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Thursday, 20 August 2009 17:51

Arisaig 2009

Written by Diane Malone
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Arisaig Sea Kayaking trip July 2009

Despite a “not great” weather forecast predicting winds of up to force 7 and rain for parts of both days, 17 of us met at Loch Ailort jetty on Saturday morning.

I had been on a few paddling trips with the club last year and one this year but this was my first “wild camping” trip.  There was a good mixture of experienced paddlers and those with less experience. I suspected there might be a steep learning curve for what to pack and how.

It took us 2 hours to get everyone packed, cars shifted to Arisaig and onto the water.
So far, we were dry and had a relaxed calm paddle up Loch Ailort past fish farms and wee islands until we had our first stop on a beach opposite “Goat Island” 

From there we paddled around the headland into choppier waters of Loch nan Uamh (loch of the cave).  This gave Eleanor, our tour leader, her first opportunity to gather us together and aim at a sheltered part of the North shore – a bit like herding cats until she told us where to aim for! Having been slightly anxious about how my kayak would handle fully laden, I was only partially reassured to receive the advice “Relax, this is what your kayak was designed for”.  However, it felt really stable and responded well  - by the time we got into calmer water I felt almost enthusiastic about trying more “confused water”.

The sun came out from time to time often when we stopped for a break. We paddled along the N shore of the loch until we approached the first possibility of a camp site at Eilean a Ghaill. It looked a lovely spot BUT there was already a large group of kayakers camped.  They watched us approach – probably hoping we would not stop and were maybe relieved when we paddled bye waving, and went on to Eilean Port nam Murrach.

This was a perfect place to camp.  There is a beautiful sandy beach with a short cropped grassy area behind it and some shelter from rocks at either end of the small bay.

What happened next was an interesting ritual!  A bunch of previously calm sensible paddlers suddenly paddled like fury to the beach, leapt out of their kayaks and charged up the slope to “bag the best spot”. There was much hilarity about the relative merits of each spot, but luckily there was plenty of space for everyone.  Once the tents were up and dinner sorted it was time to mingle.  By then there was a slight drizzle.  This lead to the next group game – “How many folk can you fit under Mike’s 8ft tarp?”  The answer is 17.

Sunday morning stayed dry long enough for us to pack up and set off around the headland to the islands and skerries off Arisaig.  We experienced some clapottis and then a following sea which gave me an adrenaline burst. The experienced paddlers were, again, very encouraging and helpful.  They made sure we were all managing Ok.  “Relax, keep smiling, keep paddling” 

On day 1 we had not seen any seals and not many seabirds but on day 2 there were lots of seals and birds around the small islands.  The seals were content to swim around – preferring to be behind us.
We had a gentle paddle around in the sheltered waters and then “for fun” went round the outside of one of the bigger islands. Some folk managed a bit of surfing on the waves – others were v. happy just to remain upright.  The plan had been to paddle right round the island, but the tide was too low by then and we had to paddle back against the wind to land on another lovely wee island for lunch. On our way round we saw another kayaker using what looked like a golf umbrella as a sail.  I have no idea how he/she controlled that!

By now the weather was, as predicted, closing in, so we all paddled directly back to Arisaig.  We finished the trip with coffees and hot chocolates in the nearby pub.
It was a great weekend.  Eleanor lead the group well and we all had help from several of the other experienced paddlers. The craic was good and Rhona’s “ooze” sweeties were well worth racing for in the water. They floated too!!

Our challenge for the next trip away, to Dunvegan, is to bring something along which has more than 1 use.  It has to cost under £10.  (Initially it was to be under £5 but £10 makes the task easier). There “may be” a prize for the most imaginative and multipurpose object.

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