Friday, 21 January 2011

Big Plans (and a bad start)

A lot of paddling seems to be in store for this year. I'd already arranged a week off in June, and a long weekend in March, when messages arrived from two old hill walking and climbing friends, both saying they had bought sea kayaks! Plans are afoot for 5 star training, a circumnavigation of Mull and a trip to Harris.
With this in mind, some training seemed in order. Until yesterday, I hadn't been in a boat for over a month- the longest paddle free stretch since I took this up 6 or 7 years ago. Here at home there was not of a breath of wind, so even with a latish start a wee bimble out to the Isle of May seemed a good idea.
Driving into Anstruther, the horizon looked a bit jaggier than expected. There were even a few waves hitting the beach within the harbour. Slightly surprised at the state of the sea, I set off with a following breeze. Before long it was clear this was going to be more exciting than expected. The sea state was out of proportion to the wind, which I put down to a big tide and some North Sea swell. I've usually assumed that tides in the outer Forth didn't need too much consideration, but I found myself down tide from the May, and struggling to move at all despite wind and wave assistance. Turning back seemed a good idea, but I was very close and needed a pee.
A very hard half hour of paddling got me to shelter, with a chance to refuel and rest.

I'd given the outer rocks a wide berth, trying not to disturb the seals. Unfortunately there was a strong smell of dead animals, and there were several dead pups close to the landing spot. I guess it has been a hard winter for them too.
Anxious to get going, I didn't stop long. At 3pm I was at the north end of the island and things didn't look good. The sea was rough, Fife was a long way off, and wind and tide were against me. "Challenging" might have been the term for it, but it wasn't the one I had in mind. The crossing normally takes an hour and a quarter, but it clearly wasn't going to be that quick today. A kilometer later there was an area of confused breaking waves, which rather cruelly reminded that my cag wasn't zipped up.
At ten past four the sun set, and Fife was still a long way off. I would have enjoyed the sunset if I'd been in a happier state of mind.

Some time later, in the gloom, it became clear I was barely moving. I estimated the tide at 2-3 knots, much faster that I had thought possible here. It seemed time to abandon a direct course to harbour and simply head for land instead. This at least gave a sense of movement, and with some relief I made landfall some way east of Anstruther. Despite the dark, creeping up the coast was a relief. It was ten to six when I entered the harbour, cream crackered.
A temperature of minus one ensured another minor epic getting the boat on the car. Today the blisters are weeping, but all in all it was a learning experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment