Saturday, 7 May 2011

Loch Etive and riding the waves at Bonawe Narrows

Leaving the beach at Rhuba Bharr, I turned towards the head of the loch where it meets Glen Etive and the car park at the old pier. I had read there was a new pier built to ship lumber down the loch by boat rather than use the large wood transport lorries on the narrow single track road. I hadn’t seen another boat all day but was enjoying the solitude and nice weather.

I passed one of the old ruined piers where I presume the Victorian steamships stopped en route for Glen Etive. There was no regular land transport to Glencoe in those days so tourists came by boat from Oban. They then transferred to horse drawn coaches before being amazed by the rugged beauty of Glen Coe and the surrounding wilderness.

The hills close in and start to get higher as the loch narrows. I loved the winter colours still on the hills with the spring green trees in the foreshore.

The wind started gusting a bit and the waves started to form again as I approached Beinn Trilleachan.

The Trilleachan slabs are a favourite exposed route for rock climbers visiting the area. They certainly look very steep and impressive from the sea.

The gusts got stronger as dark squalls came screaming down the hillsides and ruffled the water. White horses began to form as the waves started to beak. They were only around a foot high at this time but I suspected that was because there was little room for them to form as I was approaching the head of the loch.

The boat sits high in the water and the wind was buffeting it about. The waves were breaking as its bow nodded into them and the spray started flying over the cuddy roof. I decided to turn around and head back down the loch. It was easy going with the wind and waves blowing the boat along. I was enjoying speeding along with the engine ticking over.

The waves didn’t affect the boat much when I was half way back to Taynuilt. They were slow moving and rolling nicely without breaking. The wind was fresh but steady. I was pleased to be in the boat rather than the inflatable as it would have been very wet and uncomfortable in these conditions.

As I approached the narrows at the quarry, just before Taynuilt, the wind started to blow quite fiercely. The waves were now around two to three feet high and travelling a lot faster. I realised the tide was now coming in against the wind and saw that the waters in the narrows looked white and confused in the distance. I kept going as I didn’t want to turn the boat side on in these conditions.

I opened the engine up so that I was travelling at the same speed as the waves as it seemed to steady the boat a little. Several times strong gusts of wind and confused water tried to knock the boat off course. I knew that if it turned side on to the wind and waves there was a good chance the boat would roll and I would be swimming so I concentrated on heading straight down the channel. Sometimes I had the throttle fully opened and the tiller turned hard over to stop the boat broaching. Needless to say I didn’t take any photographs as I had all my concentration on the waves and my set course. It the roughest part, I was comforted by the thought that several people were on the pier at the narrows and were watching the small boat surfing the waves. If the boat broached and rolled, I would at least be seen.

Then I was through the narrows and turning into more sheltered water at Taynuilt. I now know what force six gusts feel like in a small boat with wind and tide fighting one another. I hope it doesn’t happen too often. Tragically, it was in these conditions that a slightly larger fishing boat capsized at the head of the loch and one of the fishermen has still not been found :-(

The tide had a long way to go before it was in but I was happy to head for home. Recovery was quite easy. I winched the boat onto the trailer and then it was easy enought to push it on the flat of the low water beach. I winched it up the last steeper slope and I was home and dry.

I now know that when the forecast is for force six gusts .. to say at home .. its all a learning curve :-D


Alex said...

Bit of an adventure there Donny..!

Donny Wilcox said...

Hi Alex ..the adventure is just beginning ...

I guess it is fair to say that the boat handled the rought water better that I did.. its all a new learning experience for me but Im thoroughly enjoying it.

Thanks again for keeping an eye on my blog :-D