South Coast of Mull - Loch Spelve to Iona: Day 3

We had waited expectantly throughout the previous afternoon for the winds to ease as predicted; in the end, it was only once the night sky was bright with stars that the last gusts slammed out across the loch. As I climbed into my tent, all was still. The calm silence was profound.
I slept well, looking forward to the morning's paddle and awoke eager to be back on the water.
Our third day dawned with a cold but gentle wind, still from the north east...
....which pushed us rapidly out of Loch Buie and on past Carsaig Bay, where we collected water before paddling under the the wild grandeur of Aoineadh Mor.
We had seen the sea eagles again this morning and as we approached Malcolm's Point they circled high above, our attention now focused on the Carsaig Arches.
The low swell gathered in places to provide excitement amongst the shallow waters and reefs here and we dallied a while, the day's calm still novel after the winds and seas of the previous days.
Leaving the point behind, the striking waterfall above Traigh Cadh an Easa beckoned and we were drawn into the bay, where the steep storm beach offered the only landing for the next five km's. We were hungry and needed a rest, so, waiting for the sets to pass, we landed between dumping breaks.
Hardly noticed before, the swell now grew, gathering itself and standing tall as the water sucked out from the shelving rocks before breaking from a height of five or six feet.
Our launch was tricky, but well timed and without incident except the loss of a water bottle and map as Tim punched through a  smaller breaker.
Passing the third significant point in the day, Rubha nam Braithreran, feral goats, which seemed to inhabit the length of this coastline looked on as we headed west once more. So far, we had seen these charismatic creatures in numerous places, were losing count of the otters spotted amongst the rock gardens, were unsure if it was the same pair but had caught sight of the sea eagles on at least five occasions whilst the dolphins of the first morning were undoubtedly the highlight. What next? Our talk drifted to that of sharks, of where one was most likely to see them, their behaviour, their size...
As one perfect beach after another slipped by, I was left to mull over such thoughts alone, the others pushing ahead, keen to reach our next stop in a bay that promised perfect sands and clear waters. As a hiss of parting water turned my head I found myself staring at a fin. Two fins. A basking shark: longer than the kayak this great fish cruised alongside, keeping pace, before sinking slowly out of sight.
Landing beaneath Maol na Sgurra I was elated, the beautiful setting, such an awe inspiring encounter and all that we had already seen and experienced combining: this really was as good as it gets.
We sat on rocks that sparkled in the strong sun, drinking real coffee, relaxed: I felt a very real sense of peace, of freedom...
Within minutes of being back on the water a shout in front signalled the second shark, this time the great dorsal fin moved slowly, unstopably, and again disappeared without resurfacing. As before it had happened too quickly to take any good images, but the sight of that fin will remain clearly etched in my mind for many years.
There followed the perfect granite backed beaches and skerries, a strong sun sinking slowly towards the sea, the Paps of Jura our southern horizon.
After nearly nine hours on the water, we paddled on, no longer fresh and yet not tired, not wanting this magical day to end, passing a series of islands, through narrow channels between the warm granite...
...to our last quick rest stop of the day.
From here, the last few km's were the stuff of dreams.
As the sun hovered above the horizon we tucked into the small bay of Port nan Ron and hauled the boats from the sea for the last time that day.
A low platform in front of dense bracken provided a perfect camp.
It had been one of the most memorable days I had experienced on the water and with a settled forecast for tomorrow, I looked forward to completing our trip and setting foot on Iona tomorrow.

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