Sea kayaking Expeditions – Good for the soul?


Expeditioning and journeying have been fundamental in human existence. Columbus set off in 1492 to circumnavigate the world and access the riches of India and China but discovered the Americas were blocking the way and the globe was actually quite a bit bigger than he thought. In 563 St Columba set off from Ireland and ended up on Iona and is credited with bring Christianity to Britain. Both fairly massive contributions to the world we live in now.

Going on a 3 day paddle, walk or cycle may not change the world but, it may change you and that is pretty important.

So, what impact does expeditioning have on us as individuals? Is expeditioning good for the soul and if so, how and why?

For me the memories of being out on a multi day kayaking, sailing or walking journey are so varied.

  • the serenity of mirror smooth water rounding the Kyles of Bute, the kayak cutting effortlessly through the water
  • the sense of satisfaction having battled against wind and tide to make camp on a forgotten beach, set up camp , made dinner and now sipping a hot chocolate laced with a dram as the sun liquefies into the sea.
  • shared recollections, years later, of how we managed our fear through the crazy waves of the Goose Race to the west of Skomer Island.
  • the privilege of secretly watching otters play with each other in the kelp off the west coast of Mull
  • the rhythm of checking the weather, planning the day, breaking camp, being with my thoughts, my body, away from it all.
  • exploring hidden bays, offshore islands and isolated beaches
  • being at one with my boat in the ocean swells and currents between the Torran rocks and Erraid island
  • being creative to find solutions to mend broken footrests or damaged rudders

And so many more recollections, reminiscences and memories of living in the moment, with the natural environment, for no particular reason apart from it’s out there and why not!

Come and join one of our 2023 expeditions here

Wayfarer Expedition around Mull



In the winter of 2006, my friend Neil rang up and said he was thinking of sailing a Wayfarer dinghy around Mull and would I like to join him? “Delighted”, I replied, I had just finished reading Frank Dye’s book – Ocean Crossing Wayfarer – and I thought if he can sail to the Faroes and Norway in a Wayfarer, sailing round Mull should be a breeze!

We met up on Iona, where Neil was living at the time, to set up the boat and make sure we had everything. The weather was not great, a fresh southerly had been blowing and created a steep swell running down the sound of Iona. In addition, I was not feeling great, could have been a dodgy prawn sandwich in Oban, definitely, not ideal in a small dinghy!

Day 1
The next day the wind had eased and we set off in the general direction of Staffa. As you can see from the photo, there was still a fair swell and we decided that sailing on just the jib would give us more than ample speed. We kept a sharp eye out for dolphins but they were somewhere else so we made do with the beautiful puffins swooping around near Staffa.

We gave Staffa a wave and headed past Gometra to arrive in the beautiful
Calgary bay – golden sand, trees, toilets and a pub. It was Neil’s birthday, so after anchoring and wading ashore, that’s where we headed.




1. Iona to Calgary
2. Calgary to Callach return
3. Calgary to Lochdon via Tobermory
4. Lochdon to Scoor
5 Scoor to Iona





Day 2

Refreshed after an evening in the pub we set out towards Callach Point – the NW tip of Mull, renowned for overfalls, standing waves, boils and swirlies – not to mention the odd sea monster. The wind was a bit stronger and we headed upwind into the waves to give ourselves plenty of room away from the rocky cliffs that flank the point. This caution was fortuitous – as we approaching the corner the steering suddenly went slack, and to my horror I saw the snapped rudder gently bob away from us on the swell. 

“Don’t worry” I said to Neil, “I am a RYA instructor and can sail rudderless”. The dinghy then proceeded to perform circles, some small some large. ‘this is not right’ I thought ‘this, should not be happening’

Then I saw the large rip in the mainsail – things were more serious…   We tied an oar to the back for steering, took down the main and coaxed the boat back to Calgary on the jib, and headed to the pub.

The Pub was amazing – “borrow our workshop, use the land rover”. It was not long before we had a new rudder and a borrowed mainsail and the next day we set off again.

Day 3

We got round Callach point in light winds and a refreshing rain shower, the droplets bouncing off the sea. Next stop was Tobermory where we had minor repairs to our borrowed main sail and bought a new set of oars as one broke has we rowed into the beautiful harbour. Replenished with ice cream we careered off down the Sound of Mull, wind and tide together, spinnaker up, we hurtled along at over 7 knots!

That night we camped in Lochdon, and experienced the beauty of otters and the horrors of midge Armageddon. However, it was good to be on the south coast heading back towards Iona.

Day 4


Wind was light as we sailed west towards Carsaig – we lounged in the Wayfarer enjoying the awe inspiring cliffs south of Lochbuie and the amazing Carsaig Arches. But, by mid afternoon the wind started to pick up and we quickly reefed our sails – not a moment too soon, it was gusting a good force 5 and the boat was heeling alarmingly in the heavy gusts. We headed for the nearest shelter – a small circular bay protected from the wind.

Day 5

We were glad to be ashore as the wind picked up more and more, a day in the tent and exploring the area seemed preferable than being blown to Ireland if we had any mishaps. It was quite boring though!


Day 6

Could have been my last! I was looking for somewhere to do my morning ablutions as we waited for the tide to come in and lift the boat off the sand, when I walked around a small rocky bluff. It was a bit muddy and so I stepped onto a grassy tussock and then immediately sunk straight up to my armpits into a treacherous bog, I held the loo paper above my head while kicking around in the water and found an ancient plank to help struggle onto the firm ground. Close shave!


The rest of the day was absolutely beautiful, turquoise seas and pink granite cliffs marked the way along the Mull south coast. Beautiful white sand beaches, seals and eagles it was amazing and light winds led us back to Iona after an epic trip!



Setting sail by Jane Shillingford


I recently had the chance to join this course and thought a few words about how it went might encourage anyone thinking about having a go themselves

Our first day began with cheery greetings from Jon, our instructor.  Then, clad from top to toe with Bendoran’s amazing water wardrobe, we met the Wayfarer that we would be learning to sail.

Whilst the boat was still ashore, we had an introduction to its anatomy, sailing terms and some practice at tacking.  Next we wheeled the boat on its trolley into the water and learned how to rig it and raise the sails.  Ok, so now we had a floating Wayfarer with 2 sails a-flapping rather like an enthusiastic dog awaiting a walk.

Jon took us out of the bay, explaining the importance of setting the sails to get the best of the wind, then showed us how to tack.  Hmmmm… looked nice and easy, calm and controlled, so then followed our turns.  Well, like most things, easy when you know how but for us novices, getting the hang of the correct hand for the tiller and main sail sheet and swopping sides to balance the boat when we tacked as well as looking where we were going and remembering which way the wind was coming from, was serious multi tasking!  But, my word, what patience Jon has, calmly correcting our mistakes, acknowledging our successes and throwing in a story or two as we went.

Once out at the head of the bay, we sailed some long stretches, our tacking skills slowly improving.  All too soon it was lunchtime but hey, that gave us the opportunity of learning how to bring the boat safely back to the jetty, nice and gently.  Back out again in the afternoon for some more practice after Jon had done some more explaining of manoeuvres with lovely sketches on the whiteboard.

On the second day, our whiteboard lesson showed us how to gybe (“mind yer head”) and to run before the wind, so we both did our best to transfer the theory into practice once out on the water.  Sure we got it wrong a number of times but Jon’s encouragement seems endless and we both had periods where we really sailed well (honestly).  In the afternoon we had a go at steering to a 3 point course, which would use all the skills we’d been learning and do you know, on reflection, that was actually quite a lot.

These were 2 wonderful foundation days, in the lovely setting of Bendoran, for us to build on – rain, sun, wind, gusts (look out for dark patches on the water), lack of wind and the exhileration of flying along the water (when you got it right) and the real fun and support of teamwork.

So, to anyone thinking of having a go, think less, just do it.  These will be two days that you’ll never forget.  Thank you Jon.

The Bendoran Story

Bendoran has always been one of the most sheltered anchorages on Scotland’s west coast. Legends of sea monsters and Viking raids are common in this area. in the 20th century it was used as mooring for Calmac ferries and famously the sea bed is littered with the remains of a munitions ship that sunk there and then was blown up to prevent people from accessing the cargo following the second world war!

More recently the site was used as a boat yard by local man Nigel Burgess and then the big boat shed was converted into a lobster holding store so that lobster could be caught in the summer then held until the peak prices of Christmas. Unfortunately, this did not work out and the boat shed and buildings were abandoned, the shed knocked down and the only use of the site was for private holiday cottages.

However, in the summer of 2018, the site was put up for sale and the local community development organsisation – SWMID, had the great idea of buying the site for the people of South West Mull and Iona. After consulting local people and applying to the Scottish Land Fund which supports community ownership of land and land assets as a means of redressing the inequalities of land ownership that have occurred over the centuries. SWMID writes:

“In October 2019, with a grant of £450,487 secured from the Scottish Land Fund, SWMID purchased a 2 acre shoreside site at Bendoran for the long-term benefit of local people.

• Processing facilities for a community-owned seaweed farm
• A water-sports centre, run separately by a soon-to-be-formed local social enterprise
• Moorings for local and visiting boats
• Boat maintenance area (in the future)”

SWMID continued to raise funds for the site and in January 2021 obtained a grant of £100K to restore the site and plans are afoot to remove derelict buildings, build a dedicated parking space, renovate the slipway and build a new boat shed.