“There is NOTHING… absolutely nothing… half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Thus spake Ratty in the wonderful first chapter of Wind in the Willows. And I can now confirm his assertion to be true, having spent a blissful morning drifting around the sea near Arisaig in a sea kayak. The sea was green, the sky was blue (in parts) and the islands of Eigg and Rum, and the Black Cullin of Skye made a heart-lifting backdrop.
My experience of messing about in boats has, save some punting while at university and the pedalos on lake Luzern, been almost entirely vicarious. My first experiences of boating were with Ratty on the river (picnic essential) and with Titty
setting up the leading lights on Wild Cat Island to guide the Swallows into safe harbour. Later experiences were more hair-raising: struggling with the whalers to land Moby Dick, and crewing Shackleton’s James Caird to South Georgia. So it is reassuring that I am in the capable hands of professionals, especially since we have three kids aged 7,8 and 10 with us.
We’re in double kayaks ‘almost impossible to capsize’, each with a child at the front and a parent behind, and have Stuart, the calm and assured gaffer of Rockhopper Sea Kayaks, with us. Stuart, like a mother duck is making sure that we’re all happy, heading in the right direction, and that any stragglers (namely me) don’t need a tow. The three kit-kats in the pouch of my buoyancy aid offer additional reassurance: this kayaking business is a good deal more work than it looks.
A rest stop comes just as I am about to start on the kit-kats and soon they, along with all the other goodies we’ve packed, have been scoffed by the team.
The things we love about Arisaig: archipelagos of tidal islands that appear when the tide retreats (great for foraging mussels); the beautiful coastline; and amazing views west to Skye and the small isles also make it a mecca for kayakers. Seals surface close to our boat for a listen to the song my daughter and I are singing to keep our paddling in time. We start with Little Liza Jane and then she moves onto a song I don’t know. I hum along happily until I hear the words ….
“Sailing east, sailing west, Sailing o’er the ocean,You’d better watch out when the boat begins to rock or you’ll lose your girl in the ocean. “
Those are rather unsuitable lyrics for a sea journey, I think, and particularly for the mother-daughter occupants of a double kayak. It brings to my attention that the wind is strong, we are on a stretch of coast with steep rocks, and the swell is getting up. A rather large wave breaks on a rock and bounces back towards us.
At this moment Stuart decides it is time to turn round and, with the kids begging to stay out for longer, we turn. Returning to the safer ground of ‘When the Saints go marching in’ for pacing our paddling, we head for home, and ice-creams, with the wind at our backs.
Rockhopper Sea Kayaks are based in Fort William and take kayak trips all over the west Highlands. The isles of Glencoe are closer to Cuil Bay and are a stunning spot, as is the coastline from Cuil, north to Kentallen.
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