Missing out on Muck

There are many disadvantages to paddling alone, but like any solo trip, it offers a real sense of freedom, of independence and at times commitment. Decisions can be made, changed and changed again depending on any number of factors - usually the wind. On this day, more unusually, it was the lack of it.
Leaving the tree lined southern shore of Loch nan Ceal opposite Arisaig late in the day, I had intended simply to paddle out to the skerries and camp, beginning the trip proper, out to Muck, the following morning. But while there was limited light left, the still evening seemed an opportunity not to miss, and so I paused only briefly by the largest of the skerries, Lunga Mhor, before heading out towards the northern tip of Eigg, a shorter crossing of around 14km and a known camp, rather than chance an awkward landing at dusk. I settled into a rhythm quickly enough, weeks of accumulated stress unwinding gently as the boat slid through oily seas. Manx shearwaters were soon in attendance, carving above gentle unbroken waves and a lone puffin watched nervously as I passed the midway point. Rounding Eilean Thuilm, the northern tip of Eigg, the skies were clearing, the faintest of pastel hues beginning to colour the sea south of Rum and I landed soon after, hauling the heavy boat over deep kelp to reach what remained exposed of the sands at Camas Sgiotaig. Dealing with a loaded boat alone often requires a little ingenuity to bridge the gap between sea and camp...
...here the kelp provided an obvious if mildly unpleasant solution and I was quickly established ashore, looking out across the Sound of Rum, tomorrow's objective.
Overnight the wind picked up, easing slightly at first light but remaining fresh right up to the moment of launching. 
Once offshore it eased again, the second crossing of the trip towards Rum no less idyllic than the first. Approaching the cliffs beneath Sgurr nan Gillean - the southern end of the Rum Cuillin, which bares a remarkable resemblance to Gars Bheinn at the southern end of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye - gannets were diving repeatedly while the gulls crowded below, dispersing slowly as I approached. But the show was not quite over and as I paused, three porpoises passed more closely than I have ever seen them before. 
I watched as they made repeated passes, remembering eventually to take a picture, before leaving them to mop up in peace and moving on towards the cliffs of Rum.
Beneath the arch on the south-west corner of Rum - so calm was the sea that I paddled through it twice. I doubt many are fortunate enough to do so once. 
And so it continued, as the temperature soared so I paddled on beneath blue skies and rugged cliffs, exploring the coast in intricate detail, arriving eventually in the bay at Harris, well known for the Mausoleum resembling a Greek temple, constructed by the island's once owner, George Bullough. It is worth noting that close to high water, the sandy beach providing one of few landings in less calm conditions, is covered, leaving a boulder strewn shoreline, awkward to land upon, especially with a falling tide, in any conditions. I left the boat nestled among the boulders in the shallows, quickly refilling water containers from the burn before heading north once more.
Here, north of Harris, the cliffs grow in stature again, bold sweeping lines rising from sea level...
...deep caves cutting into their base, on this day offering welcome respite from the glare and burn of the sun.
Rounding the shattered cliffs which form the north-west headland of Rum, a sea eagle circled above - on such calm seas it was a simple enough matter to extract a longer lens from the day hatch and switch but by the time I had done so, the eagle was being mobbed by a pair of ravens, all three birds rapidly climbing and disappearing soon after.
I moved on quickly after that, passing the now familiar wreck of Jack Abry II...
...and heading in towards the wonderful beaches of Kilmory and what is perhaps one of the most finely situated camps I have enjoyed. The tide was low and there followed a period of shuttling gear to the grass above before the boat was light enough to manhandle above the boulder strewn tide line without damage. But before that I swam. If only every day's paddle could end so.


Allison Simpson said…
Wow what a wonderful and amazing journey and how lucky you were with the weather!. Treasured memories
Allison Simpson said…

That looks like an amazing trip so lucky with the weather fantastic :)