Kay and Ann’s August Bank Holiday

Posted by Swaledale Outdoor Club on 2010-08-30

by Ann Jones

At 11.00 am on the Saturday morning Kay and I found ourselves alone on the jetty at Arduaine. We had expected to meet three other paddlers, but they had not appeared. A few phone calls established that a communication breakdown had occurred. I had failed to pick up an e-mail before I left home saying they were not coming because of a forecast of a significant Atlantic swell in the area near where we intended to paddle. We had already picked up a local weather forecast, which indicated winds of force 3-4 for the next 2 days, dropping to force 1-2 by Monday. It was bright and sunny and the sea in front of us would be described by the shipping forecast as slight to moderate. As we were here, we were keen to go ahead with the trip. We were in a sheltered area, and unlikely to be seriously affected by an Atlantic swell..

We rang Dave to say we wanted to continue, and he was supportive. We left details of our itinerary with him and arranged to update him of our whereabouts and receive updates on the weather forecast by mobile phone. We packed our boats and set off after lunch, paddling southwest towards Shuna, where we got some shelter for a while from the wind. We paddled around the southern tip of Shuna then turned north into Shuna Sound, between Shuna and Luing. We rejected the large west facing bay near the N end of Shuna as a camp site as the wind was blowing straight into it. We rounded the northern tip of the island and found that the north facing bay was more sheltered from the wind. There was just sufficient space between the trees and the high water mark to pitch 2 small tents.

The wind dropped at dusk, but in the early hours I was awakened by the wind in the trees above, and shortly after that the wind started to buffet the side of my tent. It was clear that the wind was rising and had changed to a more northerly direction. When we got up the next morning the bay was a mass of white horses. We estimated the wind was at least force 5 rather than the expected 3-4. We had planned to go north up the Seil sound but decided that this would be less than pleasant, and it would be more sensible to stay put and explore. It was warm and sunny and the sky was clear.

We made our way through the trees to a track and walked the length of the island, taking a look at the derelict castle on our way back. In a bog I found some very pretty anemone-like flowers with heart-shaped leaves which I later identified as grass-of-parnassus. In spite of its name this is not a grass, and is apparently locally common in the west of Scotland. We also saw some very large and striking dragonflies, some electric blue and others with black and gold hoops. On returning to our tents we found we had a resident seal, sun-bathing on the rocks 50 yards away. Although he initially appeared restless when we appeared, he became accustomed to our presence and stayed for several hours until ejected from his rock by the rising tide. As darkness fell, I put my head out of the open door of my tent to look at a large flock of noisy crows coming in to roost. As I watched, I noticed the unmistakable shape of an otter moving through the water along the edge of the bay. It passed within four yards of our tents, a magical experience.

The next morning was calm and our bay was now like a millpond. We packed up and headed north to Degnish Point, before turning west into Loch Melfort, then south, to return to our starting point at Arduaine jetty. Although this was only a short trip, we both felt an immense sense of achievement at having done it together, as we are both used to being part of a larger group. We do, however, have to confess that we completely failed to light a fire. We were, unfortunately, rather low on the usual flammable liquid (Lavender aromatherapy oil is not an adequate substitute). I am off now to consult with Ray, and practise in private in the back garden..

Ann Jones

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