Knowing when to turn back!

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Cornholio
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Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Cornholio »

Got myself up to the Summer Isles at the weekend, too good a forecast for solo paddling to be missed. I didn't really have a plan but when I set out at 9am Saturday from Polbain I decided to go round Tanera Mor and head for Priest Island- via the smaller islands, hopping until Bottle island then head west and do a clockwise circumnavigation and return the same route(it's about 19 statute miles). All was going well until I left Bottle island and got about 1/3 towards Priest... it was at this point I observed the rather low cloud rolling in over towards Mellon Udrigle....cloud?? Fog! No probs- use the GPS and all will be well...then as I realised this was the first time I hadn't brought it and oh the irony of the first time I've encountered fog....! I knew the bearings but my confidence may not have been enough and I reckon once you lose your visual bearings your mind would mess with you, and solo there's nobody to bounce ideas from....and then I looked over my left shoulder and in what seemed a neat pincer movement was the Stornoway ferry looking like it was heading my way- my map laminate is from Memory Map and shows the route going through the Isles......so I made a call to abandon and turn back to Bottle island......sure enough the ferry went south of Priest Island (I've since googled the route) but the fog kept coming in(and developing into clouds)..... When I got behind Bottle Island I looked back to Priest and all I could see was the highest point, I would have been in the thick of it......added to this was 2 American warships clogging up Ch 16 on exercise that kept appearing in the area.....a collision with one of those in fog would be a nightmare.....
I was disappointed to get within that distance and have to turn back but it was a call I'm glad I made.........
"God tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f****d..."

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lg18
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by lg18 »

Well done you, very sensible indeed in my opinion!
I am a great one for turning back - 3 times in the last 2 years.

Once, like you, due to sudden fog, plus a bit of westerly swell plus weird tide movements after we'd rounded a headland in Shetland. No real concerns about being ploughed down by shipping or losing bearings (we were following the coast) but I just got "that feeling" where all my senses were saying "go back!".

Another time, again like you, in the Summer Isles last summer with friends who weren't very experienced; there was breaking swell and confused clapotis round the west side of Eilean Mullagrach - I wasn't liking it much and I realised that would mean our friends would be liking it even less, so I said we should turn back. Later they thanked me as, being inexperienced, they were not confident to make the call and "spoil" it for everyone else.

Finally, at this recent Easter weekend, crossing Loch Hourn in fading light, a famous Loch Hourn wind sprung up making for nasty breaking waves on the beam, and we weren't really making headway getting to where we had planned to go for the weekend. So my partner (who has never suggested turning back ever before) announced we should all turn back (very sensible!) so we let ourselves be surfed back towards Barrisdale and camped where we had not originally intended for the weekend.

A few years ago we also planned to head out to Priest Island on a gorgeous spring day - hot sun, mirror calm. As we were preparing to launch from Mellon Udrigle a fog just like you describe appeared on the horizon and got closer alarmingly quickly, so we gave up on that plan! I wonder if Priest Island has a known issue with fogs like that?

Lucy

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MikeB
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by MikeB »

Good call - done the same thing many times. Or not gone out. The sea and the islands will still be there next time. Mike

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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by CM2 »

I was in South Georgia last month. The procedure was we got into a rib and towed the kayaks a little way from the cruise ship before climbing into the kayaks.

By the time we were in the rib the wind had picked up a bit so we decided to go to a more sheltered bay about a mile away by rib but he wind was still a bit strong. Decided to just do a cruise in the rib, the guide tried to radio the ship but the headland meant we couldn't get through.

Half an hour got a signal and found the wind was up to 60kts outside the bay, and before we got off the rib we had a gust at 100kts. Glad I wasn't in a kayak for that!

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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by allan09 »

We were up in the SI last weekend too. You were right about the fog and good decision made. We had paddled down west side of Isle Ristol and crossed to Eilean Mullagrach and were keeping an eye on it. There seemed to be a bank to landward south direction where you were but it looked to extend way out north west to seaward and this eventually rolled in to engulf Glas leac Mor just sw of Ristol. So we headed round to east side of Ristol for lunch after which it cleared and we went down around the Taneras.

Was a great weekend with superb weather. We stayed at the Port a Bhaigh campsite at Altandhu. Great wee place with a pub that does food up on the road and good facilities onsite.

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Cornholio
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Cornholio »

I had to laugh to myself when I turned back to Bottle Island- muttering to myself "Bottled It" Island! ! Am Fuaran is, in my opinion a thumbs down.....last time I went there was late March 2013, went in to a deserted pub and asked about food...."fully booked"....only option was an overpriced mediocre takeaway. Exactly the same thing happened on Saturday evening. I got there about half five and they wouldn't serve until 6, place was empty bar 2 drinkers watching the football. I had to order takeaway, yes, it was fully booked despite being like the Marie Celeste, and being starving got a chicken burger and chips plus a fish supper. Both awful(chicken "burger" was some deep fried thing in a plain white roll, no salad, relish,mayo etc) and £11.50 in total.....that would have got me a top fish and chips in Applecross Inn with a few quid to spare towards a good starter or dessert. I can't help but think that places like this with little competition(Summer Isles hotel at Achiltibuie?? Next stop Ullapool!) really don't make an effort because they know they don't have to......I won't be going back there, will be taking a well stocked cool box and BBQ equipment!
"God tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f****d..."

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MikeB
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by MikeB »

Me thinks you speak of "Scottish Hospitality". A myth sometimes - the Scottish "tourist industry" is generally (with a few notable exceptions) an absolute disgrace.

A few years ago, at Easter, we were turned away from no fewer than three "hospitality" locations in Arisaig. Mind you, when we did actually find an establishment prepared to take our money (and a lot of it), the guy commented that he didn't understand "their attitude".

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Cornholio
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Cornholio »

Ha ha Mike- I wonder if it's a case of a lone person clogging up a table and then 4 folk turn up looking to eat......Thinking on a wee jaunt to Arisaig this weekend, weather looks unpredictable but will take the fishing rods in case- would be interested to hear which establishments are being iffy...never had any probs before (mind you, been 6 yrs!) at the hotel up the road from the 2 campsites at Back of Keppoch?? Electric cool box is sounding better and as we have plenty of firewood gonna take a few big bags, beach BBQ even at the ones picked clean!
"God tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f****d..."

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Helen M
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Helen M »

I don't think the hotel is trading any more. At least it had gone last year when we went.

H -x

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MikeB
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by MikeB »

I believe the Arisaig Hotel is under new ownership - not been in but I believe they are paddlers! The Old Library (restaurant) was superb! The place close to the campsites does indeed seem shut.

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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Garry »

Strange, I have always found most of the businesses in Arisaig in particualr,and across the highlands in general to be very good and welcoming? Have not tried that hotel specifically, but have you tried the Rhumm Cafe or the old library restaurant (both on the road down by the harbour) as we have always found their food to be excellent and very welcoming. (Rhum cafe also has good broadband if you need it) and if your needs are more basic/DIY then the spar shop, also on the road by the harbour is small but very well stocked with essentials and again always seemed very friendly? We were there for the second week of the easter hols this year and used restaurants, cafes and shops etc in Arisaig, Fort Bill, the Nevis range, Roy Bridge and the new cafe at Laggan Wolftrax etc and all were fine with lots of friendly people. e.g. in one of the many outdoor shops open on Sunday morning in Fort Bill, when i enquired about waterproof trousers for my son, and fact that I would need him to try them on first so would need to delay until later that day at the earliest(he was not with me at the time) as we were thinking of taking advantage of the sun. His reply was "if I were you I would go to the beach and enjoy the sun with your family, we will be here all week so pop back anytime that suits - no rush" - High pressure sales technique scottish style?

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Cornholio
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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Cornholio »

Thanks for the replies and updates- very helpful, the hotel at Keppoch was alright! (new job and the joys of homeownership have fairly curtailed my paddling in the last few years, sorting this out as of now!) Thinking on launching from Arisaig itself- working til 8 Friday so will be there by 10 and sleep in the van, hoping to do the skerries and go round to one of the beaches on the south side and camp the night.....it's been a while but I can't remember if somebody here or from my old club TSKC had a run in with a landowner/farmer there??( as in "get off my land", not heard of the access code at the time presumably!) Many moons ago.... !!
"God tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f****d..."

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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by Balgarvie »

Did you catch any big fish at the summer isles this time Barry ? ; )

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Re: Knowing when to turn back!

Post by username Chris S »

After also bottling out at Bottle island this time last year (for no other reason than it seemed a long way back), two of us easily managed to get to Priest last Friday when the northwest was under a big high.
Had it not been for the short day, we could have ticked off the full Summer Isles tour right there and then.

It's mentioned on Wiki (with a long version on my blog, below), but I wonder if many northwest fans know of the curious story of Priest being used as a hideaway for months by two middle-aged, high-living conmen back in the mid 70s?

It's a fascinating story, but even without it Priest is well worth a visit. It's not like the other Summer Isles.

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