Saturday, 2 November 2013

Grey sky and pouring rain - a great day on the water!

The morning after I'd experienced a glorious display of changing light and colour dawned grey and wet.  A partial clearance at breakfast time was encouraging, but the forecast was for a fairly narrow window during the first half of the day followed by deteriorating conditions later.  The twenty-odd miles from Lochinver to Culkein Drumbeg are on very narrow and twisty roads through a spectacular landscape - expect it to take over an hour.

At the tiny jetty of Culkein Drumbeg there's space to park a couple of cars considerately; noting that this is a working jetty.  For the passing sea-kayaker it's worth knowing that there is a water tap at the jetty too, it's on the Assynt Crofters game larder (the left hand, green building in this image).  It was only a few weeks since I'd paddled in this area, though the changed weather and different state of the tide made it all seem completely new.

 It was just after high water one day past Springs, and after exploring around some of the islands and inlets I headed for the channel which separates Oldany Island from the mainland.  This time there was lots of water in the channel and it made a pleasant passge with plenty of birdlife for company.

At this early stage of the morning there was almost no wind and I was in very sheltered water.  If my plan for the day was to come to fruition I'd be paddling in much more open conditions later.

Heading over the open mouth of Clashnessie Bay I once again crossed the geological unconformity which places Lewisian Gneiss adjacent to much younger Torridonian sedimentary rock.  The sedimentary layers of low cliffs and outcrops on the west side of the bay were  clearly visible with their shallow dipping strata well defined.

 As I headed into the Bay of Culkein (similar name but quite a distance from my starting point) the outcrops got a little bigger, the low northerly swell creating a constant low roar and leaving a haze of suspended spray in the calm air.

It's been claimed that Douglas and I have some sort of "Cloud Lever" (TM), or, scandalously, that we only venture out in good weather!  Whilst we are of the opinion that you can sometimes make your own meteorological luck, often it's a case of taking what's on offer.  This day was punctuated with spells of very heavy rain and had a forecast of rapidly rising wind towards the late afternoon.  Nonetheless, it was a great day to be out on the water and I found myself really enjoying the conditions :o)

My onward plans relied on the coincidence of three conditions - relatively low sea states/swell, light winds and favourable tidal conditions.  So far I had two of these, but waiting for the optimum tidal state would risk being in a very exposed place when the wind and sea increased.

I pulled into the shore at bay of Culkein for second breakfast and to consider the options.  It was a wet stop in pouring rain, but over a rapidly diluting cup of tea I worked out a plan I thought would work and formed a "contract" inside my head which would give me the parameters in which to attempt the rounding of one of the best of west coast headlands.


  1. Enjoyed that, Ian. Clearly a grey, wet, dreary day in the kayak cockpit (or on the hills) can be as good or even better than a great day at the "office". :) Warm wishes. Duncan.

  2. Hi Duncan, you're so right on that! :o)

    Kind Regards