- by Jim Wallis. Notes from an Easter 2003 trip. (illustrated)

Summer Isles, Easter 2003

By Jim Wallis

1 Red/White Norkapp Jubilee, 1 Yellow Nordkapp HM, 1 Red/White Nordkapp HM, 1 Orange Onion, 1 Yellow/White onion, One Red/Yellow Onion, 1 Yellow/White Sirius, 1 Red/White Huntsman, 1 Yellow/White Baidarka Explorer, 1 Yellow Excursion (double), 1 Red/White Unknown Boat, 1 orange Sea King (me!). That should be 13 in all, names protected!

Sub5rider, aka Nigel Crompton

Day 0:
All except Sea King, Baidarka, Huntsman and Unknown boat left Old Dornie bound for Tanera Beg. I'm not entirely sure what they did but they would have passed Isle Ristol and presumably circumnavigated Tanera Beg taking in some of the myriad of small islands between it and Tanera More. I picked up a hint that they had also been around Sgeir Revan, Sgeir an Aon Iomairt, and the impressive Stac Mhic Aonghais which lie in an east-west line to the south of Tanera Beg.

Stac Mhic Aonghais

Sea King, Baidarka and Huntsman arrived in Old Dornie late on with no clear idea where the others were so went to the pub and failed to pick up their messages!

Isle Ristol from Old Dornie

Day 1:
The main group waited on Tanera Beg for next 3.
We toured around Isle Ristol, Eilean Mullagrach, back to Isle Ristol, Glas-leac Mor, Eilean a Char, and finally Tanera Beg. We basically zig zagged making sure we did the westward legs downwind rather than across the wind as we were unsure what the easterly (or northeasterly) force 3-4 winds were going to do to us on our first day! We saw plenty of seals on Glas-leac Mor and Eilean a Char - most of them followed us to Tanera Beg, I think we were entertaining them!

Seal colony on Eilean a Char - Tanera Beg behind

Campsite on Tanera Beg

Nordkapp Jubilee, Yellow HM and Excursion rear (can't recall whose boat he borrowed, Red/White HM?) went back to old Dornie for Unknown boat, water and a trip to the pub. They say the night crossing coming back was brilliant.

Lunch stop on Glas-leac Mor

Day 2:
Calm crossing to Glas-leac Beag, wind picked up heading towards Priest Island, and my GPS gave up due to splashing! After lunch slogged it eastwards to Bottle Island, Carn lar and Eilean Dubh. From Eilean Dubh we ferried on a transit* to Sgeir Revan and thus back to Tanera Beg, finishing with a superb downwind surfing leg. Seals on Glas-leac Beag launched into the water as we approached (as we had come to expect), all except one pup who was well 'ard and stayed put staring us down!
*Those that could understand the instructions did, my ferry was pretty perfect, some did a couple of extra miles upwind, presumably through paranoia!

Lunch comes to us.

Day 3:
Rest day for me, Nordkapp Jubilee helped fix the rudder on the Excursion with Excursion rear, Excursion front borrowed a boat - in fact some boat swapping was suggested and carried out.

DIY repair.

Most went round to Tanera More for the outing and water. A big squall hit in the afternoon with thunder, lightening, high wind and torrential rain - we attempted to clear stuff into tents and moved the freshly glued rudder to safety! The rest apparently got to the pier as it started so weren't caught in the water with carbon paddles in a thunderstorm, they also only got it for 5 minutes, we had at least an hour - pretty localised!

Lull before the storm...

Day 4:
Epic crossing! I think the plan was to North passing between Isle Ristol and Eilean Mullagrach to Reiff where we were to regroup. Red/Yellow Onion was leading my group and thought we had to go west and catch the tide stream so we went a slightly longer way round (west of everything). Due to a late start there was no lunch/toilet stop! Approaching Rubha na Coigach, we went onto a bearing towards (but not to) Point of Stoer - once we could see the lighthouse (which patch in the haze) about 15.5km away we modified the bearing towards it (this caused some unnecessary debate). At this point we were supposed to pick up a 2 knot tide stream for a lift - we only got 1.5 and lost that about a third of the way across making it more strenuous than planned. We missed the window for getting round Point of Stoer (actually we might have squeezed it but it wasn't sensible) so stopped near the lighthouse for lunch and then found a campsite at the beach near Raffin with a stream. The highlight of the day has to be a fleeting glimpse of 2 porpoises as they shot off with the tide stream we lost!

Eilean Mullagrach Arch

Day 5:
Rest day for some us - the rudder on the double failed so I set about the fire with a plastic barrel and fashioned a crude skeg, which Excursion Rear was able to refine to something quite useable (and too damned effective - doubles at full speed are annoying!) using nuts and bolts supplied by Baidarka and drilling holes with hot tent pegs! Yellow HM, Red/Yellow Onion (in the other HM IIRC) and Unknown boat decided to make the long trip down to Lochinver for supplies (some were running low on beer, chocolate etc. Yellow HM and Red/Yellow Onion dined on Venison that night!). Some walked up to Point of Stoer and reported that the overfalls in the race weren't very big (needs wind against tide, which we didn't have).

Day 6:
Due to fundamental misunderstandings about the lack of plan, both Huntsman and Red/Yellow Onion thought we were finishing on Day 6 and driving home on day 7 as they had commitments for day 8 and didn't want to finish and drive in the same day. To make this possible we cut the trip a bit short just going in to Lochinver, however it was much blowier (nice force 4) which caused some problems.
Red/White HM hadn't been on the sea before, the boat was perhaps too tippy and he was making little progress due to wanting to support. Sirius was going to get off in the Bay of Clachtoll and hitch for the van in order to collect the drivers at Lochinver later. It became necessary to pull in early at Stoer though, at which point we abandoned Red/White HM and Sirius started the shuttle from here instead. Orange onion was considering staying with Red/White HM to help load the boats when Sirius got back, I think he might have been shamed into getting back on - either way it's the first time I've had to recount twice to make sure we really did have too many boats on the water!

Lunch near Stoer

It was a pleasant paddle into a force 4 for most of the distance (about 15km!) due to the wind bending around the cliffs and flowing as if a southeasterly (actually easterly). Luckily for the last 2 km or so up Lochinver the wind freshened to an even more pleasant force 6, right on the nose. We had to fight for every inch, although the waves got smaller to nothing as the fetch decreased - it didn't just sort the men from the boys, it sorted the men from the real men too!

Nigel Crompton experiments with 'sponsons'.

The plan was to camp over and then head home in a leisurely fashion, but the rain came on as we got off so that was knocked on the head! We had tea in the pub and then set off directly. Unfortunately Baidarkas wagon didn't have enough diesel to get to Inverness and there is a dearth of 24 hour Garages north of there (the one in Lochinver closed about 6pm) so we got as far as Tain before parking up opposite a garage and waiting for it to open. I don't know how the others fared, most seemed to think they could get to Inverness, but it was little further than we thought!

Day 7:
Drove home and tried to unpack.

Day 8:
Watched Tv and tried to unpack.

Day 9:
I really should finish sorting my kit out!






Jim Wallis.