A call to paddlers and others

Paul in trainingIf you are a sea kayaker in the west of Scotland, your assistance in sought in a special event targeted for 23 June 2012 (weather dependent). The event is a swim across the Clyde and kayaking safety support is being requested. This is a swim with a purpose that is close to my heart.

Paul Kerr is a former Royal Marine Commando who has always prided himself in being a fit and able individual. At the age of 26, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition which has given him his own considerable personal battles to fight. At the time of diagnosis, he foresaw a future filled with worst case scenarios involving wheelchairs, home carers and general disability. With the advancement of medicine, as well as improved awareness of the role of nutrition, lifestyle and a positive mindset – and despite having endured significant symptoms – Paul continues to challenge himself in defiance of those initial fears.  Two years ago, he completed the UK’s 24 Hour Three Peaks Mountain Challenge in 22 hours and 30 minutes. This year, with some friends, he is going to swim across the Clyde from Cloch Lighthouse to the Breakwater off Dunoon Pier, a distance of 1.4 nm.

Three Peaks ChallengeThe purpose of this swim is to try and show another side of living with MS to newly diagnosed sufferers, and to encourage those who are coming to terms with such a diagnosis.

Paul is also raising funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre, an organisation which provides excellent information resources and support to those with MS.

Some readers will know that I also received this diagnosis some 3 years ago. I won’t ever forget the ferry journey home from my hospital appointment as I wept over visions of a melted future.  One of my first priorities was to search for any information I could find about people who were able to somehow continue doing what they loved whilst living with MS. To me, this was almost more important than researching the condition and its treatment. Of course, the worst case scenarios leapt out at me at every turn, and it was only through grasping on to the stories and efforts of people such as Paul that I kept myself out of an abyss of despair. I would very much like to help pass this along.

In support of Paul, around 20 swimmers are anticipated to participate. He is co-ordinating with Clyde Coast Guard and Clydeport, as well as organising RIB safety cover and media coverage (in particular via the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre).  Full details will be confirmed as the date approaches.

If you’d like to join in, please give me a shout, leave a comment or use the contact form. Whether or not you can make it,  you can sponsor Paul –  his JustGiving page is here. You don’t even have to be a sea kayaker to do that!

Your help is greatly appreciated.

The kayak chronicles

It has come to my attention that, at an average of 2 excursions on the water per week, my backlog of potential blog posts is growing at an alarming rate. The only way to fully catch up would be to stop paddling for a bit and do nothing but blog, but that is rather a Catch 22 situation and asking too much. As a compromise, I’ll share with you the highlights of the past month or so:

  • MV Captayannis wreck, River Clyde

    A visit to the “sugar boat” (the MV Captayannis) in the Clyde off Helensburgh. I recall the night it was wrecked, and it was all the talk of my primary school the next day. The ship itself dates back to the 1940s (it was wrecked somewhat later, I hasten to add) and is now the home (or at least perch) of sea birds and other marine critters, for whom it provides a “fragrant” environment. Being able to view an historic and personally meaningful shipwreck above water is quite a unique opportunity and beats having to don a diving suit!

  • PS Waverly and kayakers in Kyles of Bute

    PS Waverley and kayakers in Kyles of Bute

    A pleasant paddle in the Kyles of Bute culminating in our attendance at the Colintraive Fete immediately upon our emergence off the water. As we trailed our soggy presence through the crowds and stalls, many strange looks were cast our way. Apparently, wetsuits and cags are not de rigueur at a country fete. It was a relief to stumble upon a friendly and welcoming face – that of Andy, the chief burger flipper who, when he is not flipping venison burgers, is a fellow paddler.

  • Clyde Swim 2010

    Clyde Swim 2010

    A return journey across the Clyde in order to accompany swimmers participating in the cross-Clyde charity swim which was being supported, as per tradition, by the RWSABC. Each swimmer was appointed a kayaker to guide them across the river, and it was up to the kayaker to assess the best (and fastest) “line”. This introduced a slightly more competitive element to the kayaking proceedings than I had anticipated and the responsibility weighed heavily upon me, for a few seconds at least. I soon realised that the presence of slack water and the allocation of a fast swimmer reduced any need for strategic tidal planning on my part and my role reverted comfortably to that of security blanket, so to speak. Hats off to the swimmers that day for their sterling efforts which were quite inspiring (must get back to the pool and work on swimming fitness!).

  • Rolling practice is of course ongoing, mostly occurring along the shores of the Clyde or in Loch Eck. My on-side has been tested in a variety of kayaks now and is still “on” (hooray), while my offside has progressed from DOA to sporadically AWOL, with occasional bouts of FUBAR.

  • Surfing waves on Loch Fyne

    Surfing waves on Loch Fyne

    A windy weekend spent surfing (and a bit of slogging) on Loch Fyne, interspersed with refuelling stops in civilised tea/lunch establishments at Castle Lachlan and Inveraray. These outings were marked with some poignancy, being that Julia was about to go under the knife that Monday to have her knee ligaments reorganised. At least she managed to squeeze the very last droplet of saltwater out of the weekend.

  • Loch Caolisport, Knapdale, Argyll

    Loch Caolisport, Knapdale, Argyll

    A quiet and peaceful outing to Loch Caolisport. Whenever I mention this loch to anyone, I am greeted with a quizzical look – which might explain why we had the place entirely to ourselves (apart from one prawn fishing boat, some seals and seabirds). With beautiful views of Jura and Islay and a lovely lunch beach, it has a lot to offer. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that.

  • Paddling on Loch Linnhe

    Paddling on Loch Linnhe

    A day spent paddling around the north end of Lismore. This brought to mind our first ever kayaking trip of any significance, which took place at that location. It’s pleasing to reflect on how those first tentative paddlestrokes have led to something that’s now approaching a way of life. This is a scenically awesome area, and under 2 hours’ drive away from where we live. The wind reached F5 on our return journey to the Benderloch vicinity, resulting in quite an effort. “Rotation” was the order of the day, as I worked to engage my very toe muscles in assisting my rapidly tiring arms and shoulders in the battle against the wind. It was, however, definitely worth it.

As always, the many kayaking opportunities presented to us have been thanks to the availability of an ever-expanding array of amiable paddling companions whose company we have much appreciated. Not least of these of course is Julia who is now off the water momentarily whilst mending from her knee surgery.  Hopefully, it won’t be long before we see her return – better, stronger, faster than she was before! We wish her a full and speedy recovery.

Paddling on Loch Linnhe

North of Lismore

So take the photographs
And still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf
In good health and good time …

It’s something unpredictable
But in the end it’s right.
I hope we have the time of our lives.

Time of Your Life, Nimrod, Green Day