Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Loch Sunart.

I've really enjoyed attending various different OCSG meets over the last year or so and wanted to try to do something in return so I decided to organise a local meet based at Resipole campsite on the shore of Loch Sunart. Loch Sunart is a nineteen mile long sea loch situated just south of Ardnamurchan, it runs roughly west to east and ranges from being well sheltered at it's eastern (inland) end to being more wild and exposed at the western end which emerges next to the Sound of Mull. It also has another loch (Loch Teacuis) branching off to the south and many islands both small and large.
I decided on the last weekend in April for the date of the meet as it was before the midge season starts but hopefully late enough to have some chance of decent weather. It was also a weekend that didn't clash with any other OCSG events.
I contacted the campsite who were very helpful and were well used to hosting meets by diving and kayak clubs and who agreed to give us our own section of the site as close to their slipway as possible. This would make for a nice sociable setting and easy access for launching and landing our canoes.
For various reasons I left home at around 9pm on the Thursday evening before the meet and drove up as far as Glencoe before finding a peaceful layby at the end of the Glen Etive road to bed down in the back of the van. It was a really nice quiet spot and I was asleep before midnight. Friday morning saw me up early and revealed the spectacular setting I'd chosen for my overnight stop (not entirely by accident I have to say). Buachaille Etive Mor isn't the most photographed mountain in Scotland for no reason!
 Not a bad place for an overnighter I'm sure you'll agree!
 I didn't bother with any breakfast preferring instead to get on the road to Resipole. I knew that Adam (who'd driven all the way up from London for the weekend) would already be there and that the others wouldn't be far behind me either. Driving down Glencoe is always a treat and the prospect of a great weekend ahead only enriched the experience further. Before long I was waiting for the ferry at Corran.
Once I'd crossed on the ferry it was around fifteen miles to the head of Loch Sunart and then a further few miles on single track road to Resipole. I arrived at the campsite by about 9:30am and after booking in went and said hello to Adam who was busy working on his canoe. After chatting for a little while I set up the awning for my van and got my canoe off the roof then made myself a brew. Soon after Graham, Andy (and Nora the dog), Dave and Tom arrived as well and pitched their respective tents then we set about tinkering with our canoes and some of us fitted the various Solway Dory goodies that Dave had kindly brought with him. For me this was a braced mast thwart to try and reduce the amount my canoe flexes in stronger winds and Adam and Tom both had new outriggers to add.

By late morning we were approaching some kind of readiness to get out for a sail so we held a quick meeting to formulate some plans for the weekends activities and settled on going for a local sail after lunch (possibly heading to Salen) and then trying to reach Loch Teacuis on Saturday when we'd have all day available. The wind was reasonably strong and promised decent sailing conditions at least for Friday.
After a bite to eat we headed out onto the water and got a feel for the conditions.

Adam forgot to put his buoyancy aid on and couldn't manage to get it over the zip on his new drysuit on the water so had to land briefly to sort it out. Once we'd all had a sail about we set off west down the loch as a group, the wind was probably blowing up to a F4 and despite the fact that it was coming from the north the water was a little choppy and bailing was necessary on occasion.
We were all sailing with a reef in (apart from Tom who didn't have the option but seemed to be enjoying himself regardless).
 After Dave and I had a close encounter with a rock (both bashing our leeboards off the same one) we rounded the point at Rubha Aird Earnaich and had a quick discussion and decided to push on across the loch to Salen.
The wind was blowing down Salen Bay and across the loch and was stronger at times as we sailed almost directly upwind.
 Adam and his new outriggers.
Andy and Nora work their way upwind into Salen Bay.
Graham, Andy and Dave nearing the head of the bay. Once we'd all beached and arranged some form of anchor to secure the canoes against the rising tide we strolled the few hundred yards up the road to the Salen Hotel.

It was tempting to linger at the hotel for a second round of beers but time was getting on so after booking ourselves a table for dinner for the following night we strolled down the road in the evening sunshine back to the canoes (which were just starting to float on the incoming tide).
We all became a little split up as we left Salen Bay for the short sail back to Resipole. There was a short rain shower just as Andy and I sailed out into the main loch and Andy and Nora were framed by a rainbow.

Myself and Andy had just acquired marine VHF radios (Adam and Dave already owned a set each) and we'd agreed to try these out on the return journey so radio test calls were made successfully as we sailed back.
Graham with Ben Resipole and the campsite behind. The sail back was uneventful other than Nora deciding to see if she could walk on water and needing to be rescued by Andy!
 By the time we all arrived back the sun had dipped below the hills and the temperature was starting to plummet so everyone disappeared into their individual tents to make some dinner. After having some food the whole party gathered in my awning for an evening of drinks, chatting and laughter (and shivering in Dave's case!) I'd taken an electric fan heater with me and used this to make the awning a little more cosy (which it did, making a cold evening bearable). We eventually called it a night around midnight and hit the sack.
 Saturday dawned without a cloud in the sky (although there was a heavy ground frost). Tom's cousin David arrived early on, he owns a Solway Dory Osprey trimaran which he'd brought with him. Unfortunately one of the outrigger beams had bounced out the canoe during the journey to Resipole rendering the whole set up unusable. Graham saved the day by offering David the use of his new sea kayak for the day and it turned out that David was an experienced paddler into the bargain. The scene was set for our quest to reach Loch Teacuis but first it was breakfast!
We formed up on the water at about 10am ready to head west. The wind was lighter than it had been on Friday but there was enough to ensure we didn't have to paddle. The sail westwards along the loch was downwind so we made good progress in the glorious morning sunshine.
 It was an impressive fleet that made it's way along the loch past Salen Bay.
Dave and Adam disagreeing on which tack they should be on.
Once again we ended up scattered over a fairly large expanse of water but in such benign conditions it didn't matter. Graham was fishing as he sailed and he and I ended up at the back as we approached Port Nan Gall.
Just beyond this point David had a recurrence of some problems with his legs cramping and felt that he wanted to turn back for the campsite, others took advantage of the quick stop and landed for a comfort break.
After the break we set off again sailing towards the island of Carna which lies at the entrance of Loch Teacuis.
We had hoped to sail as far as Oronsay island to visit an area that Dave and Andy had been to before but it became clear that due to the light winds we'd not be able to get that far so an alternative plan was hatched to sail around the western side of Carna and enter Loch Teacuis to find a landing site for lunch.
Andy and Nora cruising up the western side of Carna.
On this stretch we sailed past a sizable seal colony, unfortunately I didn't get any pictures. The wind on this side of Carna was really light and flukey necessitating bouts of paddle sailing at times as we worked our way through the narrow western entrance channel.
The fleet about to enter Loch Teacuis.
..............and we're in!
We struggled just around the corner on the left of the picture and made for a shingle beach on the eastern shore for a lunch stop. Adam couldn't wait to catch up on his stocks and shares (okay I admit I set the photo up a bit)!
Lunchtime was an opportunity for us to lounge in the sun and for Nora to burn off some energy fetching her Kong after being patient in Andy's canoe all morning.
After lunch it was time to start beating back upwind. We exited Loch Teacuis by the eastern channel which by that time had the tide running out through it quite fast causing some little tidal ripples and waves.
The buildings on the left in this picture are on Carna.
Once back into Loch Sunart it was a matter of working our way back towards Resipole. This proved to be slow going for periods of time when the wind disappeared completely forcing us to paddle, at other times it would blow again allowing us to sail.
Andy and Nora sailing in relax mode with Ben Resipole in the distance.
 Eventually we all made it back safely to be reunited with David at the campsite. There was just time for a quick shower before we drove to the Salen Hotel for dinner and a few drinks. After an enjoyable meal we arrived back at the campsite and everyone decided an early night was in order after the exertions of the day. I was in bed by 10:30pm and asleep shortly afterwards.
I was woken by my alarm at 7:30am and emerged from the van to another beautiful morning.

My plan for the day was to pack the awning away in the dry then have a quick sail later if the wind picked up. Dave decided not to sail as he had a sore neck from paddling on Saturday, Andy opted to climb Ben Resipole to give Nora a good walk and Graham, Adam, Tom and David decided to explore eastwards up the loch.
While everyone set off on their trips I set about packing up and on completion Dave and I sat in the sun chatting for quite a while before he decided to head for home. After eating a quick lunch I set off onto the water, I called up Adam on the radio to see where the others had got too. They'd reached the narrows towards the eastern end of the loch but were now on their way back so I set off to meet up with them.
Adam soon appeared with Graham in the far distance, Tom was on the southern side of the loch.
We sailed back to Resipole in inconsistent winds where the guys landed. I went back out for a final play and the wind picked up a lot giving fantastic sailing conditions. After about half an hour I packed up as well and headed back to the campsite.
Those of us who were going home packed up our boats and said our farewells. It had been a fantastic weekend blessed with great weather (while most of England was lashed by heavy rain and gales).
I can't thank the guys enough for supporting my meet and being such great company, I don't think it'll be long before I start organising another meet (maybe camping from the boats next time).

No comments:

Post a Comment