Back on the water

22 April 2010

Our kayaks have spent far too much of the winter upside down on the shore, but over the last few weeks they’ve been floating again. It's great to be back on the water, sometimes Afloat again. Snowy An Teallach in the backgroundwrestling with the waves, othertimes just surfing gently down wind. On Easter day, after a barbeque on the beach with family and friends, Rich and I paddled off to some further-afield Summer Isles: Eileen Dubh, to Carn Iar and Bottle Island beyond. Deliciously flat, blue sea. The mountains An Teallach, Ben Dearg and friends still majestic in their ermine coats of snow. A few seals playing grandmother’s footsteps, popping up just a couple of metres from the boats. Sixty or more fulmars crowding off Eileen Dubh’s cliffs, inquisitively circling our boats - they get so close we’re sure they must be daring each other. The Torridonian sandstone of the Islands is incredible stuff; creased, folded, piled like putty, or pancakes. (I'll try to get some better photos...).

Rounding the cliffs of Tanera BegWe had a dawn paddle last week. Heading off round the southern tip of Tanera into a south-westerly wind tested my pre-breakfast arms, but once we got into the shelter of Tanera Beg it was more than worth it. We rounded the cliffs as the sun burst out from behind the mountains of Coigach, duvets of mist on the low ground between Cul Mòr and Suilven. A very large bird rose and disappeared over the land carrying something smaller in its talons, leaving a patch of little grey feathers on theBeautiful dawn (By the way, that's not the Big Bird) cliff. (I was sure it was an Eagle, but my ornithological mum thought my description sounded more like a Buzzard. Still, a pretty astonishing sight).

An evening paddle yesterday was just as stunning. Gannets (seeking refuge from stormier conditions in the Minch?) dive from incredible heights. Unfortunately for them, the Skuas are back. These pirates of the skies use their amazing acrobatic skills to chase other birds until they disgorge their food. I suppose I should admire their Oyster Catchers, leavingDarwinian advantage, but they’re just so hefty, dark and menacing. (Their Arctic cousins who breed on nearby Handa Island are daintier, but their name – Stercorarius parasiticus – belies their pretty appearance). We stopped to share a cereal bar and drifted slilently between two rafts of Black Guillemots (or Tysties as they’re known here). Very smart: matt black plumage with bright red legs and, when the two groups whistled softly to each other, a bright red gape.

We feel rather lucky to be here. If you'd like a taste of this wonderful way to explore the islands, you might enjoy a course with Jules of NorWest Sea Kayaking.

Tanera Mòr, Summer Isles, Achiltibuie, by Ullapool, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV26 2YN

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