A rare day

On the west coast of Scotland, you will often hear the word “rare” (pron: rerr) being used to describe something that is very special, indeed quite rare. A “rare tear” (pron: rerr terr) would denote a most enjoyable event. Hopefully, that piece of information will help explain my post title, for indeed a “rerr” day was recently had within the otherwise murky depths of a Scottish November.

It seems that the weather had outwitted the Met Office’s predictions. The clouds parted, the sun shone, the wind died, and the temperature dipped. It was to be a clear, crisp winter’s day, with the first snows appearing on the mountain tops. For once, several other of the hardy paddlers in our group (well, 2 of them) had donned their dry suits, so it was official – winter has arrived.

Putting in at Portavadie

Putting in at Portavadie

We put in at Portavadie and proceeded across Loch Fyne to Tarbert in perfect conditions. The sea state was calm as we turned our attention to the beauty around us: the dramatic Arran mountains, the Argyllshire countryside, the artistic cloud formations, the sleek Rockpool Isels …

Tarbert really is picture postcard perfect, and especially if you approach it by kayak. This was the first time I had had the opportunity to view the actual harbour from the water, being that the ferry landing (most people’s usual arrival point) is situated before reaching the harbour. And what an interesting place it is! I got busy with my camera, photographing the combination of jaunty and rusty fishing boats, each one sporting colour and character, with names like “Our Lassie” and “Destiny”.

Picture postcard Tarbert

Picture postcard Tarbert

We landed next to a well-positioned waterside seating area where we consumed lunch. Certain members of our party ventured over to the shops to try to purchase some nourishment to go, but with limited success (cold, plasticky soup and microwaveable bacon rolls did not pass muster, sadly). And, of course, it seems that Tarbert had not escaped the curse of West Coast Scotland – the dreaded inconveniently closed toilet facilities (of which I have previously written). Our final disappointment in an otherwise highly satisfactory visit was the state of the water. It was only upon setting off again that we realised how very slick with oily sludge it was, covering our kayaks with slimy gunge (I did feel sorry for the swans living there). This caused some amount of anxiety to certain recently appointed Isel owners, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by a good cold water rubdown later (and the kayak cleaned up nicely too).

We returned to Portavadie at a leisurely pace, enjoying the social aspects of kayaking by engaging in a good blether. Indeed, kayaking is an activity wherein I have come to greatly appreciate the company of others. Not only is it handy to have folks around from a safety viewpoint, it is also good for one’s mental health. I do recommend it.

Fishing boat at Tarbert

Fishing boat at Tarbert

As I later sat down to review the photo haul of the day, a sinking feeling overcame me as I realised that many of my snaps had succumbed to another curse – the curse of the dreaded water droplets on the lens. I had been aware of these droplets and had attempted to clear them by dunking the camera in the water, by blowing on the lens and by licking the lens (I know, ewww … but desperate measures were required). It seems that those methods served no other purpose than to produce various states of wateriness. Alan helpfully remarked that it looked like I’d run the images through Photoshop’s “Drunk” filter. Oh, ha ha.

Never mind, it just makes the good shots, like the day, rare.


  1. Hello Pam, your problem is you have a waterproof camera.

    These fiendish contraptions have ruined more sea kayaking photos than anything else. If you spent £200 on one you, could have bought a really superb non waterproof camera and a dry bag. You might even have an old, non waterproof, digital camera lying about. Use it instead! I can almost guarantee it will take better photos than a waterproof camera. I have a 3mp Sony non waterproof camera from 2001 which takes far better photos than my brother’s brand new 2009 WS80 10mp waterproof camera.

    Once you get interested in photography, as you clearly are, you just won’t be able to accept the compromises of waterproof cameras.


  2. pamf says:

    Thanks for your insight, Douglas. You’re correct – I appear to be having about as much success with the waterproof camera as with a disposable model. I’ve taken over the role of Paddling Photographer-in-Chief in the absence of Alan, who is still sidelined due to injury (he can sympathise with you!). Quality of images has taken a marked downturn as a result, generally speaking (I am more of a “snapper” than a photographer). But Alan agrees that he is not happy with the camera and the eternal water droplet/misting/de-focusing/smudging problems. We shall continue to work on a solution! Meanwhile, I am glad that your blog is out there to truly depict Scottish paddling at its best.

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