Raasay - Rona - Raasay

'there and back again'
A short journey to Rona
by sea kayak
Sunday 24th April
It was an extremely windy night and Alan was convinced his flexing tent was going to collapse.
We had all dozed, every big gust of wind interrupting beauty sleep. You could say we were rested but not refreshed.

On the water at a respectable 9am our aim was a
'round of Rona'.
Elizabeth was poorly and opted to fester in her sleeping bag, so the fearless four left the sanctuary of our bay, launching made easier as it was close to high water.
In the Caol Rona it was breezy with a small swell.
As we left the shelter of Eilean Tigh conditions changed to 'more challenging'.

With hindsight it was an exhilarating crossing into the very sheltered Acairseid Mhor on Rona.

The breaking swell on this short crossing was on the beam, and Andy demonstrated an effective low brace.
A real one, not just a practice!
It was calm in the arm of the bay. Our landing place was a tiny pocket handkerchief of grass, which had been close cropped by Greylag Geese.
Lots of squidgy goose droppings underfoot....
The Lomo Boys were glad of their dry suits on the crossing.
Bill had wanted to explore Rona's interior, I don't think he visualised this!
It was a really steep climb out of the bay and the heather growth is best described as 'rank'.

Views quickly opened up, what you can't see is the white capped waves beyond the island.
It felt an almost vertical ascent, the Lomo Boys boiled on the toil up this slope.
Looking at the streaked sea from our lofty vantage point convinced us it would be foolishly bold to continue our circumnavigation. The bay of Acairseid Mhor was flat calm, almost tempting us to continue.

Retreat was sensible.
Reluctantly leaving Acairseid Mhor, we passed through the gap between Eilean Garbh and the main island of Rona. The fresh breeze was funnelled here and it was straight on our nose. Quite hard work.
Bill briefly took a drink from his water bottle and a gap between him and the group immediately opened as he was blown backwards!
It took  a lot of extra effort to catch up.
Perversely, the sea state seemed less lively as we pulled away from Rona.
Splitting into teams of two, Ian and Alan took a different line to Andy and Bill.
Which pair had the smoother journey back? Hard to guess.
The picture below illustrates a problem taking pictures on rougher water; a splash on the lens can ruin a sequence of photographs; this time it provides a sense of movement.
Back in the shelter of Eilean Tigh it was much quieter and we rounded the bottom end of this tidal island.
The channel is delightfully narrow, it dries completely at low water
This little pup was very approachable, and appeared as interested in us, as we were in him.
It's a Common seal - one of the ways to tell the two Scottish species apart is by their noses!
  Common Seal      or       Grey Seal
all very difficult for amateurs!
We speculated that two pick heads driven into the shoreline rocks marked the driest passage at low water.
So much social history is lost when a local population moves, or is moved, on.
Popping through to the west (exposed) side of our channel gave another 'blast' of the wind's strength.
It had been a wise decision to turn back from Rona.
We had enjoyed our morning's adventure, lunch beckoned......would Elizabeth be surprised or annoyed that we were back early?
No denying we had a fantastic camp spot.

Distinguishing between Grey and Common Seals
Grey and Common Seals can be quite difficult to tell apart, although with practice it can be reasonably straightforward. Size is one factor distinguishing the two - Grey Seals are usually much bigger with a fully grown adult male or bull reaching 2.2m in length and weighing 220kgs, the females reaching 1.8m and weighing 150kg; the fully grown male Common Seal only reaches 1.5-1.8m and weighs 113kg with the female reaching 1.2-1.5m and weighing 113kg. There are also differences in the colour and patterns of the fur, although this feature is extremely variable and can vary with the sex, age, whether or not the fur is wet or dry and whether the animal is moulting (shedding and replacing) it's coat.
Probably the easiest way to tell them apart is the shape of the head.

Grey Seal                    Common Seal
Grey Seal profileCommon Seal profile
The Grey Seal has a much larger head with a high muzzle often referred to as a Roman nose; whereas the Common Seal has a low dog-like muzzle with a relatively rounded head and distinct forehead producing a much more appealing and expressive appearance. The nostrils of the Common Seal form a 'V' shape while the Grey's are much more parallel. The difference between the two species is not limited to their appearance, they also tend to have different habits.

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