Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Loch Roag and Loch Roag Beag - 16th June 2016

This was the final paddle of our St Kilda trip. We had left the Monach Islands on the wednesday evening, motoring into an increasing NE wind. We spent the night in the bay on the east side of Taransay, and then on the following day we spent a while on shore exploring this wonderful island. It was too wild to paddle, so we returned to the Cuma and carried on north, past Scarpa to anchor for the last night in the shelter of Loch Tamnabhaigh on the west coast of Lewis.

Conditions were pretty wild on the Friday morning as we completed the final leg of our trip and rounded Gallan Head and back into the calmer waters of Loch Roag. We launched the kayaks from the Cuma and explored Pabaigh Mor, entering the hidden lagoon on the northern end of the island. We comtemplated leaving the lagoon on the NE side, but wisely we opted to return down the SW side and made our way south down through Loch Roag to enter the long, thin Loch Roag Beag.

Motoring north towards Loch Roag

Pabaigh Mor lagoon
The strong wind from the north were making conditions pretty choppy, but we didn't necessarily seek shelter. We swung out into the loch to enable us to get a better downwind run into Loch Roag Beag. So we surfed our way down the loch and completed our week's adventures at the Giosla power station.

About 20km paddled. Thanks to Gordon, Rowland, Murdo and the gang for a great holiday.
Gordon Brown
Rowland Woollven
Murdo MacDonald

Skyak Adventures - http://www.skyakadventures.com/
Island Cruising - http://www.island-cruising.com/

Monach Islands - 14th June 2016

The forecast for the next few days was for strong North Easterly winds, so we reluctantly bade farewell to St. Kilda and headed east towards the Monach Islands. Situated off the west coast of North Uist and Benbecula the Monach Islands are a stark contrast to the geology of St. Kilda. Low-lying and windswept, they are made up of two main islands and then a number of skerries. Joined together by sandy beaches they create a wildlife haven for seals and numerous sea birds.

We had motored over during the night to moor up in a sandy bay on the west side of Ceann Ear. We awoke to calm but overcast conditions. The lack of wind suprised me since the boat had been rocking a lot overnight, but this was due to the atlantic swell and not the local conditions.

After the usual hearty breakfast, we launched from the Cuma and headed off on a clockwise circumnavigation of the islands. It was not long before we found a mainly submerged skerry that was creating an interesting wave break and a teasing challenge to paddle over. Gordon demonstrated the correct approach and timing - to get pretty close and then time your take-off on top of a wave avoiding being surfed on the front of the wave over the exposed rocks. As the wave washed over the rocks it provided enough depth to safely paddle over them. We all then took turns in repeating the manoeuvre, with varying degrees of success and dignity.

Photo credit: Rowland Woollven

We carried on in a similar manner, finding interesting rock features to play with until we reached the lighthouse on the small island of Siolaigh. One advantage that the Monachs have over St Kilda is that it is easy to land for a pee!... so we stopped for a comfort break and a quick snack. Care had to be taken to not step on the eggs of the nesting birds.

Resuming our paddle we were increasingly surrounded by the large number of seals that make the islands their home. Always keeping a small distance, they kept an inquisitive eye on us.

The sky brightened and cleared as we continued playing and surfing as we made our way round Ceann Iar. We stopped for lunch in the wide sheltered bay of Croic, lounging in the sun.

Photo credit: Gordon Brown
Photo credit: Gordon Brown
Setting off again, now in bright sunshine, we crossed over to Ceann Ear enjoying the wonderful sandy beaches and dunes. As we rounded the southern end of the island we turned back into an increasing wind, a sign of the conditions to come. A couple of us headed off in front to find the Cuma... but it wasn't where I thought it was! In order to save some time, Murdo had taken the Cuma round to the north side of the island ready to continue our journey back towards Harris and Lewis. Luckily Rowland had been listening on his radio and picked up a call from Murdo to say where the boat was.

So it was a bit of a slog heading into the wind in the channel between Ciann Iar and Ciann Ear and in choppy conditions we reloaded the Cuma after another great paddle.

About 20km paddled.