August 24, 2007

Sea Kayaking in Scotland

Back home, after a fantastic trip to Scotland. We traveled by ferry to the Outer Hebrides for a six-day sea kayaking trip, the best kayaking trip we've ever had. We went with a guide, Tim Pickering who runs Adventure Hebrides. He provided the boats, and as it turned out, all of my kayaking and camping gear because British Airways lost my baggage on the flight over. Tim knows the area intimately, all the best places to camp, the waters and the tides and currents, the wind and the weather. And when the winds were too strong to paddle in one area, he transported us to another area where the winds wouldn't impede us. There are numerous small islands in the area, beautiful white sand beaches with turquoise water, natural sea arches and stacks, and sea caves to paddle into.

One day, on the open North Atlantic side of the Isle of Lewis, we found ourselves paddling among five basking sharks. As we sat bobbing on the water, the sharks, harmless filter feeders over 20' long, swam around us, passing under our boats, bumping us gently, so intent were they on their feeding.

Next a pair of porpoise came to feed, and suddenly it looked and sounded as though it were raining, as schools of small fish leapt out of the water, sparkling in the light, only to splash back down. Larger fish, mackerel or herring were feeding from below, chasing the fish up and out. What an experience.

We could have floated up and down on the swells for hours watching, but Tim noticed the wind changing directions and it was time to head into Loch Roag for protection, and to have the wind at our backs.

The sky and quality of light so far north is just beautiful. It would stay light until 10:30 at night. There was almost always a bit of wind, good for keeping the midges away, and this kept the clouds in continual movement, their patterns ever changing. I spent hours in the evening, sitting and watching and absorbing it all. I loved the sun low in the sky, sparkling on the water, creating a glow on the clouds. There were almost never any bright colors at sunset, but the play of light on the clouds was breathtaking.

So here I am, back in my studio working on some big sky paintings.