McCartney Land

Day 65 – Ronachan to Southend – 24th July – 33.9 nm

The late finish last night means that time slips this morning as a plan is made. We can’t get a forecast here. This sits a little uneasily, I've got history with the Mull.

We are a long way from the end here and in a fairly sheltered position, conditions look good but I’d prefer a little more information if I could.

So a little later than desired I paddle off the smelly beach and paddle towards the Sound of Gigha. Team Manager plans to head down the coast for a walk along the white sands near Tayinloan.

As I near the south end of the sound I get my exposure to the first wind of the day, NW apparently. Progress continues down the peninsula, making steady miles as I watch life go by on the busy road, in the distance.  You live in a strange world in this game, life is very focussed with a narrow outlook. Eat, sleep, paddle and plan. Followed by more eating and not enough sleep.

 It is a strangely simple existence which manages to fill every day. Looking across you realise that life goes on everywhere else for everyone else, with all the ups and downs, irrelevancies and importance that each day brings. Your trip, your completely absorbing trip, means nothing at all in the overall scheme of things.

Yeah whatever... get paddling Fatboy.

Moving down the coast the flow is steadily increasing and the boat makes good speed towards the 3 mile long beach of Machrihanish, backed by the cliffs of the Mull. It's easy to think you just have the corner to go around now, but there's still 10 nm or so to the end, 10 nm of cliffs.

Team Manager has arrived in Machrihanish, Campbeltown’s posh suburb apparently, and is firmly ensconced with a pot of tea and welcome wi-fi. She supplies a weather update and we agree that I should carry on around the pointy bit.

Beyond Machrihanish the water accelerates further as it is squeezed by the early parts of the headland. The growing speed is accompanied by increased chop and the first hint of rebound as a distant swell drops a subtle hint. Briefly a couple of porpoises join the party, but head off as I move southward, an omen?

6 kts steadily lifts to 7, if this is how things are going to be I’ll happily tick this one off.

But then of course it all goes to rat-shit.

I poke my head nervously around the end looking for the eddy line, just how big is it? Well the late start didn't really help things in this area and the 7 kt rounding was a good pointer. It all goes rather unpleasant rather quickly. The eddy line is pretty intimidating but I get across reasonably brown-pants-free, however so does the swell. The wind is funnelled around the cliffs at the end and the swell behind is now being stacked by the eddy and the wind.

It takes an hour of eyes-on-stalks, please-don't-let-it-get-any-bigger, don't-look-behind you paddling, to get through it all. A variety of lines, strategies and the odd prayer being employed along the way. Eventually geography works in my favour, the last of the cliffs shelter me and the eddy finally overpowers the swell. A steady slog into wind and flow is actually a rather pleasant alternative. That’s the second time around and I've got to say that I still think that the desire of Mr McCartney doesn't reflect mine. Nope, not convinced.

I land once again at Dunaverty Bay, more memories return, as I do. TM helps manhandle the boat up on to the campsite, to pleasant hellos. But soon we realise these are strangely a bit of a sham, summer hols are here, the place is full and it becomes pretty clear that we don’t fit in here and other ‘guests’ decide we are not welcome. We load up hastily and do a flit.

If in doubt hit the Tea Rooms at Southend.

We arrive near to closing time but the lady is very helpful and accommodating, the place is relaxed and quaint, in a snoozily-and-happily-spend-the-afternoon sort of way. Deja Vu dictates that Haggis, Neaps and Tatties must be on the menu. It’s a good plateful and as we polish off the pot of tea the clock suggests that it’s time to reluctantly move on. It’s a great place and if I’d have known the closing time, I would have paddled harder.

We vainly look for other camping options, but finally acknowledge a sheepish return to the campsite where we spend a harried night parked by the soon-to-be vomit spattered toilets.

I'm relieved to have rounded the Mull of Kintyre, it ended in a happier manner than the first time around. Even so, it had its moments and of course there was an end of day sting in the tail. But it's done and dusted now. It is surprising just how quickly you can progress in a little boat, and just how swiftly and distinctly the scenery, geography and people change along with those paddling miles. It's only a few days ago that we were at Skye, yet it seems so distant. 

The Irish Sea looms.