Articles from August 2007

Waving, not drowning

As the weather turned positively summer-like last week, Alan and I took the opportunity to bunk off work and go practice not-drowning (aka self/assisted rescues) in Loch Eck one afternoon. The conditions, of course, didn’t exactly match those that one might predict would necessitate a real-life rescue situation, but we have to start somewhere. We commenced with self rescues and my most immediate issue was, as before, a complete inability to lift and twist the capsized kayak to get at least some of the water out. So I end up working with a kayak that’s full of water and incredibly tippy. I managed to re-enter by hauling myself in from the stern, but it was like walking a tightrope in my attempt not to tip over. All the while, the usual thoughts reverberate around my head: this would be such a non-starter in rough conditions and I am therefore doomed. Not very encouraging. The same thoughts accompanied my efforts to use a paddle float which were ultimately successful, but am I really going to be faffing about inflating a float, attaching the paddle to deck lines, having it fall out, re-attaching, still trying not to tip etc etc in an emergency situation? My gut feel all along has been that I simply need to learn a quick way to get the water out (or as much as possible) and get in, period. If I can’t learn this, then the future of my sea kayaking activities is in doubt. (more…)

Sea change

At a time in life when it feels like some of the pleasures (I won’t say follies) of youth are catching up and restricting you, it is all the more exhilarating to pick up a new activity. Just when things are shutting down, like hillwalking due to bum knees (Alan), running due to gammy hip (me), something opens up and makes you feel like you’re 20 again – mentally at least. It’s like setting back the mileometer on life a little.

sea kayakingI speak of our latest foray into the world of sea kayaking. Sea kayaking is not an activity that you can simply dabble with, it really does require a certain level of commitment because of the safety factor which can’t be trivialised. The parallels with hillwalking are many: exploring wilderness and nature, physical exertion, navigation and weather awareness etc, but one big difference is the immediacy of danger from the sea versus the hills. Hence, there are a lot more new skills to learn right from the start. For example: capsize recovery and rescue – from the easier assisted rescue, to the difficult self-rescue in choppy waters; kayak rolling (for when you’d really prefer to avoid capsizing); paddling technique; and seamanship (awareness of navigation, tides, weather, safety equipment and procedures etc). With the exception of rolling perhaps, you really need to have a grounding in all of these things before you can even go out for a short paddle in the sea. A bit of wind in the hills has no major impact to a hillwalking outing, but it can seriously challenge a beginner’s paddling skills to the extent of placing the paddler in danger. The disturbing prospect of bobbing around helplessly in Scottish waters whilst (if you’re lucky) clinging to an upturned kayak brings the need for safety awareness sharply into focus. (more…)