CSCC Reports 2009: Isle of Skye Sea Kayaking Symposium - May 2009
Stephen and Dan J. attended the bi-annual Isle of Skye sea kayaking symposium. The weather was awful (mainly windy, rainy and cold), but the symposium organisers worked incredibly hard to ensure that everyone had a good time nevertheless.
Stephen braved the worst of the weather and survived a testing trip along the east coast of the island. Meanwhile Dan remained on the shore for much of the first part of the Symposium, attending teaching sessions on planning for expeditions, identifying wildlife in rockpools and learning bushcraft skills including how to make a fire the native american way (it involved digging holes). Dan finally took to the water at the end of the weekend, joining Stephen on Nicky Mansell's trip along the west coast of Sleat, from Tarskaveig to Tokaveig. We also had the chance to try out some of the flashy demo fibreglass boats during a manoeuvring skills session at Armadale.
On the Tuesday Stephen and Dan took and failed the BCU 3 star assessment at Camus Cross (organised through Gordon Brown's company Skyak). The feedback session provided a few comedy moments. Dan asked whether there was anything good about his paddling to which (after a fairly long pause) he received the reply "You seem to be a cheery person". A diplomatic incident was narrowly avoided. The coach who had been observing the assessment gave us some remedial coaching the following day. We picked up lots of tips from Nigel and we practised on our own to consolidate the following day. 'Striking a pose' seems to be the way forward.
We attended several talks in the evenings. A proposed trip to the Faroes left us worrying about the safety of the participants (they plan to sleep in their boats in 'chillcheater' bags). The adventures of a local TV celebrity on a trip through the Western isles made paddling seem rather more fun. The talk by a sailor who had many years previously recreated the famous journey by Shackleton in a small boat was an odd choice by the symposium organisers. This talk went on so long that one member of the audience suffered a painful attack of cramp and Stephen had to help him out of the hall.
There was a ceilidh on the Saturday night, with a band and scottish country dancing, but sadly they didn't encourage the Sassenachs to join in the dancing. Perhaps they could offer training in that next time round? Dan would be up for it.
We stayed at the Gaellic College which was a good move. We enjoyed chatting to the other people attending the symposium, meeting some like minded paddlers and a former D-W winner and James Cracknell's old flat mate, amongst others. The college staff were very friendly and welcoming and we had nice warm rooms. We ate in college and particularly enjoyed the massive breakfasts.
On the way back we broke the journey in the lake district, paddling on Lake Coniston. The sun had finally returned and this was a very pleasant end to the holiday. Dan perfected the trick of clambering back into his boat unaided. If only this were included in the 3 star.