Day 6 – A dance with Dorus and a fling with Luing

When I was in Carsaig Bay I found the locals very, very welcoming. I walked across to the Hotel in Tayvallich on the Friday night to be entertained by the locals with their accordians, guitars, small pipes, bodhrans, flutes and whistles. It was brilliant, and several of them also donated to the fundraising and have rightly been added to my Santa Claus list for nice people.

The following morning as I was packing up my camp and getting ready to head out I met one of my entertainers from the previous night. Hans Uncles came down from his house and kindly took my rubbish, filled my water bottles and helped me get launched. Hans ploughs the local waters for his living and we had an interesting discussion (before the folk session) on the local tides and their behaviour, but that wasn’t a patch on the story of his name.

Hans is someone I’d consider a kindred spirit, light-hearted and jovial, so when he told me his name I laughed right back at him and said ‘you’re taking the piss’. I was wrong but Hans’ reaction was calm suggesting he’d been through this more than once and wasn’t offended in the slightest. On Saturday morning when Hans was chatting to me on the beach in Carsaig Bay I asked him for the story of his name was and it’s a belter. It’s now a family name of which he is the 3rd recipient. His father was the 2nd recipient and they owe the name to the conduct of our Hans’ Grandfather who bore the name as a nickname locally, after he ran away on a Dutch Fishing Boat! He obviously liked it, because its stuck for a century.

So I left my new pal Hans and paddled off into a very still Sound of Jura. Visibility was still very limited, but the low cloud had lifted enough to show me a band of the Jura coast splitting the constant canvas of grey above and below it. I headed out into the sound a kilometre or so from shore and and paddled North for the Eileans that split the tidal flow and form the tidal scoosh that is the Dorus Mor ‘The Great Door’.

As I approached the Eileans I had an overwhelming need and decided to wheech in behind Eilean na h-Eairne for a quick break. I eddy-hopped up the rest of the Eileans then in behind Garbh Reisa and into the flow. The tide was only building but I was off and flying.

I went with it for a wee bit and then aimed myself up into the Sound of Luing while I watched the grey Gulf of Corryvreckan to my West. You get used to the additional speed from the tidal flow and when it receeds slightly you realise how slow a kayak really is.

It wasn’t long before my speed was picking up again and as I travelled up past Bealach a Choin Ghlais, the Grey Dogs, I could see the white crests of the waves in there tempting me. Again, those were for another day as I was bound for Oban. By the time I reached the top of the Sound of Luing I was flying. I shot through between Fladda and Dubh Sgeir (Black Skerrie) just as a powerboat called Orca came through to give me a wee bit of wash to contend with as well, mind you I am pretty sure he’d throttled down considerably for my benefit.

After that excitement it all seemed like a bit of slog across to Easdale and round up inside Insh. The sky went very moody, a whole different experience of the winter grey and the cliffs round the back of Seil loomed above me as the barren lumps of rock that they are.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the Isle of Mull a mere 6km away. The paddling in this part of Scotland is best not because of the complex and fast tides, though they are sporting and fun, but the views that you can be treated to. So far those views have been few and far between.

Even Kerrera on approach to Oban only became ‘visible’ as a grey hulk at about 4km distant. Very disappointing.

I could almost hear Kerrera before I could see it. How can you hear an Island? Well if the folk on it have a whole bunch of loud Parrots then you can hear an island. I’d made it into the Sound of Kerrera before the tide turned against me and kept thinking I could hear something else in amongst the squawking squabbling and shrieking but it took me a while to discern the ‘keep paddling Bruce’ from the cacophony of the Parrots.

I had been found by my friends that live in Oban, my only scheduled stop with a bed on the whole journey. Roger, Lyndsay and their daughters Edie and Alex were on the shore cheering me on. Magic, a warm bed and some home cooked food. I got here before I thought I would, which meant my Jilly and our daughter Miriam hadn’t even got here for my halfway family time ‘1’ day break. They weren’t far away and it was lovely to see them, even if it had only been 6 days since I left Largs. Amazingly good progress, but it was all about to go thoroughly wrong.

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Day 5 – Fade to Grey

My original plan was to leave Gigha by heading to the North end of the Island and then doing a crossing to the Knapdale coast. Friday morning was grey and still. The visibility was down to about 3km. Not exactly a pea souper but when you can’t see where the sky finishes and the sea starts its weird. It’s like when the hair on your neck joins the hair on your face….how do you know where to stop shaving?

Two reasons made me change my plan, I’d not be able to see the big Islay ferries crossing my route, and they’d have less chance of seeing me and after having Calum’s paddling company for a couple of days he was returning to the Clyde via West Loch Tarbet so I decided to handrail the coast with him.

This added a wee bit of time to the journey, but it was worth it. After crossing over to the Kintyre coast and then working up to West Loch Tarbet I said my farewell’s to my lifelong pal and paddling buddy and continued up the Knapdale Coast on my own.

The breeze got up a wee bit out the south and helped push me along. The next few hours flew in as I started to come across the tide and it’s rippled fingerprint on the surface of the water. This was a sure sign that Jura was nearby (West – left) but I still couldn’t see anything but the odd dark silhouette of a headland ahead on my right coming out of the grey.

I managed to keep the pace lifted enough to make the headland at Rubha na Cille where the tide was still pushing round, but then the power ran out and with no discernable tide to do the work for me I hugged the coastline like a toddler to a parental leg. I only had another 8 or so kilometres to get to my to target camp for the night, but I kept spotting viable options that’d do in case of complete engine shutdown.

The coast here just past Rubha na Cille is littered with little boreholes that gulp in the swell and belch out the trumpets of a discordant symphony. The entertainment kept me ticking over for most of the remainder of the journey. When I got to the next bay, the last one before Carsaig Bay, and I was completely gob-smacked. I’d paddled into a scene from the Goonies movie. Poor visibility, low cloud, rocky headlands, skerries, trees and quite possibly the most beautiful wee bay I’ve ever paddled through. I didn’t meet One-Eyed Willie, but I did rediscover my childhood hooting and hollering at the echoes.

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Day 4 – Gigha’s a break

Big stuff. Big waves round the Mull of Kintyre, and on a ‘calm’ day. Big push off the tide, helped get the miles done and big breakers on all the headlands from the westerly swell. To top it all off, after the big miles and big push to get north I just had a big three course meal on the Gigha. It was definitely required, ok ok so its not exactly roughing it but if I can’t treat myself to a big feed after that then when can I?

I’ll not be the first west of Scotland male to cry out ‘Gie’s a break’ but by the time we’d crossed to Cara (surely the most southerly of the Hebrides) I was feeling it was done for the day.

I’ll need to update with photos after because yet again I have failed to connect camera to laptop near internet.

Got video though, ‘Roon the Mull, on a calm day.

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Day 3 – Going nowhere

Woke up at 0530 this morning and crawled out a lovely warm sleeping bag to assess that the wind was cold and southerly. On the back of last night’s inshore waters forecast from the Met Office saying today might get to F5-7 out the south I decided bed was more appealing than a fist fight with a massive chunk of wind strewn and mental tidal water.

After a lie-in, breakfast and a good stroll round and back via a couple of beaches it was obviously windy here on the Kintyre peninsula. In the spirit of making hay while the sunshines the tent and items of kit were dried, lots of food was eaten but the nine holes of golf at Dunaverty Golf Club (we’re camped on it’s fringe) was foiled by a lack of club steward or clubs for hire. Still despite the wind it was sunny and pleasant in the shelter.

In hindsight it might have been on today. The wind maybe got to F5 for a bit and it would have been a fight past Sron Uamha but the following sea from then on would have speedy and good. Sensibility had already prevailed and that is that.

Forecast for tomorrow are; winds lighter than a Kenyan marathon runner, a swell gentler than nurse’s manner and a tide that should carry us round and up the West side of Kintyre. Hopefully I’ll send an update from Gigha tomorrow evening.

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Day 2 in the Big Paddle House

After a fairly big day yesterday (pic from yesterday below) I was surprised how good progress was today.

Calum had met me on arrival into Carradale last night. The sun was fading fast and it was still (nae wind) cold and damp once the tents were pitched. We were in our beds at about 10pm, I was done in, even with the second wind that carried me across the Kilbrannan Sound.

This morning we paddled from Carradale Bay south to cross in front of Campbeltown Loch. We got to Island Davaar at about 1200 hours and then got hit with wind for the schlep south. After a couple of headlands we got a bit of tide that scooted us round to Arranman’s Barrels then on to Dunaverty past some nice small swell rolling through the kelp. Not as big a day as yesterday, but then, Calum’s new to kayaking 😉

Good, he’s laughing and saying aye right!

Tomorrow is in the lap of the Gods. Wind forecast for rounding the Mull is marginal, closer inspection at sun-up required.

Good night. Oh and thanks and best wishes to all those recent sponsors. I think we can safely say that the fundraising is a success, lets make the trip follow suit.

Is it on yet?

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Day 1 update.

Made it to Carradale. Big day, made worse by the Van’s failure to start thus morning. Of all cold mornings. Paddled from 0935 to 1800 with a 5 minute stop on Bute. Ready for a good sleep.

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Thank You

Tomorrow I get in boat and start paddling to Stornoway, that in itself is amazing, to have time off to paddle.

Before I go though, the fundraising has just been out of this world. All those little things, the opportunities I’ve jumped at in the hope of eeking out a little more, the spamming of friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter, the learning basic HTML to facilitate this website. The magazine’s the newspapers the radio, every opportunity no matter how hard it’s been to accommodate it all amongst work life and family, has been worth it.

As I write there is a dazzling £8952 raised. Plus a possible £2145 in gift aid. That is basically the target met, so anything that comes along now is fantastic. Like all of you have donated, simply fantastic. You generous people have made this project worthwhile.

Kokatat, Vango, Kayak London and a few other companies have made the personal financial hit more bearable by supporting me with great equipment and materials. Several individuals (you know who you are) have helped point me on the right path to making this project so much greater than it would have been without that advice.

To all of you, a very big thank you for being a part of this, now sit back, relax in the comfort of your home and as of tomorrow, I hope to share a wee adventure with you.


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Tomorrow. 0830 hours.

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Final Preparations

Final preparations are underway. Although I had originally envisaged a launch on or around the 7th March, I have always considered leaving early if there was a window for rounding the Mull of Kintyre. It would seem that there is a very fair weather window opening up between now and next weekend.

I’ll be off early on Monday, 28th February, and hoping to get to Carradale. Tuesday I’ll be continuing down to Southend on Kintyre, where I’ll wait and head off early Wednesday morning to tackle the Mull of Kintyre.


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There’s no tide in the Clyde

0950 Hours: Meet Tony in car park at Largs Marina. Talk mince.

1000 Hours, Decide there’s more wind than forecast, check Met Office Inshore Waters.

1005 Hours, Forecast South East Force 5-7, decreasing later 4-5.

1020 Hours, Paddling. New plan; go round top of Cumbrae, see what’s happening.

1030 Hours, past Tormont end, Cumbrae. Fast progress.

6 hours later, finish grand total of not even 16 miles. What happened there?

Many years ago I was told there was no tide in the Clyde. To be fair there is not usually much in the way of tidal effect in our bit of the Clyde. Maybe a knot or so in the Tan but nothing noticeable elsewhere. Until the day you rightly decide to abort the original plan (lunch at Dunagoil on Bute) because it is howling. So we’d suck it and see.

Our new plan was up there, in the league of well thought out plans, with Dr Raymond Stantz in Ghostbusters ‘Get her’. After cruising over to the North of Cumbrae with a favourable wind and a wee bit of tidal push we then had a journey down the West side of Cumbrae with the SE wind on our beams in a bit of shelter.

Our in depth plan was now to lunch at the Wee Cumbrae Lighthouse. The short crossing to Wee Cumbrae was our first real push into the wind. After this burst of effort our tidal ignorance became apparent . We arrived at the lighthouse to discover the breakwater had water breaking over it due to an exceptionally high tide.

I decided to attempt hopping out my boat and jumping onto the wall. Instead I tested my new dry suit again, it works well, I barely even got water in my wellies. Numpty.

After lunch we continued round the south end of Wee Cumbrae, into a stiff wind and some nice big waves.

Then we got round the south and had the pleasure of running with the waves for a wee bit next to the shore, and the rocks. Very sporting 😉

Up the East side of Wee Cumbrae I had an epiphany. I worked out what the best thing about paddling in Scotland was.

Then we crossed the Tan heading North, which turned out to be interesting again. There was wind, there was a wee bit of tide and then once we got over to Farland Point on great Cumbrae we noticed a patch in the water East of us in the channel that had crashing waves, this looked very much like wind against tide. In the Clyde! We paddle out to it for a wee explore and right enough it was the messy effects of wind and water going in two opposite directions.

From here to the Keppel Pier and beyond we were slogging again. The tidal effect probably amounted to a knot and a half heading south with no eddy against the coast. It was like paddling through treacle. It’s hard to tell how long it took us to cover this, because I still haven’t got a replacement for my adventure watch that ‘died’ on the orchy at a dizzy three years old.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If your plan is to suck it and see, make sure you realise you are paddling during one of the biggest spring tides of the year. Don’t time it so that you paddle into the tide till high water and then into it all the way home again.

Otherwise, you see and it sucks! Well it didn’t really suck at all, it was a great day.

After all we were paddling in Scotland.

There’s not long to go now and I have many matters needing addressed so this is probably the last ‘training’ update we’ll have. The next time I’m out there, I’ll probably be heading out there.

ps more raw footage at

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