Sunday, 27 January 2008

Transatlantic Sessions 3, & huddled in by the fire, just out of range of those gale driven Harris beaches, & the rolling thunder. I just had time to drop a note on Murdie Campbell about doubling up to do another unassisted St.Kilda trip before scooting out the door & island hopping North to do another rolling workshop. A day of frantic travelling through snow peppering the Clisham, only to be stormbound. Sometimes sea kayaking is a waiting game involving cabin fever antics. These antics can mean drinking ALL the Trawler accident. This leads you to believe wholeheartedly, that you are better than Hendrix, or Pat Metheny or any other celebrated guitar maestro for that matter, thus you embark on endless bouts of wobbly plinking...very badly...
Of course, through the duration, you are blind to any screeching, bum notes or loose strings. Aye, those
smiles on the faces of the others gathered in the said cabin, are not forced at all & as such, are further confirmation your nimble chordsmanship. The weather has to clear up soon...for everyone's sake.

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 23:15:00 | 2 Retorts
•≈ Lunar Tide
Monday, 21 January 2008
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...

Taken through my sizeable Schmidt Cass telescope with a low powered Baader Orthoscopic eyepiece, the moon floating over the snow toothed Cuillin & the glittering straits of a million Eldila, out toward Torridon. Tonight our unseen sled dog of kayaking tides is nearly full. The races were streaming down through Kyle, unstoppable in their march. A free ride in the right direction for the kayaker with the wisdom of timing on his side, an uphill thrash in the SoF if you are blind to the direction of stampede & the jellyfish rave.

Earlier this evening I caught sight of headtorches & figures scampering across the ridge toward Sligachan. In the small hours, as the sky rotates, I will get coffee on the boil & gaze into Zeta Orionis, Alnitak, Alnilam & the horse latitudes. Only 2 days until I can hit the water again. Night kayaking is an underrated adventure, crossing open inland seas & straits, blacked out & cutting smooth water with stealth, I carry minimilist equipment, no nav aids or electronics, no BA, flares or any light that hinders my ability to make use of spectral range limitations. Dive strobe & an Underwater Kinetic Mini aside. That is a night run, the Skye bridge blinking green & red at it's gaping apex; a far distant orange flicker of streetlights dot the black edges where only a few hours before, shrill screams & echoes of laughter drifted across the water from emptying bars.
I listen motionless, far out on the water surface, & moving North my eyes catch occasional white beam traces of cars snaking through the Cuillin at 3am, those barbaric teeth fading into cloud peaks & flattened lines as I meander up along Rona & through the z-berth. Cutting in through Garbh Eilean for the slingshot & swinging momentarily alongside the rocks, black wire haired fingers of seaweed stroke the hull & something spooks violently on the shoreline. I find my hand has already checked my Seal knife but quickly dismiss my foolish reaction. A sea otter? possibly... Occasional bats will blip the kayak with sonar & for all I know they could be subcontracted by QinetiQ, & I stroke away fluidly through the Inner Sound & turn for Portree, performing a few roll variations in the black depths of a mid way no mans land. I hear a whale blowholing out in the darkness NW of my course & cutting my rythm to an all stop, I lay my torso onto the forward deck, lowering my silhouette but more importantly, adjusting my sightline along the vague horizon to pick out any shape in the darklight, but I am unable to make visual contact. We are each lit by only the singular awarness of eachothers presence, & each under the pull of that watchful lunar eye, both sharing for a moment, a seperated existance, we pindots say our farewells & coast away within the shadow cast by an entire planet...

Now that's a night out.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 23:10:00 | 2 Retorts
Thursday, 17 January 2008
This is the harbour wall up at Port on Lewis, that turns the sea into a safe rolling pool on its lee-side for novice classes when I visit from Skye to teach. Often battered by huge swell, we have each, in our fashion, stood atop of the precipice carrying individual reasons for being there, rubbered or tired, through full moons & storms, midnight screaming at the sky, or on days of peace or days of rage, craning down into the Drums 30ft drop off churning abyss bottled-necked rollers & rock, & clung to the edges in a hail of rain marvelling with laughter inside Atlantic sonic booms of spray. We have made running dives off here between the rocks, equally, sat & done nothing more adventurous than talk... Like an old tree, this otherwise ordinary wall has seen a lot, & as an aside, provided in it's time -
Fireworks for the pelagic.

Come to the edge,
No. we are afraid, it is too high.
Come to the edge.
& they came.
& he pushed them & they flew.

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 15:35:00 | 2 Retorts
Friday, 11 January 2008
There is an excellent rolling discussion developing on UKRGB called •≈ Rolling in Anger, & linked here.

So far I've stayed out of it, & had to bite my tongue a few times already, but it's interesting the ideas kayakers have about spacial awarness, the hip snap myth & difficulties & relevancies of rolls &/or rolling ability within sea or white water kayaking. The comparison of a Euro rhetoric to Greenlandic approaches is equally interesting. If I, & other practitioners of the art, can perform nearly all roll sets with a broom handle & in harsh sea conditions, how relevant is the paddle, kayak, PFD, hairstyle, versus technique & fluidity...

Try to think of a roll as having no beginning or end; more, an integral part of a sea kayaking journey. Do you remember those circular stencil drawing toys that were around in the 70's? Spirographs. You never knew how the pattern would turn out, but you immersed yourself in the game.The discovery. Think of the hands, paddle, or broomstick drawing a pattern inside that as the outer completes one circle of rotation. Everything happens becuase of the force on the internal bar, no muscling, just roll over. Another example: A roundabout in a childs playground can be stopped in jerked grabs from the outer edge, but becuase of the momentum it will rip the stopee along with it. A roll executed from the centre is similar. Try grabbing the middle of the roundabout in the centre & stopping it. Impossible. So if the execution of the roll is strong from the axis, everything else will follow. I have demonstrated this with two heavy people bear hugging either end of the kayak & managed to hand roll without hindrance.
The kayak wants to self right, & that in short, is the truth. The only time rolling should hurt is when you bang yer heid on the the stones in the sea or riverbed becuase it's to shallow, Qajaasaarneq training aside.
The passenger who misinterprets these physics is the one who stops it happening. Analysis beyond the lesson of physical application is just that. It complicates any execution of the roll you are attempting, thus you are doing it wrong.

The first job of the novice then, when sat in a sea kayak, is not get in the way of a perfectly natural process. His second, is to compliment or move with & aid that process. It's all in the approach. It's an odd thing that a kayak will roll perfectly without a person aboard, yet many kayakers when learning, seem to be intent on stopping it from doing so. :o) Just as we must become the change we want see in the world. The qajaq wants to self right.


You cannot organize freedom
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 15:59:00 | 0 Retorts
Sunday, 6 January 2008
...& wild surf.

Coming in after an extensive session in the wild cold expanses & towering rollers beyond the sand bars toward The Eye. We went armed with all the toys we could find. Kayaks, boogie boards & surf boards. Doorsteps of Stollen cake, flasks of kickstart & yards of black tailored neoprene. All of us were numb from the head down, drained & aching with satisfaction by the time the light started to fade. I took to going up against 15-20ft waves, getting broadsided on purpose, & following the arc of current to a point of invertion. This is a rollercoaster for the soul. One swift & fluid movement of the blade & you're up, righting onto the backside of a leviathan, blocking out land as it rolls towards it's final destination. You feel yourself glide downhill into a trough & become aware of another shadow forming overhead, the rush of air & bellowing noise lifting you into the tube...roll & repeat until exhausted.
For those without a bombroof repertoire of rolls, high seas like these carry a clearly marked no entry sign. They are stuck to paddling small waves inside the forward seclusion of the sandbars. There's nothing wrong with it, I just couldn't live like that. People walking dogs, & themselves, along the beach stood & gawped & when I came ashore, they hurried over in excited chatter.
Are you totally insane?
I replied with a lop-sided grin.
Days of peaceful rage like these certainly have their moments...
The second best thing, is that you really appreciate a hot brew & a fireside in the evening, after dancing with the mid-winter Atlantic. In the top picture, the 2 surfers are as gay as they come, together for 12 years & one is a presenter on Radio NaGael, with his own show, the other is fluent in god knows how many languages. Despite their talents, I have to say they are arguably the crappest surfers on the planet, but I love them both. Sorry boys, but that's what you get for making me paint 16 acres of harl in the middle of firking summer. :o)

Alone & breathless

When life offers great adventure, you don't refuse it.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 19:54:00 | 2 Retorts
Thursday, 3 January 2008
Another dead whale comes ashore in the Hebrides. This one came to rest on the beach at the foot of a pals croft. A juvenile sperm whale, some 20-24ft in length, probably around 15-20 tons, with a tear along the last quarter of it's torso, exposing the intestinal tract. It also had extensive body scarring, possibly due to the rocks rather than pelagic brawling or marine fishery net entrapment. This male must have only recently, in terms of a possible 80 year life span, left the nursery to venture the planets oceans in solitude.
It's always better to come across them alive, diving & breaching - always sadder when it comes down to recording any distinct markings, looking for a WRP tag & reporting it in as deceased. But natures natural cycle of life, is inclusive of death, discerning of weakness, strength & progression, like it or not.

As children we held a simplistic & inquisitive fascination with dead things. We would walk the burns, waist deep until the source, ham & marmalade sangwies above our heads, & examine all creatures, dead fish, dead polecats, dead woozles, seals, gulls & once, a whale carcass...
Put yer hand in its fanny!
That's no it's fanny, that's it's hole to breathe with..
So it's got teeth, put yer hand in...dare ya
Nobody did it. It was stupid. Nobody wanted to lose a hand. We put sticks in instead. To test it.
I remember its opaque eye being as large as my fist. I wanted to dig it out & keep it, but just as you learn that taking the goldfish out it's bowl & giving it hot water to swim around in, is not good, no matter the intention, I realized that the eye would not, overall, make an impressive marble ala jewel to present on the school playground. It had confused me for a moment & I'd found myself saddened at the giant carcass, yet wanting to climb inside it's mouth & explore. To dare it to eat me. I'd have died a hero. Jonah. I'd have been spat out on Barra & had to get home on my own. Yet, probably, to also impress the girl from the next village who was, in her flowered dress & wellies, also present at the gathering. As children living inside the land we were often coldly matter of fact about the birth & extinction of animals, just as summer meant playing out into the dark & rolling in smelling of soil & wood smoke, winter meant no leaves & long yarns, turning turf by the fireside wrapped in towels, with clattering teeth. Each winter brings death. Each year is a new life. One without the other? That's a dessert.

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 15:18:00 | 0 Retorts
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
New Years Day...& something strange had happened... :o)

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 16:41:00 | 0 Retorts