Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Big Paddle. Rounding the Cape

We found a narrow exit from Loch Laxford, on the way up to Kinlochbervie.

There must be another way, as a fishing boat had overtaken us a short while before, but we couldn't see it. Kinlochbervie gave another chance to stuff ourselves. We had the last pies in the shop at a wee picnic spot by the water. Not the same quality as Lochinver pies, but pleasant all the same. As we were eating, a thick mist crept up behind us. It seemed a typical east coast haar, and I suspect it must be quite unusual around here.

This was disappointing, as we had minimal visibility on the way north to Sandwood Bay. The guardian of the bay, Am Buachaille, at first had his head in the cloud as we approached.

Entering the bay was a little worrisome. Though the swell was not very big, we could hear a lot of noise from the surf. Moving cautiously forward we could eventually see a lot of breaking waves, but not the beach behind. Caution seemed the better part of valour, so we put on tow lines and went in in tandem, with a wee sea anchor behind. It turned out that the breakers weren't too big, but it was probably the sensible option. The beach is huge, and a wild spot, but fortunately we had landed close to one of the better camping spots.

It looked like being a grey evening, but just as we finished our last pie we noticed some light on the crag above us. Climbing up a steep gully, under a big chockstone, we came across a magnificent sight.

The clouds spread out below us, as far as we could see. The great light of Cape Wrath stood above them.

We had a wonderful half hour before the mist rose around us. Scenes like this don't happen too often, but leave lasting memories.
The following day was calm but dull. We both felt a bit apprehensive about Cape Wrath, so the lack of wind and swell was a blessing. The tide seems to do odd things around here. In theory we were paddling against it, but, presumably because we were able to keep close inshore, we had help from it all the way. Rough spots would appear out of nowhere for no obvious reason. We came across a cave the height of a cathedral.

The Cape itself arrived quite suddenly out of the mist. It was a big moment for us. There aren't that many Capes in the world, and I doubt I'll be paddling round many more. The rock scenery is immense and tortured. There are huge arches and tiny tunnels. As we explored some of the caves we wondered how many people had ever entered them before.

Though we had had a short day, I was very keen that we stop for the night at Kervaig. It proved to a good call, as the weather duly improved . We went for a long walk from the bothy back to the lighthouse, passing the sentry posts of the bombing range on the way.

The lighthouse complex contains the Ozone cafe, the finishing point for many a long distance walker. Here we met James Harvey, who was cycling around the British coast. He was also keeping the coast on his right, and Cape Wrath was a major landmark for him too. We had a beer with him, then set off back for a fine evening at the bothy. The bothy book makes interesting reading.

In the morning I wandered out of the bothy door, thinking what a lovely day it was. Then I turned round and looked at the beach. Down there it was mayhem.

This is not a big telephoto shot exaggerating the waves. They really were big and the dots on the beach are me and my boat. The surf was also not very organised, with no real pattern emerging to allow us to plot a way through. We watched and waited for a long time, and finally sprinted for it. From readiness to launch to passing the last breaker we had taken about two hours. Despite some big bum in the air moments we made it safely.
The good side of this was that we had a fine run to Durness with huge swell powering us along. We turned Faraid Head into calm waters.

When we reached Durness we found Mrs and Little Miss CWW waiting for us. This was a treat for me, but Angus had to return home the following day. Durness campsite is in a grand spot with a view of Whiten Head, and in the craft village nearby is some of the finest hot chocolate in the world.

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoying your posts and pictures, Iain. And the hot chocolate...sounds like a "destination" in itself! Best wishes, Duncan.