Landfall on Horse Island

Sadly it looks like the amazing start to the summer may be over up here – or rather it’s back to normal. Since March it’s been one of the driest periods for years. June just gone was the driest ever while down south in places it was the wettest ever.
But the jet stream has flipped back into position and so it’s business as usual: the south is getting its overdue share of sunshine again while right now the wind howls periodically, it’s lashing down and I can barely see a mile across the bay.
It was the same deal last weekend, but midweek the winds dropped and so did the pressure of the finishing the current job. So I slipped out one evening across Badentarbet Bay to try and thread a loop through Horse Island.
Not having paddled for weeks, as usual I went through the usual neuroses as I parted with the shore (“Crikey, this water really looks dark and deep”. “I really must take a spare paddle.” etc, etc…) while cautiously tracking some low cloud or mist coming up with a southern breeze.
Horse Island is actually further than it looks, about 5km from the pier, and once I decided I’d survive the crossing I planned to slip through the gap between Meall nan Gabhar (see map, above) and head back. The passage is no longer pictured right by Gael who passed that way a couple of months back in his Incept at the culmination of his epic run up the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.
As I rounded the corner and frightened some seals with a splash, it turned out Meall (a ‘hill or mound’) is a separate island only during the top half of the tide. On my arrival with the tide bottomed out, a bank of seaweed-coverege boulders rose two metres out of the sea (below), creating a broad causeway between Meall and Horse.
No matter, it made getting out easy and as a seal popped up and eyed my movements, I scrambled up the knee-high heather and scrub for a look around Horse, finding a broad grassy platform with various sheltered nooks for a sheltered camp. It’s said local farmers periodically drop off their sheep here to graze, but the only presence was the high-pitched caw of a large bird of prey hovering over its nest up on the hill. The clouds parted briefly to shine onto Ben Mor (above) and pleased with my offshore excursion, I powered back to the pier.

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