Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Sea Kayaking - 28th Aug

It was D's birthday on Tuesday and I'd booked him (and RB and I) onto a beginners kayaking course on Seil Island with Sea Kayaking Scotland.  D had mentioned that he'd always thought of trying it but never had as he's not a strong swimmer.  I'd been curious about kayaking but I'm very nervous of the sea and the thought of tipping the boat and panicking and getting stuck always put me off.  There was no putting things off any longer though!
We drove to Oban on Friday evening and camped at the Divers campsite just to the South, then drove to Seil Island for 9am.  We arrived far too early and were treated to a cup of tea while we waited for D to turn up in his van and for our instructor for the day.  We didn't have too long to wait and before long were being kitted out in ridiculous looking dry suits.  RB's and D's weren't too bad but mine was massive and I felt like an astronaut!  Then we were shown how to make sure our kayaks fitted, messed about with the pedals in the boat and set off to where we were going to start.
We were shown how to get into the boats without tipping them over which was easy enough and then launched into the water straight away.  I was finding paddling hard to start with, just wasn't sure how to turn at all, but quickly realised that paddling right would turn you left.  I found it a bit frustrating that the boats turned in such a wide arc, but managed to figure a way of turning part way, doing a back stroke with the paddle, then turning again and that seemed to turn me in less of an arc.  Not sure if that's correct, but I liked doing it that way.
It wasn't long before we all sussed things and then we set of for Balvicar Island, a small island down the Sound of Seil. We paddled right round this and stopped for a bite to eat, then paddled back to where we started.  We then carried on underneath Clachan Bridge and down the Sound of Clachan, into the Atlantic.  Even though we were barely away from the mainland and mostly hugging the islands, you could tell the difference between this water and the water in the Sounds.  There were more waves and if you stopped paddling you could feel the swell of the sea bob you about.
It was amazing.  It reminded me of being on a really exposed route out in the mountains.  There is a sense of space all around you and feel so small and vulnerable.  I never once felt scared or intimidated though, just a sense of awe and it felt so peaceful when you were bobbing around.
We had to stick together in a group out here as there were wee fronts passing through, but they missed us and headed inland further North.  I'd been paddling ahead of everyone most of the day, getting into a real rythm and just enjoying the motion of it.
It was pure pleasure though, to see RB's joy when we came across a group of seals on an island.  As we approached, some of them slid into the water which was funny to see.  RB managed to get quite close to them and they did look really cute with their heads bobbing out of the sea.   Such curious creatures, but their shyness overcomes their curiosity in the end and they dip back under the surface if you get too close.
We also saw Shags and Herons, anenomes, crabs, shoals of fish and RB saw a load of jelly fish.  Thankfully they were white ones with no pink in them she exclaimed as we'd been told the white ones don't sting.
After passing the island with the seals, we threaded between 2 islands and back to the Sound of Clachan.  We had to get out the boats and pull them for a bit as the tide was out and the water was too low to paddle.  It's amazing how heavy the boats are on land but how light they are in the water.
Back at the bay where we started, RB managed to persuade me that we should capsize our boats and learn how to get out of them.  I was really nervous as this was the bit I was scared of!  Mitch, our instructor, reassured me that it was easy to get out when you tipped, so I went for it.  Unfortunately, I gave out a squeel as I hit the water and got a mouthful.  Salty sea water is disgusting!  It was stinging my nose and my eyes and it took me a minute to get myself together.
Trying to get back into the kayak was hard!  You have to mantle onto the boat, shuffle your bum along until you are straddling the seat, wedge your bum in, then get one leg in at a time.  Well it took me 5 attempts as I kept losing my balance as I shuffled and I'd splash into the water again.  RB did it in 3 goes.  Then we both tried to stand on our kayaks which was absolutely impossible!  D looked on bemused and quickly paddled to the shore, lest we manage to tip him too!
Poor RB though, her dry suit was too big around the sleeves and let loads of water in, she was drenched!  I was a bit damp but not too bad.  And it's amazing how warm the suits keep you.  All our stuff in the dry bags was completely dry too.
Brilliant day and I could easily get into this kayaking malarky.

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