The last time I tried any sort of paddling was a couple of years ago – a press trip on the River Spey in the Scottish Highlands, by canoe. I was absolutely rubbish at it – zigzagging down the river, getting stuck in the sides and stranded in the rapids. I vowed never to embark on any sort of paddling adventure ever again.
Instead of sticking to this vow, I went sea kayaking just a couple of days ago. My new housemate is an avid paddler, and invited me to join her trip along the west coast of Scotland. I’m not sure how much of my heart was in it when I agreed, but anyway, along I went.
Our venue for launching was a little fishing village just north of Arbroath called Auchmithie – it’s a real hidden gem of a place, so much so, that I feel a bit weird disclosing the name for fear of crowds of people descending on this perfect little cove on a summer’s day!
There seems to be a lot of planning that goes into a sea kayaking trip – weather, sea conditions, location, and all that kit! The boats are heavy, the clothing not all that flattering, the sea looks intimidating, it’s Scotland – so it’s probably going to rain at some point, how do I release the spray deck if I capsize…?
I’m probably not really selling it…and I have to admit that I wasn’t overly convinced I could sell it during the first half hour. The boats are wobbly – well wobbly! The flat, calm sea suddenly had huge waves. Those rocks along the shore – I was heading straight for them.
Once I got my sea legs though, relaxed into the boat, worked out how to manoeuvre and honed my paddling technique – which, by the way, comes from your core, not your shoulders as one might assume – I actually began to enjoy it, I wanted to explore further than the safety of the little inlet from where we had launched and I edged further and further into the intimidating expanse that is the Scottish North Sea.
Looking up at the towering headland cliffs, nesting guillemots and little fisherman’s cottages perched precariously overhead was amazing. As I stopped paddling for a moment to appreciate the foreboding greatness around me, four perfectly formed Common Dolphins swam by the boat – I could almost touch them they were so close! They stayed for a few moments, before making their way out into the ocean. I couldn’t believe my luck and wondered how many other people had seen such a great sight that evening – not too many I’m sure!
Thanks to the dolphins, my mind was made up – I actually liked sea kayaking! Next stop is through some lovely sea caves and even perhaps the Caribbean-blue waters of the Summer Isles, on the Scottish West Coast – I’ll need to learn how to release that spray-deck though!