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This stretch of water from the Northern end of the Sound of Sleat, north through Kyle Rhea and on West through Kyle Akin and under the Skye Bridge is a much used, sheltered passage into and out of the Minch. The tidal streams run back and forth through it at up to 8 knots through Kyle Rhea and about 3 to 3.5 knots past Kyle of Loch Alsh; get it wrong and you could spend quite a few hours getting through the two miles of Kyle Rhea!!
Tidal Stream Timings
North going stream is from 6 hours after HW Ullapool up to 6 or 7 kts at Springs
South going stream is from HW Ullapool up to 8 knots at Springs.
In both instances the water sluicing out of the Kyle forms eddies and quite fierce overfalls where wind opposes tide.
Chart 2540-1 and the CCC cruising notes provide tidal streams for the 12 hour cycle. Note that there is a back eddy on the East side of the Kyle which means that for a short distance the current is South bound there for the whole of the cycle; this wouldn’t be a problem unless you meet something large ploughing south whilst you are creeping North - don’t let him don’t let him push you too far over to starboard!!
Kyle Akin (Under the Skye Bridge)
East going stream starts 4 hours and 20 minutes before HW Ullapool on Springs and at HW Ullapool on Neaps
West going stream starts 4 hours after HW Ullapool on Springs and 6 hours after HW Ullapool on Neaps.
The other thing to bear in mind is that, most of the time, when the stream is South bound in Kyle Rhea it is flowing out of Loch Duich and that means that if you are on passage between the Skye Bridge and Loch Duich or vice versa you will need to be a bit clever on your times, especially at spring tides. It can also mean that if you arrive at Kyleakin and find no room in the inn your options may be limited because Loch Duich, which could be the best alternative in a SW blow, may be a tide too far.
You can access the Tidal streams in Kyle Rhea here Tidal streams
As we have said, this is a busy bit of water, not only is there a constant flow of cruising yachtsmen, the harbour at Kyle of Lochalsh is home to a fair few fishing vessels of one sort or another, there are supply vessels running from here out to the islands, there are also support vessels for the submarine warfare practice ranges in the Inner Sound, the Kyle of Lochalsh ILB is out practicing most evenings and there is a glass bottom boat taking trippers out to look at the bottom several times a day! (This now operates from the Kyleakin side and is no longer taking up berthing space at Kyle of Lochalsh
There are two main facilities for cruisers, one on the North side (Kyle of Lochalsh) and the other on the Skye side (Kyleakin); Kyleakin is run by the Highland Council whilst the pontoons at Kyle of Lochalsh are now run by the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust These towns/villages used to be the termini for the ferry over to Skye, and you just have to look at the Railway Station to see how busy this place used to be (though half the building is given over to a museum these days).
Both have wide slips as an inheritance from the ferries but nowadays these are used mainly for launching kayaks & RIBS. Virtually all the berths at Kyleakin on Skye have been leased to local boats and there is not much room there for visiting boats.
This is unfortunate because the pontoon on the other side, at Kyle of Lochalsh, is exposed to strong West to South West winds and also subject to the wash from vessels to-ing and fro-ing from the old railway pier et alia. (had it been otherwise no doubt the locals would be leasing permanent moorings here as well)
There are also moorings available off the beach at Kyleakin opposite the Kings Arms of which three blue ones at the Bridge end of the trot are for visitors. I believe that there is a charge for their use but there is no record of anyone being approached to pay it! You will find that, in mid season and especially if there is a blow forecast, the pontoon at Kyleakin is double banked by teatime and boats are scurrying about looking for shelter throughout the evening; the HM at Kyle of Lochalsh may even have to close the pontoon if there is significant weather threatened.
In these situations you will find an assortment of anchorages along the sides of Loch Alsh and into Loch Duich and people who are familiar with the area often go straight past both facilities and anchor in Loch Duich from choice, planning to pass the North end of Kyle Rhea at LW slack.
From the South you have to navigate through Kyle Rhea.....
..... picking your time carefully and leaving an hour or so of flood to continue on to Kyle Akin or Loch Duich. The overfalls marked on the chart at the Southern end of Kyle Rhea are active on the ebb and so won’t affect you going North. On the other hand, if you are motoring South against the wind you can expect to encounter them as you leave the Kyle.
From the North or West make for our NW Waypoint and then make good a track of 126°T to pass under the bridge. Once clear of the bridge stay on an easterly heading until abeam the Kings Arms at Kyleakin before making for the pontoon at Kyle of Lochalsh.
This track will keep you clear of the rocks to the WSW of that pontoon but bear in mind that you will be being swept East by the tide and will have to aim off quite a bit to maintain that track. If you are hoping to clew up in Kyleakin go a cable past the end of the slip before turning back in towards the pontoon and watch out for the dolphins (Dns) on the SE side of the fairway.
In 2015 and again in 2016 they made improvements to the pontoons at Kyle of Lochalsh;
They have added more pontoons and rearranged them so that deep draft boats can moor on all sides of the facility. They have laid five new mooring buoys to the West of the pontoons in the small bay between the bridge and the pontoons and they say they can ferry people to and fro the pontoons but I believe there may be a path up to the road from the small beach in that bay (don't forget that there is a about a 4m range in tide at Springs if you are leaving your dinghy unattended here)
There is normally shore power (16 amp and 32 amp) on the pontoons and there is water from two points with a hose supplied. They will charge £3 per night for the 16 amp and £6 per night for the 32 amp.
Update for 2022. The shore power was damaged when they reinstalled the pontoons this year so, for this year (2022) only there is no shore power.
Water on both pontoons and electricity on the Kyle of Lochalsh pontoon but for everything else you have to rely on the towns (which is par for the course at most Highland Council Harbours)
Kyle of Lochalsh. Showers and toilets available in the community building behind the railway slip but these are locked from 2000 to 0900. This facility has been taken over by the Community Trust and has refurbished to include a laundrette. They are trying to find a way of allowing visiting yachtsmen access during the night. There is Wifi here now at £3 for a log on of 1 hour or £5 for 24 hours
When they are closed you can shower at the swimming pool at the other end of town (that opens quite early in the morning). Diesel can be obtained by arrangement with the HM or auto diesel from the garage in cans. Petrol, Calor Gas and Camping Gaz is also available at the garage.
There is a huge Co-Op up behind the hotel on the foreshore and a complete range of shops including a small chandlery. If you need it there is a very good computer fixer just over the traffic lights (guess how we found that out!!)
Kyleakin. There are no public toilets at Kyleakin, the nearest available are at a pub a quarter of a mile along the harbour and, of course, you have the embarrassment of asking to use them without purchasing anything- when they are open. All you get for your mooring fee is the cleats and water.
The Lochalsh Hotel is the most convenient for eating but is much used as an overnight stop by tour operators so you would be wise to pre-book. Other than that there are several eateries and pubs in the two main streets of the town.
The museum at the Railway Station is a place you could visit on a rainy day.
At Kyleakin there are several hotels, the largest of which is the Kings Arms but, again, that is much used by bus tour operators so you are probably better off using one of the smaller eateries.