Sunday, 12 June 2011

Loch Sunart weekend

 Following on from last years weekend away up the west coast sea paddling with the club, we decided to organise another trip for the end of May. All our plans were going well, there would be 5 of us going, Hubby Dear, No 2 son, Kev,  Niall and myself.
 The plan had been to carry on from last years trip going out from Malliag, crossing over to Knoydart, then over to Skye, up to Kyle Rhea and back down the Knoydart side again and back to Mallaig. The week before had seen some strong winds with lots of trees down. Over the course of the week although the wind had died down a bit, it was still blowing strong from the S.W. This meant we would have no shelter on our planned route. I spent that week making new plans, not wanting to cancel the trip all together, whilst Hubby Dear kept insisting there was still time for the wind to die down. Thursday he eventually decided we should possibly follow my plans as he’d heard reports of Force 10 winds – a bit too breezy for my liking.
River Strontian

 We all headed up to Loch Sunart. I knew from the lie of the land we would still get a bit of wind. Unfortunately most of the lochs seem to run in the same direction. We had picked our put in point, the mouth of the River Strontian, right across from the hotel. We stopped in at the hotel for our tea and a beer or three. I think we were just putting off the inevitable, getting wet. It was chucking it down – and windy. Fed and watered we grudgingly left the warmth of the pub and got our boats and kit ready. The folk in the pub must have thought us mad, I was beginning to agree.
Once we were out on the water my feelings changed. I just love getting out in my boat. As we were paddling along, I was saying there should be otters around, when all of a sudden one appeared between the five boats, I don't know who got a bigger fright, us or the otter. He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. It was beginning to get a bit dark by now and we wanted to get a camping spot. We stopped shorter than we had planned and found a bit of flat ground. It was a bit soft underfoot, but it would do. That night the wind picked up so no one got much sleep. When we weren't about to have lift off, there was the chance we would be washed out to sea with the rain. By morning the ground was even softer underfoot.
Our first soggy night
Looks lovely, wait till the next headland!

Choccy break

After fighting to get back in damp breeks, we set off again. Heading up the loch, the wind seemed to get stronger each corner we turned. We crossed the Loch over to Salen. The crossing was hard going with the wind making you feel you were on an exercise bike, going nowhere, the rain was coming down so hard like little needles, we were all treated to course of microdermabrasion. Once we reached the shelter of Salen, the sun came, it was lovely. The point we had planned on camping this night turned out to be
unsuitable. Niall and Mathew found the ideal spot in the next bay. Fresh
running water, plenty of firewood and shelter from the wind. Problem was every step was with a large squish. This spot was damper than the last one. We set up the tents in the driest of patches and even got our kit hung up to dry (slightly).We had a great, well deserved tea washed down with a carton of wine (we’re classy paddlers!)finished off with a bag of toasted marshmallows, such an aptly named sweet for our campsite.

Soggy night number 2
We listened on the radio to the forecast. We were more or less told it was going to be miserable and windy, getting more miserable and windier as the hours go by.

Number 2 son


Who needs boats
Our plan for the next day was to head over to the islands and into Loch Teacuis, then start back down Loch Sunart. Getting in our boats in the little bay was enough hassle, we were getting buffeted around. Ken and Kev headed out to check out what it was going to be like, came back and decided we weren’t going any further. The sea and wind was getting crazy. Our next mission was to all get out of the bay and round the headland to go back down the loch. That was probably the scariest bit of the trip (other than the sight of my hair if I had taken my hat off after 3 days paddling and 2 nights in a mummy sleeping bag). As soon as we turned with the wind behind us we shot off. The rest of the journey gave us some terrific surf. We covered the distance in a fraction of the time.

Sunshine, we must be near Salen
Hubby Dear and Number 2 son
We headed back into sunny Salen for lunch, then back to Strontian. It was great putting on dry clothes again. In between more downpours we cooked up our last meal before heading back home.
 Driving between Ballachulish and Glen Coe we were treated to a perfect double rainbow.

Spot the pot of gold

The islands and loch will still be there for another trip, hopefully with less wind.
 One good thing though, there were no midges.

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