Extreme Sports in Argyll: By Mike Murray

This page is dedicated to the memory of Freddie Stewart of Craignish, one of the nicest guys ever.

Freddie Stewart - The Unforgiving Waters of the Corryvreckan

Freddie died of hypothermia in April 2007, aged 23, after setting off in his kayak ill-equipped.

These waters are very unforgiving.

Kayaking / Sea Canoes

Kayaking picture, Corryvreckan Whirlpool - Water Sports in Scotland

All I would say on the matter is that the Gulf of Corryvreckan does NOT play by the rules. The tides are often out of synch with the published tables. Wind and the direction of it, Barometric pressure, and weather systems out in the Atlantic all play a great part in the behaviour of the waters. The forces at work are immense and should not be treated lightly or with any sense of bravado. Specific and detailed local knowledge of the tidal patterns and eddies are essential.

Gulf of Corryvreckan Map - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland - Useful Map For Paddlers!

I have been personally involved in assisting a MAYDAY operation when two paddlers got into difficulty on the SW corner of Scarba. One of them had become exhausted. They hoisted a parachute flare, which was seen by a yacht in the area, but that vessel was not within VHF coverage of the coastguard. On hearing the MAYDAY RELAY, I again relayed it on to the Coastguard. Fast RIBS then came to the rescue and all was well.

Gulf of Corryvreckan Picture - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland - A Big Upthrust From The Whirlpool!

Perhaps the most detailed map for kayak / sea paddlers is a segment from the 1854 Admiralty survey [above]. Please click on the chart to view a larger version.

Sea Kayaking Useful Links

There are a number of web logs and websites helpful and of interest to the sea paddler. Please see:

Diving

The same comments apply as above, but with the added warning that this website and its contributors will not be held liable for the use or misuse of any information provided in good faith on the website and any death or loss incurred. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND DIVING IN THIS AREA.

That said it is possible for the most experienced divers to undertake a dive onto the pinnacle.

Link to UK Diving Website - Gulf of Corryvreckan Picture - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland

Other people's experiences can be found at ...

... And, for some real excitement, please have a look at:

Gulf of Corryvreckan Picture - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland - General Area Chart

Warning!! Dangerous Anomaly!!

In certain conditions between Eilean Beag and the rock to the east of it a huge wave can rise up out of nowhere! If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would scarcely believe it, but I have a witness, James Gray, who was beside me in the wheelhouse of Gemini at the time.

We had stopped in Pig Bay for the usual coffee break and were heading out for home. The tides were full spring ebb and there was a W-NW swell coming into the Gulf with a fair breeze. In these conditions 'River Rapid' in the blow-up can be quite turbulent with the tide funnelling between the rock and Jura. If I had young clients who were up for a bit of lumpiness I might go through it, but that day there were very young kids and some elderly, so there was no way I was going out through that side!

Between Eilean Beag and the rock, the ebb tide flows across the 5m shallows like glass and you can re-join the main flow past the worst of the rapids. As I approached a point level with the rock to my E a huge wall of water rose up, at least the height of my wheelhouse roof, green, sheer faced, no breaking top, about 50-70 yards ahead of me.

Gulf of Corryvreckan Picture - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland - Chart Showing Specific Place Where Incident Occurred!

I rapidly did a 'hand-brake turn' which with twin engines was relatively easy but even then with the full ebb behind us, we were swept down on this awesome sight. I powered up and held the boat against the tide while Jim and I stared in amazement at the wave with the same question on our lips 'Where Did That Come From?' I held the boat for a minute or two and the wave subsided again to glassy calm.

If the boat had been 50 yards ahead of where we were then I hate to think what might have been the result. The Northerly swell must meet the tidal force against it at the point that the steep shelf that falls away from 5m to 24m, generating the wave, is my guess.

Gulf of Corryvreckan Picture - Extreme Sports in Argyll, Scotland - Illustration Copyright: Rebecca Barnett
Illustration Copyright: Rebecca Barnett

Swimming

In 1984 Bill Dunn, who married George Orwell's sister Avril and who had lived at Barnhill with them helping them run the farm in the 1940s, swam across the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Bill swam the Gulf to celebrate the year of Orwell's book 1984 and raised several thousand pounds for the Erskine Hospital.

Bill later lived on the Craignish Peninsula. He was a great character, full of fun and took a daily swim in the hill loch behind his house. He had a tremendously powerful physique but was hampered by the loss of one leg to the Germans in the war. A fact that he was often to remind people of in the bar of the Galley of Lorne, Ardfern!

Craignish Cruises, Ardfern Yacht Centre, Ardfern, Argyll, Scotland PA31 8QN

Telephone: +44 (0) 7747 023038 Email: Lindsay@sealeopard.org

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