23rd to 25th March, 2009 – Sea Kayak Instruction on Skye

Three days sea kayak instruction with Gordon Brown of Skyak Adventures on Skye and I was joined by the three guys who I had paddled here with last spring and another couple of guys who made up the remainder of the group. We had all come on since last time and obviously the bug has bitten as we each had our own kayak and gear this time too.

Day 1 was work on paddling in surf and we headed over to Kyleakin to launch and paddle out towards the Skye Bridge where the strong northern wind was meeting the tide head on to produce large swell. Taking shelter in an eddy by the otter sanctuary, we discussed what to do and then proceeded to traverse out to the rapidly growing swell and paddle about, forwards, backwards, turning, surfing etc – all great fun and felt very on edge at first but soon we were having a great time and becoming more confident. Next, we headed over towards Kyle of Lochalsh and the adjacent skerries to get some longer surfing lines in and also to work on negotiating obstacles with surf making things hard. After lunch, more of this followed and it wasn’t long before I rolled (and lost my sun glasses) and shortly afterwards I did again but was glad to see my roll working with no problem, it was the prevention that was the problem for me and this proved to be the case for the whole three days, still, if you are not trying hard….

A rescue ended up taking place as someone swam and was getting a bit too close to rocks for comfort then unfortunately his volunteering rescuer ended up in too so a more complicated rescue than expected ensued but it was all good practice and once the ‘casualty’ was warmed up, we headed back over to the bridge with now even stronger winds – one gust even pushed me over – three rolls in day one! Shortly after this on taking shelter from the surf, I almost paddled in to an otter; I’m not sure who was more surprised to see who.

Day 2, we did some theory on tidal calculations then headed to Kylerhea to deal with the strong tidal stream there. I still cannot get my head round how fast the conditions changed there when the tide turned and what had been easy paddling along the coast, back and forth hugging the coastline, quickly became a fight to make any progress in one direction at all. On arrival, we had crossed the narrows at the start in a straight line but perhaps only an hour later on returning we traversed across in a much more skewed line traveling backwards whilst paddling forwards! The flow calculated for the day was 6kn (about 12 kmph), which is twice the speed one can paddle at for any length of time in a kayak so no headway is possible except in the eddies at the side of the narrows. Work on breaking in and out of eddies into and from the main flow and attempting to surf on a standing wave were the activities following lunch – more rolls for me too – another three out of three.

Day 3 started with a review of tidal theory and then a shorter day of paddling but we were all pretty tired from the previous days hard conditions and given that the subject of the day was refining paddle strokes and rescue / roll work, a short session was perfect as the time in the cold water was pretty exhausting.

All in, a great three days and looking forward to taking what I learned forward and building on it Great too to be challenged in conditions I would not have previously thought possible for me to paddle in as it gives a bit of re-assurance for future jaunts I will go on which will be less extreme. However, it will be good to know when conditions deteriorate, there is no need to be concerned unduly as I have managed okay before.

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