Sunday, 12 October 2014

Hebridean Sharker, the final chapter

The hunt resumed, past steep mountains..

...rushing rivers..

..and ancient strongholds.

Finally, the quarry was sighted. A good end to the year's touring.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Hebridean Sharker, part 3

Having drawn a blank on the shark hunting so far, a change of plan was needed. After sitting out some horrible weather with Mrs and Miss CWW, I travelled the long road to Calgary Bay on Mull.

My destination was the island of Coll, said to be a hotspot for basking sharks.
It's about 15km to cross from Calgary Bay. The tide flows across the route at about 2 and a half knots. I only read up on this after getting home (true to form), and it would have been a useful bit of information to know. The consequences were
a. It was quite rough
b. I nearly missed Coll.
As it was, I landed up on a pleasant spot to camp at the northern tip of the island, with a fine view to Rhum.

The west coast of Coll looks intriguing on the map- a long series of rocky outcrops and beaches. It was, however, a grey day, and the low coast was pleasant but not exciting. With little inclination to stop, I found myself well on the way to a circumnavigation in a day.

Another fine campsite appeared, with a carpet of buttercups.

This bears a remarkable resemblance to the state of my lawn when I got home. Somewhere around, however, was a corncrake, and in the morning I had a brief glimpse of a dolphin leaping by. Seal families were playing just off the beach.
The following morning I paddled first to Arinagour, the chief settlement of Coll.. It's a fine wee place, but, story of my life, the cafe was closed!

So many times I have paddled or walked long distances for this to happen.
With my boat moored (always preferable to being beached, when paddling alone), I went to see the sights. A whale jawbone arch looks over the ferry terminal, and an old gun protects the yacht moorings.

The weather was strange. I had to set off for Mull on a compass bearing, but gradually the low cloud lifted, leaving a crystal clear day, with next to no wind. It was a mellow trip compared to my initial crossing, and I was pretty well outstripping the sailors.

My journey ended in Calgary Bay again. I don't think Tex Geddes would have rated me as a sharker, but perhaps the hunt is better than the kill.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Hebridean Sharker, part 2

With no sharks so far, my reading of "Hebridean Sharker" suggested that the best plan might be to move south. Before doing so, I had a gentle day exploring the collection of small islands north of Great Bernera. I launched from Bolsta Beach.

I liked Bolsta Beach so much that I later bought a painting of it.

There is a curious object in the water here. I later found out it was a Time and Tide Bell. Despite my fiddling about with it, I couldn't get a tune at all.

The islands here are full of interest. Campaigh has a tunnel right through it. There are 3 entrances, one of which isn't navigable at low tide, and might give a sore head on a higher tide.

Still no sharks, though, so I decided to move down to Harris, camping at Horgabost. I only had a short paddle, as the weather was changing for the worse. The bike shuttle was also quite challenging due to strong winds and steep roads. Starting from the lovely church at Roghadal I drifted along the coast.

The east of Harris has a wild rocky coast, and I saw a couple of otters.

Finally I could go no further.

Harris is another wonderful place for paddling, with huge potential for both long and short trips. The complexity of it's shape means that there is always likely to be somewhere to go, wherever the weather is coming from.
If you're looking for a luxurious base, Agnes and Bill Cross have a lovely house with possibly the best view in the world. I had dropped in to visit them and had an impromptu meal of lamb's liver, so fresh it had been running around the hillside that morning.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Hebridean Sharker, part 1

An unsettled forecast and big tides put paid to any ideas about a big tour, so I set off to the Isle of Lewis with this book to read.

It's quite a short book, more about harpooning basking sharks than about Tex Geddes himself, which is a shame. It has a lot of interest for a sea kayaker, and some hair raising stories of stormy seas.
I've never seen a basking shark from a kayak, though I have from bigger boats. With tales of Tex finding dozens of them at a time, I went in search.
I based myself at the wonderful campsite close to Bhaltos, which is a very outer part of the Outer Hebrides.

It's also a good place for day touring, and I had a bike for shuttles.
First trip was round the island of Great Bernera. The attraction of Hebridean scenery depends very largely on the light and weather, and to begin with Bernera seemed a very bleak grey place.

As I reached the north end, however, the light suddenly changed, and I came across this wonderful place.

An old graveyard was perched above a golden beach on Little Bernera. The island hasn't been inhabited since the mid 19th century, but burials clearly happen here still. One small plot seemed to be dedicated to a clan of local doctors.

Since there was quite a strong headwind for my return to Bhaltos, I decided to come another today to explore more.
Uig Bay is close by. It is the origin of the Uig chessmen, found in the early 1800's. A big one is still here.

Uig sands are enormous, when the tide is out. I found a burn that would float my boat, but unfortunately not if I was in it.

A shortish paddle took me round Gallan Head back to camp. There are some wonderful coastal features along here- big caves and arches.

A short detour took me into the "lagoon" of Pabaigh Mor. It's a delightful sheltered spot, with a huge arch opening from the sea on to dry land.

On the shore facing the camp site are some near subterranean bothies, I presume used by shepherds or fisherman. They have a fine herb garden a large collection of floats.

Still no sharks to be seen, though.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A ............ of Puffins

What is the collective noun for a large collection of puffins? If it is just "flock", it would be a bit disappointing. CWW junior 2 and I headed out to the Isle of May today, under rather grey skies. I don't know anywhere that has more puffins, though.

A large new visitor centre has been build close to the pier. It's a lovely building but for the moment only houses a few benches and bits of dead bird. I'm sure it will improve when it is finished. There were about a dozen RSPB staff staying out.