Sunday, 24 August 2008 19:21

Cuan Sound

Written by  Elaine Goldsmith
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Elaine Goldsmith reports on a July trip to the Cuan Sound

It had been glorious for the 2 days before, so a misty drizzly morning was the last thing I had expected as I headed to the rendezvous at Arduaine. I always forget how far it is to Oban from home in Aviemore and Arduaine is even further, it seemed to take forever after Oban, I kept checking the meeting instructions I had received from Neil, it felt like a lot further that 20km south of Oban. Finally I arrived, Justin, Margaret, Jenny and Andy were already on the slip getting ready. Neil and Lorna arrived not long after and we were all ready to get on the water. We all moved fairly quickly to get moving as the still air and damp was ideal for the midgies who were taking advantage of the fresh meat that had arrived.

We headed out past Rudh Arduaine, with Degnish point on our right towards Torsa and Ardinamir Bay. We stopped for lunch on Torsa. The day was clearing and heating up, despite having a shorty cag on, the last section before lunch had made me feel a bit like a boil in the bag. As we were now heading off through the more interesting waters, cags were donned and hatches checked. As we came round towards the narrow section between Torsa Beag and Luing there was a great photo opportunity as all the cows stood up to their knees in the water cooling down. There is some interesting water in the narrow strait. Following Neil in, he made it look so easy as he worked against the current and moved forward. It wasn’t, well not for me anyway. The next thing I was heading in a completely different direction and heading for the opposite shore and not through the gap. I watched another couple of folk go through and headed back into the flow to try again, thankfully this time with a bit more success.

We headed off across the bay to a couple of skerries Neil thought would be interesting. It was like paddling through a pot of boiling water, pools of water with edges that sent you off at all different angles. The water from the Cuan Sound has nowhere to go as it floods in, so the water was rushing full flow between the skerries. We worked at crossing the across the gap, cutting into the flow, edging the boat to the flow and gliding across … well that is the theory. I have to say everyone made it seem very easy, well except me, however I am happy to have provided Neil with his first opportunity in ages to do a ‘proper’ rescue!! I’d love to tell you that like Justin I was just swimming to cool down but that was not actually the truth. Having applied all of the theory, the practice turned out a bit different…… For the bold in the group they went between the skerries and up the overfall, from here we eddy hopped our way through the Cuan Sound.

The mist was still hanging in the distance so we took a bearing and headed off for the 3km paddle that would take us to Easdale. A flotilla of boats appeared out of the mist and headed straight for us, and I mean straight at us…. They wanted to tell us that visibility was not great ahead, we reassured them we were okay and headed on. The mist conveniently started to lift and there right in front of us was Easdale. The highlight of Easdale is not the lovely island, flooded quarries or bird life but the tea shop where we headed for a cream tea. We sat outside on the deck in the warm sun and I emptied out my Reed dry socks out, and dried myself off.

We headed back to the Cuan Sound where Jenny and Andy left us to go to Belnahua to camp, they reckoned it would be midgie free compared to the campsite we were staying at in Oban. The journey back was uneventful and very smooth, it is amazing how different a place it is when there is no flow. We were back at the cars for 6pm and off to camp in Oban.

We started Sunday from the slip at Cuan sound, where we met Jenny and Andy. Having paddled in from Benahua to join us, we all paddled out to Belnahua. We took the chance to explore the island and had lunch here. The plan had been to head out to Garvellachs but it was a bit windier out there, so to avoid a possible long plug into the wind we headed for Fladda and down the west coast of Luing. The Sound of Luing was a bit more protected from the wind and it was decided to cross to the bottom of Lunga and the Grey Dogs. It is a bit like crossing the road you had to check in both directions to see where the next yacht was coming from. We pulled close into the shore and watched as Jenny, Andy, Neil and Justin crossed back and forth across the flow of water. Their comments convinced me that watching was a great pastime, but it was amazing to watch the force of the water, the eddies and whirlpools it created…. Next time I’ll try it!!

From here it was all a gentle paddle with a bit of a following wind to help us on our way as we headed back up Shuna Sound. The scary bit between Torsa and Luing was flat and easy as we were heading back in slack water…… thankfully, though crossing Cuan Sound even at that stage of the tide still meant a few eddies to negotiate.

It was a wonderful trip, which I really enjoyed. As by far the least experienced member of the group I really felt I got a lot from the weekend. It is inspiring to watch others handling boats with such confidence and ease. The group were all really encouraging and helpful, it was the perfect environment to learn in and be confident that if you made mistakes there were plenty of folk to sort you out, or in my case, fish me out. Thanks Neil for organising the weekend and thanks everyone for great company.

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