Monday, 8 June 2015


Last year I felt that I missed out on canoe sailing trips to some extent. I used the canoe a fair bit for day sailing (at OCSG events and on holiday with Val) but only managed one multi-day expedition when Dave and I sailed to Mull last autumn. The main reasons for not managing more have carried over to this year as well with a necessity to do extra shifts at work due to staff shortages. Despite this Ramsay and I were determined to try to get a trip under our belts early this year and during the planning stage Ian came on board as well so became a group of three. The usual weather jitters during the preceding week saw us making contingencies for a foul weather plan B but the desired option was to attempt to circumnavigate the isle of Lismore. With a few days to go things started to look a bit more promising. The persistent bad weather and strong winds that have blighted the spring so far looked as though they might ease just enough to make the trip viable so we concentrated on studying Google Earth images and sea kayaking blogs to try to find potential campsites that would fit in with our schedule and the weather forecast.
Friday morning saw the three of us meet up in a lay by on Loch Lomondside after which we drove in convoy towards Oban. After tolerating the inevitable frustrations of tourist traffic we arrived at our destination and were very fortunate to find an excellent launching spot whose owner was happy for us to use his facilities and leave our cars (a big vote of thanks to Poppies Garden Centre and Gary). After the usual faffing around and rigging up we set sail at about three in the afternoon. The weather looked a bit threatening and the wind was fairly strong and on our bows. We sailed out of the natural harbour of Dunstaffnage Bay and headed across towards Ardmucknish Bay on a long tack.

I was in the lead at this point and after a few tacks in quite lively conditions (with some wind over tide effects) we sailed into Camas Nathais bay where we could regroup and reassess. We'd also earmarked this as a potential camping spot during the trip (either at this point if we were running late or on our way back later in the trip). After a quick discussion we decided to push on to see whether we could see somewhere to camp in amongst the small islands off the south east shore of Lismore. 
 The sailing and scenery were fantastic but despite a hunch that we may be able to find an overnight campsite we failed to find anything that looked  promising in the conditions. We pushed on over to Lismore itself in the hope of finding a better spot. 
We looked at a couple of possible landing places but decided to continue in search of a bay that I'd read about while studying a sea kayaking blog while researching the area before our trip. 
Soon we began to approach the lighthouse on Eilean Musdile and I became concerned that we wouldn't find the elusive haven. I began to wish that I'd payed more attention while reading the blog so I would have had a better idea where to find the spot instead of just a vague notion. We drew level with Eilean Musdile and decided we'd have to push on round to the other side of the island in search of another landing spot. This was a little worrying as it was already after seven but we had little choice. As we bore away on a close reach towards the lighthouse I was alerted by a shout from the guys and on looking back over my shoulder spotted the bay we'd been searching for. We sailed back and were rewarded by an easy landing and a lovely camping spot. 


We wasted no time in settling in due to the late hour and soon had our camp set up then before darkness fell we gathered all the driftwood we could find for a camp fire. 

Saturday morning was beautiful with a light southerly breeze and sunshine. We had a slow pack up before leaving our little refuge as the clouds started to build and the breeze freshened a little. We were anticipating an easy sail downwind on Lismore's west coast although rain was forecast for later in the day. We rounded the end of Eilean Musdile through a small tide race (which can be a lot more severe during spring tides) and Ian and I headed straight for Bernera island while Ramsay hugged the shoreline to take in the scenery. 


The sailing was indeed easy and relaxing with the wind behind us as we progressed past Bernera (where we were reunited with Ramsay). 
Just north of Bernera the ruins of Achadun Castle came into view (with some basking seals on the shore).

Ian and I began to look for somewhere to land for lunch and after a quick recce we found a very nice spot.

After lunch it was on up the coast. At times we could sail very close to the shore and really admire the scenery of Lismore from our watery perspective.

The next landmark of note was Castle Coeffin whose ruins dominate the view from the water. 

As we neared the northern end of the island thoughts turned once more to finding a decent campsite (ideally with shelter from the strong winds and rain that were forecast). Once again we split up, Ramsay exploring inside Eilean Loch Oscair while Ian and I headed for Poll Brothais (which had looked very promising on Google Earth). As I sailed round the corner into Poll Brothais I was greeted by an excellent looking landing spot with what looked like room for our tents behind the beach. 
I sailed cautiously into the bay wary of hidden rocks but closer in I could see that the bottom was sandy so landed to check it out while Ramsay and Ian followed me in. 

No sooner had we pitched our tents and rigged the tarps than the rain started but despite the lack of a campfire we were cosy enough in our little shelter. 
On Sunday morning the overnight rain eventually stopped but the wind was quite strong as we sailed out of our bay, past Port Ramsay and towards the northern tip of Lismore. 

We enjoyed some nice surfing as we sailed on a reach around the end of Lismore after which we turned back into the wind as we rounded the corner to the northeastern aspect of the island. We sheeted in and headed across the Lynn of Lorn past Eilean Dubh. 

There was some tidal action here and quite strong winds at times which led to very splashy sailing, I was very glad of the electric pump I had fitted in my canoe to bail out the cockpit as I sailed. 
Before we rounded the point of Rubha Fionn-aird we all reefed our sails right down in anticipation of the downwind run into Camas Nathais (the bay where we had regrouped on day one). As we got further into the bay we benefited from more shelter and things calmed down a little. 
We landed through some small surf onto a lovely sandy beach, a fitting spot for our final camp. 


We set up the tents and tarps and foraged for firewood (of which there was plenty nearby) and enjoyed a leisurely late afternoon after our exciting but relatively short sail.

In the evening we sat around the fire and Ian dried his socks with the aid of a specially cut stick. 
On Monday morning we left early as Ian had a long drive back to Cumbria, the wind was light but fair as we enjoyed an easy sail back to Dunstaffnage Bay. 


What a fantastic trip, for some reason I had always disregarded Lismore as a bit of a cop out as a destination (possibly due to it's proximity to Oban). The reality is that it's an interesting and potentially challenging venue for a sailing canoe expedition and we were fortunate to make the most of a short weather window in an otherwise very unsettled period. 
Below is some video of the trip.