A friend indeed

Erin (not in a kayak)

Erin

This blog post is dedicated to a very special friend – our first and original kayaking teacher, Erin. Erin is a woman of many talents – a paramedic, firefighting, marine biologist, Web developing, surfing, mountain biking, nature-loving kayaker (I’m sure I’ve missed something). She used to work as a guide for Monterey Bay Kayaks so we press-ganged her into telling us everything she knew about paddling during her first visit to Scotland. That was 2 years ago, when she braved the icy temperatures of Loch Eck (and, as it turned out, a bout of bronchitis) to get us up and running in our Capellas. We really didn’t know much at all back then, so it was a hugely appreciated head start.

A couple of weeks ago, Erin returned for a second visit and it was a real pleasure to go paddling with her on our home turf (so to speak). We’d already kayaked with her in Monterey Bay, where the wildlife frightened delighted us with their enthusiastic leaping and frolicking in the waves, so now it was our chance to let her see their more shy Scottish counterparts.

Erin

Out on the Clyde

During the first half of Erin’s stay, we started to fear that we wouldn’t actually get out on the water, so dismal were the conditions. It seemed that Erin would finally learn why her ancestors had left Scotland. It was proving a quite different experience from her first trip here when it appeared that she had brought the California weather with her. Happily this time, however, the weather had just been delayed by security at the border (sunny, warm conditions – very suspicious) but did arrive in time for us to take advantage.

The seals start to circle

The seals start to circle

Our first outing produced a most unexpected outcome – the first known case of a Californian overheating on Scottish waters. Poor Erin was sensibly wearing her surfer’s thick neoprene wetsuit but, with temperatures climbing, she was cooking by the end of the day. In fact, we all were! But not before we had experienced another unexpected event. As we approached the Perch off of Innellan on our way to Bute, we suddenly became aware of a sense of being watched. It started with one seal, then we counted 2, then 3, all popping up to check us out. Before we knew it, we had been encircled by 7 seals. What a thing! Whilst some might have viewed this as a little sinister, it was clear that the seals were not closing in on us, but were simply inspecting us before allowing us to continue on our journey. It really was a special moment. That day, we also saw gannets, eider ducks, cormorants, terns, guillemots and – for the first time out on the Clyde from our kayaks, porpoises!

Porpoise

Porpoise

Undeterred by her near-melting experience, Erin requested to go out paddling again, so this time – more airily attired in a rash guard – she braved the unusual Scottish conditions once more. Yet again, we saw porpoises, as well as a little troupe of baby eider ducks. Unable to launch into their usual flapping-away frenzy at the merest sight of humans, the accompanying adults had to make do with guiding their little ones into giving us an extremely wide berth. More seals made their presence known with several snorts and plops from behind us.

Two of my favourite people

Two of my favourite people

Erin has gone back to California now, leaving us with a great sense of sadness that she is so far away. It seemed that the Scottish critters put in a special showing for her visit – perhaps, like us, they recognised and appreciated a true and special friend.

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