Sea Kayaking Beginner Course

We ran our first sea kayaking beginner course this week and the forecast was a little mixed with everything from snow, rain , and sunshine, which most would describe as a typical week on the west coast of Scotland. However, you shouldn't always believe the BBC and we were blessed by three amazing days on the water. 

Day1: After introductions over a cup of coffee and a chat about what everyone wanted to get out of the three days, the  participants were  given a choice from our wide variety of sea kayaks while I tried to ensure they had the right craft for their ability, even if the final decision came down to colour!! Day one of any course is always a bit of a faff by the time we get everyone kitted out for their adventures. With such a glorious day I decided that the sunshine couldn't last for the duration of the course and to give the best experience possible we headed for Plockton for our introductory day. Its sheltered waters make it an ideal venue to introduce the first time paddler to sea kayaking. So after the usual introductions to boats and paddles we headed for the crystal clear waters around Plockton. A perhaps less typical spring day afforded us amazing views of the Applecross peninsula which provide a perfect back drop to any day on the water.

Sea Kayaking  Plockton

My passion for kayaking comes from the freedom it provides to explore some of our amazing coastlines and it wasn't too long before we couldn't resist the lure of some of the islands that lie to the east of the village. So after an introduction to forward paddling my participants were off and paddling heading out to explore some of the islands. Stopping for lunch in a sheltered bay also provided an opportunity to explore a small nature reserve. After a review of the mornings activities and the usual wrestling with wet suits for a visit to the loo we headed off down the coast to view some local hide aways which to me highlights the advantage of using local guides, as they can show you points of interest that are only known through local knowledge whether it be culture, history or wildlife and I don't mean the local bar on a Saturday night!!

After a short crossing to Plockton light house and a brief stop on the Coral Beach, which is not actually coral but maerl, we headed back into Plockton, all be it a little red as someone had forgot to take the sun screen but at least it wasn't wind burn!!!

Day 2: Tuesday brought a little glitch in the west coast weather but with a prospect of an improvement in conditions by mid day, it was agreed that perhaps, we would do a trip planning and navigation session to look at some basic planning and where to source the information you need to get safely on the water. This included  a session on demystifying the dark art that is nautical charts, without giving everyone information overload.

Sea Kayaking Eilean Donan Castle

After an early lunch it was decided to head for Dornie and 914 Outdoor and move on the skills set from the day before. So after looking at improving both turning and control of the boats through edging we headed out across the loch from Eilean Donan Castle to Totaig and then once there, it was decided that we would make the short walk to the Broch which dates back to approximately 300 BC. As we kayaked along the coast we were also blessed by the unusual site of a Pine Marten hunting on the shore line, something I have never seen before in day lights hours, as these animals are nearly always nocturnal. 

We returned to Dornie in the late afternoon with just enough time to look at some rescue techniques and being the gentleman I am, I offered to do the wet bit. So all in all an action packed day with lots of information to take on to our final day.   

Spar Cave

Day 3 It was decided through agreement between the group that if the weather dawned bright with little wind, we should try for one of the classic little sea kayak trips, Kilmarie to Elgol on the Isle of Skye.This paddle is ideal for first time paddlers as long as the weather is settled, as it can be much more challenging should there be a strong swell coming up from the SW. This was not the case, although it was unfortunate that Anita could not join us for the final day as her modelling career beckoned and she had to return to work!!! Skyak Adventures had realised the potential of the day and a group of  Skyak Kayaks had set off in front of us from Kilmarie heading for Spar Cave. Arriving about twenty minutes after the gaggle of kayaks it was decided to wait until they exited the caves before entering to explore this amazing geological feature, that has been a bit of a mecca for visitors to Skye since victorian times. I always think there is something special about visiting Spar Cave by sea kayak, as the experience is enhanced by letting you view many more amazing geological features as you paddle towards the cave from Kilmarie. I always find the waters particularly fascinating as they appear to be terquoise in colour and against the back drop of Blaven, there is perhaps no other view that would match it. After a quick lunch, we went into explore the cave which again no matter how many times I enter this cavern, I am captivated by the geology which has been sculptured by mother nature herself. 

Sea Kayaking Elgol Isle of Skye

We returned to the boats in time to reach the kayaks before our path was cut off by the incoming tide  and we would have to wade in over our wellies….Yes, wellies are wonderful if you are a kayaker!! We decided that we would push on round the headland with a brief stop to allow the common seals to watch us watching them. As we round the peninsula, the Cuillin Ridge starts to rise above the headland to form, what must be, one of the most iconic panoramic views in Britain. Once in  Loch Coruisk it is just a short distance to Elgol Pier much to the disappointment of Margaret, who felt that the trip had surpassed all her expectations. Well done Margaret, you are an inspiration to us all! 

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19 Apr 2012 09:06

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