Isle of Muck, June 2022

Kilchoan blog – Friday 24 June 2022 – Isle of Muck

What is sea kayaking all about? Maybe it’s the wind in your face, saltwater spray, and the sound of breaking waves. Or perhaps it’s the camaraderie of being on the sea together and landing on a distant shore.

We had all these on our trip from the mainland at Portuairk, then 11km across the sea to the Isle of Muck and back.

Muck is the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles, part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

At our planning meeting the previous night, Geoff proposed the trip which was generally welcomed. Some felt that energy levels might be a little depleted and reserved their decision until the next day. The weather forecast was dry and sunny with winds of F3/F4. Crucially, the wind would be behind us on the way over but against us on the way back. 11km paddling into the wind, hmmm, what would that be like?

Friday came and 12 of us felt up to doing the trip. 10 from CKC plus Martin and Nicky from the local kayaking group. A final check of the weather forecast – no change – and the trip got the green light. There was a long portage from the cars at Portuairk to the water’s edge but at least it would be shorter on the way back as the tide would have risen. We would end up being very grateful for such small mercies.

A couple of kilometres from launching but still near the coast, Geoff halted the group and gave everyone a last chance to opt out of the crossing to Muck. Emphasis was placed on the wind being against us for the 11km trip back. Three decided to defer the crossing to another time, leaving nine of us, with Geoff’s words describing the trip “not dangerous but challenging” ringing in our ears.

The F3 wind behind us gave us a push across so that we got to Muck in about 2 hours. No breaking waves, just an easy following sea. Even when we stopped on the sea for a snack and stopped paddling, we drifted towards Muck. Easy peasy.

After landing at Muck, we repaired to the Isle of Muck tea room. What an oasis of culinary delight! Some high streets don’t have cafes this good, and yet we were on an island just a few kilometres long with a population of 27 (thank you Wikipedia).

We spent an hour chilling, eating and rehydrating before setting off for the return to the mainland. There had been talk of circumnavigating the island before heading back but as that would have added two hours to the paddling, we decided against it.

The wind against us was fun at first. Pointing a sea kayak into the waves and the bow crashing down the other side is exhilarating and doesn’t require the same skill as a big following sea. After about an hour’s paddling, I felt I had put in a lot of effort. So surely we must be half way back to Portuairk? We stopped for a breather and looked back at Muck. It still looked close! This would be hard.

We paddled for 3.5 hours into the wind. Whenever we stopped for a breather, unless we kept paddling the wind would push us back to Muck. It was salutary to think what towing would be like in these conditions – stop to put on the tow and all the time you’d be going backwards – then start towing when even paddling just your own boat was hard work.

The waves were starting to break a little, the wind had picked up since our crossing to Muck. About 2/3rds of the way back, the wind eased greatly, “ahh” we thought, “the hard bit’s over, what a relief.” A little while later the wind came back stronger than ever, making progress so slow that it was difficult to believe we weren’t at a standstill.

Eventually we got to Portuairk and the welcome shorter carry back to the cars now the tide was in. Sea kayakers must be a strange, somewhat masochistic lot – we all agreed it was a great day!

Facebook Twitter Email

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>