Thursday, 5 March 2015
A lot going on at Ardtoe
Following our luncheon stop at Castle Tioram we headed out along the south channel of Loch Moidart towards the rocky skerries and islets at the seaward end.
We passed through the channels and out towards the sea.........
.......before pausing behind the outermost skerry to check that everything was secure on our boats. Conditions beyond were quite different from the calm waters of the loch, almost as soon as we headed out into open water we encountered quite choppy and confused water.
The ebb was still running hard and the tidal stream pouring northwesterly out from Kentra Bay was opposed by a brisk F4 wind from the northwest. Adding further entertainment was a 1 to 1.5 metre swell running from the west and on our quarter as we headed south towards Ardtoe. There was a lot going on with the conditions and we had a bumpy ride enlivened by occasional surfing slides down the swell; we were kept engaged and entertained for the 2 km blast into the shelter of Ardtoe. I took no photographs on this section of the paddle, but Douglas managed a quick shot just as we turned the corner and the conditions began to develop.
We landed in one of the small sandy bays at Ardtoe for a breather and a snack, deciding to postpone second luncheon until we were back up the coast a bit.
Quite apart from the sea conditions, there seemed to be a lot going on at Ardtoe itself. Two new buildings have been added to the FAI Ardtoe Marine Laboratory and further works seem to be in progress. The largest privately owned marine research facility in the UK, staff at Ardtoe conduct research into commercial aquaculture and among their projects are the production of oyster "spats", fish fry and the growing and supply of Wrasse. The Wrasse are used as "cleaner fish" to rid farmed salmon of sea-lice which are not only a problem for the fish-farms but also for the wider marine environment. Who'd have thought that there would be so much going on in this corner of Ardnamurchan?
We were soon going on(wards) ourselves and we were pleased to see that conditions were dropping markedly as the ebb eased off and the wind was dropping away.
It was a most enjoyable paddle back northwards past Eilean Shona, the great finger of Ardnamurchan stretching away over our left shoulder and the view out to the Small Isles and the Cuillin of Skye ahead. A couple of years previously Mike, Douglas and I had enjoyed a superb late winter journey along the Ardnamurchan peninsula, finishing at Ardtoe in a beautiful sunset.
We had paddled straight past the tombolo beach at Port Acadh an Aonaich during our outward journey in order to get through the north channel of Loch Moidart before it emptied, but certainly weren't going to pass it by twice!
The view back to the impressive seaward face of Eilean Shona made for a great backdrop to second luncheon......
......of home-made Spiced Carrot & Red Lentil soup, complemented by a small dram of Allan's Highland Park Orkney malt whisky. Winter days so often turn out to be outstanding and this was no exception; but it still had a final treat in store for us......