So far since the New Year I have managed seven paddling days which, given the gales and the strong winds we have been experiencing, has not been too bad. It has been truly wonderful to be in my kayak again, feeling the water beneath me, responding to the movement of the sea and travelling along the wonderful coastline that we have around here. There were a couple of days when the weather was absolutely superb offering me wonderful views up and down the Firth of Lorne. On one of these days I paddled north to Connel and was presented with a snowy mountain backdrop that took quite my breath away.
On another day I paddled south to the island of Seil, joined to the mainland by the famous 'Bridge Over the Atlantic', a picturesque high arched stone bridge over the narrow Clachan Sound. Unfortunately the low spring tide scuppered any chance of me reaching the bridge so I had to admire it from afar. However, I enjoyed exploring the skerries that surround Puilladobhrain, the popular and sheltered yachting anchorage that can be jam packed in the summer months. I had the place to myself and enjoyed the peaceful solitude as I slowly kayaked past grass topped rocky islets keeping my eyes peeled for Otters and Seals.
Not all days have been as wonderfully calm as these two. In fact I am very aware that I need to move away from being a fair weather kayaker. Much of my training this month has in truth been more psychological in nature than physical. I have been overcoming my innate reluctance to kayak in the winter when the weather is not ideal. Being African born I believe my blood to be very thin and it takes some personal coercion to get out into my kayak and onto the water. I am pleased with my efforts in this regard so far. In fact I have paddled on days that have been far from ideal when the wind was blowing a steady force five with accompanying sleet and rain.
The Isle of Kerrera is a delight to explore. The circumnavigation is twelve miles and usually takes me just under four hours to complete. I tend to take a little longer because I like to play amongst the rocks and explore the nooks and corners. I stop too for a leg stretch which is practising good discipline for me - to take rest when I need it rather than keep paddling non stop. I can be lazy when it comes to pulling ashore for a comfort break.
Between now and my departure I will be kayaking as often as I am able to. My intention is to build my fitness and possibly more importantly, keep myself loose and limbered for the challenge ahead. My body is not as supple as it used to be. In addition it is going to be important that I test myself technically so that I am confident that I am able to meet any eventuality that may arise. I am a skilled paddler, there is no doubt about that, but it has been some time since I have placed myself in positions where I have had to recover myself from possible harm or serious difficulty. I am referring to rolling after a capsize, re-entering my kayak and rolling in the event of coming out of my boat, coping with fast tidal water, and forced landings on inhospitable coastline.
There is plenty of time for me to brush up on my skills but this will require me to tenaciously hold on to my new found determination to get out onto the sea whatever the weather holds.
Want to join me?