13th of October, 2010 – Night Paddle to Bass Rock

Almost a year to the date of the last similar trip I joined in which we headed out from North Berwick in a loop towards Craigleith then on to Bass Rock before heading in towards Seacliff Beach for an intended stop then back to our starting point.

We met up with the last of the day’s light fading as we got ourselves organised, including the extra need for lighting, but by the time we had discussed our plans and launched it was actually already dark. Adorned with various glosticks and head torches we headed out through the waves.

The same route was followed as that taken last year but the main difference this year were in the level of surf at the shore. We launched in to some surf, not too bad at all but over the course of the trip I lost a map and case which I can only think was swept off unnoticed when a wave broke directly on to me on the way out. The water out from the shore was in no way rough though there must have been some swell to generate the surf. We quickly made progress over the Craigleith then without circumnavigating on to Bass Rock, using first a cardinal buoy en-route then the Bass lighthouse itself as navigation aids until the rock itself loomed large out the darkness like a giant iceberg. The white coating it receives form the birds still discernible even in the limited light coming from NB’s street lighting.

At the Bass, we split with a group rounding the rock whilst some of us waited beneath the lighthouse awaiting their return. It is always a bit lumpier round the back of the rock and with that in mind and the known absolute darkness round there, it was not an attractive prospect for some. From memory of last year’s trip though, I can say it is a pretty special experience – lack of vision gives rise to a much stronger sense and use of what ones ears, general awareness of movement and nose are telling you.

From the Bass, once we had re-grouped, we set off with tea and nibbles in mind to Seacliff Beach where we intended stopping for a rest. Aiming for the lights of a known house above the beach, we kept close together and chatted about the bioluminescence first then about the clearly and increasingly audible booming of surf ahead of us. We stuck even closer together as we approached the beach and were intending to go in one by one in the safer side, free of rocks. However, before deciding on any kind of plan as we slowed down, we were all taken by surprise rising and surging forward together as a wave caught all of us suddenly. With various expressions of surprise most of us back-paddled fast and watched as one member of the group, indicated by a headtorch, blasted all the way in though safely thankfully. Our tea stop was abandoned and once all back on the water safely, we continued back to start with no other events along the way.

Back at Milsey Bay where we started the surf was tiny and we landed almost without incident, just one member of the group having a wet exit just at the shore line.

Great trip – very atmospheric a spooky twist on a popular route which gives it an totally different feel.


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