Windy Waiting

Day 59 – Gairloch to Applecross – 18th July – 21.8 nm

The wind is mid-teens from the SW, but the forecast is for top end 20s late morning. So it’s an early, tide-flogging start to grab what we can to get the day going. We wheel the boat across the campsite and I slip off the beach at 06:50, under chilly, grey skies.

The plan is to get across to Red Point and re-asses there. Crossing Loch Gairloch is no drama, then I head S, scratching along the rocky coastline, trying to avoid as much of the tide as possible. Another yeah..whatever, stop-start day - I've long since given up asking the god's to give me a break.

Taran and me win the race to Red Point where I can’t get hold of Team Manager. The conditions don’t seem too bad so I set off to cross the mouth of Loch Torridon.  Not far out TM manages to get in touch, XC Weather have just updated their forecast – 26 mph SW from 10:00 to 13:00. It’s 08:45 now, it will be close. We’ll go for it.

But not long after 9:00 the wind arrives a little prematurely, boat speed is soon down to 3.5 kts and I’m gripping the paddles hard. The fetch is thankfully short, but it’s a bit of a splashy battle across to Fearnmore. I catch my breath in a small sheltered bay and try to let TM know that I survived. But once again the phone and VHF don't want to play. Though it’s sheltered here, there is no landing option, so I grab a bite to eat as the boat blows around. A quick glance at the moody scenery completes the break and then it's time to batten down the hatches, before heading out around the corner.

1.5 nm later I decide that there isn't really any point to all this and head in to the bay of Ob Chuaig, I look back to watch the white stuff blowing past the entrance on the way in. Mr O.S. describes a sandy beach, but there is no beach, the water ends with a band of rounded boulders backed by the sort of undergrowth that David Attenborough would find something interesting in. It’s too far to the next get-out at Sand, so this will have to do.

After a clumsy aborted attempt to get out, I head up the stream a little and dump the boat in the bracken. There’s no easy access here and I slip and slide my way up a muddy path towards the tiny settlement of Cuaig. This get-out was on the option plan this morning and hopefully Team Manager will head this way. I sit in the rain on the side of the stream-carved scar, under the wary gaze of a suspicious cow. Here it’s a toss-up between the chilly wind or the midges, I shuffle about while I to find a compromise.

The phone chirps into life, it’s International Rescue, on her way once again to bail me out. Life improves. She also managed to access a little tea-drinking wi-fi this morning, so we have a forecast update – the wind is due to ease later. This means a soggy afternoon to be spent in a kit strewn van while we wait for things to blow through. I wonder if my boat is safe stashed down in the bracken, Team Manager looks at me quizzically – just who is going to go down there then? As she says this, a cottage just up the road suddenly springs into life and the family head out into the wind and rain, straight down the muddy path towards the beach. Sod’s law.

As I doze a passing sea paddler parks his van for a chat and asks if I have any paddling ideas for the current weather. Yeah, sit inside and think about it. He inquires what we are up to and once again, evasive answers are given. Apologies Ian!

The edge goes from the wind, but it’s still a bit choppy outside the bay. I wrestle the boat out of the bracken for an 18:30 OTW, the dropping tide helpfully means there is some sand now.  Out of the bay, into the draughty bit and it’s another 3.5 kt slog southwards towards Applecross. The breeze makes things splashy but the shelter that Skye provides means that there is no swell, life progresses slowly but steadily. Short of the peaceful beach at Sand the wind finally starts to ease, it was an hour early arriving this morning, and of course it’s an hour late in going away now. I glance across to Sand and think of a night spent there 3 years earlier, of broken trolleys and pipe whittling. The memories fade as I round the corner into Applecross Bay.

The bay is flat calm, and I become strangely disorientated as I paddle in the wrong direction for a time, I struggle to make sense of things. Eventually I get my act together and am happily reunited with Team Manager on the rocky foreshore by the pub.

It’s a pleasant setting, but the light is fading and there’s still plenty to do. The day ends with a rush of soggy-kit hanging, boil-in-the-bag boiling and map-case map swapping. We drift in to darkness.  Team Manager is a little frustrated with the late arrivals and early departs, there is much to see but little is getting seen. Tonight is just another example.