Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Return to the North Sea...launching.

Red and green, port and starboard...
and a sleek yellow "banana" on the side.
The forecast day finally arrived, conditions on the North Sea would be perfect. The plan was to launch at Arbroath. Over the last several years, we've stayed, for extended periods, in this lovely seaside town. It's the home of Arbroath Abbey, founded in 1178 by King William the Lion - 20 years or so after the parish church where I currently serve was built. The abbey was the site of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath - Scottish independence - in 1320.

The beach where we usually launch sits just below the Signal Tower, built in 1813. Now a museum, it served as the shore base of operations and family living quarters for the brave keepers of the Bell Rock lighthouse. Constructed between 1807 and 1810 by Robert Stevenson, and sitting 11 miles off-shore, it is the world's oldest sea-washed lighthouse. Interestingly, Robert was the grandfather of another famous Stevenson, novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote the classics, KidnappedTreasure Island, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's a small world.

The elegant Signal Tower Museum, former base of land ops.
Launch is a lovely word. It suggests the beginning of a journey, perhaps the initial step of a grand adventure. For most sea kayakers, the preparation for the launch is a labour of love. Before leaving home, gear and kit is assembled...we've finally learned to keep it all together in two large, blue IKEA (International Kayaking Expedition Association) bags. ;)

Kayaks are then lifted onto the roof of the Moderate Terrain Kayak Transport Vehicle, also known by its civilian designation as a four-door Ford Focus. The boats are secured, and checked.

The drive to the launch spot is always one of quiet and delicious anticipation. We park and carry or roll the kayaks to the shoreline. We squeeze into the dry suits. Like two astronauts-in-training, we check one another for secure (and therefore watertight) zippers and seals. Gear is tucked into designated hatches. The two-piece, adjustable, paddles are put together, mine at a 15 degree "feather", Joan's at 30 degrees. Everything is ready.

The two "pals" are getting closer to where they want to be.
The moment having come, we launch into the very still water.

Setting out.
Leaving terra firma, and the harbour behind, it's difficult to believe that this is the North February.

Last "land".
On this day, it might be possible to paddle all the Denmark.

"Joan, I mean really...Danish pastries or not, it's too far."
But we don't. 

A slow and arcing turn to the port side points us towards the dramatic cliffs and the darkened, eerie caves, carved into the ancient red sandstone. It was this very sandstone that built the medieval Abbey...and most of Arbroath.

It was going to be a perfect winter day in a small northern country, once known as Caledonia.

The launch accomplished, the adventure begins.


  1. What a brilliant day D & J !

    I really must visit the Signal Tower museum, being a fan of lighthouses.....

    love the new IKEA acronym - just superb! :o)

    Best wishes

    1. Thank you for that, Ian. The museum is well worth a visit, perhaps along with another day on the water down this way? I just discovered that IKEA also has stores that sell furniture! Who would have thought it?! Haha. Warm wishes, Duncan.

  2. Hey, Has anyone else noticed in the picture that Joan seems to have managed to get her kayak down to the beach but Duncan has had to attach little wheels to get his in place for the big launch?
    Ah well we all show our age sooner or later. Haha
    Looks like a great day on the water Duncan. Can't wait to see more pictures.

    1. I just KNEW you'd say something like that, Linda.:) I was showing my "wisdom", not my age! The fact is, it didn't actually go that well, as I didn't secure the straps very well and the trolley kept on slipping backwards Thankfully, there wasn't anyone watching! Always appreciate your comments...well, most of the time anyway. Haha! Warm wishes. Duncan.