There are probably days when the wind is calm and the sea like glass. This was not one of them. With limited (very) kayaking experience we set off from the calm of the harbour into the teeth of mighty waves, spring tides, and strong winds working against the tide (this means something to nautical people. To me it just meant big, confused seas doing their best to tip me upside down, or at least prevent me from getting where I wanted to go). All this information, as well as the equipment, guidance and expertise was provided by the Shearwater people who shepherded us like sheepdogs, keeping us on the edge of terror, but just on the right side of disaster for the day.
We had to take a slingshot approach to the island, but eventually landed safely. After a bite to eat, we took the coastal path and found the cache quickly. Stunning views were everywhere you looked, as well as many curious seals. At this time of year, the bird population was pretty small so we had no problems with air attacks or the like.
When it came time to leave, I assumed we would just take the running battle against wind and waves to return to harbour, but our guides suggested it would be a jolly wheeze to circle the island first. Fair enough I thought - it will be nice and sheltered around the back. So we set off down by the Martello Tower, and through the gap between the sea stack and the island. Not a problem, but I didn't like the look of the rocks there. Safely navigated and with that behind us, we were in the clear - a good swell, but nothing compared to what we had on the other side. As we came around to the cache side, and the mighty sea stack there, I was somewhat dismayed when word filtered down that our course was between it and the cliff. In itself this was not a big problem. It was the narrowing to about six feet between two big rocks, with the sea surging through it with each swell that bothered me - we would have to paddle straight into this and, all going well, out the other side.
When my turn came, it was just case of going for it - what else was there? So off I went. My somewhat limited paddling technique was shown up when I stalled in the swell and was then pointed directly at one of the rocks. Luckily my minutes of training kicked in. I looked at it and thought 'I don't have the skill to manoeuvre out of this'. So I did what any self respecting land lubber would do. No, I didn't cry (although it was an option). Instead, I just shipped my paddle and waited for the impact. Luckily this went well and it deflected me in the direction I needed, so once clear I paddled like mad. And got through!
I won't bore further, but suffice to say this was not the last surprise they had in store. Minutes later we came to something they referred to as the inner channel (I think) and suggested that there might be some 'arse scraping' (another nautical term I think) but we should get through. So off we went. Once more with feeling, what choice did I have? All I remember is lots of rocks and white water. And getting through!! Happy days. And then it was only a matter of crossing the channel and safely back to harbour. Not a word about the strong tide and headwind of course.
My GPS tells me that I covered more than 15km all in, about one of which was on the island (we had been down towards Casana before coming back to the Eye). My arms as I crossed the channel back to the harbour felt like lead. But strangely, when I woke up this morning (an achievement in itself considering some elements of my wee paddle), they were fine. The only after effect was a soreness in my right calf. Didn't expect that!
TFTC, and a favourite
#845 @ time n/k