Sunday, April 29, 2007

From Thom

Triple Arch
Snack break
Ben Hope in the background - the northern most Monroe
Fish arch. Fisherman used to dry fish under this arch - too much rain - but not today!

Today started early, very early… Theresa, Jane, Jon… you would have been proud of me for getting up this early for kayaking! Admittedly Lynn is not here so getting out of bed early is easier. I was up at 5:00 AM and luring Jen out of bed at 5:30 with a cup of coffee (now that’s a miracle!) so we could get our planned final test day in.

Today we took a risk and decided to go ~1-1/2 hours west to Eilean Nan Ron and Neve Islands. It meant an early start because we had to get our assessor (Doug) back by 2 PM to meet with the other assessors give the thumbs up (or thumbs down) for each aspirant. So off we went into a cloudy and windy horizon.

Today was Jen’s day to demonstrate her teaching techniques and acumen, and our day to be stellar students. The launching spot was an easy protected beach at Skerray (a harbor so surf launch was not an issue). After warming up we did a small bit of playing in the local harbor reef rocks, then off to Neve Island for more serious rock gardening with swells and timing. After some play we rounded the exposed side of the island and were greeted with today’s full wind of ~15 mph gusting to 20 mph. Not so bad, however, the water was broken up with small swells and lots of chop. We had hoped to pass through an arch that is quite famous, however, the tide was too low causing a overfall that simply wasn’t navigable. Nonetheless, we had plenty of rocks to play in, one which Jake and Jen slid through smoothly, I sat in front of for some time (my inner voice saying ‘not today’) and chose to paddle round. Then we headed for Eilean Nan Ron, the larger of the two, islands we planned to circumnavigate for the day.

This required a ~1 mile crossing with following wind and swell off our right stern. We didn’t have to consider current as much today but nonetheless, Jake once again did a masterful job at researching tide times and current speeds (~1 to 2 knots). Oddly the current was running right to left when we started the crossing, then shifted form left to right in the middle of the channel. Slight adjustments made for a smooth crossing and with the wind and waves we had a bit of surfing fun as well.

Once we reached Eilean Nan Ron we paddled into a natural harbor and were introduced to a low natural arch which looked impassable but if you laid you paddle on your deck and used your hands on the roof rock it allowed you to slip through and voila you were in a small harbor pool with room enough for just our 5 kayaks. It was sweet. Then off to circumnavigate Eilean Nan Ron as we had a strict timetable to keep.

The exposed side of the island was a tall cliff of sedimentary rock and we hugged the cliff side riding the swells and addressing the wind. This island too had great caves (one we all paddled in together) and arches. Soon we turned the corner and dropped through a slot that passed along the west end of the island providing a calm paddle with yet another cave after which we stopped on a pebble for a stretch and a snack.

After the break we headed out for the crossing ferrying against the wind, along the coast and into our harbor of safety. Our assessors headed back for their session and we layed up to load the kayaks and have lunch.

Jen’s test results were close… but no go. According to the assessors she needs more work on multitasking with multiple students during a simultaneous session (apparently this is a big thing with BCU folks). Of course, Jake and I didn’t agree – but we didn’t get a vote. Jen is taking the results well and plans to come back ASAP to get this done. It is unlikely we would return to Thurso and much more unlikely that the weather would ever be this good again.

Jen may get logged on tonight and post or not. She is currently researching weather and ferries for the Shetland Islands. If the ducks fall in a row we have decided that we may never get this far north again and plan to head first across to the Orkney’s for a day then catch the overnight ferry to the Shetlands for a few days of paddling. We would be returning probably on Thursday allowing all of us to get to our obligations on Friday. If you don’t hear from us for a few days it’s because we can’t get an internet connection wherever we are. We will catch you up whenever we get connected.


Axel said...

Hi Jen,
I sneaked away from my Dutch group to get to the SKUK office to look for news. Too bad you did not make it. But it surely is a good learning experience and you are still leages ahead! Have fun in the Shetlands and hope to be meeting and paddling with you soon (next week?)! Weather is georgeous in Anglesey. From what I read from the posts Northern Scotland (Thurso) is beautiful paddling. Take care, Axel

Lynn said...

Amazing descriptons and wonderful pictures. Thanks Thom and hugs to you Jan. You are a stellar instructor in our book no matter what!!! You inspire us all!!! We are with you!!!