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 Рthat 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

Escape to Islay

As if we haven’t had enough excellent trips by way of the Garnock Canoe Club this year, we’ve just come back from another one. We were in Islay over the weekend as guests of the very gracious (and environmentally upstanding) Dave and Emma of the Islay Canoe Club. Islay is much closer to us than Lewis, involving a mere 38 miles of driving and a quick hop on the Portavadie-Tarbert ferry followed by 2 hours on the Kennacraig-Port Askaig ferry. We’re practically neighbours!

Kintra on Islay

Kintra on Islay

On Friday evening, we all went for a stroll along the beautiful Kintra beach at sunset, accompanied by Sam and Bria, the springer spaniels. The weather forecast was predicting a day indoors on Saturday, although Richard confidently maintained that conditions would be fine. I know that Richard has some god-like abilities in relation to paddling, but I hadn’t realised that they extended to weather forecasting as well. After a morning of yoga class (during which I determined that I will never again be as flexible as my 10 and 15 year-old classmates), the weather did clear by Saturday afternoon. So off we popped for a few hours of playing in the surf at Traigh Bhan near Port Ellen. This was precisely the type of experience that I needed after my little capsizing episode in Lewis. Richard waded into the soup and taught me how to low brace properly, ensuring that I hip flicked as appropriate to prevent the kayak’s edge from being caught. The more I managed to stay upright, the more it seemed like fun. Next, Dave insisted that I try a little kayak rolling with his guidance. I had been observing Alan’s attempts where it seemed that he wasn’t entirely enjoying his salt-water nasal flushings and I therefore launched a vigorous protest that I wasn’t up for it. Dave seemed deaf to my pleadings. I then watched Kirsty executing a roll unassisted and, duly inspired, I succumbed on the grounds that I be allowed to use a nose clip. Of course, I couldn’t roll without Dave guiding the paddle as my brain engaged a brand new sensory assault (salt water, “stuff” in the water, gushing noises, and so on), but at the very least, it gave me an introduction to the whole rolling-in-the-sea experience. I am pleased to say that it wasn’t quite as horrific as I had anticipated, so there is hope.