Coll and Tiree - Gunna to Balephuil Bay

Our second day dawned calm but overcast, the gentle breeze cold for June prompting us both to abandon the shorty cags as we prepared for long day. The plan was to paddle the northern coast, around the western end and much of the south facing coastline to reach Soa on the east of Gott Bay, some 50km away. This would allow a short paddle back across the bay the following day to catch the ferry if the weather deteriorated as forecast originally, though by now things were looking more promising and as the day went bay, the temptation to camp at Balephuil Bay grew. But despite the improving forecast, the swell was still due to come up to five or six feet which could make for an interesting launch in the morning. 
Such were the thoughts running through my mind as we left Gunna close to high water, Gunna Sound being slack by the time we crossed.
Despite the relatively straight coastline, we covered much of the distance to The Green - a distinctive area above Rubha Port Bhiosd marking the start of the most exposed section of the trip - in two crossings. Above, Chris passes close to Bárna-Sgeir, the low swell providing some relief from the monotony of paddling point to point on flat water, not a practice I am overly keen on but something that has to be accepted at times on trips like this.
Another perfect beach at the northern end of Hough Bay.
From here the interest steadily increased and we passed through the skerries of Rubha Chráiginis via a shallow channel, heading directly for the cliffs beneath Beinn Ceann a Mhara. Approaching the cliffs I had taken a closer line than Chris and was faffing with the camera when he called - the urgency in his voice could only mean one thing and I knew exactly what he had seen as I paddled quietly towards him.
In fact he had seen not one but two basking sharks - the larger of which stayed with us for some time.
Moments after taking this photo, the shark swam directly under the hull - I have seen these huge creatures before, but not at such close proximity or in such clear water. At least 8m in length, it dwarfed the kayak. 
We stayed awhile as the shark continued to work the tide pushing around the headland, before moving on ourselves, elated to have had such a close encounter.
In warm afternoon sun we continued beneath the wonderful cliffs, and picked an intricate route through boulder fields below several storm beaches (which we returned to later that evening to watch possibly the same shark once again as it continued to work the tidal flow).
Landing through a narrow channel in the rocks at the western end of Balephuil Bay - a perfect camp above the beach with time to enjoy the late afternoon sun, was too much to resist - if we had to sit offshore a little the next day going around West Hynish so be it, I was confident it would be a straightforward paddle with little wind to complicate matters.
Looking down on the bay, our camp just visible to the right of the main beach.
I climbed further to get a signal and double check the forecast and was rewarded with long views across the island in all directions, another view of the Dutchman's Cap to the east...
...and Skerryvore to the west - one of the Stevenson lighthouses, completed in 1844. Later, from the steep shingle of a storm beach a little way beyond the ruined chapel, we watched a basking shark out in the flow for some 30 minutes - an odd thing to turn your back on such a sight but eventually we headed back to camp, more than content with all that we had seen on our journey so far.

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