Day 61 – Portnaluchaig to Kinlochan -  20th July – 25.3 nm

Daily life revolves around the forecast of course. The tides present their point of view, but the forecast has the final say. Today is a good example.

It’s 14 nm to the rocky coastline of Ardnamurchan, 10 nm of it is open water. The forecast is for dead calm initially but then the wind will come with the change of tide and quickly strengthen. This afternoon doesn't look good, with strong winds from a slightly unusual SE direction.

It’s going to be a pushing the timings and pushing your luck sort of day. A late paddling arrival or an early weather arrival could make things a little sticky. So it’s out of bed early, and decadently regardless of the tide I try to make a more successful job of negotiating the reefs. It’s easier this time, just keep going for the bigger gap.

If the forecast is correct then the wind should arrive when I'm still a few miles from the coast. The plan then is to head to the nearest bit of coastline shelter and work along the edge towards the point to reassess. Sanna Bay gives an early finish option.

Other than a clumsy, unscheduled toilet stop on one of the reefs, all goes to plan for the first couple of hours. Flat conditions and pleasant scenery, blissfully alone in the early morn.

I can see darkness looming over the distant hills now and as per the forecast the wind comes rattling out of the SE. Disconcertingly, I see it approaching over the water. Soon it’s a chunky, splashy chop with a face full of spray whenever waves go over the bow.

Still a couple of miles out now and the wind is funnelled down through some low ground at Kilmory, the sting in the tail. I point a little more to the right, and head for the cliffs bordering the low ground. Eventually I sit in close below the cliffs, hiding in a narrow cleft as I take a chance to eat. Phew, that was hard work.

There are another few miles along the cliffs and then I turn into Sanna Bay. Team Manger has just arrived, even in the poor weather it is surprising how much of an advantage a kayak can gain when the corners are cut.

4 ½ tiring hours to get here, it’s now time for lunch and some fresh clothes.

A horse sized dog barks convincingly at us from a house nearby, TM is a little concerned. No worries I say, it’s stuck behind a substantial looking fence. It jumps the fence in an easy, well-rehearsed manoeuvre - aah...

The shaggy brown beast heads determinedly our way, but when it arrives it feels it has done its duty with all that barking and is now just a friendly large lump. It scrounges some lunch, pees on the van wheels and my boat (I'm not going to argue with it) and then wanders back to the house. There it stands looking smugly at the miffed Jack Russell it left behind the fence.

TM managed to get a forecast update on the way around this morning. The wind is going W later and dropping to high teens, but with a chunky swell coming in too. I guess this will arrive prior to the wind. I'm not too convinced about paddling around the rocky headland in those conditions. On the other hand: the SE wind this morning was pretty strong, it’s hard to judge here in the lee of the hills, but it shouldn't bounce off the cliffs too much though.

It’s comfy in the van and as I pontificate and procrastinate I realise that if I don’t get my act together the decision will be made for me. I go for the SE, working on the theory that the relatively narrow channel on the other side will limit the fetch.

How wrong can you be?

The pretty bay is left behind as the hard-as-nails lighthouse drifts into view. I'm close to the cliffs and all goes well for a while but then as I start heading more E the wind bares its teeth. Of course the western entrance to the Sound of Mull runs west/east and is relatively narrow, but I had overlooked the fact that the Sound itself is a 20 nm channel running NW and it is obvious it funnels the wind nicely, why wouldn't it?

It takes an hour and a half of hanging onto the blades and battling the white-caps to get to Kilchoan. On the way the wind is breaking the 30 mph barrier and I am getting a little concerned here and there. Not the best of places to be on your own. The hoped for landing at Tobermory is now nothing more than a pipe-dream.

As I can see further down the Sound I find sets of breakers making their way up the Sound too, oh yeah...anyone else want to join in?

I can’t go straight into Kilchoan, those waves on a day out from Craignure are too big for me. But they come in definite and predictable sets, with a little application of timing and dog-leg paddling all becomes more manageable and I make my way in. It’s a good finish and I'm almost smiling.

I arrive to more glares, not seen those for a while, from the ‘professionals’ on the jetty though. No replies to my Hello’s. TM arrives, grasps the atmosphere and we head into the little gold mine of a store to stock up. The place is friendlier, and heaving, as everyone else stocks up too, it’s a popular little spot. We sit on a bench outside, lifting sugar levels with a family bag of sweets. Conversation and our attention drifts between the breakers out in the middle of the Sound, more narrow roads and the roof of the store, which is flapping alarmingly in the wind. We watch a fisherman slowly row in from his boat; it looks like hard work out there...

The day finishes further up the road on a small campsite. We watch as the wind drops away and I second-guess that we should be paddling around now, but then before I can think that one through the W wind arrives and things look just as shitty, only in the opposite direction. Better the devil you know perhaps?

Out in the pouring rain, we watch a group of new arrivals wrestle a large tent into a small space. They follow this entertaining act with a barbeque lighting session. I wonder if it is waterproof... oh, it appears not.

The day ends soggily.