The memories of things I did while on Islay which made the most lasting impressions have almost all got something to do with being out on a boat. It started with my first ever sailing to Islay on a Calmac ferry and the excitement to arrive in Port Ellen. I can still recall almost every detail of that crossing. The gaelic speaker announcing our departure, the sea-birds out on the sea, the clear blue sea, the sudden appearance of a minke whale, stunning big skies and the first glimpses of Jura, Islay and the three distilleries in the distance, it was all magical. Ever since that first ferry journey our many trips on boats in the waters around our beautiful island have been amazing, each and every time. Every trip had something memorable and today another chapter was added…
The Gulf of Corryvreckan
Gus from Islay Sea Adventures had organised a trip to Corryvreckan, the whirlpool between the islands of Scarba and Jura. Corryvreckan is something special and legend tells us that a prince, Breackan, died while trying to show his courage to a princess of the isles while staying out in the gulf of Corryvreckan for three days and nights.
The dangerous currents, standing waves and sudden calm waters between the two islands of Jura and Scarba usually appear around the changing of the tides. and most of all during spring tide. These effects are caused when in and outgoing tides enter the narrow strait between the two islands while being pushed up and down by deep waters of around 150 to 250 metres with a pinnacle in the middle which rises up to 30 metres below the surface. The Corryvreckan whirlpool is in fact the third largest in the world and only experienced skippers are able to navigate these waters during tidal changes.
On that perfectly calm day with hardly any wind, saw two of Gus’s boats departure from Port Askaig in the afternoon and on their way to Corryvreckan, the Wave Dancer and the RIB. First we sailed along the wild west coast of Jura, while admiring the many caves, Glenbatrick Lodge, the raised beaches, the wild goats, Red Deer on the hill and the dramatic views, all during calm and sunny conditions. However, as soon as we came closer to Scarba the sea suddenly changed as bigger waves appeared and the boat started to rock. This was Corryvreckan, a fabulous mix of standing waves, whirlpools, sudden calm surfaces and everything in between.
I’ve never had such an amazing experience on the sea. Waves taller than our boat where catching up on us while Gus skilfully manoeuvred the boat around them, surfing on them and played with the currents. We were all speechless and admired this exhilarating spectacle of nature while trying to capture the crazy seas with a camera. It felt like being inside a washing machine, it was more than amazing.
This was another one of those experiences I’ll remember for the rest of my live and, while discussing this over a dram of Ardbeg Corryvreckan in Pig Bay, so felt the others. The timing to see Corryvreckan couldn’t have been better, all thanks to Gus of Islay Sea Adventures and his crew. These guys know how to make us landlubbers happy. Thanks Gus, Alec and Harold, it was fabulous.