Friday, 26 August 2011

Sea Kayaking with Paddle Lochaber

Nervous laughs all round as we got into our sea kayaks for the first time. Getting a comfortable seating position didn't take too long and it seemed stable enough, but there again we were still on the grass by the bays at Ballachulish. Next came the tricky bit, getting into them on the water!

The team manoeuvres into the raft formation.

Paddle Lochaber are based in Ballachulish and is run by Mark, a typically easy going and knowledgeable  enthusiast for the sport. He offers a variety of courses, for the complete beginners right through to the experts looking for a certification. The half day introductory session is a bargain at £35, with all equipment (wet suits too) included. Both Ed (director) and Gordon GM) had been lamenting for a while that they should really get out onto the water, and following a chance meeting at Clachaig's recent whisky tasting session, 2 spaces were booked. Brave talk, aided by the water of life, leading to fearing for life out on the water?

 Ballachulish Bridge, the Ardgour hills beyond.

In no time at all, our little group of kayaking novices were out on the water in a perfect sheltered bay adjacent to Ballachulish village. Mark's laid back coaching style ensured that we were under no pressure to do more than we were comfortable with, and very soon we were all manoeuvring about the bay, albeit with the finesse of a fully laden supertanker.

 Further out on Loch Leven, heading for St. John's.

With our new found confidence we then set off on a tour of Loch Leven. We did seem to have chosen a fairly stunning day for it, with plenty of sunshine, but we all got the feeling that exploring the coastline would have been as much fun even without the sun.

In between the coaching on paddling techniques Mark dropped in plenty of bits of historical interest as we passed various landmarks, not least of which was the significance of the Ballachulish Slate Quarry which it has to be said, is best seen from the water.

Towards Glencoe and the Pap of Glencoe

Herons, common seals, salmon farms, mussel farms, the Burial Isle,... and just a real pleasure being out on the water. Fantastic! I no time at all the morning session was over and we were safely back at the launch site.

Gordon - last seen heading towards Oban

However, Ed decided that it was time to see whether getting out of a capsized boat really was as simple as Mark suggested it was, even if you're 6 ft 2in and feel like you're well and truly wedged into your boat. It is! And not only that, it's surprisingly easy to get back into your kayak again once in the water too, though it has to be said, that this doesn't usually form part of the half day introductory session!

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