Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Ewe and only Ewe....

I left the beach at Gaineamh Smo after a leisurely lunch and started out to the mouth of Loch Ewe, Rubha nan Sasan (English Point). Just as I passed the point in perfectly still conditions I noticed a dark line on the water near the horizon to the north east. As it approached, the darker line spread and soon I could see a white edge to it, clearly strong wind was coming.  Quickly putting on a jacket, I checked everything on the boat just in time for the arrival of the wind.

Apart from the dark line on the sea there had been no hint of wind; the sky remained perfectly clear and blue.  When it did arrive, the wind strength went from completely still to Force 5 within three minutes in a smooth acceleration.  I was exposed to the northeasterly direction and at the mouth of a sea loch with the ebb tide running at its strongest against the wind.  Within minutes I was in really quite challenging conditions. Wind driven chop built rapidly and was complicated by the effect of wind over tide and reflected waves from the point itself.  This was not a good place to be and I considered the options whilst the boat bucked and slammed in the confused water.

Returning to Gaineamh Smo was certainly an option, but a glance in that direction showed sizeable surf already building; if I landed there it wouldn't be easy to get back off and I'd be on a lee shore.  My original plan to paddle out around Rubha Reidh had evaporated with the arrival of the wind - the name means "smooth point " - it would be anything but smooth there!  I assessed that my best option was to cross the mouth of Loch Ewe to the shelter of the eastern shore.  The 2.5 km crossing took over an hour of unrelenting effort against the wind which was a steady F5 gusting to a strength which temporarily stopped all progress.  Sheets of water were being tnrown back across me as the boat rode and pitched across the mouth of the loch.  At least as I made ground away from Rubha nan Sasan the sea conditions moderated and the ride became more predictable.  There are no photographs from this section of the paddle!

Even close in to the east shore the wind continued to press, but at last I landed breathless and shaking from the effort.....

......on the beautiful beach of Slaggan Bay.  I took some minutes to recover before I could pull the loaded boat above the water; a combination of hard effort, stress-inducing sea conditions and a modicum of salt water intake from the flying water had resulted in temporary nausea, but it soon passed.  It all looks so peaceful in this image, but the wind hadn't slackened at all and considerable amounts of sand were blowing around.  I got up on the rocks to take in the view.

My plans had now changed, it would be "Ewe and only Ewe" for this trip, but if Ewe are going to be wind-bound onshore, there are far, far worse places to be!


  1. Thank you for this posting, Ian. It is another reminder of how essential situation awareness is, especially when weather conditions change, as they can easily do. Such accounts serve to remind us that the environment we all love is not a forgiving one. I appreciate every lesson learned in this way. With best wishes. Duncan.

  2. Hi Duncan, I was feeling very self-satisfied with my planning, everything worked out...

    ...and then from proactive to absolutely reactive within the space of minutes. A short spell in the "elastic zone" does wonders to reinforce our true place in the natural world! :-)

    Warm wishes to you both