Monday, November 19, 2007
It's really amazing to have friends who are willing to trek so far around the globe to a cold, dark, wet place to help me do this. I can't thank Thom and Lynn enough for supporting this endeavour not once, but twice!!! Brian was a perfect long term student and I owe him big time. Jake made the first trip so much fun and such an adventure. Thanks, guys.
We're all disappointed for Steve, but it's certainly not the end of the road. He's been so generous to us and has made this trip very easy. We spent the whole week chauffeured about (we offered to drive - don't know why he wouldn't let us) in a very large van with a very fine fleet of kayaks in tow. Even in his disappointment, he's funny and entertaining and happy for me. A class act, for sure.
Off to pack. See you all soon!
Above is the exact moment (well OK just 10 seconds later) that Jen was informed by Gordon that she had passed.
Jen then calls mom with the news. Jake might have gotten the first call, however, we all knew he was sitting up and a tree hunting deer and wouldn't answer his phone anyway!
So back to our day with Jen. Once again we were out early to meet up and pickup Andy (the same assessor Bryan and I were with yesterday but new to Jen). Unlike Steve, Jen didn’t waste any time getting on the water. We moved gear and kayaks to our transport for the day and were off to the Falls of Lora. But this time we were going to play in the flood tide (still at neaps).
It is about an hour’s drive down the coast towards Oban and we were on the water by 10AM. Naturally we had researched tide and current times and expected good currents and eddy lines to work with but no significant standing waves… and that’s what we got. The perfect environment for Jen to show her stuff! She did a fantastic job keeping Bryan and I busy, often pursuing different tasks on the same venue. Ferry forward and reverse, at different speeds, edging, surfing small waves in current, rolling (Brian) and sculling braces (Thom) in moving water. We got wet, we had fun, Jen did great!
Brian doing a great job sitting in a small tidal race at the Falls of Lora
Unfortunately Steve did not pass. I have hesitated to ask him directly regarding the Assessors feedback but hope to hear more over the next few days.
That’s it from Scotland. Monday morning we head back to Oxenholm, Tuesday were headed back home to San Diego.
Regards – Thom
p.s. A special thanks to my wife, Lynn, for supporting Jen’s quest and allowing me to spend the time (and money) supporting Jen.
This morning we were all business and out the door at 8AM, hooked up the trailer, and off to Orich to meet up with all the Assessors, Assessees, and Long Term Students (that’s Brian and myself among many others). The parking lot was chock full of cars covered with canoes, white water kayaks and then just a few sea kayaks. We were in a minority.
After the usual disorientation, trying to establishing where we were meeting, sitting down, then being told we needed to split up - students were on the other end of the complex, being grilled whether we knew, had paddled or been coached by the Assessee whom we were being paired with (that would be Steve whatever his name is!), then back to the original meeting place, and paired up with our Assessor and Assessee (finally).
I cannot speak for Jen’s day (at least not directly) as she went off with Steve2 and Sue not to be seen again till the end of the day.
Steve, however, did a great job. In his usual thorough manner he oriented us, explored our experience and strengths as well as our goals for the day and then offered a plan. Since we had an interest in his personal and group kits (that’s British for gear), leadership, coaching and paddling skills as well as navigation, he suggested we return to our chateau and spend a few hours there.
Steve discussing forward paddling with a demonstration video on the computer.
Our launch spot at Ballachulish (the launch ramp is behind me). Brian jumped in the picture and looked like a road worker in his dry suit.
We launched off a boat ramp in front of the Ballachulish Hotel and played in the narrows underneath the bridge. The natural topography protected from the full blast of the wind and the narrows had an ebb current that was surprisingly lively for a neap tide. If we let ourselves be swept down into the open parts of the loch there were significant wind waves built up by the fetch from over miles of open water in which to play.
Talking about our day with each other in the kitchen
As you might imagine we had a raucous dinner this evening with endless stories about the day and, of course, the usual British / US English language barrier humor. Soon though, we were back at planning tomorrow, where to go, what are the expected tide times, current flows, what about the weather (gale force winds at 6AM are predicted on BBC radio), what we students wanted to experience and learn and what would be the best venue that would integrate all that and show off the Assessees skills best? Soon we were all slipping off to bed, hopefully sleeping better than last night, and ready for another exciting day.
Steve2 and Sue returning from their day with Jen
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Unfortunately that's all I can give you for now (but I was sure you would want to know).
The only Internet connection for ~20 miles is here in the Clachaig Inn and has a phone modem connection. Worse it has prevented me from inserting a USB thumb drive to transfer three days of journal writings and a plethora of photos. I promise to do that once we get back to Steve's house Monday evening.
Unfortunately Steve did not pass and that has been the focus of much discussion at our chateau. Additionally none of the canoe Assessees passed, white water Assessees had not yet returned to the center before we left so we didn't get their results.
So look for lots of text and pictures in 24 hours. See you back in San Diego late Tuesday.
Regards - Thom
Friday, November 16, 2007
Jen the Falls of Lora
Steve at the Falls of Lora
Steve's Birthday party
Jen working with Brian at the Falls of Lora
Have you seen our home base yet?
Well tomorrow the Assessment starts. Wish them luck.
Regards - Thom
Just a bit of a portage from our parking spot and we had our kayaks sitting on seaweed ready to launch. After dallying just a bit in Glennborrodale harbor we set out east along the coast, practicing strokes and setting up a ferry angle to cross Loch Sunart to Carna, an island on the opposite side. Our plan was to circumnavigate Carna, then hopefully continue west and on around the west end of the island of Oronsay, which is exposed to the sea and likely to have a rugged west coast along with some swell to play in. Because of neaps the current was running a mere 2+ knots and crossing was easy. We quickly rounded the east end of Carna and stopped for lunch.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
We headed south towards Oban today to start our scouting and hopefully our kayaking. The weather was cold (though not below freezing) with intermittent rain and occasional strong gusts of wind.
As we proceeded south scouting here and there, evaluating water access, training possibilities and general desirability of the paddling experience we crossed over the bridge under which run the Falls of Lora (sp). Jen couldn't contain herself and even though we are headed towards neap tide we happened (I think in retrospect she had this all planned) to be at full ebb tide. The falls were running strong (at least strong enough to intimidate Brian and myself).
Jen, on the other hand, was already half in her dry suit before we had parked to get a look at the scene. While we were getting dressed, she was already unstrapping the kayaks on the trailer and getting gear down to the water. She was well on her way up the coastline as we were still getting our foot pegs adjusted. Suffice to say she has a 'gung ho' style of coaching!
At the Falls one launches on the opposite side of the narrows, paddle up the eddy, then ferry across to the mongo tide race you have all seen in This is the Sea. I don't want to you think the Falls were going off as you saw in the flick, however, they certainly had me warmed up quickly and immediately confronting all my kayak fears. But once we had all crossed over (Jen had been on the opposite side playing for some time by then), Jen started her coaching, encouraging and coaxing us deeper and deeper into various waves and races. After an hour or so of playing, both Bryan and I became more adventurous and were rewarded with exciting rides and confidence.
Soon we grew physically tired and ferried back across the race, loaded the kayaks and went in to Oban, where we visited... what do you think??? A Chandlery (chart/map shop), a kayak shop, and, of course, the Oban Distillery (Brian's one demand for the trip).
I'll work on some picture processing tonight and hopefully get them posted tomorrow.
Regards - Thom
Today we drove from Oxenholm to Glencoe which is 17 miles up the road from Ft. William. Those technogeeks among you can actually follow along on our journey as Jen attached the EPERB unit to the top bar of the trailer. More important to those of us along on the trip Jen did a masterful job at locating lodging… but first the journey.
Steve drove the van as he is the only one insured to get behind the wheel. Brian kept him awake while Jen and I sat in the next seat back napping and fending off the cold. And I do mean cold! As we crossed the Highlands it started to snow. Not just fluffy little flakes – but big globby ones, each one falling with determination, seizing the opportunity to make a difference as they hurtled towards the earth. Fortunately as we descended into Glencoe and back towards sea level the ambient temperature warmed just above freezing and snow turned back to rain. The mountains should be pretty in the morning.
What about the house, you ask? River view, lots of parking for the van and trailer, three bedrooms, three baths, sleeping for six, three eating areas including a sunroom, a huge well equipped kitchen, and a living room with a fireplace (well OK it is fake but the chairs are all over stuffed) and heat! At this point we aren’t sure we will go back outside!
After arriving around 5PM (well after dark) we unloaded the van recovered from our shock regarding our new living situation and headed on in to Ft. William to buy groceries at Morrisons. And buy groceries we did. All four of us went separate directions (now we did prepare a list before our shopping trip), occasionally meeting up on one isle, then , and filled our grocery cart to the brim. At the checkout counter we looked at each other dumbfounded and in disbelief that we were buying so much food (and drink). I was sure our bill would exceed 200 pounds, but low and behold it totaled to just a bit less than 130 pounds. On our journey home we congratulated ourselves at how shrewd we had been, saving all that money we would have spent eating out the balance of the week (except Steve who seemed appalled at our consumptive American habits).
So we whiled away the evening as Jen cooked dinner and the rest of us helped in our own way. The evening floated away with us and soon it was leaning on 11 PM and we drifted off to bed, our thoughts of Scotland, and blessed sleep - or is that sheep (which Steve calls Meadow Maggots). Tomorrow, we promise, we will get outside as we head down to Oban and begin scouting the area for Jen’s upcoming assessment (brrrrr…).
Regards - Thom
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Once Jen and Brian arrive the plan for the afternoon is to head down to Dallum Outdoor Center, pack up the transport van and load up kayaks on the trailer. After that we'll head back to Steve's place and decide if we want to jump directly into a 6 hour drive to Oban or have dinner, sleep at Steve's and head up in the morning.
The current weather is cold and calm. A high pressure area is moving into the Oban/Mull area and as we progress towards this weekend we will be having neep tides. Generally that would mean we should expect minimal tidal currents and mild winds (less fetch), on and off rain is likely according to the current weather models. While that should make for easy paddling it may make the assessment harder as there will be less 'nature' (extreme water conditions) for Jen and Brian to work with.
That's it for now... Jen is landed and on the train headed north towards us.
Regards - Thom