Moving On

Day 62 –Kinlochan to Cuan Sound -  21th July – 35.5 nm

Hey well, why not? Let’s get up early.
Team Managers Diary

The day starts with a bit of a nervous movement as we struggle to get the bus past our large-tented neighbours and then up the damp and slippery hill. As we drive back to Kinlochan we look over the Sound, it is choppy and there is a breeze blowing, but the swell is half-hearted and the white-caps are still in bed.

The forecast is for strongish W winds initially, easing later in the day. There is swell to the W of the island, which I guess will make itself known in the Forth of Lorn later, but the sound should be sheltered. I'm looking forward to paddling down the Sound of Mull, intrigued to see where we will end the day...

It’s quiet down at the slipway, it’s too early for a Kilchoan rush hour yet. By now we are so used to constantly moving on that we just get in to the pack-paddle or pack-drive routine, hardly a thought is spared for the place we are about to leave. Often they only get a brief glance over the shoulder as we leave. But today TM has a little spare time before the ferry, so she heads back over the hill to take a walk along the pretty beach at Sanna.

Quietly away from the slipway just after 8:00 and out towards Mull. The plan is just to sneak across quickly and grab the high-ground shelter along the W side of the Sound, down to Craignure. But life isn’t too bad in the middle, it is a bit breezy but no great dramas. The first food break comes as I pass the lighthouse just short of Tobermory, and then the multi-coloured haven itself slips by. Fond memories make a fleeting mental appearance before it’s back to reality and the miles ahead.

Another hour goes by before the tide really starts to help and then it’s 5.0 kts + for the remainder. The wind blows briskly down through a couple of gaps in the high ground and whistles into my ear, but on the whole things are pretty pleasant. There is a variety of traffic around to add a little interest and the miles slip smoothly by.  

Craignure is the final realistic option before rounding the corner, so we’ll take a time out there to wait for tide and wind to sort out. After 4 hrs 30 and 20 nm the cluster of shops arrive, bringing a welcome leg stretch for a few hours.

We briefly refresh our memories of Craignure, it doesn't take long, and then wait around for things to happen.

4 hrs later it’s time to crack on. We are going off the forecast now, we can’t see the conditions around the corner. The plan is to slog against the wind for a couple of hours and then reach the crossing point as the wind is due to drop. I hope the wind is working to the plan too. The timings are dictated by weather and daylight, it really goes against the grain, but the tide will just be paid lip-service today.

Around the corner it is breezy, the wind rattles out of Loch Spelve and drops the speed to 3.5 kts, but the sun is out and the scenery is impressive, all around. Admin breaks are a little tricky as the boat blows around so much in the off-shore winds, on the upside there is no fetch.

Finally I reach the crossing point, decision time. It’s out into the middle or turn around and head back. TM has already taken the ferry to Oban, so turning around would be a little awkward, I’m carrying kit for an overnight option just in case. But of course I'm not going to do without the little German hot water bottle and I head out into the middle. The swell gets quite large but it’s a trade–off as the wind starts to ease too. There’s some confused water about two thirds of the way across and to be honest I’m glad to reach the shelter behind Insh Island, but we've had worse.

I push against a recently turned tide in the sound at Easdale, to a welcome wave from the van-driving stalker. Easdale is a pleasant, but curious looking place as it straggles the sound, while one half sits precariously beneath the cliffs. Now it's only another mile or two to the sheltered water of Cuan Sound. I like this place, for some reason it just seems a special place to me. Here the flow has just turned too, the wind has gone now and the last light brings out the colours. It’s a peaceful, magical spot, a good place to end the day.

I call TM to ask of any camping arrangements, she tells me to look over to the left, she waves and asks if this will do. She has stumbled across the Argyll Kayaker Cove, run by Michael and Caroline Fothergill.

It looks good to me. It turns out to be more than that - a waterside, kayak-friendly camping idyll with a welcome hot shower. A good overnight venue for Aled's West Coast Challenge we reckon. It’s late enough now to call for another boil-in-the-bag dinner. We sit on the water’s edge, the sun slides behind the hill and the world turns quiet, I'm mesmerised by the water flowing by.

I could and sit and watch it all night.

TM is not so easily pleased, she's more concerned by the temperature, bedtime beckons.