Winds Back with a Vengeance – Attempting to Kayak in Silly Conditions

A bit of a silly paddle really but worthwhile in its own way.  Forecast for the day was F6, gusting F9 from the west for the whole day which would always be a challenge but optimism and potential shelter from the islands on Loch Lomond had two of us make plans to meet up at Balmaha and go for whatever kind of paddle we could manage.

Having arrived in Blamaha, first impressions were that the forecast was certainly in the right ball park for the winds and this was maybe going to be a shorter paddle than intended.  Some kind of wandering route taking in multiple islands was not likely but perhaps a circumnavigation of the closest one might be. We hummed and hawed for a bit then got our kit on in the lee of the Visitor Centre entrance before heading for the water. Happily the sky had cleared a bit and the sun was out, suggesting some level of warmth that just wasn’t true. We both had pogies (to cover hands) on and were dressed for potential time in the water just in case.

Thankfully a lull in the winds, down to F4 maybe, coincided with our launch and soon we were out in the bay. A few practice turns in the strengthening winds seemed sensible prior to any journey out to the island even though it lay only a few hundred metres distant.  The turns started of challenging and with the winds soon back at the full speed we had seen earlier, became (for me at least) impossible.   Once I was turned back to shore, I just got blown in and burned myself out trying to back paddle into the wind to get far enough out from the shore to turn, which in any case I could not do. Eventually I got out and walked my kayak back to the slip way where we had launched from.

Some respite from the howling winds, by now tearing water off the surface, was enjoyed within a convenient phone box and we both wondered how long it has been since we had last used one of these things for their intended purpose. Some hot tea and snacks spurred us on to have a second go but this proved to be even shorter.

I had thought if I could just head out and not turn for a while facing straight in to the wind then I’d have a chance of paddling in the conditions thrown at me for longer but soon I was drifting off to the side and when ferrying back, my paddle was caught by a gust, tipping me over in the process for a dunking. Thankfully when I rolled back up the gust was gone and I paddled back to the slip to call it a day.

It would be nice to know that the winds were stronger than F6 purely to feel more confident about, and comfortable in, paddling in F5 in future but I suspect it is more likely that I just don’t have the skills to manage F6 at all.  I’ll have to seek out equally windy (blowing onshore) conditions in similarly safe environments like this to address this and figure out why my turning was so ineffective.

We never got close to that first island, we never even got out the bay and in summary, four hours and 150 miles driving for 15 minutes struggling on the water is maybe not the best use of time, however, we did get a good lesson on what conditions are just too difficult to paddle in. 🙂

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