The 2011 Wet West Paddle Fest (WWPF) was a bit of a turning point for me. Whilst I was happy paddling the Etive and other rivers in Scotland, the River Moriston had been playing on my mind for some time. This was due to all of the epic's I had experienced on this river in previous years - a dislocated little finger, a very modified nose to my new Pyranha Burn and a lost paddle. And these incidents were not all at the same time! On some runs, I had made it clean through without incident grinning from ear to ear, but there were those times when I knew instinctively that things would, and inevitably did go wrong. This year was no exception. The Burn and I had not been getting on well, with lots of falling out - mostly me. So I did not feel at all comfortable with the thought of running the Moriston. In the few weeks before the WWPF, I had sleepless nights, waking up in hot sweats, all because of one river: The River Moriston. Not a good sign.
So I decided to cop out, much to the derision of my river paddling chums and booked myself a couple of days Sea kayaking with Sea Freedom Kayak at Connel by the Falls of Lora.
I had fancied having a go at Sea kayaking for some time and having seen Sea Freedom, loaded up with kayaks, coming and going from their centre, whilst paddling the Falls of Lora in my playboat, I knew of their existence.
Having woken up at the Red Squirrel Campsite in Glen Coe to a frost, I set of for Connel, leaving my paddling mates to go to the Moriston. It was a cold morning. By the time I reached Connel the cars heater had defrosted me and I was warm and toasty. Having met Tony Hammock, he explained that I would be going for a days paddle with Leonie (of Art & Sea – Custom Kayak Graphics and Decals).
Having kitted up we set off to Ganavan Sands where they had decided would be a good place to start.
Once on the water, Leonie showed me how to turn the kayak. I remember the kayak felt enormous, at almost two and a half times the length of my playboat! Turning felt pretty awkward at first, leaning the "wrong" way. It was whilst we we practising turning we spotted two otters! Having never seen an otter before in the wild, this was incredible memorable moment for me.
Having practiced various skills, we headed around the coast to Kerrera, where we stopped for lunch , whilst being spied on by various seals bobbing up and down in the sea.
As we headed back across the sound to Maiden Island a squall started and then as we reached half way across the sound, the Oban to Mull ferry appeared. Time to paddle hard into the wind and get out of the way PDQ!
We didn't go back to Ganavan, but decided to carry on around to Connel. Leonie would go back and collect her car and trailer later.
What a fabulous days paddling. Leonie is an excellent coach and was great fun to paddle with. Arriving back at the campsite, I was pretty tired. All of my Moriston chums had had a good days paddling. Despite the cold, I slept very well that night.
Day 2 saw me joining a group of paddlers practising for their 3 star assessment. This was being led by Tony Hammock. We did lots and lots of paddle skills, including rescues, which was great for me. By now I was becoming more use to the length of the kayak. We lunched on Eilean Mor. The group we great to paddle with.
Back at Connel, Tony asked me if I fancied a quick ply on the Falls. So having insured everyone was safely of the water we ferry glided the incoming tide to the nothern side of the bridge and set about playing in the ever increasing currents. I was a bit alarmed when Tony had me breaking out backwards, but once I tried it it seemed not as difficult as first thought. It then poured with heavy rain. Making the ferry back to Connel a little more interesting.
Another Fantastic day. I am hooked. Just need to save up and get myself a boat and kit!
Many thanks to Tony Hammock and Leonie for two very memorable days.