Friday, August 30, 2013

Better Days #16 in West Loch Tarbert.

 Beyond West Tarbert pier we came across a graveyard of decaying...

 wooden fishing boats.

This one was FV Kreisker BA207, which was wrecked here about 1987. Their days of harvesting the oceans' bounty had long gone. In short they have seen better days.

We now came to where my friend had suggested we exit the loch to begin our portage across the isthmus into the Firth of Clyde. The West Loch Hotel and the road to Tarbert lay a short distance over a gently sloping grassy bank. It looked ideal, an easy exit with the prospect of a refreshing pint but the illusion was shattered when we paddled into a lagoon of raw sewage, which was bubbling out of the end of a sewage pipe. Yuk! We made a sharp exit.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time for a sharp exit at West Loch Tarbert Pier.

We planned to reach the head of West Loch Tarbert near high water as we planned to exit the loch near its muddy head and portage our kayaks over the isthmus to East Loch Tarbert on the Clyde. I had originally planned to exit here at West Loch Tarbert Pier where there is a public...

 ...slipway, which I had sussed out in December 2011. However, I was persuaded by a friend who had come this way last year that there was a much better exit 850m further up the loch. Well I will come to that but in the meantime, let me just say that if you come this way and plan to portage the isthmus to East Loch Tarbert, EXIT HERE.

As it was, we paddled past the busy pier towards the head of the loch. The towing vessel Mary M was tied up, she spends most of her time on the Clyde. Unlike us she would need to return to the Clyde by motoring round the Mull of Kintyre. At 7m wide she is nearly 1m too wide for the Crinan Canal further north. West Loch Tarbert is the homeport for trawler Fionnaghal, TT104, built in Berwick upon Tweed in 1989. She was tied alongside  Campbelltown based Silver Spray III, TT77. She was built in Stromness in 1986 and is licenced for prawns and scallops.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A tale of two islands, one ferry and two captains.

 Eilean Eoghainn is a delightful small island set within the recesses of West Loch Tarbert in the Scottish county of Argyll. It is guarded by rocky ramparts but its...

 ...interior is a lovely wooded glade underset by bluebells. The dead trees make an ideal roost for the local heronry while...

 ...herring gulls nest on the rocks amongst red campions.

 We came to a little beach and pier,...

 ...these are in the grounds of Rhu House which would make an excellent B&B base to...

...explore the beaches and islands of lovely West Loch Tarbert. This island, Eilean da Ghallagain even has its own small beach. In 1960 the Islay ferry, the MV Locheil, sank just north of Eilean da Ghallagain. She had struck a rock further down the loch and was attempting to get to West Loch Tarbert pier near the head of the loch before sinking. Fortunately she came to rest on a mudbank, which prevented her sinking fully. There was no loss of life and even stock from the bar was rescued. MV Locheil was later salvaged and repaired. She continued on the run for another ten years... with a new captain.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A busy waterway at Kennacraig.

 We approached the pier at Kennacraig cautiously. It was 12:22 and the ferry was not due to leave until 13:00 but they do sometimes fit in extra sailings... So we went along the shore and before heading out past her stern noticed 3 things. 1. the MV Finlaggan was securely moored.. 2. They had not started loading the long queue of cars and lorries. 3. We were being watched from the bridge. So...

 ...we nipped round her stern without delay. The MV Finlaggan is one of the newer ferries in the Calmac fleet. She was built in Poland in 2011 specifically for the Islay route but she also provides winter relief for the Skye/North Uist/Harris route. She is 90m long with a gross tonnage of 5,209 tons and can carry 550 passengers and 85 cars.

 Once past Kennacraig we still had to keep a sharp lookout for other maritime traffic...

...such as FV Silver Lining III (TT37), a 16.6m wooden scallop dredger that was heading out from the quay at West Tarbert at the head of the loch. Her home port is Kilkeel in Northern Ireland and she was built in 1973.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A fair wind in West Loch Tarbert.

The weather forecast had been for a force 3 to 4 NE wind. This would have been a most unwelcome headwind in West Loch Tarbert. However, we were pleasantly surprised when a delightful tail wind picked up. I was especially pleased as my left shoulder was now "clicking" painfully with every stroke. It was a relief to hoist the sails and let them take some of the strain.

 We soon left the open sea and Gigha far in our wakes.

The enclosed nature of West Loch Tarbert was in complete contrast to the exposure we had experienced off the Mull of Kintyre earlier in the trip. As the shores of the loch closed round us we came across enchanting coves and...

 ...beaches backed by wooded slopes.

We trailed our fingers in the shallow, warm, clear waters as the sails carried us on towards the only sign of human activity... the Islay ferry, MV Finlaggan berthing at the Kennacraig ferry terminal.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The ferries of West Loch Tarbert.

No sooner had we entered West Loch Tarbert than we came across a long stone pier.

This is the remains of the Portachoillan ferry, which was a passenger ferry across the mouth of the loch to Ardpatrick on the west side.

It was operated by a rowing boat from at least the 19th century until it ceased in the 1930's. The 1856 Admiralty chart (surveyed in 1849) clearly marks it.

 After leaving Portachoillan we left the open sea behind us and entered...

 ...the wooded confines of West Loch Tarbert.

 We chose to paddle in very shallow water as the loch is very narrow and...

 ...a rumble of engines behind us announced...

 ...the return of the MV Finlaggan. We knew we were safe in the shallow water. Although the loch is 700m wide at this point, the deep water channel is only 130m wide, so the ferries do not have much room.

Although West Loch Tarbert is sometimes busy with ferry traffic, the main road to Campbelltown does not follow the shore and so it is mostly a quiet and very beautiful location for sea kayaking. The ferry passed  the ancient walls of Dunsmore castle on the north side of the loch . The tower house is now a ruin but it was the seat of the McMillan clan chiefs in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The MV Finlaggan soon passed by on its way to Kennacraig and we were left to enjoy the loch in peace again.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Daisies , shells, pottery and a marble at Dunskeig Bay.

By the time we pulled our kayaks up the fair strand of Dunskeig Bay it was after 9:30am and way past breakfast time so we set...

 ...our stoves up on the rocks at the edge of the beach and cooked up a three course first breakfast. Favourite course was bacon, egg, tomato and edam cheese in a tortilla wrap. While we sat and enjoyed some postprandial sunshine, Jennifer went scavenging along the shore line.

She returned with a sting winkle, a periwinkle, a cowrie, a bit of an oyster shell, a variety of weathered pottery fragments and a marble!

After breakfast I enjoyed  a stroll on the daisy flecked machair that backs the shore and enjoyed...

...distant views to Gigha, Islay and Jura.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Much toing and froing on the crossing to West Loch Tarbert.

We set off across the Sound of Gigha towards the Kintyre mainland in glassy calm conditions but it is not always like this... this photo, taken in the same place 6 yearrs previously (2007), shows all too clearly. Strong tides, shallow sea and wind against tide can soon rustle up some rough conditions.

 Although it was calm, our route lay along the course of the Islay ferries, the ...

 ...MV Flaggan passed on her way out and the...

 ...MV Hebridean Isles passed us on her way in to Kennacraig.  We kept well to the south of the ferries and...

...after a 10km crossing we entered the mouth of West Loch Tarbert.

We made landfall at the head of Dunskeig Bay. Dun Skeig hill towers above the bay and on its summit lie the remains of 3 successive hill forts or duns.

As we unpacked our breakfast things the MV Hebridean Isles made its way back out of the narrow entrance to West Loch Tarbert.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We were not alone on Gigha.

We awoke to a beautiful morning on Gigha but unfortunately we were not alone. We had been joined by billions of midges who enjoyed breakfast on us.

 So we missed our own breakfasts and hurriedly broke camp and loaded the boats.

 It was such a relief to be out on the cool midge free water.

In the early morning sunshine, we paddled to the north end of Gigha where we caught sight of our next destination. The mouth of West Loch Tarbert was highlighted by the silhouette of the morning ferry to Islay, the MV Finlaggan.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Living the dream of the Hebridean Isles on Gigha.

Due to the presence of an amphidromic point between Islay and the Mull of Kintyre, the mean spring tidal range on the west coast of Gigha is only about 1m so we did not ...

 ...need to pull the kayaks very far up the beach before settling down to...

 ...enjoy the sunset.

We gazed wistfully at the islands on the horizon, Islay to the west and Jura to the north west and...

...,as the midge attack lessened,  made plans to visit Islay in July. At the back of my mind I suspected this might be wishful thinking, After 4 days of paddling my shoulder was giving me real concern. I knew I would have to go and see about it on my return.

 Ever so gradually the day faded away over Islay and...

...Jura but it was still light when we went to bed about midnight. We may have dreamed of Hebridean Isles but on this trip we were living the dream!