Thursday, January 18, 2018

Taking a break at Red Rock.

After transiting the Corryvreckan, we arrived in the Sound of Jura. The ebb tide had built rapidly and we were making 10km/hr with little paddling effort. Our destination was our starting point at Carsaig Bay. This lay 12.5km down tide but 6.5km across tide on the far side of the Sound of Jura. It did not take a mathematician... calculate that we needed to paddle across the sound at a high ferry angle to avoid...

 ...being swept past our destination and out to the open sea beyond.

So we paddled almost straight across the Sound so that the vector of our paddling and the tide would take us safely to our destination. The Paps of Jura seemed to get nearer very quickly!

Fortunately there is a good marker of whether we were making sufficient progress. The tide swept islet of Ruadh Sgeir (Red Rock), with its little lighthouse, lies in the middle of the Sound of Jura and is in a straight line between the Corryvreckan and Carsaig Bay.

Despite being carried along at 11km/hr as we approached the lonely rock, we managed to cross uptide of it so we were bang on course. It was a beautiful evening and despite being very tired...

...we enjoyed passing so close to this  seldom visited little rock with its views to the Paps of Jura. Sam and I even revelled in breaking out of the tide into the eddy on the far side of the rock....

Some edge control was required to break back into the stream that was running round the rock at 14km/hr! The tide then continued to carry us on towards Carsaig Bay and the end of our journey.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A traverse of the Gulf of Corryvreckan disturbed only by a shoal of fish.

As we set off from Glengarrisdale Bay towards the Gulf of Corryvreckan which lies between the isles of Jura and Scarba...

...the morning's cold front began to clear leaving...

...Glengarrisdale in full sunshine.

Colonsay and Oronsay were now distant bumps on the horizon behind us.

All attention was now on the western entrance of the Corryvreckan ahead. As we approached, we could still see breaking standing waves on either side of Eilean Mor but our timing was impeccable and... we slid our bows into the jaws of the 'vreckan, it had fallen fast asleep.

In fact at one point the water was so slack we had to resort to paddling.  However, within 5 minutes of slack water we were travelling at...

...8km/hr with minimal paddling effort. Even Maurice began to relax due to the mill pond conditions as we crossed the mouth of Bagh Gleann nam Muc (Bay of the Glen of Pigs) and inside Eilean Beag. It is at this point that unstable standing waves appear at the end of the flood (especially if there is any swell from the west) and a race and anomalous waves develop during the ebb.

All of a sudden the water beside Maurice's boat began to boil and he nearly jumped out of his dry suit. He thought the tides were about to engulf him. However, it  was just a large shoal of fish driven to the surface by either the tide or a predator such as a seal or a cetacean.

 Leaving the Bay of Pigs our speed increased to...

...12km per hour as we approached Carraig Mhor and a quick glance astern...

...showed that Eilean Mor was already over 2km behind.

This telephoto shot through the Corryvreckan shows our last distant view of Colonsay on the horizon beyond Eilean Mor.

As we rounded Carraig Mhor, the narrowest part of the Corryvreckan, at 14km/hr David had his sail up and then proceeded to take his legs out for a stretch. Sam's only comment was "Legend!"

I have been through the Corryvreckan many times but this was easily the calmest. Just in case you think it is always like this, have a look at...

...this photo, taken when Tony and I were entering the Corryvreckan from the NW, it might just give you second thoughts..

As we passed Port nam Furm at the east end of the Corryvreckan, we entered the Sound of Jura and the last leg of our journey to Jura, Oronsay and Colonsay.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The skulls of Glengarrisdale, Jura.

We made our way up to the former shepherd's house which is now a well maintained MBA bothy. The last shepherd left the glen in about 1947.

 On this occasion the bothy was empty but we soon...

...had it feeling homely by lighting the fire with a bag of charcoal and the last few logs which we had brought.

 We also lit the macabre skull candle holder on the mantle-shelf above the fire.

 It was most satisfying to be able to cook a hot dinner in the shelter of the bothy, wash it down with a mug of hot tea then write up our story in the Bothy log book.

 After we had warmed up and cleaned the bothy, we went out for a little explore. David was most taken with this whale jaw bone...

...but not even his veterinary skills could resuscitate any of the patients in this box. Glengarrisdale has a long history of bones and skulls. It used to be called...

...Maclean's Skull Bay. A gruesome skull and femurs sat on a rock at the edge of the bay for many years. They disappeared in the 1970's. The skull had a "sword" cut in it and allegedly belonged to one of the defeated Macleans from a battle in 1647. Modern legend says it was situated in a cave at the east of the bay. However, in John Mercer's book "Hebridean Islands, Colonsay, Gigha, Jura" published in 1974, the above photo shows the sad relics on a rock at the west end of the bay. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Some very unpleasant things happened in Scotland's history.

Glengarrisdale was a Maclean stronghold in the mid 17th century. Their stone built fortification, Aros Castle, no longer remains but its site is marked by an isolated stand of trees not far inland from the bothy. It was here that the Macleans were defeated by their nemesis the clan Campbell.

 Time had now marched on and we retraced our footsteps to the bothy to collect our things...

 ...and make our way back down to the waiting boats. In the distance the flood tide was still pouring out of the Corryvreckan and I rather hoped that Maurice and Sam did not notice the large tourist RIBS that were buzzing about and regularly disappearing in breaking standing waves.

I think Maurice must have seen the white water in the Corryvreckan because as we carried the boats the short distance to the water* he asked "What do you think it will be like?"

"What will what be like?" I replied, ever so innocently.

"The Corryvreckan." said Maurice in a very hushed tone.

"Oh, will be flat as a millpond." I said, confidently. I could see Maurice was far from convinced.

*note the impeccable timing!

Read Ian's account here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Waiting for the Corryvreckan tide at Glengarrisdale.

As we were finishing second breakfast, the chilly silence of Corpach Bay was broken by the rumble of engines. The SC Nordic, a Danish pallet carrier of 4,786 gross tonnage, was making her way NE between Colonsay and Jura towards the Sound of Mull. She was enroute from Greenock on the Clyde to Skogn in Trondheimsfjorden, Norway. Soon she was out of earshot and silence again fell over the bay of the dead (Corpach Bay).

 Once on the water again, too much north in the wind kept our sails furled but steady progress...

...saw the brooding bulk of Scarba increasingly dominate our view ahead.

Scarba marks the northern side of the fearsome Gulf of Corryvreckan and its steep slopes plunging into the rushing tides add to the intimidating nature of the place...but more of that later.

We were able to launch the sails again as the onshore breeze backed to a tight reach. Above the rough hills our eyes were drawn to...

 ...the magnificent sight of a pair of...

 ...white tailed sea eagles soaring on the same onshore wind (which we were paddle sailing in) creating an up draught above the slope.

This one either had a white tag on its wing or was missing some feathers. Maurice was amazed. He had gone from never having seen a sea eagle to seeing 4 within 24 hours. It did occur to me that this might be the same pair that we had seen the previous day, some 25km to the west on the east coast of Colonsay. However, they are lazy big birds and once they have a mate and territory they tend not to stray far. On average a sea eagle's territory is about 8km in diameter.

 There are very few places to land on this rough coast pathless which is the domain...

...of these nimble goats.

Neither Maurice nor Sam had been through the Corryvreckan before and they fell behind in some deep discussion about what to expect.

Neither of them seemed convinced.... my reassurances that it would be flat as a pancake, especially as we drew ever nearer to the Gulf. Perhaps this was because the previous evening, Ian and I had given a dramatic account of our last trip through the Corryvreckan.  This had involved breaking standing waves and moving backwards. This was despite paddling forward at full pelt, the tide had turned against us and threatened to carry us back the way we had just come.

On this trip, the west going spring flood was still in full flow at 8 knots and as we wanted to traverse the Gulf to the east it was time for a sharp...

 ...exit to the right, where we entered Glengarrisdale Bay where the eponymous... roofed bothy lay at the back of the bay. It would make an ideal shelter from the cold wind for our three hour wait for the tide to turn.

 So we landed on the sands of the bay and...

 ...warmed up by carrying the boats well up the beach... that we would be sure the tide would not carry the boats away during an extended Glengarrisdale luncheon.