Monday, March 30, 2015

North Sea paddle: "Connections"...inside the kayak and out.

Joan and Douglas...the absolute joy of sea kayaking is evident in the smiles.
When my late dad retired, he built the most beautiful wooden kayak. He had first gone to sea when he was 17, and his love of the water seemed to culminate in the design and construction of this narrow boat. After many months of careful and loving attention to every detail, the long-anticipated "launch day" arrived. Joan and I (just recently married at the time), my mum, and several friends who had neighbouring cottages, gathered together on the beach for this momentous event.

Some forty years ago now, I don't remember a champagne bottle against the gleaming, white hull, but there would certainly have been some "frothy" drinks available for the celebration that followed. The launch went very well, and my dad did a long ceremonial circuit out in the lake, much to the delight of the small but enthusiastic crowd on the shore. After this first "test cruise", I was offered the old-fashioned, orange "life preserver", and the paddle. My Dad's only advice was, "Remember now son, you don't get into a kayak, you put it a sock."

Ian, Joan, and Douglas.
I've never forgotten those words and ever since that first paddle, I think of wearing my sea kayak, rather than being in it. It may not have been the most exact analogy, but my Dad was stressing the importance of "connection" in these sleek, narrow boats.

The paddler connects to the craft at many points. The feet are on the foot braces, heels below the braces, the knees or thighs are up against the underside of the deck, the back "touches" the back-band, and the hips are snug against the inside of the cockpit. It's all these points of connection that give us control of our craft.

Ian, pulling against determined waters.
"Connection" is a lovely word. We human beings need and yearn for connection, with one another, and to the world outside. Connections with others offer relationships, where we gain a sense of both belonging and identity. These are, of course, of infinite value and give our lives meaning, depth, and texture.

Mike, fully connected to boat, sea and doesn't get much better.
It is in such engaging connections with one another, that we find a conduit for kindness, compassion, and understanding in this world.

Returning from a "recce", under the sandstone arch.
We human beings have also had an intimate connection with nature, for our entire and evolving history. We must never lose it. At a time when the environment and the biosphere are threatened by our human activity, environmental activist, George Monbiot reminds us that "if children lose contact with nature they won't fight for it".

Our children are being increasingly drawn away from connection with the natural world, unduly distracted by the siren call of technology, social media, and all the associated and glittering "bells and whistles". When that happens, their sense of wonder and awe of this fragile, island planet is diminished. We must, therefore, do all that we can to ensure that a connection with nature is nurtured and cultivated in those young lives who will follow our foot steps and paddle strokes.

First lunch.
Sea kayaking offers a unique and dramatic connection to the natural's possible to explore and make discoveries - both sublime and delightful - where few other ocean-going "vessels" can ever follow.

Remote shingle beaches become venues for fine reservations necessary and never any lineups, ocean view guaranteed!

Your reporter, looking rather serious...
but as Mike would agree, Ian's homemade soup was "seriously" good! :)
Perhaps, the very best thing about "blogging" these past few years has been the growing connection with others who share a passion for sea kayaking and other outdoor pursuits, here in Scotland, back home in Canada, and all around the world.

We passed through both "portals" on the return trip, with the higher water.
We've enjoyed, for a long time now, following Ian and Douglas and Mike, and others, on many amazing paddles in this beautiful part of the world.

Transforming these "virtual" connections into reality, on the water, continues to be the icing on the cake. :)

Turning the corner to the increased swell of Lunan Bay.
We continued our North Sea paddle, along the dramatic coast, enjoying the gentle movement of both tide and swell. The broad sands of Lunan Bay, just around the next corner, invited a stop for a second lunch...and an "interesting", albeit mild, surf landing. :)


  1. A great post Duncan. It is funny how our generation seems to have a foot in each of the real and the virtual worlds. It was so good to cement a virtual relationship by meeting in the real world. :o)

  2. Thank you for that, Douglas. I think, in our parent's time, it would be akin to meeting their pen pals after much meaningful correspondence. The "cement" Is a very good quality. :) Warm wishes. Duncan.

  3. Connections with others and with nature is to me the greatest gift.
    From your "email pen pal" L

  4. And I cherish my email pen pal, L. It won't be long before "virtual" becomes "reality" for a little while. Always glad when you come by. HYS :). D.