It was about 16 months ago when I looked across to Orkney from the light house on Duncansby Head and said to my self ... 'I need to go and paddle over there'. On returning home I soon came across a link to the Paddle Orkney Symposium and was then in contact with Nick Blowfield, the organiser. I had my place on the weekends event in 2015 and something significant to look forward to.
Oliver Sanders was also working on the event, so the plan was to go up earlier and get a couple of pre event paddles in, so we could get a better feel for the area. 11.5 hours drive, shared with Sonja and we got lucky with 10 minutes to go at the ferry terminal. They were happy to transfer our morning ferry ticket to the evening, so we were on the way to the islands. Over 70 islands make up Orkney and it was clear as we crossed how big and vast the area was.
The following morning we had met up with Zoe and a N F5/6 so we headed to South Ronaldsay, and Burwick to explore the cave's, arches, Geo's (long gullies) and get a gentle feel for the flow ... the clarity of the water was amazing.
The following day the winds were gentler so we headed out from the top of South Ronaldsay at the Churchill barrier and down the East coast. From Newark Bay it really started getting interesting ...
The above was a super blow hole just before Halcro Head. The following head land was very impressive, Old Head. This flowed for 10 hours in a Southerly direction and had a speed of 6 knots. After 8 hours it was still going like a train and despite a small swell running the race was pretty messy!
The Friday before the event we managed to get out on to the North coast from Evie to the small island of Eynhallow. Eynhallow Sound and the narrow channels either side flow at 7kn and we had the last couple of hours of the flood. Nice flow but not much action. We headed over to the bigger island of Rousay, for some super caves, arches and exploring ...
A couple of the caves and arches were fairly active ...
That evening we went across to the Rugby club, met up with Nick and signed up for our work shops. A coastal journey which was between Olly, Kate and my self. We pitched two trips for the participants to choose. One a longer 20k trip as an A-B and with less exploring. And another 9k with more exploring and an A-A. Newark Bay had good parking, so the plan was into a gentle breeze to begin with and down to Wind Wick and catch the increasing wind back, perfect!!
I had a super group, who were just so happy to soak up the surroundings, exploring the occasional cave, reversing into gullies and watching the Fulmars glide on bye.
The cave above had some super Stalactite's and limestone features .... and below a gentle following sea, to help us on our way ...
Back at the Rugby club Nicks wife had made scones for a delicious cream tea ... fairplay. They certainly went down well. Food followed for every one in a big hall, which was tasty and enough of it and then into the bar for drinks. A couple of talented local guys played some super tunes into the evening and winded up a lovely day.
Sunday and the last day of the symposium and i signed up for rough water paddling, with Kate and Olly again. Stromness head and sound we headed for. I had a middling group so we went over rescues, rolling and self rescues, before lunch. We managed to move up the Sound and get a good vantage point to look down and across the race. It was impressive. Again it had turned 40-50 minutes early and during this time it had been gentle, with a fair swell rolling through. Every 10 minutes it changed.
We started with a run through and then worked in two teams of 3. One in the eddy, while I worked the other team through the edge of the race again. Back in the eddy we swooped over and we were off again.
We headed back to the Rugby Club, for more tea and cakes and then another super meal, drinks in the bar and a talk from Olly on his Arctic adventures wrapped up the day.
It had been a super weekend, which had been well organised from my perspective, with a good mellow atmosphere. Well done Nick and his team. Next year is Shetland and 2017 its back to Orkney. Its a long way, so spending more time up is worthwhile and it also means your more likely to get some settle weather.