I'd previously only paddle sailed in open water, but now we threaded our way through the maze of channels in the Airsaig skerries under power from the wind. A new experience but very rewarding and great practice for me; my 40-years-ago dinghy sailing skills were slowly recalled and put to use as we went from beam reach to dead run to broad reach around the rocky islands.
Turning out of one rocky channel we were about to pass a tiny sandy beach backed with a rocky shelf. Too good to miss, time for second - or perhaps third - luncheon. Our sails remained hoisted as we were sheltered from the breeze in the lee of the rocks. It's not so easy to see but there are three different versions of the Flat Earth Kayak Sail (FEKS) on display here - the biggest difference can be seen at the head of the sails where they meet the roach (the rear part of the sail away from the mast).
We were soon back on the water and heading out through the last of the Arisaig skerries towards the open water beyond Eilean Ighe. Our route down from Morar had been entirely against a steady southwesterly breeze and had at times been quite hard work, but all that effort was about to be repaid.....
Image by Douglas Wilcox
......as we were simply blasted back northwards along the Morar coast. The wind was at the bottom end of F4 and relatively steady in direction and speed, just perfect for sea kayak sailing. We made excellent time, covering the 7km run from the north end of the Airisaig skerries to the mouth of the River Morar in a shade over 45 minutes, giving an approximate speed of around 10km/h, or double "normal" paddling speed.
I'd already pretty much decided that I'd be getting my own sail, all my sailing until this point having been done using a rig borrowed from Douglas. This superb run just confirmed things - a sail is on order :o)
The major thing for me when considering whether or not to take up sea kayak sailing was that the advantage had to outweigh the faff of rigging a sail and the extra clutter on deck. As a professional seafarer, loose bights of line really trigger my OCD! Safe to say, the advantage (and sheer fun) most definitely does outweigh the faff/clutter. Oh, and don't listen to anyone claiming that sea-kayak sailing is somehow "cheating" (cheating what exactly?!) - these will likely be the same folk who buy a kayak with hull speed as a major consideration.....
All too soon we turned the corner back into the estuary of the River Morar and into the shelter of high ground. As we paddled back up to our starting point in serene sonditions and in a light rain we reflected on not only what a great day we'd had, but what an outstanding trip it had been, starting at Glenfinnan and journeying to the head of Loch Ailort (taking in a solar eclipse en route) before tagging on this super day trip.