Mike and I stayed with the boats while Douglas, Ian, Phil, Maurice, and my spouse of 42 years (who knows I love ice cream) headed to shore to the snack kiosk for the treat that tempted. They must have been quite a sight, four men and a woman in dry suits, appearing from offshore - the kayaks tucked into the reef, and quite invisible to folks on land.
As we waited...confident that Joan would return with an ice cream...a 10m RIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) from Arbroath Sea Safari, with passengers, paused to take in the spectacular marine environment. I was reminded, yet again, how fortunate we are to be able to paddle our narrow boats so close to the dramatic cliffs...and even deep into them where few other vessels could ever think of going.
It turned out to be a relatively short walk to the Victoria Park kiosk, across what would become the sea floor in a matter of hours. The sun was high and warm, and my mouth could already taste the cool sweetness of the coming ice cream cone.
In retrospect, in this image that Joan took, it was clear that Phil, Douglas, Ian, Maurice, (and Joan) were savouring this rare and tasty treat.
As they returned to the reef, I had an increasing sense that Joan was not carrying back with her, my long-anticipated ice cream. It was simply not to be.
So...Maurice, Douglas, Ian, Phil and Joan enjoyed cold, delicious soft ice cream. Mike, out on the reef with me, cooked one of his home-hatched eggs, which looked very tasty. Your faithful reporter was left to chew on an old, and slightly soggy power bar. Lesson learned.
And it's all fine. Next time, I will go to shore and get my own! ;)
As we began to close up dry suits and prepare the kayaks for the return leg, in winds that were beginning to build, we became aware of a drama unfolding about a mile out at sea.
A call for assistance on Marine VHF Channel 16 had come in from a seven metre yacht. In the winds which had increased to F4, and forecast to possibly rise to F6, the vessel had lowered its sails and started its engine. Unfortunately, its propeller had become fouled in a rope, attached to a creel buoy, and the yacht was immobilised.
Ian, a professional mariner, was in touch with both the Aberdeen Coast Guard and the disabled yacht and was appraised of the situation.
From higher "ground", the vessel was visible and clearly within reach by sea kayak.
A strategy was devised, and the go ahead was given by both Aberdeen Coast Guard and gratefully accepted by the yacht owner: Ian and Douglas would rendevous with the vessel and attempt to cut her free, so that she could raise her sail and navigate to the safety of the nearby harbour at Arbroath.
I was moved by the professionalism of the whole operation and the example of altruism at sea. Altruism is most often defined as the "unselfish concern or devotion for the well-being of others." It is a beautiful thing and it brings out the best in all of us...whether we are on the giving or the receiving end.
At sea, altruism, most specifically, going to the rescue of those in distress is an obligation that has long been enshrined in international treaties and in time-honoured tradition. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), was first adopted in 1914 in response to the Titanic disaster. Revised a number of times, Chapter 5 of the Treaty states that mariners have an obligation "to offer assistance to those in distress". The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in Article 98, clearly states that a vessel has a "duty to render assistance to another."
To most mariners, it would be unthinkable, if it did not further endanger either party, not to do all that one could to offer help to another...even if it's a tiny sea kayak offering assistance to a yacht.
And so Douglas and Ian set off, from the shelter of our reef cove, into bouncy waves and towards the vessel.
As it turned out, the RNLI Lifeboat, RNLB Inchcape, was also launched and subsequently assumed command, with thanks and appreciation to our guys. It was textbook. It was altruism at sea...well thought out, experienced eyes to the conditions, all the knowledge required, and with a solid strategy in place.
About 45 minutes later, we regrouped and the group of seven headed north back to Auchmithie. The combination of ebb tide against wind, the effects of waves against cliffs (clapotis), and headlands that created more "fun" waves than was really necessary! Well, we did have an eventful story to tell.
And some even got ice cream! :)