Day 63 – Cuan Sound to Keillmore - 22th July – 23.8 nm
It's slightly strange that as we pass Skye we feel we are now nearing home. But when you look at the map, and consider the geography, you realise there is still much left to contend with. We have cleared Mull now and Kintyre is now within reach. The fat lady ain't even warming up her voice yet though...
In the night a curious squall battered the van, the wind and rain was strong enough to wake us, but it only lasted a minute and then the calm returned. As did the snoring.
Today starts with a little boat-packing-free luxury, we are on the water’s edge here and it’s less of a carry and really more of just a lift to get on. The sun is out and it’s a pleasant start to the day as I thread my way through the channel around Torsa. Team Manager takes her bike across on the ferry to Luing for a little exploring.
Reaching Shuna I find myself being followed by a small motor cruiser, soon I'm getting a little concerned as he gets closer and closer. I'm just about to tell him to ‘go away’ when I realise that it is Andy Morton. Busted once again.
Andy is long a paddler, he rather uniquely paddles a ruddered Marlin WWR in all sorts of weird and wonderful open water venues. I can’t believe we stumble across each other at 8:30 in the morning at the top of Shuna Sound, neither of us are exactly locals.
We have a chat, and then Andy opens up the throttles (a little) to give me a wash down towards the bottom of the island. We make nearly 7 kts into wind for the next two miles. A little faster than I would ideally like at this time in the morning, but it would be rude not too. But then Andy has to return to his fishing and I have a wind to slog in to. A quick goodbye and then Andy roars off in his rather shiny boat, while I wonder just where I would be now if I hadn't wasted so much of life going canoeing.
For a while I slog against tide and wind, half the speed of what I had with Andy taking the lead. But then the tide starts to run and soon 5.0 kts or more sits on the GPS. Unfortunately this brings a splashy wind over tide ride too of course.
The sound is littered with overfalls and races as the route threads southwards. Some enliven things a bit and some appear best avoided in the stiff breeze. It’s a slightly intimidating area with Corryvreckan on one side and Dorus Mor on the other, tide-squeezing islets and scattered shallows in between. But once again self-imposed reputational pressure doesn't quite live up to the actuality.
By the time I draw near to Carsaig Bay I am struggling. I became a little too sweaty working on Andy’s wash earlier and now the wind has chilled me. The previous few days are taking their toll too. The wind is rattling up the sound now, rain squalls bouncing between the hills, and I am knackered. I head into the bay to gain a bit of lunchtime respite from the wind. But once I decide to get out to change into some dry clothing I know the die is cast, I'm not going anywhere for a while now.
I have completely run out of steam. A pleasant picnic lunch starts on the foreshore, but the rain returns, and lunch break now becomes a humid dayglo huddle as I sit on a soggy bench wrapped inside my shelter. People make a good job of ignoring the eccentric looking visitor as they pass.
TM finally tracks me down to bring a little welcome van-based shelter. As she arrives the sun comes out of course, but then she always brings a little of that into my life. I listen to tales of her bicycle ride this morning and as we sit in the sunshine we watch a couple of rubber-clad girls swimming out into the bay.
Eventually I finish my pie-powered de-wussing and head out once again, paying now for my reckless time-out as I work against the flow. There’s no landing for 5 nm or so now as I slog against things. Eventually I make the landing at Keillmore but Team Manager points out that the parking arrangements are smaller than the van and there is enough chop to make the jetty a mildly tricky landing. We decide to move around the corner into Loch na Cille. After a tiring day it seems to be wasted effort that takes forever, in the overall scheme of things of course it’s not significant.
As we load kit and boat we take a little time to absorb the mellow surroundings, and a little sunshine. It's a remote spot, pleasantly remote.
The narrow road takes us back to Tayvallich where the campsite owner welcomes us. We have a pleasant chat before heading to the pub in order to purchase a little strength for tomorrow. I figure a few extra liquid calories won’t harm either, later we wander back to the campsite, me in a rather unsteady and roundabout way, TM smiles wryly.