9th to 10th of October, 2010 – Sea Kayaking in the Gray Dogs and Falls of Lora

Two stunning days paddling in the vicinity of Oban with four of us visiting the tidal race known as ‘The Gray Dogs’ on the Saturday then with two others a play in the ‘Falls of Lora’ on the Sunday.

Saturday

After meeting up, we set off from Cuan Sound, first west out the sound in to the Sound of Luing then south where we spent just over an hour paddling to the southern end of Lunga and the Gray Dogs themselves. On arrival here, there was still some slight flow eastwards but as we had a quick break ashore and discussion about was expected to happen over the coming few hours and what our plan of action would be, the direction changed almost without pause before gathering pace westwards quite rapidly.

Based on the previous visits of some of the others, it seemed that the full effects of the tidal race and consequent wave trains were perhaps smoothed out by the strong easterly winds generated by two huge fans on the hillside across on Luing.

Great fun had despite the relatively smoothed out waves, enough for me anyway. Very little carnage and eventually we called it a day with energy having been used up on all the repeat paddles back upstream with each play in the flow. There was still the paddle back, some in to the winds, to think about.

The paddle back up the west side of Lunga was gorgeous with great views to islands near and far; Scarba, the Garvellachs and Mull among others and a blue sky and barely a cloud made it even more spectacular.

I for one was definitely on a reduced pace on the homeward leg but a refuel at the northern end of Lunga had us boosted for the crossing in to the wind back towards our starting point.

A pint, brilliant fish supper and good solid sleep were well-earned!

Sunday

A reasonable lie-in before our short drive to the get-in for the falls not long after the turn in the tide and the water was just showing signs of flowing with some slight turbulence in places. We gathered on the water by the bridge stanchion to agree strategy and safety protocols for buddying up and giving each other space to enjoy the ‘facilities’ in turn.

Things started off easy with us getting comfortable on crossing the narrows with all the breaking in and out of eddies that entailed. Over at the far side, the rougher stuff was quickly developing and before long I had my first sighting of the seabed there.

A few tentative (me) and less tentative plays (everyone else) were had before re-grouping over on the easier side. Then a split in the group with myself and David staying on one side and the others over on the lumpy side.

Things were fast changing in the flow and it was amazing to see these changes minute by minute on the flow as a whole but also second by second in smaller areas. More than once, a small whirlpool would appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly – at least one appearance was timed to perfection with the placement of one of my braces which as a consequence gave no support at all – arrrggg!

Whilst Richard, Ian, Jonathan and Nick spent a good deal of time on the growing waves on the far side, I was busy with my own task at hand on the easier side. At one point I had the bizarre experience of drifting backwards down the eddy line only to realise I was pointing more and more skywards as my stern was gently pulled downwards. That particular recovery took two attempts to roll back up.

By now some play boaters had arrived and seemed to be having a much easier time of it and about the same time we had a tea break and chat all the while the flow and waves growing.

After this break more successes for the guys over on the far side but to get there involved a crossing of a large, fast flowing wave train. For me this was fun enough, of three or four blasts down this, I ended up being rescued twice, once after three failed attempts to roll and the second after a couple I think! All very disorienting but surprisingly not very cold.

On shore and changed, myself and Nick now watched Ian and Richard walk their boats above the falls to reverse back on to the big wave – much easier than breaking in to the wave from below. They did well.

A fantastic two days especially with some summery weather having arrived at last … in October!

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