Badluarach to Ullapool – Section 5 | Day 16

Sadly lacking the week’s earlier blazing sunshine and light winds, Ullapool CRC’s crew of five wizened old salts, for the stretch from Badluarach on the south side of Little Loch Broom to Ullapool, were faced with a dull overcast day, northerly winds of anything up to 12 knots and slight or moderate seas, according to the Met forecast…

Rather than the closer Ardmair Bay, we decided to make for Ullapool – three miles further – as the weather was not unpleasant and the flood tide would sweep us majestically downwind up Loch Broom to be greeted by the hysterical crowd of two dog walkers on a damp Ullapool beach sometime in the afternoon … and it would leave Cùl Mòr ‘at home’ ready for the next Ullapool crew to take her on to Badentarbet Bay in Coigach the following day.

Though visibility was adequate, and the trip would involve pilotage rather than needing to wave a brass sextant about, mist and rain were threatened; we had a hand-held compass, Trails app on a mobile phone which gives a reasonably accurate track and position, and rough outline of our passage, which involved four legs:

  1. Badluarach to 3 cables West off Cailleach Head: 2.3 NM 330° T
  2. 3 cables W. off Cailleach Head to 5 cables North off Carn Dearg: 2NM 050° T
  3. 5 cables off Cearn Dearg to Ardmair beach: 6NM 100° T
  4. OR 5 cables off Carn Dearg to Rhue Lt: 5NM 110° T
  5. 1 cable off Rhue Lt to Ullapool Pt: 3 NM on 130° T

At Carn Dearg Point, we would have a choice whether to push on the Ullapool or reduce the passage by some three miles and head for Ardmair Bay if necessary. The total passage to Ullapool was 13 miles.

With a Ullapool HW at 0542, it meant we would have a fair tide ebbing under us from Badluarach to Cailleach Head which distance we expected to cover in about an hour, given we would be rowing into a northerly wind, but somewhat protected by the Scoraig peninsula till by the Cailleach light; then slackish water around Cailleach Head with the flood coming as we passed Carn Dearg. In theory…

This is the settlement of Scoraig, which has no roads or mains electricity
With clawed and gnarled hands clasped to the oars, our crew of Sea Wolves (with a combined age well north of six squared), left Badluarach jetty with the safety boat shepherding us at about 1000 and hauled into a light chop kicked up by the north wind over an ebb tide. Ron had the compass and was running Trails on my phone. He also had all the Snickers bars, which was a worry…

Cailleach Head
Progress was steady and indeed fun, punctuated by salty yarns and cake recipes – politics was banned, and so were the finer points of oar design and construction and any mention of Creative Writing. The steady northerly created a somewhat bumpy tide but was cooling for our heavy work; our slow and precise rhythm was rarely disturbed and it was with some relief that we could steer round Cailleach Head at shortly before midday – a little behind schedule – onto our next leg NE for two miles to Carn Dearg.

Achmore festival in 1988
The tide turned shortly after midday and lifted us gently into Loch Broom as we passed Carn Dearg at around 1330 well to our south – it has a reef below the cliffs – and the wind was now on our port quarter as we again altered course to row along the north coast of the Scoraig peninsula, past Achmore where in 1988 there was a festival.

A request of Ron, our sturdy cox, for a Snickers bar for the rowers was met with a blank stare and a cloaked eructation followed by the unmistakeable aroma of peanuts…

In the 1980’s the whole of Annat Bay was filled in winter time with Klondykers, the local name for the fishing boats and East European factory ships who processed mackerel and herring for their home markets.

Isle Martin
To port, as we approach the entrance to Loch Broom, is Isle Martin, now owned by a community trust.

Rhue light
Well, it was downhill all the way, as we passed Rhue Light at about 1400 now steering SE for the final three miles to Ullapool Point. The light breeze had backed slightly and was now ushering us over the flood tide towards home, yearning for the manic welcome, a ticker-tape parade along Shore Street, and maybe a pint – each! A lemonade for Anne.

We dragged Cùl Mòr up the wee pier at Ullapool at 1530, fighting our way through the hysterical mobs of small molluscs and a crab with a bugle. Now for that libation.

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