Thursday, 26 July 2012

Women's Scottish Sea Kayak Festival

I set off for the first Women's Scottish Sea Kayak Festival in Bute in the trusty paddlewagon, packed carefully with everything I could possibly need for 300 mile journey and van camping.

In the queue at Stromness.
Just after Dunbeath however, I was on my way home with a broken gear box...

Back to Scrabster for the evening boat home.

Back home. 'Ooops I broke your van!'
Next morning I set off again in the car with most of the van contents now slung in the back and after a long day's driving met up with Pam and Alan Forsyth, 'across the water'.

Off we go again...
An early start the next day saw Pam and I at the Colintraive ferry.

Short crossing, big boat.
For some of us the first day was part one of the circumnavigation of the Island of Bute with Morag Brown and Justine Curgenven, from Kerrycroy  back to Ettrick Bay.

Break at Kilchattan

Apart from the occassional wave from the wake of a boat, the sea was like glass and the sun shone hazily. Compared to our summer in Orkney so far, it felt balmy - very pleasant!

Pam in her Isel.

We rounded the south end of the island which I can imagine is not always as benign,...

Justine passes the light in her new Atlantic LV.

and were met by a stunning view of Arran!

A big incentive for me to come to Bute was to paddle with a different backdrop of mountains and trees and this paddle certainly was a contrast to paddling back home around the windlashed Orkney coastline.

After a bumpy start around the first headland on the second day, this time lead by Justine and Kate Duffus, the south westerly wind pushed us along in the following sea - usually a gift for the Isel and cool fun  but this time it was increasingly hard work. The problem was solved by Kate who observed my mounting exhaustion with that 'boil in the bag' kayaker look I was developing. My hydro-skeg was not down, perhaps it had got repeatedly tangled in weed. Problem solved and fun ensued. The second part of the circumnavigation on day two from Ettrick Bay through the Kyles of Bute back to our starting point was shrouded in mist.  I enjoyed chatting with lots of folk about their different paddling experiences.

In the Kyles...

I know this area is really bonny so I intend to come back on a sunny day to see it in its full glory.

Kate leads through The Burnt Islands.

Break at Colintraive, across the water.
Back across to Bute.

A lumpy finish into the wind at Kames Bay where a few of us left the rest of the group to join the dots. I have a feeling I'll be back so I left the final few kilometres along the sea front for another time.
On the final day it was time for the Greenland session. Lots of people were interested and we ended up with 12 folk - quite a lot to work with on the water, but really encouraging to see that many paddlers interested in the dark side traditional skills. I hope everyone got something out of it!

We started off with Pam demonstrating some yoga positions that are particularly good for paddlers and then had a discussion about  paddles and boats and other bits of kit.
The rest of us copied and laughed a lot!

Getting a feel for the stick.

After demonstrating the stages of the standard Greenland roll and explaning the principles of how each stage worked we helped folk with the standard Greenland roll and the butterfly roll.
The rain poured down, but there were lots of laughs.

'If you can float you can do this...!'

Pam helps Sarah Outen in Nelson.

Nice fnish!

Ruth and I discuss her roll.

Rhiannon works on her butterfly roll.

It was a real privilege and pleasure to be able to share my enthusiasm for traditional Greenland skills with other paddlers. Rhiannon had participated in the KayakWays intensive weekend in May and shared her own skill development and foray into paddlemaking.  Pam Forsyth contributed her own understanding and experience, and of course enjoyment for our pre-occupation with the stick, making it a particularly rewarding experience for me since I am so used to working in isolation and rarely get a chance to enthuse and share with fellow stick-users. I hope some folks decide to 'stick in' and keep at it, get the DVD 'This is the Roll' and perhaps we'll meet up again in the not too distant future.

In the evenings, after fantastic spreads made by Ettrick Tearooms, we were treated to talks - a humourous reflection on the history and fit (or lack of it) of gear for women by Alice;  Justine shared fantastic images and video that conveyed the impressive landscape from her recent trip to Tierra del Fuego with Barry Shaw; Sally shared how she planned for a trip to take weather and tides into account, and Sarah Outen shared with us her amazing journey from London to London via the world (inconveniently put on hold for the moment while she re-groups after her catastrophic encounter with a typhoon in the North Pacific). Follow her adventure so far on her website.

Thanks to Alice, Sally and Roddy at Kayak Bute for organising the event and for getting a great bunch of inspirational women together. Great fun!


  1. Awesome to see Sarah back on the water. When it comes to some of my favorite people; she makes the list.

    Looks like a great group!