Times like these

Yes, there’s been a bit of a hiatus in blog posts. I do apologise. But fear not, we have been out on the water, despite adversity, enjoying mostly calm yet chilly conditions.

Kilcreggan to Greenock

Kilcreggan to Greenock

We accompanied Julia on her momentous return to the water after ACL repair surgery. In case her surgeon is reading this, I would just like to assure that we were exceedingly sensible and conservative in our undertaking of this trip. After some rescue practice in F6, we went for tea at Kilcreggan. OK, I’m kidding about the first bit. I can confirm that conditions were flat calm and that no ligaments were harmed in the completion of our outing.

Later, during another flat calm day out, this time on Loch Long, the mirror-like reflections were disturbed only by our paddle strokes and made for some great photography.

Not a breath of wind

Not a breath of wind

As we made our way northwards, we were almost flattered by the attentiveness displayed by the MOD Police as they pulled alongside us in their motor vessel to question our destination. I dare say that answering, “We’re just popping over to take photos of your lovely military installation”, would not necessarily have been perceived as the witty riposte that we’d intended, so we refrained. Our sensible (and truthful) answer of “Loch Goil” allowed our questioners to bid us a “nice day” before going on their way.

Loch Long

Loch Long

Later, their colleagues in a RIB swung by our lunch spot just as I was about to set up for some rolling practice. Determined not to provide them with any free entertainment (I might have considered a small fee), I waited for them to lose interest before plunging into the chilly water (me that is, not them). We later learned that HMS Ark Royal was due to arrive at Loch Long in a few days’ time, to offload some armaments before being decommissioned. Perhaps that would explain the apparent security “sensitivity”.

Loch Eck lunch stop

Loch Eck lunch stop

We also enjoyed a lovely winter’s paddle down Loch Eck and back, punctuated by a stop at the Coylet Inn where we were befriended by the ever-so-handsome and attentive Buster, the resident boxer dog.

We were back crossing the Clyde and heading to Loch Long again last weekend where we lunched al fresco on the bench at the Kilcreggan shore-front on the return. We hardy paddlers don’t mind a bit of snow on our picnic bench.

During the course of all this, however, as tends to happen when you’re busy making other plans, life has intervened, and tending to family illness has taken priority over matters kayaking (and blogging). Indeed,  it is at times like these that you become exceedingly aware of the impermanence of … well, everything. And suddenly, everything and everyone becomes a little more precious. Life is short and meant to be enjoyed – happiness is indeed a birthright.

So do me a favour and get out paddling! Buy that kayak you’ve been ogling. And the drysuit. Learn to roll (you know you can!). Plan that trip. And I don’t want to hear winter being used as an excuse 😉

We are all just walking each other home.”  Ram Dass

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

Times Like These, Foo Fighters

A bit of a guilt trip

What some people will do to get out of housework

What some people will do to get out of housework

My principal paddling partner, Alan, is out of commission at the moment, having undergone hand surgery. Any notions we had that he might be swiftly back in action were dispelled upon his emergence from the operating theatre with a dirty great bandage on his right hand (well actually, it was clean) and a fistful of stitches. The bandage means serious business, announcing to the world that paddling excursions, along with working for a living, are presently on hold and that normal service won’t be resumed for a while. It was with a sense of despondency that I collected him from the hospital, a feeling that was not alleviated by the unnecessary (I felt) lecturing of the (male) nurse that Alan was on no account to be allowed to do housework.

And so I wondered what we would do instead of jumping in our kayaks at the weekend. Long hours of emptiness stretched ahead, until I received an invitation from Julia to ditch Alan and go paddling with some new friends. To be fair, the invitation had been extended to both of us, but obviously Alan was not in a position to accept. It was with some remorse that I therefore left him at home while I went kayaking without him for the first time ever. It seemed strange to only take one set of gear and one kayak and I stressed over the many opportunities that existed to forget something. Sometimes a second brain is handy.

Autumn day on Loch Long

Autumn day on Loch Long

But what a day! Departing from Ardentinny with various members of the Greenock club (or the Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club, to give it its rather regal Sunday name), we were all in awe of the beautiful autumn hues that coloured the landscape. The sun was shining and the wind was absent, so a relaxed, scenic paddle was the order of the day.

As we progressed northwards on Loch Long, we continuously caught up with a small flock of nervous oystercatchers who repeatedly flew ahead of us, not having figured out that they could save energy by flying behind us. We then encountered some Heron Trees. These are evergreen trees that seem to sprout exotic Heron flowers at this time of year.

Exotic Heron Tree

Exotic Heron Trees

We took a left at Loch Goil and headed towards Carrick Castle where a lunch stop was enjoyed. It was especially enjoyed by the local goose who volunteered to consume some blueberry muffins that were going spare. We decided to continue on to Lochgoilhead. Upon its approach, 2 mutually attracting things happened. Firstly, a friendly seal popped up and decided to hang out with me for a little while at excellent photographic proximity. Secondly, my camera battery died. Of course, I was then in full anticipation of entire pods of dolphins and possibly the odd whale putting in an appearance thereafter. Not that I would have been disappointed per se. Instead, we found ourselves floating into the backdrop of a most picturesque and inviting venue, The Lodge, where a wedding was about to ensue. You will just have to visit the Website to see how nice it is.

Friendly seal, Loch Goil

Friendly seal, Loch Goil

A piper was up in the hugely impressive treehouse practising some tunes ahead of the big event, so it was all rather atmospheric. We engaged in some banter with the groom-to-be who came down to the shoreside to chat. (Or maybe he was just trying to ensure his wedding pics weren’t going to be spoiled by a motley collection of kayakers in the background!).

After this pleasant interlude, we decided to turn around and head back to Ardentinny. The occupants of a Police launch gave us a cheery wave as they passed us and it was nice to realise that there was no chance of being pulled over for speeding. There was a slight chop to the water on the last leg of the journey when a bit of wind emerged as if from nowhere (certainly not the forecast).

A great day out

A great day out

After a quick tea stop at Julia’s, I wended my way homewards, resolving to display some sensitivity upon returning and not to gush about the excellent day I’d just had. I fear that I may have failed. Fortunately, this has only served to make Alan all the more determined to heal quickly. Already, he’s making cups of tea, a sure sign of improvement.