Monday, May 25, 2015

Perfect Auchmithie: Paddling back...inside the planet.

Back in bonnie Scotland now, we had a weather window of opportunity - rare, these past weeks, and it beckoned. It really beckoned. If the Saturday forecast conditions held, it would be perfect. It was.

The venue: the North Sea. Launch spot: the tiny, former fishing village of Auchmithie, perched on the red, sandstone cliffs, north of Arbroath. The gathering: seven smiling sea kayakers...hungry for some adventure. 

It became a "banquet" of treats, a perfect day on the water: sunshine, warm air temperature, sea birds, deep and dark caverns and caves, dramatic photographic opportunities, stunning geological features, excellent company...and a sea state that transitioned from benign to "energetic".

Coming from the Kingdom of Fife, Ayrshire, Glasgow, and Aberdeenshire, Ian, Douglas, Mike, Maurice, and Phil and Joan and myself met at the old harbour, beneath the cliffs at Auchmithie, for a 1030 hrs launch. It was great to see Ian, Mike, and Douglas again - we'd paddled here together a month and a half ago. And it was a real pleasure to meet Maurice and Phil, two more passionate sea kayakers. It was a good company, indeed.

The coast along here is well seasoned with sea caves and caverns. It is not often possible to paddle into them. This day, however, there was an opportunity on the southbound leg, on the northbound return leg, not so much. Douglas has posted an excellent narrative on the day here. I'm hoping Ian will do the same on Mountain and Sea Scotland. :)

Here's just a small taste...

Paddling "inside the planet" can be like being inside a massive, medieval cathedral, it is "awe"some. Hearts and minds the silence.

A "light" at the end of this cave, leads to the Gaylet Pot, a massive blow hole, in the middle of a farmer's field.

There is a "secret beach", 150m inland...few vessels have ever landed there. How could they? Those that did, were probably pirates!

We paddled back out to sea, and south along the coast.

It was time to stretch legs...

and examine the marvellous geological formations, formed south of the equator...they astonish the imagination.

Oceanside dining doesn't get much line ups, no reservations needed, fine food and beverage...

It was time for a formal group photo...the four men in mango (Mike, Douglas, myself, Ian), Maurice in red, and Phil in yellow. Photo taken by the "lady in red". ;) We were one pretty happy paddling family.

The narrow boats rested...they would work hard on the return trip.

Launching again, we passed the "Needle's E'e".

There was some excitement and drama to follow...but first, a stop for ice cream. 

Yes, ice cream. ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Peace-filled days, adrenaline-fuelled moments...and the avoidance of "quiet desperation".

Kayaking to and around the various southern Gulf Islands along the east coast of Vancouver Island, is always a good adventure. At times the water is very calm, as it was this day. There's a pretty good fetch along the Trincomali Channel, however, and the paddler can be treated to some impressive rolling and breaking waves.

The launch spot at Fernwood, on Saltspring Island, is a great place to explore Wallace Island and the offshore islets in the channel. A second crossing over to Galiano Island, expands the day and makes for a nice circuit.

Sea kayaking can bring wonderful, peace-filled moments that last all day long...the afterglow, still softly burning as one falls asleep at night. The regular reach and draw of the double-bladed paddles propel the narrow boat along, creating what becomes, for me, a contemplative state.

It's not always that way. A month or so ago, while on the North Sea, both Joan and I were treated to a rather surprisingly "energetic" breaking wave, along the port side of our kayaks. So filled with the joy of being where we were, we had lost a degree of situation awareness. We had become less than vigilant...and we had also paddled unnecessarily close to the ruins of the old, concrete breakwater at Auchmithie.

We were both were able to brace successfully into the rolling foam but in the next moment of time, I found myself staring down at the sea, and out towards Norway (!), the stern of my kayak having been thrown up on the breakwater. It happened so quickly, I cannot even remember it happening. Whether it was "muscle memory" or (more than likely) incredibly good luck, balance was maintained long enough for another wave to wash my boat and I back to the safety of actually floating again. It was a mistake to be so close to the crumbling concrete in that swell, where a rescue would have been difficult.

So there are peace-filled days, and adrenaline fuelled moments. The former give our spirits refreshment and restoration, the latter test and stretch us. It's the "quiet desperation" in life that needs to be avoided.

Thoreau wrote about "quiet desperation". When people speak about the "same old, same old", that may be quiet desperation. When I hear someone leave the weekend behind, to go "back to the grind"...that may bespeak quiet desperation. Describing ones life as "ho hum"....quiet desperation creeping in?

When life gets "busy" and we forget to explore or discover or investigate or seek out new learning or growing experiences...we tempt quiet desperation.

Sometimes we just succumb to "blowing in the wind", the resulting sense of powerlessness can open the door to, yes, quiet desperation.

When we live distracted lives, and forget that each moment is precious, and irreplaceable...we give the nod to quiet desperation.

Peace-filled moments...(occasional) adrenaline-fuelled moments...I rather like such things.

Both usher in a gentle sense of joy, accomplishment, and satisfaction...

...and when the sun sets, and the boats are back on the racks, it just feels like it's been a good day.

You probably know exactly what I mean. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Back home for a holiday...and to a super "natural" Island world.

From out of the sunshine, a soft rain began to fall and a magical rainbow formed, right before our eyes.

As quickly as the mists had come in, the skies cleared, the rainbow vanished...Maple Bay and, across the Sansum Narrows, Saltspring Island appeared. It was very special.

We were back home again, after a second six months away in another super "natural" and ancient land, the place of my birth...Scotland.

Sometimes you have to go away, to see most clearly, the beauty of your own Island home.

This is the first posting since's a bit overdue. You see, we opted for a wifi connection turned way "down" (for budget-related reasons). It had sufficient "juice" to check email...but very little else. Bravely, we tried to tough it out. We finally asked a friend if we could have access to her connection and, well, the memories of instant connection came flooding back. A short time later, so did our own wifi. ;)

So, back on Vancouver Island for a holiday (and the pleasant avocation of blogging), here's a small taste of the past couple of weeks.

A visit to Gabriola Island brought back many memories of the little cabin looking across the Salish Sea to the British Columbia Coastal Mountains.

There has been very special family time...

...and some new pals.

One gave us the "eagle" eye!

Another, at the nearby Raptors Centre, provided an opportunity for a lesson in "falconry" - with a hawk!

Launching the kayaks, just five minutes from home, "rocks"!

The Gulf Islands' coastline is primordial.

The narrow boats were, of course, very happy to be out exploring again.

With every morning launch, comes mid-day lunch.

The trees grow pretty big around here...a "cracking" place to meet up with a special friend.

Wooden pathways lead to remote beaches.

Roots? Yes. They make fine listeners to Joan's "atmospheric" tunes.

From Long Beach, it might be possible to see all the way across the Pacific Ocean...well, if the earth wasn't so round!

Driftwood and runaway logs, some tossed high onto the rocks, line the western Island shores.

The late April waves release their storm-created energy...dreamlike.

The western sun sets, behind our Island home...and stirs the heart, mind, and soul.

Sometimes one has to go away, and come home again, to see and comprehend the beauty of a world so familiar. For the time being, we are home, we will breathe it all in...deeply.

It's all, truly, super "natural".

Sunday, April 05, 2015

North Sea paddle: On being drawn to the sea...

Our journey, by sea kayak, to Lunan Bay with Ian, Mike, and Douglas continued and I found myself thinking about how much I love and am drawn to the sea.

Perhaps it has to do with being born on an island...and at three years of age boarding a ship (the Cunard Liner Franconia) for Canada...and spending weekends and summers as a child by a lake...returning to the UK at the age of 8 aboard the Sylvania and returning again to Canada on the Carinthia...never being very far from water, whether it be lake, river, or ocean.

Perhaps it's much more ancestral, something primitive...something that harkens back through unimaginable time...

I don't know...except that there is a passion for the sea.

Others, much more eloquent, have expressed their love of and respect for the sea..

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
- Jacques Yves Cousteau

My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.” 
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. 
If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, 
science will discover these qualities... 
If there is poetry in my book about the sea, 
it is not because I deliberately put it there, 
but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” 
 - Rachel Carson

The ocean is a central image.
It is the symbolism of a great journey.
- Enya

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans. 
- Kahlil Gibran

Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way 
the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, 
no matter how many times it’s sent away. 
- Sarah Kay

The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination 
and brings eternal joy to the soul.
- Robert Wyland

When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, 
I go to the sea, 
and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, 
cleanses me with its noise, 
and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. 
The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
- Kate Chopin

It was a wonderful day on the water...a shared journey by a small community of those whose double-bladed paddles and narrow boats bring both great pleasure, and the opportunity to explore this marvellous planet. We are thankful for the friendship, and the companionship on this marvellous North Sea.

Shortly, we will fly across the ocean, over the frozen arctic regions, and then a massive continent. We will reunite with our Canadian kayaks on Pacific waters. They have waited patiently, for six their adventure will continue.