The Magic of Mull^

Places, technique, kayaks, safety, the sea...
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Helen M
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The Magic of Mull^

Post by Helen M » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:13 pm

WOW! Considering the weather forecast we managed a good few days paddling. Inclement weather over the Bank Holiday weekend meant we postponed our departure to Mull until Monday.

Monday saw us catching the Ferry from Oban and, as luck would have it, meeting up with Andrea on the road. We spent the night on a field which was masquerading as a campsite at the bottom of Loch na Keal. We decided, in our infinate wisdom, that this would be as good a place as any to set out from on a trip.

Tuesday dawned - weather conditions were OK - wind was still there but had died down considerably. Plan was to paddle up the west coast of Ulva, camp and see what Wednesday bought. We managed to get on the water for about 1130 hours after the boats were packed. The tide had gone out a long way - but luckily there was a handy wee river next to the campsite that we were able to float the boats down.

A leisurely paddle saw us crossing the Ulva sound and checking out the fantastic basalt columns along the coast which were formed millions of years ago when molten lava cooled and crystallised. The prettiest part of Ulva is this west coast which half way up divides into a series of channels and islands and the coast is dotted with wee inlets on which the turquiose seas lap gently up to white sandy beaches. We found the perfect campspot overlooking Staffa and the Treshnish Isles. It even had loads of fish boxes, neatly stacked, and the rusted inside of a tyre rim made for a great fire box. Wood was plentiful (if you knew where to look). We didn't use all we'd gathered so we stored it in a neat pile, along with the fire box for the next visitors.

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Weather forecast for next day was good to begin with and getting worse throughout the course of the day. An executive decision to set off early and head for Staffa was made.

Wednesday dawned calm and perfect conditions for the crossing. Mike might not believe this but we were packed and on the water for 0830! We even spent time otter spotting as one was playing around just in front of the campsite. As we launched a mink swam directly in front of us and got out on the rocks. It stopped and glared at us before scampering off over the rocks.

Puffins abounded on the crossing over and we were even treated to an impromtu flypast. I love puffins!

Staffa was just amazing. The sea conditions meant we could get really close to the base of the island and into the caves. We arrived just as the tourist boats did. It was very satisfying knowing that we had made it there under our own steam and not had to pay £20 each for the privilage.

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We stopped for a break and an explore of the island. The return trip was on a flat calm, almost glassy sea. We toyed with the idea of going out to the Treshnish but although conditions were perfect we knew they weren't going to stay like that - so we headed back for our beach and an explore of the island.

Later that afternoon we spotted a group of 4 paddlers heading our way. They disembarked on a beach further down with not so good access so I went for a wander to see if they wanted to share our site. Introductions made, and having established that they had copious amounts of wine and whisky with them I invited them to share our spot. This was gratefully accepted. Not long after they landed the rain started and everyone retreated into their tents so a campfire was out - they did visit with wine though.

The next day the weather forecast was again windy and Force 3+ getting stronger was forecast so we decided to paddle round the top of Ulva and sneak through the gap between Ulva and Gometra. This is a great shortcut, however, there is only a 20 minute window either side of the tide so you need to be quick! We almost made it - and indeed would have been there right on time if we'd gone by Junes tide times instead of Mays! Probably missed it by about 10 minutes and had a wee portage. This was made easier by Andrea showing us yet another use for a dry bag. They make fantastic rollers for the boats when blown up. We had a following sea all the way back to Ulva Ferry where tea and cakes beckoned at the cafe. It was then a long slog back down the Loch to the cars. We decided to go to Fidden Farm campsite so Andrea headed off there and we made a detour into Tobermory for supplies.

Fidden campsite is beautiful. It's very basic but you can camp on the edge of the beach looking out over to Iona.

Friday we had a rest day and caught the ferry over to Iona.

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We arrived back at the campsite to see a basking shark swiming back and forward infront of the beach. It's dorsal fin was huge!

Saturday we decided to paddle out round Iona. Great plan in theory. The swells had picked up somewhat and it was a good paddle up the west side of the island. Things were fine until we rounded the top inbetween the islands. Sea got very confused, clapoitis ruled. I went very quiet and practised my deep breathing technique! I was NOT happy. We stopped in the lee of an island and Dave and I made the decision to go back. Andrea was happy to carry on. We had the radios with us so wasn't worried. Another uncomfortable 5 minutes ensued before I felt OK again. With hindsight we could have gone round the outside of the islands as most of the confusion was caused by the big swells and clapoitis. We paddled back round - saw an otter on the way and eventually met up with Andrea on the other side.

We then crossed over to the Mull coast and Andrea shared a secret coral beach with us.

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Paddled back to the campsite for refreshment and then Dave put the sailing rig up and we went off to look for the basking shark. It did turn up eventually - but wasn't quite so co-operative as it had been the day before. It showed itself for about 10 minutes. Even knowing that it is a plankton feeder and harmless it's size still sends a shiver down your spine. Dave managed to get a shot of the fin but my camera ran out of memory! It was a wonderful end to a wonderful holiday.

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Sunday - returned home. Flat calm seas everywhere!

I will be going back.

H -x

ps - Thanks to Andrea for her company

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Jim
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Re: The Magic of Mull

Post by Jim » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:40 pm

Helen M wrote:Weather forecast for next day was good to begin with and getting worse throughout the course of the day. An executive decision to set off early and head for Staffa was made.
Don't you take in anything from here? Never head for Staffa when the forecast is to get worse, it's a great place to visit, a god forsaken hell-hole to get stranded on! :-) You got lucky this time!

Glad you had a good time, I thought it was a great area until we got stormbound!

Just wondering, did you see anything of a couple with a couple of old boats on their roof? - friends of mine were supposed to be heading to Mull for the week and hoping to an easy day paddle at some point.

JIM

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MikeB
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Re: The Magic of Mull^

Post by MikeB » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:40 pm

Helen M wrote: Mike might not believe this but we were packed and on the water for 0830!
That's a first! VERY jealous - given the lack of any paddling Les & I had on what was your first w/end ;-(

Mike.

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Helen M
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Location: Dumfries, SW Scotland

Re: The Magic of Mull

Post by Helen M » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:59 am

Jim wrote:
Helen M wrote:Weather forecast for next day was good to begin with and getting worse throughout the course of the day. An executive decision to set off early and head for Staffa was made.
Don't you take in anything from here? Never head for Staffa when the forecast is to get worse, it's a great place to visit, a god forsaken hell-hole to get stranded on! :-) You got lucky this time!

Just wondering, did you see anything of a couple with a couple of old boats on their roof? - friends of mine were supposed to be heading to Mull for the week and hoping to an easy day paddle at some point.

JIM
We did toy with the idea of paddling on over to the Treshnish - but Jim I remembered your wee adventure over there and we all agreed the www wouldn't last forever (forecast backed this up!) so we headed back to our idyllic campspot. Looking forward to visiting it another time.

There were quite a few paddlers around - Andrea saw quite a few at Calgary Bay and there were some at Fidden. Seemed to be larger groups though.

Back to work today - shattered and sunburnt!

H - x

andreadawn
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Post by andreadawn » Fri Jun 09, 2006 4:26 pm

Helen and Dave and their huge Feathercraft double near the start of the trip.
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Our campsite; a fairly well used one I believe.
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We laid in wood for the next visitors and left an advert for the website.
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Paddling out to Staffa, it was hard to believe that the weather window would not last long enough for the Treshnish Isles too.
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Inside one of Staffa's caves (Boat Cave?), looking directly up at the entrance.
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Helen and Dave outside Fingal's Cave.
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Despite the sea appearing to be very calm, there was still a lot of power in the swells breaking on the west coast.
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After Helen and Dave turned back on the trip round Iona, I carried on up the west side of the island through probably the most serious bit of water I've been in by myself. My reward was a fine display from the Spouting Cave.
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The coast of Iona north of Camas Cuil an t-Saimh is surprisingly wild.Image
Until you reach the sandy beaches at the north end.
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Arriving back at Fidden campsite after meeting up again in the sound.
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We went out again in search of the Basking Sharks that had been feeding just off Fidden for several days but they weren't being quite as co-operative for us as they had been for another party the previous day.
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After Helen and Dave went home, I stayed at Fidden for a further day and paddled along the south coast of the Ross to Rubh' Ardalanish. The coast was shrouded in dense fog all day so I had the new experience of paddling alone out of sight of land.
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I did come across this wonderful little beach, accessible only to kayakers..........
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.............and otters.Image

Mull is indeed magic. Thanks to Helen and Dave for waiting patiently for me to catch up so often. I only lagged behind as I kept stopping to take pictures. Honestly!

Andrea.

ps Apologies for misreading that tidetable. Must remember that June is spelt J-U-N-E and not M-A-Y. It would have been so much easier to have been able to paddle through that gap!

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Helen M
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Post by Helen M » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:13 pm

Great photos Andrea - nice to have some of us.

Here's you heading in to Finglas Cave

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The www broke the next day - or maybe it was in use elswhere!

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Anyway - great company and great holiday. If you get the chance - GO.

Here's a photo of the 'wild 'side of Iona taken just before Dave and I turned back! Scary stuff clapoitis!

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H - x

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MikeB
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Post by MikeB » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:26 pm

Great pics all!

LOVE the UKSKGB advertising! Although of course it does leave evidence of "being there" in the wilderness - - - ;-)

Mike.

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Helen M
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Post by Helen M » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:35 pm

Ahh .. but only temporarily! Next paddlers will burn the evidence! Hopefully in an environmentally friendly way. We also left the rusted tyre rim we found and used as a reclaimed trailstove.

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Dave was using pump for airbed (comfort is everthing!) to oxygenate fire!

H - x

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