Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A very long paddle

I am sure that in a few years time I will look back at this post and laugh, but for me at the moment the prospect of a 40km or 50km day paddle is still quite daunting.  Doable, but a definite challenge.

This year, the club wanted to raise some funds and so a couple of sponsored paddles were planned.  10km from Holm Village to Scapa for the juniors and Kirkwall to the 1st Barrier for the seniors.

We met early on Sunday morning at Hatston slip in lovely weather, which of course caused great debate about what to wear….  We set off for the String in order to catch the tide eastwards towards Rerwick and Deerness.

IMGP2546 The Keeper of Voles and Coach Laughton cruising through the String past Helliar Holm

Because I was acutely aware of how far we had to paddle and how I had felt doing such a distance on a baking hot day round Cape Wrath, I was being a bit of a food, drink and stopping facist so declared a stop would be had every 10km.  Food was to be consumed whether people were hungry or not!  The first stop was therefore at Rerwick Head.

IMGP2549 Scoffing at Rerwick

IMGP2553 Cruising to Deerness

As we reached Mull Head, we hit an exciting little tiderace, it was great! As we turned the corner we were able to get up close to the coast and have a bit of an explore, including a visit to the Gloup.

IMGP2562 Passing Saunders Stack

IMGP2569 Hairyaker in The Gloup

As we left The Gloup the sun was high in the sky and the weather was glorious.  Very uncharacteristic Orkney paddling weather!

IMGP2579 Catching the rays at Sandside (more food!)

We carried on for the next 10km or so in baking hot sunshine, down the East Deerness coast, across the Newark and Dingieshowe bays and across to Castle of Claisdie where we all naturally felt indeed of another break, having reached the 30km mark.  The sun was clearly beginning to have an affect on everyone – we are not used to it in Orkney!

IMGP2602 NK taking advantage of the shade


The sun was a bit much for Stuart

As we set off after our break, the weather began to change for the worst, with the wind really picking up.  With a SE wind onto an east facing shore, the water also became more interesting, but it was still possible to get into a few caves along the way.  As we reached the Roseness Headland, there was significant chop evident, a phenomenon we have noticed on several occasions and which we think must relate to tidal movements in the area.

IMGP2610 Sandy in the Roseness Gloup

IMGP2612 Chop at Roseness

Rounding Roseness we had the wind behind us and surfed our way back towards the first barrier on the wind and swell.  The Dairy Owner and I landed at the First Barrier and decided that 40km was not nearly enough and that we really should continue the trip to Scapa to complete the circumnavigation of East Mainland in one trip.  After some more food (by this point I could not face another sandwich or banana!), we did the portage over the barrier (and down the middle of the road!), ready for the final leg.  By this point the weather had really deteriorated and it was noticeably colder.

IMGP2621 The Dairyman approaching Scapa

IMGP2623 Our destination!

IMGP2625 A welcoming committee!

As we rounded Scapa Pier and headed towards the slip, a familiar silver car appeared flashing its lights and tooting its horn! After all that distance it was nice to be welcomed home!

The GPS told us that we had covered a distance of 50.9km which is the furthest I have ever paddled in a day, but ultimately, although tiring, it felt like a real achievement and it is nice to be able to say we circumnavigated all of East Mainland in one go.  I raised a little bit of money too, which all helps keep the club going and the equipment and boats functioning properly.

We are already talking about a West Mainland circumnavigation but before that, we are support boating on a charity paddle across the Pentland Firth next weekend.  The adventures just keep coming!



  1. Super effort! 50km is a big day in anybody's book - especially in the varied conditions you experienced and without big tidal assistance. When you look back, maybe you'll think "I did all the way around!"

    Kind regards


    1. Thanks Ian! I certainly feel like I completed one of the 'Orkney Challenges'...