Where to start with this post? So much to write about…. so much happened in such a short time, it was, well, an adventure….
The Tall One and I fell off the boat to Shetland very early on the Friday morning and made a bee-line to the New Harbour Cafe. Somehow it had taken me 3.5 years to find and was only discovered on a very cold, dark morning in January….. After a fat breakfast and a visit to the Coop, we headed up to Bridge End on Burra where the Shetland Sea Kayak Symposium was based. Most of the coaches and a few of the participants were already there and after a while it was announced that we were going to Muckle Roe.
The weather was beautiful which I couldn’t quite comprehend, I had to have a roll to cool myself off in my heavy duty black drysuit!
Friday night marked the start of the symposium proper and after no time for a shower and a scrub up, it was time for dinner and a few drinks. It was also time for the inaugural performance of The Truly Awful Band. Unfortunately for me, it transpired that the Truly Awful Band were far less awful than they claimed and so me and my fiddle were put to shame!
Dave Rossetter from Stirling Canoes had brought the club a delivery of shiny new kayaks, while my friends and I had all brought along our other toys, as we had vague hopes of getting out to play. Old friends, new boats and a few beers is certainly a winning combination!
Saturday morning saw the first day of the symposium and a chance to choose workshops and coaching options. I chose rough water because….. I like rough water!
We set off for Papa Stour, which is an amazing island but which also involves a lot of cave exploration. Unfortunately on this particular occasion, I wanted to play in rough water and not be amalgamated into a trip so I wasn’t overly happy at the start of the day.
At Papa Stour, the group split, with most going to explore the island but with Mrs S and I requesting more rough water skills while we had a nice coach on hand to work with!
As with any good symposium, we returned to the hall for a good feed in the evening, followed by a few drinks at the Bridge End Centre. Everything was far more relaxed (sober) than in previous years, as 4 participants were busy doing their 4* assessment and there was much tidal planning being undertaken! I don’t think the Friend with Gills took kindly to my offers of help, particularly not when I kept pointing out the RYA training chart was actually big chunks of Orkney and that things marked were causeways and not bridges……
I wasn’t sure what to pick on Sunday, so I went for Group Skills followed by my favourite…. Rockhopping! The group skills session focused on leadership styles as we made our way south from Bridge End. We portaged over to Bannamin and took advantage of the conditions to partake in some bonus rockhopping.
The afternoon session saw us head out from Hamnavoe for more Rockhopping. As I will crash though pretty much anything (more on that later), my coaching point was to make it look like I was passing through gaps and around rocks like I wasn’t doing anything (ha ha ha). All was fine, until I got a little too friendly with a rock….
The Shetland club had organised a further paddle gathering for the weekend after the symposium so a few folk, especially those fae far sooth, were still on the islands and up for a paddle. First up for me was a little pootle out of Easter Skeld. My photos don’t really do it justice.
Next up was a biggy, with Coach Kate deciding that she really fancied going round Sumburgh and Fitful Head (around the bottom of Shetland). I must have been feeling ill as I agreed that this really was a very good idea!
We launched from Grutness and paddle to the tombola beach leading to St Ninian’s Isle. As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated and I was soaked by the end of it! Even so, it really was one of the best paddles I have ever done, especially as I went round the top of Shetland last August as part of the Unst meet.
Under Sumburgh Head Lighthouse
The route (map: Kate Duffus)
The next adventure was planned throughout the day and it was decided we’d travel north to visit Eshaness. One of the ‘must paddle’ places in Shetland. I had been up there a few times with my friends and always looked longingly to Dore Holm, an island with a huge arch through it.
The route (map: Kate Duffus)
After the Eshaness paddle, we headed to the famous Braewick tearoom which must have the best view in the world. While eating our cake and drinking our tea, it was decided that a trip to the Drongs would be a fine way to finish my trip before catching the ferry at 5.30pm the next day.
Under the Drongs
Hillswick to Sand Wick with a trolley wheel back to the car!
After a few days at home, it was time for part two of my adventures, a trip to my ‘homeland’ and a chance to collect the rest of my fleet. I even got to see some trees!
On the way back up the road, I met Doc Jen who had taken in my stupidly small playboat for me to save on postage to Orkney. The question was whether I could even get in it as it really is very, very small! We rendez-voused at Stanley on another fine day and went out for a play.
Before I had to head back to work on the Monday, there was even time for a quick trip to Shapinsay and our old favourite, Stromness to Skaill.
What an action packed two weeks!