cave. The cave I was looking for is known as the Massacre Cave of Eigg. In the sixteenth century ... 395 people were killed in the cave... hiding from their foes from the sea... I will tell that story in the next instalment....
I was now a little damp from my circumnavigation of Eigg but still full of enthusiasm as I headed into Galmisdale..the capital town of Eigg.
The Sgurr of Eigg loomed menacingly out of the mist as I passed the ferry landing slipway.
I parked my SIB in the safety of the harbour. The tide was still receding so I knew it would be high and dry shortly.. even though the rain kept it wet.
There was not a soul in sight.. except for the herd of sheep that greeted me as I made my way ashore.
I was heading for the cliffs on the southern side of Eigg by foot. I was curious to see where the people of Eigg were. A winding path took me back to sea level
Where I found the entrance to “The Massacre Cave”. It was a small narrow slit in the rock face. It had an eerie feeling to it.
I cursed the fact that I didn’t bring a torch. My body filled the small entrance and blocked all light. Only the flash from my camera reviled the small entrance..around two foot high and two foot wide.
I forced my body through the gap but didn’t enter the main cave itself. I heard something moving in the deep dark depths. I confess..I was a bit scared..so backed out slowly.
In the 16th century..the entire population of Eigg..bar one old woman.. hid in this cave to escape a fight with their neighbours from the Isle of Skye. Their enemy couldn’t find them.. even though they searched the whole island.. so left again by boat. As they sailed off.. they spotted a lookout on the cliffs above the cave... so returned and followed footsteps in the snow to the entrance.
They then built a huge fire in the narrow entrance and all 395 inhabitants of Eigg died in that cave from the smoke. I was happy the people of Eigg today were not in hiding .. they were in their houses keeping dry.
I camped overnight on Eigg then in the morning made my way round the Island of Muck. Unfortunately the repeated flashing from my camera as I explored the caves..flattened the camera battery..So this is the only photo I managed of heading for the Isle of Muck.
The sea mist came down very thick on my return journey to the mainland.. and I could only see a few hundred yards in front of the boat. Fortunately the sea was flat calm. I took a compass bearing and followed it allowing a couple of degrees for tidal drift. I arrived at the mainland only half a kilometre from Portnadoran Campsite. My adventure to the Small Isles was over.
I wish you all a very happy New Year..and hope you have many boating adventures in 2015.
One of my intended adventures in 2015 will be circumnavigating the Isle of Skye by small SIB. I will hopefully post that adventure on here too. It is not a brand of boat that makes it the best in the world. It is what you do with it that makes it so.