Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ice cream on deck...and a rescue operation on the North Sea.

After lunch, our North Sea paddle, south, from Auchmithie to Arbroath continued with more exploration "inside the earth" - more caverns and caves. Ian has written a marvellous account with tons of description in his posts, Sea Kayaking under the farmland of AngusLuncheon in a lost world, and Narrow places - exploring the geos of the Angus coastDouglas has also posted the continuing events of this very full day in his post, A rescue and two ice cream heads at Auchmithie - great reads!

I had, in the back of my mind, been thinking about us all paddling over for a coffee at the Old Boatyard in Arbroath Harbour but a much better (and slightly closer) alternative began to ice cream cone at Victoria Park, north of the town. The tide was just right for us to walk to shore from a reef! Now, how cool is that? 

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.

The rest of us kept rear guard, as they made good progress, rising and falling in the swell. 

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! :)


  1. Oh Duncan, so sorry about the ice cream. Never mind the rescue, altruism begins at home, with ice cream cones! Next time!!! Douglas :o)

  2. Awe, thanks Douglas, I've recovered from that. ;) Having ice cream (at sea) probably begins by making at least some effort to walk across the sea floor to go and get it...and I didn't! Haha! Many thanks and warm wishes to you. Duncan.

  3. Ahhh - I feel that the "icecreamgate" incident may very well be mentioned on future trips! Next time the boats can look after themselves..... :o)

    1. Haha! Thanks for that, Ian. I rather think the boats will always win! But at least I have aired my envy and angst and promise to refrain from raising it again. It was simply an excellent day. Warm wishes. Duncan.

  4. Ah D, I know that you rarely choose to get an icecream're just used to Joan sharing a bit of hers and I find it kinda funny that she fooled you this time ��.
    Great pics and tale.

    1. Ah, you're right, it's how I keep my youthful frame - always just a small taste. ;) Do check out the links with Ian and Douglas, they have some marvellous pics that demonstrate the majesty of the cliffs. Thanks so much, L, and warm wishes. D.

  5. I always do read Ian and Douglas's blogs, fantastic photos as always!

    1. Good news, L, two great spots to learn about many of the very special (and lesser known) places in this country. Our "to go" list with you is getting rather overwhelming! :) Warm wishes. D.

  6. Lovely account of paddle experience...recently I got stuck at a lake and I don't know swimming and there was a simple rescue operation for me, a person came over and lifted me on a kayak and paddled me to shore. As a person being rescued I think I was grateful for the help I received, so that helping spirit is a good thing. Next time yes get your own nice ice cream, good that you understand how fortunate you are to be able to paddle to see those clifs when bigger vessles are not able to.