Tag Archives: packrafting in northwest scotland

Sigma TXL • Tandem sea packrafting

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Up in northwest Scotland’s Summer Isles we are having a one-day break from the wind and rain – a chance to try the TXL in tandem mode. We could have gone somewhere familiar, like just outside, but decided to explore the coastline of Eddrachillis Bay near Drumbeg, an hour or two away. We planned to cross from one inlet-loch to the next.
On the day winds were 10mph but building, and the tides were nearly 4.5 metres (14-feet) springs (there was a rare blood moon / eclipse that night), so in the packraft we had to pick our moment.

Full of northern promise: the isle and inlet riddled south shore of Eddrachillis Bay around Drumbeg

The great thing with the TXL or any packraft, as opposed to my IK, is it weighs 80% less, so walking cross-country to the water and getting off pretty much anywhere is easily done. With the longer hull you get at least 80% of an IK’s speed, but the reassurance of a larger boat compared to a most of my previous solo packrafts. I already knew from the recent Dorset run that the long TXL was better in choppy seas than I expected, even without the stiffening floor airmat. It remained to be seen how we’d both manage in the boat on the wilder northwest shores.

We size the boat up in the kitchen; looks like we’ll fit
The roller-coaster single-track road to Drumbeg. Turn right at the bridge into the woods
We follow a faint path and animal trails west along the Gleann Ardbhair to Loch Ardbhair
Nice to be in some native woodland; not a lot of it in the northwest
Narrow trail above the stream; I should have deployed my packstaff
First sight of Loch Ardbhair
A path on the map does not mean a way of crossing any dry stone walls at the end
A herd of 20 deer scattered just as we got here
My Flextail electric mini-pump packed up after just a year so it’s back to old-school airbagging
Just 30 mins before low water a lethal sea-rapid still rips out through Loch Ardbhair narrows
Out in Eddrachillis Bay it’s choppy but manageable. The boat feels a little sluggish and soft so we’re paddling hard. Like the high-volume MRS Nomad, it needs a second top-up once on the water
In fact we’re doing 6-7kph with the wind at near slack water which makes things appear deceptively slow
I decide we’d left it too late to get round the spikey headland of Rubha na Maoile (left of pic)
Who knows what the turning tide does around there
So we turn into the in-between-bay of Camas nam Bad and make for the far shore
There’s still too much of a swell to rest the gorillapod on a rock for a passing selfie
Faster than we felt
In Camas nam Bad the Mrs nips ashore and I go for a little scoot-about. Feels nippier solo, but no faster.
Need to watch out for spiny sea urchins exposed at very low tides
Awkward scramble to the grass to deflate in comfort
I know they’re better than twist locks, but sometimes I wish these seats had a fast dump valve
It’s an easy mile’s walk to a point on Loch Nedd where I could be sure access was easy
This time I pack the gear in the side tubes for more room
And this time I remember to re-top-up once on the water a few minutes
The boat now feels more responsive but we’re into a headwind now so only do about 4.5kph with the tide
Loch Nedd was a bit boring or over too soon. We should have put in further up after all
Next time it might be fun to leave from here at HW and head west to the isle-filled bay of Loch Drumbeg
A long hike back to the car
At the back, Quinaig mountain, 809m
On Quinaig one time, looking back towards Drumbeg, Oldney Island and Point of Stoer
Need to do a bit more floating next time