Sunday, the 12th November, was planned to be a sea paddle launching from Gairloch, though due to weather forecast (mainly high winds) the venue was changed to Loch Maree. Coming from Inverness it was most of the way blue skies but approaching Kinlochewe it went wet and windy. Very windy. Driving a long the loch didn't promised a nice, relaxing sunday paddle, but a lot of white capped waves. Arriving at the Slattadale Carpark waves looked even bigger and the next rain front was approaching. Standing in the cold wind and waiting for the arrival of the other club members the idea to skip the paddle and visit a tea room was very tempting. Luckily after a few minutes not only more cars with kayaks on the roof arrived, but also the sun and the wind died down.
Loch Maree was quite full, waterwise, there was barely a beach at the put in. As soon Kevin has finished the pre-talk (using a sunny, dry spell and flat calm water behind) 16 paddlers in 15 boats went on the water, just when the next squall came in. The crossing to the closest island became an excellent exercise in ferry gliding and seakayakers were feeling homely as quite a few waves splashed over the deck.
A slightly sheltered spot was found on the other side (no waves, but the wind pushed as downwind a fair bit during the gathering) and the next leg was determined. Usually the big most south/westerly island is circumnavigated clockwise, but not today as no one fancied the challenging conditions with no shelter. So the other way round and literally just around the corner there was calm water.
Time for exploring the islands and we got more than we bargained for. Due to the high water levels we were able to access inlets which are usually out of reach. This and rain drops on map cases are explaining why the lead went a bit lost. In the second attempt the entry to the inlet which is a famous stop as being the starting point of excursions to "The island in a loch on an island in the loch". At last club paddles kayaks grounded at the entry of the inlet and where lined or even dragged over grass, this time there was a good 3 feet of water under the hull. The landing side was small, but no soggy ground or sump.
Picnic sitting on the ground surrounded by Bracken or using a fallen tree as bench. Most important was a good flask to warm the inner and the hands with hot beverage. Fed and water the majority went for a island visit but half way we turned back as we still wanted to visit Isle Maree and we wanted to avoid to run out of daylight.
On the way to the Isle Maree we saw fantastic rainbows, snow topped hills and experienced the pain of paddling through hail. The crossing from the bunch of islands to Isle Maree meant crossing a wind channel but we were lucky and the wind died (again) when we started the crossing. Landing was on a very short and slightly steep gravel beach. We were not the only visitors here as a few deer were disturbed by our arrival. Although the graveyard and the money tree are quite interesting, due to low temperatures and the time the visit was not long before we gathered at the beach for the way back to the cars.
The afternoon light was lovely and a bit surreal, you can't picture it on a photo, it was like coloured twilight. Add this to the flat water disturbed by raindrops, it was the magic of late autumn.
After some zigzags along the islands the last task was in front of us: the open crossing back, all the time the cars in sight. Although it looked very easy at the start, after a couple of minutes the waves went higher, but at least no white caps. It became an enjoyable mix of ferry gliding and surfing and the paddle ended still in daylight, only a couple of things were loaded in/on the cars at dusk.
To get warm again and for debriefing we stopped for hot drinks and delicious food at the Kinlochewe Hotel. Nice end of a day of a great paddle.
For more pictures see: click here