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The Garvellachs & Slate Isles, Sea Kayak Expedition Aug 2011

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August Bank Holiday, and again I had time booked off work to go to the Atlantic Breakers surf event – so of course there was no surf! So the back up plan was a sea kayak expedition around the Garvellachs and Slate Isles. I left Oban from the North end of the sea front and paddled up around the north-west tip and down the western side of Kerrera in blazing sunshine, with a quick coffee stop in Slatrach Bay. At Bach Iland there were two small common seals playing – obviously interested in me but too shy to come too close. Next came the first bit of open water as headed almost directly south 5km to Eilean Duin. This section was run into a steadily increasing head wind, and I discovered my combination of deck and heavily laden Capella were not particularly watertight! I headed into shelter behing Sgeir Laith to pump out before the last leg to Eilean Duin and a midgy bivvy.

Up reasonably early on day 2 and I was on the water as quickly as possible to escape the midges. South-east across Ardencaple Bay before following the Seil coast and then striking out for the distant Garvellachs. I followed the rocky Western shore before rounding the southern point and heading back towards Scarba. As I approached Scarba the tourist boats were out in force with several RIBs flying around but all a long way away from me. I followed the Northern shoreline very closely into the Corryvrecken, looking for somewhere to sit and wait for the tide to turn (I was half an hour early and it was not yet slack water). Here and there the brilliant blue water was boily enough to occasionally stall my kayak, but nothing too scary. I found a pebbly bay where I could sit and get the Jetboil on whilst watching the local goats and the RIBs playing in the standing waves over towards Eilean Mor and Beag. Even at the end of the tidal cycle the waves could be heard from some distance and were quite impressive to watch, but as I sat and dried off in the sun they were visibly changing and the flow in the channel was noticeably dropping off. At slack water the tourist boats disappeared along with the waves and I made a quick passage through the Gulf and up onto the East coast of Scarba. I felt I had done a good distance that day so stopped at the best spot I could find for a bivvy. No midges this time!

Overnight the wind picked up considerably and I woke to a very moody Nordic looking sky. The wind was blowing a steady Force 4 from the North – meaning a headwind all day for my next leg. After a leisurely breakfast I broke camp and followed the coast North straight into the wind. There were some huge walls of whitewater in the channel between Scarba and Lunga and more tourist boats out to look at them. I headed out past the Lunga fish farm up to Eilean nan Ceann where in the shelter from the wind I could pump out again. Then across to Rubha Fiola where I climbed up the hill to get a better view of the upcoming islands. The Northerly wind was against tide and was creating a lot of whitewater across the whole sound, but there was a slightly calmer channel between Fladda and Dubh Sgeir, so this was the route I took. Once passed Dubh Sgeir I started to head back towards Luing, and hugged the coast up Seil. The wind was getting worse.

My original plan had been to cut through Cuan Sound and then up through Seil Sound under the Bridge over the Atlantic. In the face of the worsening weather this plan was abandoned and I headed straight up the coast of Seil to the quarry at Ellanabeich where I was able to get off the water, changed into dry gear and get some hot food. Then off on the sightseer bus back to the car in Oban. I did make it to the bridge over the Atlantic – but only to the pub!