12th of December, 2010 – Paddling 20 Metres Below Seal Level

This morning six of us set off bright (actually, dark) and early from Anstruther Harbour with the aim of getting out to the Isle of May experiencing the sunrise en-route and hopefully being able to land and explore, all going well.

Leaving the harbour, a brilliant protected and convenient road-side launch site just slightly after 7am under a partially cloudy but otherwise starry sky, we headed directly for the obvious target of the Isle of May, visible itself in silhouette against the brightening sky beyond. The lighthouse was a focus anyway even if it had been darker.

Even though we had called in our trip plan with the coastguard by phone before launching, as requested, once on the water I called in again on the radio and I was surprised that they didn’t switch to a channel other than 16 for our conversation, I wonder if it just is quiet enough at that time that they were okay using 16 or instead, if it was a way for them to have all the fishing boats moving about in the area made aware of our presence on the water.

A quicker than expected passage out to the Isle followed with sky brightening but cloud building along the way had me think that the sunrise was going to be a non-event but about two thirds of the way out we did indeed get treated to pretty scene ahead with the sun breaking through the cloud on the horizon. Surprisingly, rather than the expected swell from the north, it was coming more from the east and with that we enjoyed the shelter provided by the island as we explored the nooks and crannies on the west coast including an arch and tunnel or two before rounding the SE tip back in to the swell and with that a realisation that a landing there was not going to happen. No matter, we had seen other options on the west side so continued on a circumnavigation to a small, rocky bay close to the NW.

Along the way we saw many seals with their pups and avoided disturbing them as best we could so we were quite pleased to land at our chosen bay with apparently no seals present. Soon though we discovered one lonesome pup at the back, high above us showing some surprise at our arrival. Scaling the slippy rocks to avoid approaching it we soon discovered other pups and some parents don’t restrict themselves to the coastal parts of the island but venture along the paths and up to some really surprising spots. I had assumed climbing was not allowed on the Isle but if that is the case, nobody has told the budding alpinists among the elite climbing seal pup community.

After perhaps an hour ashore lunching and then exploring, we set off back to Anstruther, under a stunning blue, cloudless sky towards Scotland’s best fish and chips at Anstruther which we could smell from a few hundred metres out to sea.

All in a really good day and not too cold for the time of the year, especially after the recent arctic temperatures suffered by the East of Scotland.

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