Raasay and Rona – April 2019: First Solo Trip of the Year

I left the car at the Raasay ferry port at Sconser and headed out into a fairly strong headwind, which didn’t seem to let up all day. Around 20km into the journey I was feeling pretty tired with constantly battling into the wind. I had another 15km to reach my planned egress, and with few options to get off the water in between, I decided to look for a landing.

A remote, bouldery storm beach was looking like my only choice. I sat and watched the northerly swell breaking on the beach for twenty minutes, gauging the size and power of the sets coming through every five minutes or so. Despite calculating when the lull will arrive, I always hesitate.. what if I’ve got it wrong? A fully loaded sea kayak being smashed into the huge boulders is not quite what I’m looking for. Plus I’d learned a lesson on Mull following a botched launch, where I’d feared for both tib-fibs whilst wrestling a heavy boat out of the dumping surf. Luckily though the lull held out and I was through the surf and onto the beach unscathed.

On Sunday the impending forecast suggested a figure of eight route around the islands would afford me the greatest shelter from the wind. As I headed east through Caol Rona and northwards along the Rona coastline, the barren rocky shoreline offered no easy landing, however on nearing the northern coast of Rona a tiny inlet provided a miniature harbour in which I could scramble ashore for a bite to eat.

I caught the inshore forecast on my VHF and it did not sound promising. Decision time. Do I head back the way I came, potentially exposed to the worst of the incoming weather, or do I continue a farther distance with haste to finish the trip. So far the forecast had been completely wrong and the wind had dropped entirely. Luckily I’d had an early start and with plenty of the day remaining I decided to hurry on. Rona is beautifully rocky and proffers a real sense of the wild. Raasay’s terrain varies but the unusual weathered faces of the high cliffs and crags on the east coast are spectacular. In the end, I paddled for around 12 hours and covered about 50km in perfect conditions that Sunday.

Thoroughly exhausted, I might have been frustrated that the bad weather never arrived, however after a fantastic, well deserved fish supper in Broadford, I made my way to Elgol on Skye for Monday morning. More incredible weather allowed for a short paddle around to Spar Cave for a spectacular mini underground adventure, before heading back and up into Camas Fionnairigh with a stunning backdrop of the Skye Cuillin. I was busy admiring yet another small waterfall when several loud splooshes caught my attention behind me. It’s an incredible feeling when you spot dolphins close by from your kayak, yet as quickly as they arrived they were gone leaving me both awestruck and frustrated by their fleetingness all at the same time. What an experience!

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