The Small Isles - Another crossing and a couple of dolphins

Before settling in for the night on Rum, I had watched the skies darken above the Cuillin, the pastel shades of a summer sunset darkening above Loch Bracadale, thinking back again to our trip around Skye four years earlier. We had crossed the wide mouth of the loch in the late afternoon, moving steadily towards Idrigill Point and the stacks - Macleod's Maidens - which mark the start of some truly spectacular cliff scenery and a coastline tailor made for sea kayakers. I remembered too, framing a shot of Tim paddling into a giant arch, a waterfall cascading from the cliffs beyond. It is a wonderful thing, to stand in such a place and recall moments like these. 
Sitting quietly on the sandstone platform, gazing across the Sea of the Hebrides, I heard the long blow of a whale and searched in vain for sight of a fin. It was not to be, not that night at least. I woke with the familiar sensation of the sun burning into the tent though before long the skies had clouded over and the wind arrived. 
Just the gentlest of breezes to begin with it was soon a steady F3/4. But despite expectations of a lumpy crossing, the wind settled and we set out on a northerly heading, bound for Rubha na Dúnain and beyond, the beach of Glenbrittle.
As so often on crossings like these, we each found our own pace, the gap between us opening and closing as we tracked up wind before turning to run before the small waves, always in sight of one another but effectively paddling alone, immersed in our own thoughts. Turning the bow into the wind on the crest of a wave two dolphins simultaneously burst through the surface, spray showering the kayak as another fin broke the surface and then another and another.
All around me dolphins lunging, cresting - one moment beneath the hull and the next crashing back beneath the waves. The pod of around a dozen common dolphins stayed with me for some time before eventually heading north, tiring it seemed of this slow creature unable to follow beneath the surface or keep pace with their effortless speed.
I paddled on for a short while, before two pale flanks flashed deep beneath my bow and the show began once again. 
Given a rare second chance I managed a few more shots until the pod moved off again and I knew this time they were gone. All lethargy banished I paddled on, the entrance of Loch Brittle suddenly close, Tim waiting beneath the low cliffs, the Cuillin still clear and towering above, a twisting spine of dark and broken rock, familiar yet still forbidding in its brooding presence.
In a tiny bay, a perfectly rounded smooth hollow in the low cliffs, we rested a while, looking back towards Canna, Rum and the Outer Hebrides, the last crossing complete, just a few kilometres more to the beach and the end of trip containing more than seemed possible in less than two full days paddling.


Anonymous said…
Fantastic pictures, makes this river kayaking want to try some sea kayaking, f 3/4 sounds like a slog, how the heck can you make any headway?
Will Herman said…
Thanks Duncan. F3/4 is quite manageable - Above F5 things get interesting / fun / slog depending on direction and what you enjoy - Worst is a headwind on a flat sea in my opinion - running with a good wind and a bit of swell however is one of the joys of sea kayaking.
Ian Johnston said…
Great trip Will!

The Small Isles gave me the best sea kayaking trip I've ever experienced - a wonderful group of very different islands :o)

Kind Regards
Anonymous said…
looks brilliant :-)
Will Herman said…
Thanks Ian / Mike - wonderful paddling and varied as you say Ian - I wasn't expecting the caves on Sanday to be so good, and the camp on Rum above Kilmory beach is definitely one of the best.