“There are rumours, that you’ve won a lottery”
This sentence we heard shortly after we’ve came back from Scotland. Well, the true was, we didn’t. However we understand why somebody could come up with such an idea. Yes, going away paddling for almost two months would be much easier with winning lottery ticket. Without one, there were many smaller and bigger things to do and difficult decisions to be made.
From past experiences we knew that to organise it all, to take unpaid leave, to save money, to get a flatmate to be able to pay rent while away, the project needs to be inspiring. Once there was an inspiring idea, which proved to be hard to resist, everything became much easier.
It has been for some time, that we had an urge to go paddling again. First, we played with ideas of circumnavigating one bigger island or other. Yet, a distant memory of glimpsing an outline of far away islands while standing on the edge of the world was coming back constantly. It soon proved to be so tempting, that in a very short space of time we found ourselves strong enough to leave the illusion of the safety of everyday routine and temporarily leaving the comfort of our jobs and home, we headed for Scotland.
Our plan was very simple. We needed to find somebody, who would get our kayaks somewhere to the coast of west Scotland (thanks Paul), then paddle further west and north attempting to visit four remote islands, before coming back to the mainland. After which we were again hopeful to find somebody, who could move our kayaks closer to London. To get the best chance to succeed we went for almost whole of May and June. The time, when the weather supposed to be settled, and were it was most likely to get few weather windows.
But let’s start at the beginning, when everything went according to our plan. Paul kindly took our kayaks to Glenuig, which was the perfect starting place. It allowed us to nicely build up distances during our open crossings to Eigg, Canna, and South Uist. After a storm we continued around Benbecula with a stop at Monach Isles to Hougharry on North Uist. Place from which we wanted to go west to St Kilda.
At that point it really started to be all about weather and sadly the weather wasn’t cooperating well with our ambitious plan. After few days of waiting it became apparent that if we want to have any chance to paddle to Kilda, or any other island from our list, we have to keep paddling. It didn’t matter much where, we just had to spend time on the water to stay focused and to get better in big conditions. As they never became smaller due to the constant gales. We started to move north towards Harris and Lewis knowing that if weather improves we could keep it just within a day paddle to starting point for either St Kilda or Flannan Isles. When that fell through, we continued with the same idea along Lewis’s west coast making it all the way to the Butt. We were constantly looking for widows to go to one or another island.
Slowly we realised that our plan would not materialise and came to terms that we are just having a different experience of Outer Hebrides to what we ever imagined. To tease us more a weather window to go to Kilda started to form just when we reached Port Ness. The weather window was shaping in four or five days, however we needed at least five in nice weather to paddle back to Hougharry.
This was the point when Natalie decided it was time for some creativity. If we couldn’t get south fast enough by sea, we were going by land, cars and with nice people from Stornaway Canoes.
Yes, we made it and crossed to Kilda, where we spent amazing week in an incredible environment. It is only now, while being back to London, that we realise the uniqueness of it all. The worst spring in thirty years put spot to our plan, yet it allowed to explore places and meet people that we never would otherwise.
Red dots – paddling before Stornaway taxi
Blue dots – paddling after Stornaway Taxi and before Elizabeth G lift
Green dots – paddling after Elizabeth G
Yellow dots – random lunch stops