Summer Isles

Four days out of Ullapool...no midges, no rain, just incredible paddling under blue skies with the odd F7 to deal with.
With the Met Office predicting light Easterlies for the next few days, conditions looked ideal for a long planned venture exploring the headlands south of Ullapool, Gruinard Bay and of course the Summer Isles.
A fresh breeze pushed us rapidly out of Loch Broom and on across Annat Bay towards Leac Dhonn by which time a following sea was surfing us rapidly towards Cailleach Head. This length of coast is probably overlooked by many but is well worth the effort with interesting cliffs, caves, coves and waterfalls...
Passing Stattic point, the breeze dropped, the water became glassy calm and much time was spent spotting creatures on the sea bed, some 15 feet beneath the hull. After failing to photograph the biggest starfish on the west coast, we pulled into a small sandy cove to set up camp for the first night. Later, cooking by the beach as the last of the light faded, an otter swam quickly across the bay; a perfect finish to the day.
With no wind at all, the second day provided idyllic paddling, passing Fraoch Eilean Mor via a channel with just inches of water before heading North West towards Mellon Udrigle.
Here we picked up the first real swell and with a freshening breeze we rounded Leac an Fhaobhair into lumpy clapotis before heading out into the smoother swells from the North. Smaller wind waves ran across the swell until, after 6km of open water, we reached the lee of Priest Island.
Landing on a flat rock shelf, a quick look around decided the matter, we would camp here for the night.
After circumnavigating the island and enjoying some lumpy water on the North West, which sadly prevented closer inspection of the fantastic cliffs except for one or two wider channels, we landed again and pitched the tents. This done, and the trap set, the wind immediately picked up to a gusty F6.
It was a beautiful sunset but whether it was the incessant flapping of the tent or concern about the crossing in the morning, there was little sleep to be had that night...
With the wind now directly out of the East, the warm up consisted of 20 seconds paddling before we rounded the point and were plunged into fairly severe clapotis.
After nearly 2 km of steep, confused breaking waves, there was a let up as we crossed first to Bottle Island and then on into the shelter of Carn Iar and finally Eilean Dubh. Between all of these, the wind screamed, squeezed through the tight corridors and around the steep headlands of the islands.
There remained 3km to gain the shelter of Tannara Mor. After a near mishap as the first tottering wave broke over the boat, I settled into the dramatic paddling, turning the bow just occasionally to face into the steeper waves as translucent green crests broke in cascades of brilliant white foam.
After exploring the cliffs on the west of Tanera Beag we entered the channels of the inner isles; calm reigned and the flat water provided gentle relief before a last push saw us reach camp 3, Rubha a Mhadaidh Ruaidh, dramatic skies closing a dramatic day's paddling.
That night the winds picked up a notch. F7, still from the east. With some 24km back to the car it would be headwinds all the way. A gruelling start across Badentarbat bay set the tone. Horse Sound proved no easier. Here though, things got worse still. What little shelter we had enjoyed so far disappeared as we rounded Rubha Dubh Ard. Almost losing the bow to the wind as I rounded the point, desperate sweeps with the boat hard on edge saw me in front of a low rocky shoreline being pounded by waves and spray. Driven into a frenzy of small breaking waves, the sea state was impressive if not concerning, the wind however was brutal.
Tired after 8 days consecutive paddling, (this and the 2 preceding trips) I eventually admitted defeat beneath Culnacraig. Made of sterner stuff, Chris paddled the remaining 12km, into F7 winds for the next 4 km before gaining a small amount of shelter inside Isle Martin. ''A funky wee paddle...''

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