Where are we going, David?

Posted by Swaledale Outdoor Club on 2011-01-01

by Pete Bridgstock

Due to short daylight hours and uncertain weather, we don’t usually get more than the odd sea paddling day trip over winter, so when Westy suggested a weekend trip………..

The basic plan was meet up for breakfast on the Friday morning, then go into Loch Etive. It’s fairly sheltered, easy to access, and lends itself to a shorter trip.

After a cool night camping in a layby in Glencoe, we met up to find all the places to get a full fried heart attack breakfast were shut for winter – calamity, the plan was falling apart already!

Anyway, the weather was good, and the forecast settled, so Loch Etive looked to be a bit conservative (boring), so options were discussed and maps of alternative locations, which had curiously found their way into our kit, and by some magic, had tide details marked as well, were produced. So, off to Lismore, then.

Crystal clear visibility gave fantastic views down the sound of Jura, to Mull and Morvern, and northwards to the hills of Glencoe and Ben Nevis, all with snow covered tops. The sea was virtually smooth, so we could paddle really close in to the shore, seeing anemones, urchins and starfish. Rounding a small headland, we spotted an otter busy fishing in the seaweed oblivious of our presence. Eventually, with an eye to the daylight, we got off the water and camped at about four – it was dark by five. There was not one stick of firewood that was dry enough to burn, so no fire tonight, but a beautifully clear night let us stargaze until it was too cold. In bed by seven thirty – oh the luxury of an eleven hour sleep without the guilt of a lie-in.

Saturday was different. Different in a kind of “It’s thick fog and I can’t see more that 50 metres” way. This wasn’t too much of a problem as we kept close to the shore for most of the way, and we could hear the fog horn on the lighthouse on the end of the island, which gave us a reference point for navigation. How convenient, the Northern Light Board had kept the fog horn on Lismore, when all the others, like those around England and kept by Trinity House, had been decommissioned. But it seemed to keep moving – fog can give some really strange effects.

Anyway, pop through the channel at the bottom of the island, play in the eddylines, pull in for a brew, watch the Mull ferry through a brief clearing of the fog as it heads into Oban, hear it sound its fog horn……ah!

We had an option at this point. We could either keep to the shore up to the north of the island, or head out into the fog to a couple of small islands, thence across to the mainland. The latter option would put us in a better position in the event of a change in the weather, but would require a bit of careful (and accurate) navigation. We went for the conservative (boring) option, and kept to the shore. A noticeable change in the air temperature took us out of the fog into clear visibility. We ended the day on a small island north of Lismore which has been extensively quarried, and has a small cottage all boarded up. Again, no firewood, but tonight, a bit of shelter against the cottage, and the odd sip of whisky kept us up chatting and admiring the stars until well after nine.

All that was left was a short paddle back to Port Appin to round off a cracking weekend. We are all now wondering where Westy is going to organise for us not to go next trip.

Pete Bridgstock

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