Thursday, 28 August 2014

Womens Scottish Sea Kayaking Festival 2014

The third Women’s Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium was held this August in Bute at Ettrick Bay – right beside the Tea Rooms which cater for the event and are famous for kayaker appropriate portion sizes and amazing cakes.
Setting off for the 600+ mile journey in the van I decided to take the scenic route through the Highlands, pausing at Glencoe to take in the moody atmosphere.
I set up camp  – one of an impressive turnout of camper vans – along the shore road with Arran providing a picturesque view from the van door for a couple of gloriously sunny days.  Summer, which had vanished from Orkney at the beginning of August, had moved to Argyll and Bute!
The view from the van - Arran from Ettrick Bay, Bute.

After the obligatory brew and nosey around other folks’ van outfitting, it was time to have a van meal and a yarn before the event proper began. As usual Roddy had assembled an attractive fleet of Tiderace kayaks and a quiver of  Joe O’s beautiful laminatedpaddles.
'What would you like to do today?' and a bit of a stretch..
Photo Rhiannon George
The first day’s workshop was on the east coast at the little bay at Kerrycroy. Not strictly Greenland but rather entitled ‘Love the Wet Stuff’, we managed to fit in quite a few balancing (‘kiss your kayak’) activities and getting in and out of your kayak, low brace support and turning strokes. Gradually getting wetter as the morning went on. Boy did sitting in the cockpit feel solid and secure after all that paddling and balancing out of it…!

Tracy tries out A Joe O paddle and, guess what?, ends up paddling the next day with one of her own.
Photo - Rhiannon George.
The afternoon was more about how the water can support your body and your boat ( rather than your blade and the boat as we had been doing in the morning) - floaty stuff being encouraged.  Paddles by this time had been adjusted to zero feather and folk were ready to give static or ‘balance’ bracing a go. The emphasis was then clearly on thinking of the water as a friend and to embrace, not resist immersion…
Stretch, balance and float.

After an excellent meal on Saturday night,  day two followed a similar pattern – both groups had mentioned similar things they wanted to try in the morning – but in the afternoon Rhiannon helped support learning of Greenland body position for butterfly roll and standard Greenland Roll. Some good rolling was starting to develop  before the afternoon was out.
Progressive degrees of immersion throughout the day.

Then it was time for me and Rhiannon to get a little practice while we had each other to discuss issues with – but we were getting tired so, aware of wanting to finish (usually forward) well we quit before things started to deteriorate. The beach had been busy with families and dogs and kites and picnics and sand-castles all day! I am not used to such a bustling background to practice against.
The Festival was a good chance to share Joe O's paddles.

After Sunday’s evening meal Justine gave her slideshow andtalk. Fresh from Alaska it was odd to see her in real life after following the 101 day adventure with Sarah Outen online. The whole Aleutian adventure is just amazing – I am full of admiration and a little bit envious.
Good cakes and great craic - lots of laughter.

It was great to see old paddling pals and make a few new ones and, if not  spead the Green virus a little bit more, then maybe show how your relationship with the water can change by relaxing and altering body position, maximising flexibility and range of movement, adjusting buoyancy and … just taking time to float about a bit.
Sarah's gets soggy...

Thanks to Sarah McIlroy for the photos of Sundays shenanigans - most of the photos of the sessions on this post are hers. You can see more of her excellent photos and read about her adventures over at her blog 'Sarah's Soggy Scenarios',  thanks also to everyone who threw themselves into the ‘wet stuff’’...
 and thanks Roddy, Alice and Laura for organising.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Out from Achnahaird

 A few more pictures of the last day in the North West Highlands.
It got so hot we called it a day early.
At Garvie Bay.

Leaving Garvie Bay - perfect location for rolling...
Mountain backdrop.

Mobbed by a pair of aggressive oystercatchers.

Loch Garvie

cooling off

Journey's end
What a great paddle!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer Isles sunshine.

Towards Tanera Mor
 We set off for Tanera Mor and Tanera Beg on an amazingly glassy sea.
on the way out... Tanera Mor behind me.

Approaching the Post Office
Arriving at the Post Office we sent the obligatory post card with the unique Summer Isles stamp before escaping the crowd disembarking from the Summer Queen. Passing the 5 enormous salmon cages as quickly as possible, we set off round Tanera Mor in a clockwise direction and landed on a pebbly beach for lunch.

We know kayakers stop here as we found a copy of the Pesda Press Scottish Sea Kayaking book submerged in the shallows.
Perhaps someone looking for directions to the famous arch on Tanera Beg.

 At Tanera Beg we posed for the obligatory 'arch photo'. There was a charming symmetrical quality about this arch which made it seem as if it had been built for a film set.
After a quick chat with a German family out paddling in their kayaks we moved on at a leisurely pace through the series of small islets that lie between the two larger islands.
'they're behind you...'

We spend a while letting the local youths play a game of 'chicken' with us.
Some of them got pretty close...

Returning to Achiltibuie with Stac Pollaidh and Ben More Coigach in the distance.
 Once out of the islands we were again aware of the mountains, dramatically dominating the landscape.
Back at Badentarbet
A very relaxing paddle - soaking up the scenery.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reiff and Isle Ristol

Overlooking the Summer Isles.
A window of lovely weather out on the west coast of mainland Scotland beckoned, so we packed the van and headed sooth on the first available ferry, hopeful of warmer temperatures and sunshine in Wester Ross.

Base camp was at Port A Baigh, Altandhu across from Isle Ristol.

Advance landing party at the beach on Isle Ristol.
The following day we crossed to Isle Ristol with Anne, another visiting paddler we met at the campsite. 

From there on to Reiff  for lunch.

Rockpools at Reiff.
View back to Isle Ristol from the picnic spot.
The wind calmed, the clapotis subsided, and we had a very pleasant return journey.

Anne with Mr Mackayak.
We rounded the island, and my focus was drawn again to the mountainous skyline of Assynt and Coigach - dramatically different to Orkney.

The view of Loch an Alltain Duibh between Altandhu and Isle Ristol.
Isle Ristol once was a herring fishery base like many of the islands in this part of the world. Now it is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve with important wildflowers growing in the machair.

Return to camp.
A very pleasant paddle - thanks to Anne for the added company and conversation.
We knew the forecast was set to improve... and it did!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kayak Ways Intensive 2014

Setting off for the ferry sooth I got incorporated into the Commonwealth Games baton proceedings, as it headed to the same boat. Much later I was free of the various and many vehicles of the baton 'crew' and police escort which had accompanied me across the Firth and throughout the north of Scotland. The temperature warmed up significantly and I went through the ritual of stopping at Inverness to cast my Orkney summer layers. Much, much later I arrived in leafy Argyll and met up with lovely organisers and hosts, Pam and Alan Forsyth and Julia Darby, and our amazing mentors Cheri and Turner.

Both days were held at Ardentinny, where the customary cluster of kayak carrying cars conglomerated. The weekend's sessions were all about rolling for me and it was great to work through the fundamentals for all rolls and forward finishing rolls in particular. 

Rhiannon focuses on her hip.

Land drills are extra helpful in putting together the movements which go on inside the kayak with the timings of what you can see happening above the deck.

Cheri demonstrates finishing forward - flat shoulders/face down.
Cheri and Turner demonstrated  and talked throughthe importance of body position and the timing of the movements we had practised in relation to each other.

The principles of aft finishing rolls.

Then it was my turn to get some feedback on the homework I have been doing since last time... A year is a long time! Plenty of time to consolidate new skills but also unfortunately when you are practising alone, its  plenty of time to develop bad habits. In a short time Cheri had worked out why I was finding some things sticky or difficult, erratic or inconsistent and got me practising specific sequences to sort it all out! What a difference. Its the magic of Greenland rolling - when you do it properly it feels effortless.

my turn!
Rhiannon's reverse sweep.
Needless to say there was an awful lot to remember after one day of rolling. As usual I felt like I would not be able to remember it all... but after sleeping on the new learning day 2 dawned sunny and positive and we revisited my 'homework' sequence with a great drill, flipping from sculling for support palm up, to chest sculling moving the kayak and your body lower and higher. This movement doesn't mean a lot if like me you are used to just floating face down and mostly prying to finish forward, but once I got the hang of it I knew it would become part of my regular practice routine.

Class in session.
This photo of Alan's kind of sums up the weekend!

photo: Alan Forsyth

A brilliant learning experience shared with old and new tuiliq wearing friends.
Its hard to sum up the significance of the Kayak Ways Intensive experience but if you get the opportunity to find out for yourself - take it!