Monday, 13 December 2010

The Rush Hour

The hour before launch. T minus 60 and counting....
No matter how well organised there is never enough time.

Today after a late decision to go paddle on the sea in my kayak(! novel idea - I like it!) I started gathering up a lot of bits and pieces, you know the usual - paddle, deck, BA etc, enough layers of clothes to stay warm under dry suit (6) and then hunted high and low up and downs stairs, getting very hot in the 6 layers, before finally surmising my car keys must be in the other car which had been driven away that morning, and the garage keys (my boat shed keys) with them.

Every time I think I will arrive at the launch site well organised, cool, calm and on time, nothing forgotten there is something mislaid or missing which slows me down and causes the hour to be a rush. This may sound as if all my gear is scattered around the place in an unorganised fashion, but I do believe, bearing the restrictions of family domesticity, I have things reasonably well dry bagged and ready to go.

The next problem was how to communicate to NK (her phone being broken), by now probably pacing back and forth in front of her boat shed, that I couldn't come along and help lift her boat. An intermediary was contacted! Uncle Johnny to the rescue! Then, reluctant to give up on the idea of a paddle entirely, I broke into my own boat shed (shockingly easy actually - though I have remedied that since) and extracted my boat.

Finally I set off with NK with both boats on her car, a situation which nearly demands that we get on a ferry and make some kind of expedition... but...we resisted, and arrived at the launch site in good time.

T minus zero.
The trip was from Barrier 1 to Barrier 3 portage across to Weddell Sound, around Lambs Holm ( the site of the Italian Chapel) and back to Barrier 1.

The portage.

Shrek meets his match at the lunch site.

We had a break at the beach at Weddell Sound. These beaches on the east side of the barriers seem in places to be accumulating sand at ever increasing rates, smothering blockships at Barrier 4..
Passing the mast of the block ship at Barrier no.2.
Theses are popular diving sites and NK herself has braved the depths to investigate the wrecks we usually paddle above and around and sometimes through.
NK paddles close to the 10 tonne blocks.
The barriers were covered with 66,000 locally-cast concrete blocks.  Ten-tonne blocks were arranged on the sides in a random pattern to act as wave-breaks. Much of the labour was provided by over 1300 Italian prisoners of war. There is still a link today between Orkney and Moena, the home town of the principal artist involved in the creation of the Italian Chapel.

We arrived back just as light was beginning to fail at half past three.

Nice to be back on the sea, in a kayak.


  1. I am curious about your six layers under your drysuit. What air/water temps are you paddling in? When I paddle in the winter here in Newfoundland, I wear a very thin base poly layer underneath a medium weight fleece union suit. Sometimes if it's really cold I 'll wear a lightweight merino wool top over that. (Thats two layers on the bottom and a max of three on top) Our paddling air temps here in the winter are always sub zero Celsious and the water hovers around the zero mark all winter/spring.

    I've tested these layers in the freezing water with great success. Many times with the wool top, I find it too warm while paddling - even with a breathable drysuit.

    Just curious about your layereing setup.


  2. hi Sean - Actually I was exaggerating, it felt like 6 but was only 5! I had far too much on. It has warmed up since the last snow and is well above freezing (about 5C), but there is always a good chance of wind. I always dress for immersion and the consequent hanging about in the wind.

    Like many women I am cold averse and will do anything to stay warm/not get cold. I was wearing a cotton vest, HH long sleeve polypropolene top, merino wool, nookie soft core and a fine polar fleece. We were going for a short and relaxed paddle so I was not going to get too heated up. I know you guys go on relatively long journeys compared to us - and, well, we know you are tough from reading the blogs!!! (rolling in freezing water etc....)

  3. I think I had 3 layers on under mine on Sunday. In Inverness there were 3 layers of legs and 5 layers of tops. I get cold!