Having neither tartan blood nor living north of the wall, I was very pleased to have been invited once again to coach at the Scottish Women's paddle Symposium. The event was based around the Royal Findhorn Yacht Club making good use of the sheltered water of Findhorn bay and more exposed rocky coastline between Burghead and Lossiemouth.
As well as coaching, I took a selection of P&H demo boats for participants to try out, the most popular being the Cetus LV and MV. These were liked by all who tried them.
A grey day, this was the nearest I had come to bad weather in over two weeks in Scotland. Leonie and I spent a happy few hours playing in the Falls of Lora. A race forms as the water in Loch Etive pours out over a rocky ledge into the Firth of Lorne.
Last weekend, 100 or so paddlers descended on the little village of Tayvallich. The event, hosted by Karitek, was a symposium geared towards novice and intermediate paddlers only. The weather gods were kind, and conditions were beautiful.
Last week I had the pleasure of coaching kayaking in the most fantastic location, with glorious weather. We were based at the Glenuig Inn on Loch Ailort, and with the exception of a short drive to Arisaig, managed to paddle every day right from the front door.
Stonking views, with the Rum Cuillin in the background
Calm seas and plenty of rocks to test out steering skills
The Cuillin of Rum on a misty morning
White sand, blue sky, great company what more could I want?
Perhaps the slowness of my paddling is reflected in the amount of time it has taken me to finish writing up this account.
With the lights of Bangor now behind me, and Beaumaris off to my left I battled on. Conditions were flat calm, perfect but pitch black. I was disorientated by the lights on land masking the presence of navigational marks on the water, and those I could see seemed to be miles offshore. It felt safer to be able to see the shore so I hugged the Anglesey coastline and paid for it by running into shallow water periodically.
Having cruised through the swellies in the dark and reached quiet water beyond, I think I had mentally finished the journey. The end was so near (in my head) and yet so far (for real). This cruel mismatch made the last ten kilometres pure purgatory.
Finally after several false hopes I recognised the red light of the perch rock beacon at Puffin Sound. My mood lifted, and so did my boat speed as I made a last effort to reach my start point. Between me and my objective was one final obstacle, the race at Puffin was flowing strongly against me. I crept along close inshore where I though an eddy would be if I could see anything and was rewarded with crunches onto rocks. It was pitch black, I was cold and paddling as hard as I could and going precisely nowhere. It took a sustained effort to overcome the top wave of the small tide race and round the corner into the shelter of the pebbly bay from where I had launched.
As the bow of my boat scrunched into the pebbles I took a look at my watch and cried. All that effort only to complete the circumnavigation slower than my previous attempt. As I dragged my weary body from the boat I added a dunking to my misery. After thirteen and a half hours my legs didn't function very well and gave way to leave me sitting in waist deep water. The realisation that I was very alone hit me now as I struggled to lift my boat onto it's trolley.