Standing waves that are reputed to rise to 8m, a whirlpool that can dwarf a yacht more than twice the length of an average sea kayak and a Sp rate of at least 8 knots; these are the more tangible problems that daunt the kayaker crossing the Sound of Jura towards the infamous Corryvreckan.
"...one of the most notorious stretches of water anywhere around the British Isles..." So says the Yachtsman's Pilot; words that can be hard to put to the back of the mind as the islands of Coiresa and Reisa Mhic Phaidean are passed and the last barrier between one's bow and the Gulf is removed.
This psychological battle is perhaps the hardest part of the passage, at least if your planning and tidal calculations are correct that is.
Taking all this into account, Boxing Day and one of the coldest weeks in recent years might not seem ideal timing, and yet, with light winds prevailing for more than a week, very little swell and a neap tide which would allow our passage at the end of the flood, (and then push us back through the Grey Dogs - Bealach a Choin Ghlais - sometimes known as Little Corryvreckan), the timing was ideal.
After a cold dawn start, the plan was almost foiled by sheet ice across the roads and with the snow down to sea level, the frozen track leading to the jetty at GR762003 caused a short delay...
Entering the Corryvreckan, having worked over the calculations more than once as we crossed the Sound, I was distracted by a fin; porpoises, heading east through the Gulf. I took it as a good omen.
By the time we had reached Eilean Beag, the only disturbance encountered being a minor eddy line, I knew we'd got it right. Having looked in awe upon the precipitous snow clad flanks of Jura's northern hills, their summits hidden in the freezing clag, we began the ferry across to Scarba, a common seal in tow.