A lazy evening and long crossing from Rum

Beneath a blinding sun, on the hottest day of the year, the paddle from Eigg to Rum and along its west and and northern coast had been one of the best and longest days I'd spent on the water for some time. The 10km crossing had been followed by another 25km of rugged coastline, soaring cliffs, deep caves and wild storm beaches. Sea Eagles, puffins and porpoises had been my companions, the exposure of Rum's west coast allayed by the lack of swell though it had seemed no less wild as a result. The day ended on one of the finest beaches that I have found anywhere in the world and after pulling the boat from the gentlest of waves and stripping of my salt caked cag and deck I turned and walked straight back into the sea. It would have been the perfect end to a brilliant day, but I had been looking forward to this camp since leaving Arisiag and with a long, light evening ahead, I intended to make the most of what remained of an exceptional day, ashore.
I set camp on a broad level area of deer cropped grass, a perfect pitch - golden sands and a view to Canna behind, the Cuillin Ridge ahead. Perfect.
After spending some time simply lazing in the sun, drinking coffee, soaking in every detail of this wild landscape I headed up towards the summit of a small hill above, passing a number of deer en-route, where I knew a signal could be found and the forecast checked. 
The weather was perfect now, but tomorrow's paddle would involve at least one not insignificant crossing and the easterly winds - which had prevailed for the week - are prone to sudden and dramatic increases in this part of the world. In Torridon in particular, I have been caught out in this way before, the winds rising from nothing to F6/7 in minutes. It was a situation I wanted to avoid 10km off shore tomorrow. In the event the forecast was almost entirely accurate, F2/3 easterlies building to F4/5 through the morning and confident the crossing was manageable, I returned to camp.
Fishing from the point I caught a number of small pollock and one much larger - I had intended to eat what I caught but in the event, the boat already loaded with more food than I now expected to need, returned all alive. Later I watched the sun sink slowly beneath the sea, the Outer Hebrides clearly visible on the horizon.
And later still, I watched from the beach as the moon rose above Canna, the air still and cool, the only sounds that of the curlew and the waves gently washing the sands below. After a long and lazy evening, there was little that was easy the next day and it began in much the same vein as it would continue with a difficult and tiring exercise moving the boat to the water's edge. 
The tide was rising and had covered the sands leaving 30 yards of sandstone slabs and boulders to negotiate - again deep beds of kelp eased the journey and along with drift wood planks to bridge the boulders, I manhandled the boat to the water, launching once again beneath a burning sun.
The breeze was fresh, pleasantly so, on rounding Rubha Shamhnan. Turning the bow south, I ploughed into a small chop though before long the wind was all of the predicted F4/5 and often gusting at slightly more. Clapotis slowed my progress and in breaking waves of dazzling white I turned the bow offshore, heading for the more regular rhythms of deeper water, before aiming south-east once more. 
Some way short of Loch Scresort, already more than 3km offshore, I changed plans once again. Rather than heading for Eigg, I turned a little to the east, to make a direct crossing to Arisiag. There followed a crossing of over 25km, the winds constant at F4/5 on the beam for the first couple of hours, before dropping and then building once more, shifting to the south a little at the same time leaving an exhausting 10km to cover directly into F5 gusting at F6 to reach the skerries in the early afternoon. 
Hauling the boat through the shallows, I spent the next couple of hours sitting atop a smooth rocky summit, tired but content, surrounded by the white sands and turquoise shallows for which the area is famous. Drinking in the scene I pondered how best to end the trip. I wasn't ready just yet, to return to Arisaig.


Douglas Wilcox said…
Fantastic stuff Will, what a great trip!

10 years ago I camped above the bay just round the "old man of Rum" headland in your last photo. I had hoped to return there for a winter camp this year but a combination of poor weather and bad asthma put paid to that. That was quite a crossing to the Arisaig skerries.

My only comparable crossing in a wind was from Lendalfoot in south Ayrshire to Kildonan in south Arran though we did take a pee break on Ailsa Craig. This had its consequences as there was considerable swell and one of the party broke his rudder and cracked his hull relaunching over slimy green granite boulders.

He was hull down and all his gear was wet by the time we got to Kildonan after dark. Since then I have a specialised in short crossings! :o)
Will Herman said…
Hi Douglas - there are several lovely spots for a camp in that area - the Kilmory beach is superb though. This last trip has got me thinking about a winter visit too. I still haven't been up on the Rum Cuillin and would love to combine that with a paddle when there's snow on the ridge. I suspect that weather window may take some time to come around!
Have followed your Jura trip - hoping to get back there too in the next few weeks.