Sea Kayak Bute were privileged to take a journalist from the Scotsman newspaper on her first sea kayak journey. What particularly appealed to us about Pamela’s article is how the beauty of the Isle of Bute is reflected in her writing and the emotional connection with the sea and kayak she conveys in this short article.
Thanks to the Scotsman for publishing and allowing us to post on our blog.
Float your boat
An expert guide makes sea-kayaking a breeze
By Pamela Moffat
Choppy seas and gusty winds may not be ideal conditions for a landlub- ber to experience sea kayaking for the first time, but with the help of Roddy McDowell, lead guide and coach at Kayak Bute, it’s possible to take to the sea like a duck to water.
Sea kayaking is an ideal way to explore Scotland’s west coast, and the map in Roddy’s workspace, where we prepare for our outing, boasts dozens of pins marking plac- es he’s camped on his many expe- ditions. Indeed, the next week he’s due to lead two German visitors on a ten-day island tour. However, our group of slightly apprehensive novices eye up his state-of-the- art vessels with more than a hint of trepidation. What’s the likeli- hood of them remaining upright and afloat? As we wrestle with waterproofs and buoyancy aids there’s a noticeable absence of the c-word (capsize).
Unfortunately, island weather conditions are unsuitable for be- ginners to head straight out to sea, so we make for a sheltered spot at Port Bannatyne where we can safely launch. After a few minutes afloat I panic, tense up and then realise that relaxing is actually the best option as it allows the kayak to move with the sea, bobbing around like the aforementioned duck.
Over the next hour we learn to paddle forwards, backwards, even sideways. We venture into deep water further offshore and experience crossing small waves in all directions, we feel the wind and gradually become at one with the sea – and I never feel out of my depth.
Maybe at this point I should ex- plain that I have always been scared of the sea (thanks Jaws) so this is a momentous occasion for me.
We take a land break to stretch our legs and enjoy Roddy’s coffee/ hot chocolate/Bailey’s concoction and, with the wind easing, decide to move to the west coast and see how we get on. Still no c-word.
We launch from St Ninian’s Bay, which has stunning views across to Inchmarnoc and Arran. Hugging the coast and paddling through crystal clearwater, Roddy says we’ll follow the coast and “embark on our journey”. I’m close to tears, it’s a beautiful experience, one which I never imagined I’d participate in. We continue to the headland at Scalpsie Bay where inquisitive seals pop up to see their visitors, then dive and splash beside the kayaks.
Stopping for another land break, we marvel at the view. Despite paddling into the wind, the trip back is over all too quickly, our growing confidence having allowed a slightly more direct route, and we’re back at the bay before there’s any talk of the c-word until Roddy demonstrates his Eskimo roll and one of the group deliberately capsizes to let the rest of us witness a from rescue. For me this has been the journey of a lifetime.
Trips, courses and expeditions can be tailored on an individual basis. A day’s coaching costs £65, equipment can be hired for £15. Visit http://www.kayakbute.co.uk