2019!

A new year! I sincerely hope it is a wonderful one for us and my warmest wishes to you all.

Tobermory Sunrise, January 2019

I decided at the turn of the year not to set myself resolutions because I know full well I won’t uphold them. This doesn’t mean I’m without aspirations for the year ahead. In fact I think I have far too many ideas and plans to squeeze into the twelve months of 2019.

First things first though and I want to announce I have put on hold my plan to kayak to the rest of the R.N.L.I. Lifeboat Stations around England, Wales and Ireland. I had announced this with some flourish late last year and went as far as getting the planned adventure endorsed by the R.N.L.I. in preparation for approaching sponsors and donors. Then I wrote a book and have had this accepted for publication. This is the book about my sea kayak journey around Scotland in 2015. I was faced with the dilemma of delaying publication while I undertake the kayak journey or cancel this and focus on the book. I chose the latter. The book has taken three years to come to fruition and to delay it further would be demoralising for me. This is the first book I have written and I want it to be something I’m really proud of. Therefore I need to focus on making sure this is the case.

Additionally, there are family concerns which have recently emerged and I can’t in all honesty take myself away for a seven month adventure.

I’m disappointed not to be undertaking what would have been the largest adventurous challenge I will have ever faced and there are moments when I express a big sigh when reflecting on this. However, this is the nature of adventure. There is never a certain outcome and I’m philosophical about the decision I have made. The 3900 miles of coastline and the lifeboat stations will be there in future years.

In the meantime though, I have plenty of ideas for shorter kayaking trips and other adventures. Realising I have these opportunities before me reminds me how fortunate I am. We have the yacht to sail locally and further afield, I have my kayak and endless miles of incredible coastline on my doorstep, and there are hundreds of square miles of mountains and wild land to climb and explore.

Attending to my mental health is a high priority. Thankfully I am feeling strong at the moment and have been for a couple of months now. Writing the book has helped with this. I’m keen to build on my strengthening sense of self and to share more about my experiences with depression and suicidal desires. I have ideas of achieving this through writing, social media and public speaking. Many of you may know me through Twitter and this is where I am most vocal about my mental health experiences.

I would like 2019 to be a year of connectivity for me, where I reconnect with friends, old and new, and forge new connections. To this end then, I live on the Isle of Mull and if you find yourself in Tobermory, I’d be delighted if you looked me up for a chat and a coffee.

Thank you for reading this and for your continued interest and support in my life.

World Mental Health Day - A Sea Kayaking Parable.

I wrote this as an article which was published in Ocean Paddler magazine.

Three Peaks by Kayak

The storm is unrelenting. I have been caught within it for what seems like an interminable length of time. There seems no way out and it takes every ounce of my energy to struggle through. Every opportunity to escape seems impossible and the only solution it seems, is to give up. To resign myself to the force of nature and let go. In fact, this is really what I desire, and I begin to allow myself, battered with fatigue, to drift away from reality. Somehow, a glimmer, a spark of fortitude remains, and I grab onto this at the very last moment. I reach out, I call out and assistance is there. Safety beckons and with my last reserves of energy, I embrace life and allow myself to accept the truth. I cannot do this alone and I require professional intervention. 

Ben Nevis from Loch Linnhe

The above is not a dramatic account from one of my sea kayaking adventures. It is in fact a narrative of my battle with clinical depression last Autumn, my strong desire to complete suicide and my eventual admission into a psychiatric ward for my safety and recovery. I live with depression which from time to time is severe enough to see me admitted to in-patient psychiatric care. It’s an illness which has dogged my adult life and one I struggle to overcome.

The clinical term for my malaise is ‘treatment resistant depression’. This means that the myriad interventions I’ve received have so far been unsuccessful and future options are diminishing. In the end though, I invariably make it through the worst of the debilitating episodes and I return to healthy normality somewhat battered, but inwardly stronger for the experience. The problem though, is the danger I face when I sink into one of my suicidal phases. The desire for death is so emphatic and real, that unchecked, I may in one irreversible moment see this through.

Fast forward to 15th May this year and I’m standing on the shores of Loch Eil about to embark on another of my long sea kayaking journeys; the Three Peaks by Kayak. This was a fund-raising venture for Odyssey, a small cancer charity I have worked with and continue to be involved in. There was a back story too, linking the Outward Bound centres of Loch Eil, Eskdale and Aberdyfi by beginning at the first and finishing at the latter. I am a former Outward Bound instructor and had long wanted to undertake this challenge when working for them many years ago. There was also another reason for undertaking this journey, one of recovery. I find solace through my immersion in wild landscapes and sea kayaking offers me the purist way to connect with my world around me.

In many respects, the challenge of kayaking from Fort William to Aberdyfi in mid-Wales and climbing the mountains of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon on the way was a straight forward venture. It turned out to be a kayaking distance of eight hundred and thirty-two kilometres with some challenging windy conditions, the usual tidal gates to pass through, a few long open crossings and Liverpool Bay to traverse! I paddled this expedition solo and set myself the arbitrary timescale of a month to complete it, (which I managed to do with a few days to spare). I’m no stranger to solo expedition kayaking having visited in 2015 every one of at the time, forty-seven RNLI lifeboat stations in Scotland, an unsupported kayaking journey of 2960 kilometres. In 2017 I kayaked the route of the Scottish Islands Peaks Yacht Race and climbed the mountains of Ben More on the Isle of Mull, the Paps of Jura and Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran. Paddling solo is my preference.

Jura Sunset

An account of my Three Peaks by Kayak journey would be one of many perfect sunny days, unexpected and challenging strong easterly winds for much of my traverse of Scotland, incredibly beautiful and dramatic coastline of course, meeting fantastic people and plenty of humorous anecdotes. It was very much a typical sea kayaking adventure; packing, kayaking, decision making, some eventful seas, beautiful campsites and so on. However, it was far more than all of that. It was in fact a hugely profound experience for me.

When I worked for Outward Bound in the eighties and nineties, the seminal book about our profession at the time was; “The Conscious Use of Metaphor in Outward Bound” by Stephen Bacon. I even went to a training workshop run by him. Very simply, we were encouraged to frame the outdoor activities our students were presented with as metaphors in the hope that this would enable them to establish useful links between their Outward Bound course and their lives at work and home, thus making meaning of their outdoor experiences. Ever since then, I’ve lived my own outdoor life metaphorically, gaining insights about myself and how I relate with the world through the experiences I’ve encountered. It was no surprise then that this adventure would be the same. What I didn’t expect was how incredibly therapeutic it would be.

Lumpy Seas

Standing on the slippery rocks of the Loch Eil foreshore, about to climb into my kayak and set off, I realised how low I was feeling. I didn’t want to leave the safety of my home and the companionship of my wife. I was unsure of my ability to successfully take on the challenge before me and unusually, I felt fear. I was fearful of the seas and the potential hazards ahead. I wasn’t experiencing the excitement and the anticipation I hoped for which would see me cheerily on my way. Instead, I paddled the eight short kilometres from Loch Eil Outward Bound to Fort William conjuring excuses and reasons to abandon the expedition in its early stages. Then, I climbed Ben Nevis in the small hours of the following morning, arriving as planned at the summit as the sun rose. There followed two wonderfully calm days of kayaking southwards reaching as far as Knapdale on the Kintyre coast. My spirits were lifted and I easily settled into my familiar life of an expeditionary sea kayaker. A 4am encounter with an Otter visiting me in my tent on the Isle of Luing, while I was drinking coffee highlighted the joy of the experience. From Knapdale onwards the challenges set in and so did a resurgent struggle with my depression.

The winds and the seas picked up and I found myself struggling to make headway. The bonhomie with the world I had been enjoying over the previous couple of days dissipated, to be replaced with a familiar depressive malaise. I was shaken by how easily my depressive thinking surfaced and at one point, I was frightened to find myself considering how easy it would be to capsize my kayak in the heavy seas and to drift away down into the Irish Sea. My inevitable death would appear to be a dreadful kayaking tragedy. When this thought occurred, I was heading for Machrihanish, still about nineteen kilometres away. With waves breaking around my waist and realising that a huge swell would make any landing down there hazardous, I decided that I needed to make for the shore well before then to sit out this bout of bad weather. I shifted my thinking from self-annihilation to self-preservation. It was that simple. A rocky reef provided me with the break I needed, and I landed on the Kintyre shore with the merest of ripples to contend with. That night in my tent, I reflected on what had occurred and with a surge of powerful realisation, I recognised my innate desire to remain alive.

Ahead of me, twenty-seven kilomteres away, loomed the Mull of Kintyre and its fearsome tidal race reputation. To make the tidal gate here and get through it safely, required an extraordinary early start. This meant waking at 2am and departing at 4. The forecast was for easier weather, so I decided to make this happen. The early morning rise, breakfast and packing in the dark was not as arduous as I anticipated. In fact, it was quite the opposite with a sense of pleasure at heading out to sea while the world around slumbered peacefully. The sun rising and bring light and warmth to the day as I kayaked along the Machrihanish Beach emphasised the joy to be gained from this type of experience. All went according to plan and I rounded the Mull of Kintyre just as the tide turned against me, gently and without the roaring tide race I have yet to encounter there. I repeated this experience for my traverse of the Mull of Galloway, this time an hour earlier. Again, I was rewarded with wonderful early morning solitude as a nearly full moon slowly descended, seemingly disappearing into a mirror calm sea. In fact, pre-dawn starts became the norm for this kayak journey as I repeated them several times further along the coast.

Arriving at Ailsa Craig

What I took from these experiences was a powerful reinforcement that I have it within my ability to make positive things happen. I could easily have chosen to tackle the tidal gate later in the day, accepting I would round the Mull in the late evening and arrive at Southend almost in the dark. By motivating myself to rise early and set off into the dark, I gained a fresh perspective on my journey and found myself enjoying this. I recognised too a sense of personal pride in my determination to grasp the challenge. I learned that this translated easily for my recovery process from my depression. The opportunity for change always exists, it’s up to me to seek it and make it happen.

Landing on the iconic island of Ailsa Craig with its cacophonous gannetry was a highlight of this adventure. I had long wanted to visit the island by kayak, and achieving this after a thirty kilometre crossing from Southend on Kintyre was especially rewarding, particularly because regular squadrons of gannets flying low overhead appeared to be welcoming me in. It was here where I noticed my solitude on this trip. Descending from the 338 metre high summit of the island where I had enjoyed the most incredible sunset over the expanse of an empty Firth of Clyde, I slipped on a patch of bluebells and tumbled headfirst down the steep slope, manically attempting to protect my camera and binoculars in my hands. I ended up in a crumpled heap a good few metres downhill with an excruciatingly painful elbow. The next morning, I was greeted with the sound of a gusting force 5 and the awareness that the pain in my elbow had worsened. It was tender to touch and very painful to bend. With a sense of panic, I assumed the worst and rather stupidly posted my concerns on my Twitter feed. I then found myself reassuring concerned followers that I was safe, well provisioned and didn’t require rescuing by the RNLI, who ironically, came to my rescue on Twitter by tweeting an acknowledgement of my ability to care for myself.

What followed was an enforced day of rest, allowing me to explore my castaway surroundings. The abandoned Northern Lighthouse Board buildings were fascinating with remnants of the keepers’ lives lying in the rooms where they had been used. The wild flowers were delightful. The 16th century castle tower was incredible and appeared to have weathered the centuries better than the contemporary buildings. The bird life was spectacular and coming across a large slow worm basking in the warm sunshine, was a particularly intimate encounter. Exploring all of this on my own with the sense that I was indeed a castaway, was incredibly rewarding. Reconnoitring the ‘Temple of Doom’ like walkways along the eastern edge of the island I happened upon an obviously injured gannet perched upon a rock, its head tucked deep under its bloodied wing. At first glance I thought it may be dead but then the slightest of shivers which ruffled its glorious feathers, showed me this was not the case. I stood stock still, suddenly deeply impacted by the painful reality that for this poor bird, there was no future. It had chosen to perch on the rock to wait for its inevitable death.

The Dying Gannet

There was nothing I could do. Any means to put it out of its misery would be brutal and anyway, I didn’t want to play ‘God’ and hasten its death unbidden. I walked away back to my tent, the angry white capped sea to my left emphasising the potent force of Nature. This was a powerful moment for me, the issue of death being forced into my consciousness again. It occurred to me that unlike the poor gannet, humans are afforded the opportunity to choose the manner of our death. Faced with the inevitability of a dire diagnosis or indeed, suicidal desires, we can choose to curl up and wait for the inevitable end, even hastening it, or raise our heads and face it head on, living our lives as fully as we can before the moment arrives. We can fight too. We can medicate ourselves, undergo surgery and accept professional intervention to prolong or overcome the illness we are faced with. On Ailsa Craig, alone, almost like a shipwrecked mariner, I received the most illuminating awareness of the whole adventure. Choose life!

A few days later, after rounding the Mull of Galloway in the mid-morning after a pre-dawn start, I was faced with the twenty-seven-kilometre crossing of Luce Bay – against the tide. The weather was benign, and the sea was calm. The forecast for the following day was for force five easterlies, so I either set off there and then, or accepted I would be stuck by the Mull of Galloway for at least another day. I vacillated. I was weary and I knew that the tidal stream flowing out of the Solway Firth would be tough to contend with. However, I wanted to press on and make it at least to the Isle of Whithorn where I could sit out the strong wind next day in relative comfort. There was an hour or two of tide left in my favour, so I set off. Indeed, I made it across to the eponymously named Scares eleven kilometres off the Mull coastline in good time. However, after I had made it through the churned waters around the rocks with some nervousness, it seemed to me as if all progress was halted. The hazily indistinct coastline was sixteen kilometres away and regular glances at my GPS showed my progress was counted in metres not kilometres. While checking my GPS, I would drift backwards!

My heart was heavy. This moment seemed interminable and hopeless. I rued my decision to set out and began to consider returning to the Mull of Galloway with the tide. Somehow though, I kept going one slow, heavy paddle stroke at a time. The sun burnt down from a cloudless sky, my hydration bag now empty of water and my throat parched. It seemed as if the gannets and the cormorants swirling around the Scares still only metres away, were in fact vultures waiting for my demise. My spirits were at a low ebb. Then, because it was the nature of this adventure, I began to view my predicament in a different vein. Of course, it was tough. I was fatigued, and I was desperate for the eventual comfort of my tent. However, this moment would not last for ever. Eventually, in only a few hours, the tidal flow against me would ease and then change direction altogether. There would still be plenty of daylight to see me land at the Isle of Whithorn. If I could sit with my discomfort, then all would be well. This then, was another compelling lesson for me to embody. On the back of the insight gained on Ailsa Craig to choose life, sitting with my discomfort knowing that this will not last for ever, was powerfully enlightening. Those words, “will not last forever”, were often spoken to me by the nurses on the psychiatric ward when I was in hospital. They made sense then of course but sadly carried little weight. Now though, in the middle of Luce Bay, with a powerful tide against me, I understood them completely and laughed with joy at their enduring simplicity and truth.

Birkdale Beach

Again, a few days later I was landing further up the Solway Firth on the depressingly rocky shore of Rascarrel Bay. I had struggled for the previous couple of hours against a force six headwind and an accompanying lumpy sea. Suitable landing places were almost non-existent, let alone those with good enough spots to camp. Rascarrel had seemed the most likely option and when I arrived, the tide was way out and I was faced with hundreds of metres of large weed covered and barnacled boulders over which to carry bulging IKEA bags and my kayak. It was also pouring with tropically intense rain. I set about unpacking the boat, knowing that in these conditions there was little hope in keeping things dry, when suddenly a pair of wellies appeared in my peripheral vision and a voice asked, “Would you like a hand?”. Angels it seems, wear wellington boots! I was warmly welcomed in by the Smith family, third generation hutters of Rascarrel Bay. They invited me to camp in their garden and fed me jam and ham sandwiches!

Again, I was confronted with a convincing metaphorical awareness, that when the chips are down, there will be moments of unexpected help. By now, over two weeks into my journey, I had at last found the joy and the pleasure to be gained from the adventure. I had faced many dark moments. I had also allowed myself to accept the many nuggets of Nature’s instruction offered to me during these. As a result, I was strong again.

The subsequent days and kilometres drifted by, each with substantial challenges, but all faced with equanimity. In fact, I sought some of these challenges before they presented themselves, culminating in an eighty-six kilometre penultimate day of my journey when I kayaked the full length of the Lleyn Peninsula and then crossed Cardigan Bay to camp on Shell Island beach. The final day of the adventure was particularly fitting in that I arrived to a warm welcome from friends at Aberdyfi, the place where my professional life in the outdoors began in the mid-eighties and where a portion of my heart will forever reside. After all I have been through, it was affirming to be welcomed so warmly and to celebrate my achievement of completing the Three Peaks by Kayak, a challenge which nearly a month earlier, on the shores of Loch Eil, I doubted my ability to accomplish.

One of the tasks presented to us as Outward Bound instructors was to facilitate the transfer of learning from an Outward Bound course to the students’ home or work, so that new awareness and opportunities for change were enduring. Having presented the activities they encountered metaphorically throughout their course, this process was not too difficult to manage. Now that I’m home after this kayaking adventure, I too am confident that the self-awareness I gained from this venture will be long lasting. My recovery from my clinical depression will never be straight forward, but now, I have powerfully metaphoric memories to recall when those tough times revisit me in the future.

"if

the ocean can calm itself,

so can you.

we

are both

salt water

mixed with

air."  

~ Nayyirah Waheed

I was raising funds for Odyssey, a charity which provided transformational outdoor courses for people with or have had cancer. My fundraising page remains open - here. Thank you.


 

Adventure or Misadventure

A while ago, in late July, I sullied my sea kayaking record. It feels like I am an advanced driver who has been caught speeding and received points on my licence. When kayaking along the Pembrokeshire coast I was caught by a huge breaking wave, was capsized, exited my kayak and ended up swimming. This is the first time this has happened to me (when not playing) in 25 years of sea kayaking. In my defence regarding not rolling my kayak and having to swim, my paddle was broken during the incident, hence not rolling upright. However, I have no defence regarding being caught by the wave in the first place. I hold my hands up and admit to being inattentive and being too relaxed. 

Phil in his element along the Pembrokeshire coastline.

My good friend Phil and I had completed an enjoyable and challenging circumnavigation of Ramsey Island off the Pembrokeshire coast. This was the first time that I had paddled this route despite having regularly visiting the infamous Bitches tide race in Ramsey Sound to surf the waves there. The seas off the west coast of the island were lively to say the least and this with a fiercely running tide, made paddling conditions pretty exciting. I'm an experienced sea kayaker and I can hold my own in variable conditions but even then on this occasion, I was surprised by some unexpected bouncy waters, steep standing waves and some fierce tidal eddies which, at one point, spun me 180 degrees! Needless to say, Phil and I whooped and hollered our approval at being tested in this way.

Our history of enjoying shared adventures goes back over thirty years. It has become something of an 'in-joke' amongst our friends that when we get together, there'll be high adventure of some sort. It's not that we egg each other on in a macho fashion to achieve the impossible, we simply embody a strong spirit for adventure. When we come together we somehow match our aspirations for a day of enjoyment and excitement in the outdoors. We are well matched skills wise and probably more importantly, we are well matched judgement wise too. We each have the innate ability to anticipate the likelihood of success or risky failure when looking at the activity we are planning to undertake. What we end up doing is taking ourselves to the edge of the adventure and flirting with misadventure. 

Thirty years of shared adventure.

One story to recount is the time we set out to kayak to the Shiant Isles just off the Isle of Lewis across the Minch from the Isle of Skye. At the time I lived on the Black Isle near Inverness and Phil lived in Kendal. This meant that by the time we had met each other and travelled to Skye, we were running behind time. We packed our kayaks in a hurry and hastily launched into a lumpy sea in the hope that the last of the tide would set us up nicely for the long crossing to the Shiants. It wasn’t until we were well into the Minch that we realised we weren’t making any worthwhile forward progress. The far hills of Harris steadfastly held their position on our port beams. Additionally the sea state was deteriorating and we were threatened with the prospect of arriving at the far off islands in the dark. We decided to turn tail and head for the nearby Fladda Chuain islets five miles off the Sky coastline. Eventually after a total of eight hours hard paddling we pulled ourselves ashore, staggering and slipping up the slippery boulder beach of the main island. We made camp and turned our attention to making a restorative pot of tea. “Have you got the water?” I shouted across to Phil who was pegging out his tent. “No, I thought you had it” he responded. We looked at each other aghast. Here we were, two seasoned adventurers without any drinking water on a small waterless island in the Minch! We berated ourselves but couldn’t help laughing at our predicament because thankfully, before leaving the Black Isle, we had purchased six bottles of Black Isle Brewery beer. We wouldn’t die of thirst. Our journey continued the next day and ended safely though we never did make it out to the Shiants. We ended up paddling along the Skye coastline instead.

Finding myself swimming in a restless Pembrokeshire sea and knowing that Phil was in the water too was a salutatory reminder of the fine edge I sometimes traverse between enjoying high adventure or encountering misadventure. All worked out well. We self-rescued and we were on our way again, somewhat chagrined but none the worse for the incident. However, since then I have gone on to replay the event in my mind, berating myself for my inattention. Truthfully, I was a little shaken too.

Reaching the Shiants in 2015

I am predominantly a solo kayaker and there have been a number of times during long journeys where I have found myself coping with tricky situations. Every time I have coped well and come through unscathed, largely because I am an able kayaker well used to facing uncertain situations. Nevertheless with each of these moments, things could have taken a different course and I would have found myself possibly dealing with far more than I would have liked.

For example, during my 2015 sea kayak journey around Scotland, along the east coast of Harris, I found myself caught out by a huge ‘boomer’. This is where a usually submerged rock is suddenly uncovered by a receding wave and then covered again with the booming wash of a replacement wave, often accompanied with spectacular bursting white water. I had just rounded a small headland and hadn’t seen this particular spot, so when I suddenly found myself seemingly in mid air above a rapidly exposed barnacled and weedy rock, I knew what I was in for. With instinct more than anything else, I threw my weight to my right and readied my paddle to support me on the wave which inevitably cracked ominously at head height and broke onto me, sweeping me down and towards the exposed rock. Supported by my paddle and leaning onto the raging surf, I tensed myself for the inevitable dreadful crunch when my kayak would be crashed hull first onto the ragged rock. I was resigned to a severely damaged boat and possible injury to myself. Instead with incomprehensible relief, I realised that instead of the crunching crash, I was simply surfed over the rock and into a patch of lively and disturbed water where it seemed that once spent, the waves gathered to recompose themselves. I had survived and so had my kayak.

The consequences of crashing into the rock can only be imagined. I was in a remote and unpopulated section of the Harris coast where my predicament would have gone unnoticed and rescue would have been a long time in coming. There were no beaches to haul myself onto and the rocky cliffs were being pounded by hungry waves fed by a force wind. I would have found myself in a tricky situation - there is no doubt about that. If my kayak had been damaged and was unseaworthy and I was in the water unable to self-rescue, I would have had to deploy my emergency personal locator beacon and call for assistance on my VHF radio. The Leverburgh Lifeboat (which I had just visited) would have taken an hour to reach me.

Of course none of this happened and I went on to complete my 1850 mile solo journey without ever having to use my emergency equipment. This isn’t to say I didn’t face further moments of peril. When thinking about my mishap on the Pembrokeshire coast in late July, I reminded myself that I had coped with potentially more severe situations without trouble. The event with Phil had occurred because I had switched off and relaxed. Normally, when I’m paddling on my own, I’m far more wary and observant. However, the potential for misadventure is always there. This is because I’m naturally drawn to extending myself, to exploring the unknown and to testing my ability. During my 520 mile Three Peaks by Kayak journey this year, I noticed how willing I was to put to sea in conditions I would have avoided in 2015. This is a result of my increased confidence in my ability and a strengthened fortitude to face more challenging situations. I’m not over confident or braggartly blasé, but rather more self assured. As I grow into my sea kayaking, my wisdom, my judgement and my ability match pace. It’s only natural for me to continue to extend myself.

Reflecting on this, I accepted that eventually I would find myself overstepping the mark and calling upon every level of skill I possess to resolve a tricky predicament. I accept that this is the nature of my adventuring and in fact of my personal growth too. It is often my mistakes and mishaps which provide powerful learning. Rather than continue to give myself a hard time about breaking my non-capsize record, I instead have chosen to look at this Pembrokeshire event as a rich source of helpful information. For a start - even when relaxed, maintain a level of alertness. There are many small but important steps I would take differently based on the learning I have drawn from this one event and as a result, I’m confident that an occurrence of this nature will not happen again.

Cape Wrath

My accrued wisdom however, informs me that there will undoubtedly be another time some where in the future where I slip on the tightrope between adventure and misadventure. I’m confident though that when this happens, like this time in Pembroke, I’ll be well equipped in mind, in skill and safety kit to deal with it. This is what adventure is about. As Phil and I say to each other every time we embark on a shared journey into the outdoors - “An adventure is an experience with an unknown outcome.”

Adventurer

The Cambrian News described me as an adventurer when they wrote an article about my 3 Peaks by Kayak fundraising journey, (link here). It was strange for me to see myself described as such and this made me think about the concept of adventure per se and that of being an adventurer. 

Strangely, despite having lived my life immersed in the outdoors working as a guide and outdoor instructor, experiencing myriad incredible adventurous experiences for myself and undertaking some fairly major expeditions, I have not viewed myself specifically as an adventurer. This is a title I bestow on others who I deem more worthy of the description than me. I guess, I consider my efforts benign in comparison to what other folks have achieved. Seeing the word attributed to me in the newspaper article at first caused me to cringe a little, but then I glowed with a sense of self-recognition. I'm interested why this simple attribution is important to me. 

First of all, it is important because it is a form of recognition. There is a drive within every human to be positively recognised for who we are. We consciously or unconsciously live our lives in such a way so that we receive attention and acknowledgement which can only be provided by another person or people. I'm never going to be recognised for academic prowess or business acumen, so finding myself acknowledged for achieving something worthwhile in a field I'm adept at is particularly rewarding. 

Secondly, as I reach the later years of my life, I realise the importance of my legacy - the story or stories which will be recounted about me after I have departed this world. I don't want to pass through this existence without a worthy epitaph to mark my presence. This may seem a vain aspiration but as with being recognised for who I am in this present life, I would like there to be a memory of me having contributed meaningfully during my life. If this is as an 'adventurer', then I'll be happy with this. 

Ever since I stopped working for Outward Bound twenty years ago, I have struggled to define myself with any certainty. I suppose rather tongue in cheek I could confidently call myself a Jack of All Trades. I tried my hand in the Mental Health sector, trained in psychotherapy and ran a private practice for a few years, developed a form of 'wilderness therapy' and when I ceased this, a number of other minor job roles including sea kayak guiding. I wouldn't say that I was unsuccessful at any of those roles, it's just that I didn't fit them - they didn't fit me. Maybe I'm a rolling stone, unable to settle in any profession. If this is the case, then defining myself as an adventurer will be the ideal solution, for this is exactly what the specifications for this title demands - a person willing to roll as a stone, meeting and overcoming uncertainty along the way, maybe living with discomfort and undertaking arduous ventures. 

I have to admit there is an element of discomfort for me with the term adventurer. In this age of social media sound bytes and instant fame, there appears to me to be commodification of adventure as a means of shameless self-promotion. The outdoors becomes a playground, the environment barely given a second glance in the race for the perfect adventure photo, for example a blazing camp fire on virgin Hebridean Machar or a dune buggy roaring over pristine sands. I'm not suggesting that adventurers are disconnected from nature but it pains me when I see Nature being exploited for purely egoistic gain. Maybe I hold a naïve view that to be an adventurer who journeys through the wild and natural realms, one needs to do so with reverent mutuality, viewing Nature as an equal partner in the enterprise.

Being an adventurer carries responsibility and it's role which can be a force for good. People look upon adventurers as sources for inspiration. This is one of the responsibilities I find myself accepting with serious intent. Particularly so because I have chosen to associate my endeavours with raising awareness about mental health, depression, suicide awareness and recovery. I recognise that through my profile I have a stronger voice to air my knowledge about these important subjects. Actually, this is one of the motivating factors in me deciding to follow the path of becoming an adventurer - to use this as a platform to highlight the issues surrounding depression. 

Of course I can only be an adventurer if I continue to embark on adventures. I don't anticipate this being an arduous arrangement to fulfil but it does come with costs and these aren't just financial. I will be required to be away from home and separated from my wife for long periods of time. This is probably the toughest aspect of adventuring for me. I feel guilt at not being home to assist with daily home life, particularly since we live on a boat and this requires some extraordinary chores like having to row Ziggy ashore for his walks. This can become an arduous chore if it is not shared. Of course separation is tough and can put strain on the marriage. I have many times wondered how early explorers managed to maintain successful marriages despite living abroad for months if not years at a time. In this day and age though, our means of communicating with loved ones is far more advanced. I am thankful and grateful that Karen supports my desire for adventures, recognising this as a positive force for my continued good health and personal growth. Being away for long periods of time also impacts life in general; missing friends, missing out on social events and negating community voluntary duties such as the RNLI Tobermory Lifeboat in my case.

As with any chosen path in life, the benefits have to outweigh the negatives. It's not as if I am consigned to this role against my will, being the only opportunity within my grasp. The choice is mine and if the costs are too great then it's a simple decision to take a step back, reassessing what's important and what changes can be made. For the moment, though much of my life has been leading to this, it feels like the early stages of my embarkation along this route. It's as if I have just been offered the role and have accepted it. 

In reality, no such role exists and it's not a paid job. I am an adventurer in name only, an attribution pasted onto me by a supportive newspaper article and I have wrapped myself in the glory of it. Whether I can make some kind of living from this only time will tell. It's purely down to me and how comfortable I feel about making this happen. I am a humble soul, not one to seek fame or glory. Yet, for the first time in many years I find myself enjoying discovering a sense of identity and pride in these three words:

Nick Ray, Adventurer. 

Finding Focus

The summer is speeding by for me. This is probably a good thing in a way, because it means that I'm living it fully. I think this is probably true, though I have difficulty in recounting what I get up to each day. Not a huge amount to be honest. 

Anyway, I've recently returned from a journey down south where I gave a presentation in Aberdyfi about my 3 Peaks by Kayak journey, visited my parents in Herefordshire and then spent a few days camping with a group of friends in Pembrokeshire. This journey turned into a rewarding experience for me where I gained significant insights which I believe will be useful for me in my future. 

My presentation in Aberdyfi turned out to be an unqualified success. Seventy or so folks came along to the Yacht Club in the village to hear me give an illustrated talk about my 3 Peaks adventure. To be honest, I hadn't really prepared in any detail what I was going to talk about. I had chosen a number of photos to show and these would offer me prompts to recount anecdotes from the journey. I did have the intention of speaking about how profound the journey was for me and how I gained deep insights into my mental health recovery process as a result of it. As the presentation unfolded, I found myself speaking with eloquent openness about my struggle with my depression, ideations of suicide and how powerful moments of insight into these were highlighted by incredible experiences I encountered. Without preparing for this, I found my voice and it carried impact. 

The feedback I received afterwards was difficult to accept because it was so effusive in its praise. Such is my low sense of self-worth that I literally had to force the compliments into my 'memory banks'. It was when people I had never met before came up to me and spoke of the profoundness of my talk, that I realised that I had given something worthwhile. This was a good feeling for me. 

A few days later down in Pembrokeshire, the compliments continued to roll in and this time they were more thoughtful because folks had given time to thinking about the impact of my presentation. I couldn't help but glow with a sense of satisfaction that my voice had such impact. My intuition that sharing my personal struggle with depression and suicide as an adjunct to the powerful experiences I encountered during my kayaking journey had paid off. With relief, I realised that my desired future path of publicly sharing my outdoor adventures as a source of inspiration for others struggling with mental health issues and general self awareness, was a good one for me to pursue. 

Driving north to the Isle of Mull, I pondered on how I can build on this and make it happen.

Writing seems to be the most obvious pathway. I like writing but I'm not good at focussing and completing writing projects. However, recently submitting an article about my recent kayaking trip to the notable sea-kayaking publication, Ocean Paddler, and having this well received, with an invitation to submit further articles, has boosted my confidence and provided me with the incentive to approach my writing seriously. I have a number of books I would like to write and of course, many shorter pieces specifically about the transformational power of Nature, the outdoors and adventure per se. 

Public speaking is also an obvious route to embark on. I have come to accept that I'm adept at this and I can hold an audiences' attention through my voice and story. I have much to say and I do enjoy sharing my views and tales when these moments arise. However, I'm slow to grasp opportunities to speak publicly or even seek them out, instead waiting to be invited to do so. This will be a challenge for me, to publicise myself as a worthwhile speaker, worthy of hiring. 

Running workshops was another consideration of mine. I enjoy being a facilitator, managing group process and working with the 'here and now' material as it arises. Again, like my writing aspirations, I have a myriad workshop titles in my notebooks. The key here is finding a market for these and more to the point, a relevance for them. In my time, I have worked as an independent workshop provider and facilitator but I found this a stressful process for me. I'm not business minded enough to have made this a success and this dissuades me from following this path. 

Of course there is social media where I can highlight what I have to offer. My Twitter account is a healthy one with wonderfully meaningful engagement with friends, acquaintances and strangers. Here, I largely present myself as I am, not really hiding much away. It would be easy for me to build on this online persona and 'market. what I want to offer. Facebook is a little different and since the international wrangle with 'false news' and manipulation, I'm wary of this platform. I am on Instagram but I don't engage with this as best I could.

Then there is this website and developing my 'Life Afloat' brand. This is an obvious point of reference for what I want to develop and share. Like my writing, I will need to focus more on this, developing useful content and make it an interesting resource for folks to want to visit and remain connected with.

Finally, my Blog. I simply need to keep up with this and keep writing material for it.

If you have ideas and suggestions in response to what I've shared here, then please drop me a line through my contact page. I welcome any feedback you may wish to give me. Thank you.  

Ground-rush

In my life so far, I have completed only two parachute jumps. The first as a fund-raiser for a friend and the second the day after the first, because I had enjoyed it so much. They were static line jumps from two thousand feet high, involving the classic process of pushing out of an open light aircraft door, arms and legs akimbo, yelling (or screaming) - "One thousand, two thousand, three thousand..... check canopeeeee....!" These jumps took place in 1986 and so the mists of time have mellowed my memory of them since then. However, I do recall that I felt more fear during the second jump than I did the first. 

Analysing this now, I make the assumption that the first jump was one of pure excitement and because I had never jumped before, I really had no fearful expectations apart from the possibility that my parachute might malfunction. The rest of the experience was purely an adrenalin fuelled moment, which I had longed to complete ever since I was a young boy. I loved flying. I had been an Air Force Cadet at secondary school and I took any opportunity I could to fly in the ancient Chipmunk aircraft on summer camps and regular unit trips down to the nearest RAF airfield. I also gained my Glider Pilot wings before I passed my driving test, flying solo at the age of sixteen. My solo flight lasted just over sixty seconds and earned me the right to volunteer at the RAF Gliding School every Saturday, with solo flying at the end of the day, for two years after. My first solo glider flight is worthy of a separate story in itself.

So, by the time I found myself shuffling towards the gaping doorway in a Cessna aircraft, high above the quintessential rolling Herefordshire countryside, I was an avid aviator of sorts, who wondered what it would be like to hurl myself from an aircraft and drift down to earth under a silken canopy. I felt no fear, simply excited anticipation. The poor man who was sitting beside me on the cabin floor was weeping silently. Our relative perceptions of this mutual experience couldn't have been more different.

The first jump itself was everything I had hoped for. The complete exhilaration of sitting in the open doorway, my legs dangling with nothing below them until the ground far below and then the command, "Go!", followed by the few seconds of buffeting mayhem as the parachute snapped and cracked open and my body hanging motionless beneath the ochre canopy. These were the days before the 'square' canopies and the large round billowing mushroom above me spilled the air softly, just like the handkerchief parachutes I used to make for my plastic soldiers when I was a boy. What will remain with me in memorable crystal clarity for ever, is the silence. For the brief minute or so I was drifting earthwards, I was suspended in a solitudenous silence which, quite simply, took my breath away. It was one of those perfect moments of absolute awareness. It was probably the first time in my life where I was conscious of all that was occurring - around me, to me and for me.

Less than two minutes after leaving the plane, I neared the ground and seconds later, I saw the hardened grassy surface of the airfield rushing to meet me. With a thud which extorted an unbidden, "Ooft!" from my lungs, I hit the ground and I executed what I thought to be a worthy parachute roll. The air in the canopy dissipated and it collapsed in a whispering rustle beside me. My first ever parachute jump was complete and I was elated!

Imbued with confidence, back at the parachute club offices, I readily signed up for another jump the next day!

Twenty four hours later and once again I'm sitting on the cabin floor of the Cessna aircraft and this time there isn't a weeping man beside me. Instead, it's me who was feeling the nerves. With the naïve and excited anticipation no longer present, I was free to contemplate the possibilities of risk and failure. My stomach was tense and I was not enjoying the moment as much as I hoped I would. The moment of the jump arrived and instead of sheer exhilaration swamping my senses, I was agitated and matter of fact. I want the jump to be over. What I remember of that moment is fearing the landing. I looked forward to the moments of hanging silently beneath the billowing canopy but it was the final seconds and the rush to the ground which filled me with fear.

Needless to say, everything was fine and the jump was effortless and enjoyable. Even my landing was not as I had feared, though I do remember thumping onto the airfield as hard as the day before. 

Now, in the present day, I'm about to embark on my third major sea kayaking fundraising trip and I'm feeling the nerves. There is no longer first expedition naivety to mask my concerns and I am finding myself dwelling on aspects of my forthcoming journey which require particular attention because of possible hazards and the risks involved. Similarly too, I am worrying about my overall ability to pull this venture off - to succeed in its purpose. I worry that because I have been successful in past sea kayaking adventures, folks will have expectations of me doing so again and I have much to live up to. I realise that more than anything, I am expecting a lot of myself and it is actually myself who I don't want to disappoint. As the departure date for my journey draws closer, I am experiencing a sense of ground-rush, time concertinaing and the many important preparatory tasks rushing towards me. The memory of my parachute jumps thirty two years ago reveal themselves clearly in my mind and it is the memory of the ground-rush which I feared the most.

What I realise though, is to hold onto the recollection of that incredible moment hanging in space under the parachute canopy, alone and in awe of the world around me and below me, enveloped in peace and serenity. For it is this experience of solitude, alone on the vastness of the ocean, which fills me with this peace I crave in my life. This is why I return to these journeys in my sea kayak, time and again. The senses of fear and the ground-rush of anxiety then, are merely distractions which serve to heighten my preparedness to safely enjoy my oceanic solitude.

The moment I scrunch my kayak off the shore and into the sea on the 7th May, will be like the moment I'm dangled my legs out of the aircraft door for the second time all those years ago. All that awaits is the final push, and I'm away, encompassed in a world where anything is possible.

Gratitude

It's just a few weeks until I set off on my Three Peaks by Kayak adventure raising funds for Odyssey.

Any venture such as this requires top notch equipment to ensure my safety and the possibility of its success. I have received incredibly generous support from kayaking equipment providers and individuals over the past few years and I'm indebted to them for this. Without their generosity, it's doubtful that I'll have been able to resource myself adequately to undertake the journeys I have. 

I am always grateful for sponsorship and receiving much needed equipment. In return, I hope I offer useful publicity to the businesses and providers who help me. More than this, I like to think of any sponsorship arrangement as an ongoing partnership where I hope to continue to acknowledge their support long after my adventure has taken place. 

For the Three Peaks by Kayak, I am truly grateful to Alan Hinkes for agreeing to be the Patron for this particular adventure. We met during my 2015 journey around Scotland and it's an honour to have him on board. His mountaineering achievements are inspirational as is his continued work encouraging people to make the most the outdoors has to offer. 

I continue to be indebted to Sea Kayaking Scotland for 'Sahwira', my NDK Explorer sea kayak. She has served me faithfully through my 2015 journey, my Scottish Islands Peaks last year and innumerable trips in between. I think we've paddled over 3000 miles together since April 2015. 'Sahwira' by the way, means 'lifelong friend' in Shona, a Zimbabwean language.

Leonie of Art & Sea - Custom Vinyl Graphics is generously supporting me yet again this year, gifting me free graphics for new sponsors and sea slates for me to write essential notes & times on my deck. The graphics she provided for my 2015 trip are still looking excellent despite the wear and tear they have received.

An exciting new partnership has come into being with Gael Force Group who have generously provided me with an Icom hand held VHF radio. I am looking forward to our developing relationship over the coming years, especially since I worked for them way back in 2013.

Reed Chillcheater presented me with a spray-deck for my Islands Peaks challenge last year and this excellent piece of kit is now a firm favourite of mine.

YB Tracking sponsored my unit and tracking for my 2015 trip and assisted me in purchasing a YB unit with a donation of 100 credits for my Islands Peaks last year. I'll be using this again this year.

The buoyancy aid and kayaking trousers I use were provided by Kokatat for my 2015 trip and these are going strong.

My paddles too, from my 2015 trip, have many paddling miles left in them. They were sponsored by Celtic Paddles.

I still wear the three T-shirts given to me in 2015 by Gael8 Designs - they are old favourites.

And finally there is YOU - all of you who support me with warm words of encouragement, by making generous donations to my fundraising effort and for showing an interest in my mad cap ventures.

Thank you to everyone. Thank you! :)

The Three Peaks by Kayak

I'm useless at keeping an up to date blog. My best intentions to write regularly and share my thoughts with the wider world come to nought through a mixture of reasons, ranging from low self-confidence to good old fashioned procrastination. I should realise that setting myself the goal of writing regular contributions would not really work for me. I was a poor academic student who was always late with my assignments and essays, leaving writing them to the very last minute or worse, not at all. I became more adept at providing excuses than I did at writing!

This said though, I do enjoy writing and I think that when I do produce a piece, it reads pretty well and I'm pleased with it. I'm not sure why I find it difficult to fulfil my aspirations to write more and I hope that when I do come to understand my blocks, there'll be no stopping me! 

This blog entry is by way of support for my Three Peaks by Kayak challenge which I'm undertaking this May (2018). I'm raising funds for Odyssey, a small charity who provide outdoor courses for people who have been or are being treated for cancer. I have worked for them on a number of occasions and I believe their courses to be incredibly worthwhile. It is wonderful to be writing this entry and to not be covering the theme of my depression and mental health travails. Actually, when I come to think of it, one of the reasons I haven't contributed recently, is because I was tired of only thinking of writing about my low mood, my struggles with this and the more painful truth of fighting my desire to complete suicide. I simply did not want to keep rehashing my negative thoughts and feelings and sharing these with you. It's really lovely at long last to have hope and happiness surging through my veins again. 

My last blog entry was about my New Year plans and I'm pleased to say that I'm at least on my way to undertaking a significant one of these. The Three Peaks by Kayak has been on my list of adventures for nearly twenty five years, really, ever since I began sea kayaking. I had an attempt at completing this in 2009 but was unsuccessful due to poor weather. 2018 will be the year that I put this adventure goal to bed and once I have, I'll feel more able to attempt other plans which have been mulling around in my mind. 

One question I ask myself and I have been asked this by a few other folks too, is - does undertaking these big adventures have a negative impact on the state of my mental health? Without opening up about what I struggle with when I'm in the midst of my depression, I do know that I long to be connected with wildness through some kind of outdoor adventure. Connection to wildness provides me with solace even in the darkest depths of my depression. One aspect of my adventuring lifestyle which I have come to appreciate, is how to reintegrate myself to my life at home and a more 'regular' lifestyle after long and challenging but incredibly rewarding kayaking adventure. Of course having worked as an Outward Bound Instructor and a Therapeutic Wilderness Guide for many years, I ought to understand the important process of transferring ones self from a powerful life altering outdoor experience to the normality of everyday life. I now understand how challenging this can be! The suddenness of the end of a journey can have an incredible impact and for me, and I've struggled to adapt after living a life of wild freedom and solitude. 

Given that I'm now paying attention to this, I'm excited to be undertaking the Three Peaks by Kayak and considering future adventures. It's a continually evolving process of self-awareness which doesn't end because I'm over fifty years old. In fact, I think that I'm learning more about myself now than I ever did in my earlier years. It's as if my life has been leading me to this - the path of the solo adventurer. Despite the risk of future depressive episodes, I have permission to challenge myself so that I continue to grow. 

This kayaking journey then, is as much a personal odyssey as it is a fund raising venture for Odyssey. I look forward to sharing the emerging insights I encounter on the way, as well as the everyday awe and wonder I will enjoy as I traverse the British coastline. 

Thank you for your interest and support. 

2018

Nearly ten days into the New Year and I'm only now sharing my plans and aspirations for the twelve months ahead. Better late than never I suppose, so here goes.

I'm not a fan of loud and boisterous Hogmanay celebrations, preferring to see the year out with a small group of friends or family. I haven't reached the stage yet where I take myself off to bed to wake the next day to a new year. Neither do I sit gloomily in an armchair, clutching a dram with a curmudgeonly air, watching the clock for the midnight chimes. I enjoy the few hours leading up to the bells, where chatter and banter cheerfully ease me from one year to the next. There's always booze to enjoy and we make sure we have an array of tasty snacks on the go through the evening. It's a fun time in a 'fifty-plus years old' kind of way. 

The actual moment when the countdown begins and the bells chime is a movingly emotional juncture for me. My voice breaks and I feel tears welling in my eyes. This is the moment where I enter into a new contract with myself - to become the person I continually aspire to be. Invariably the year I am leaving will have been a mixed one, with challenges and triumphs in equal measure. There is no doubt that my struggle with depression will have played a big part during the year. The moment when the fireworks burst into the skies and people hug, kiss and wish each other every happiness, is the briefest of moments when the pains of the departing year are expunged and hope floods my senses. Amidst the tumult of bonhomie I look forwards, visualising myself embracing my life with vigour and positivity. After the celebration is over, it's always a pleasant experience drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of January 1st with sleepy dreams of exciting adventures on the horizon.

I do not call them resolutions but I do have a number of things I want to achieve in 2018. Like many folk I suppose, I begin the new year with high levels of motivation to tackle things I procrastinated over the year before. The challenge of course is keeping this motivation at a consistently high level to effect the changes and the learning I aspire to achieve. For many years I was a development trainer/coach and I'm an old hand at observing the process of initial enthusiasm slowly shifting towards lethargy and eventual disappointment. I understand what the usual contributing self-defeating factors towards this might be. I see these all too clearly in myself. In the opening hours of the year I resolve not to allow these factors to get the better of me - as they did the year before, and well, all the years before that.

As I always advised folks to do, I have chosen a manageable number of aspirations to work towards, rather than create a long and unwieldy list. I remember likening setting post-course goals to work towards akin to packing a rucksack for a wilderness expedition. Pack what is essential and not carry too many things to cut back on the weight. Where possible, share the load too. Trying to cram too much into the rucksack will leave it overladen, jumbled and impossible to find what is necessary because this'll be buried under non-essential stuff. Again, akin to many successful expeditions, it's essential to understand personal limitations and abilities, thus realising the likelihood of a realistically achievable outcome. I've found with my expeditions that they require purpose, something tangible, which makes them meaningful and provide me with the determination I require to see them through. The same is true with setting new year goals for myself - they need purpose, so that I'm purposeful in working towards achieving them. Finally, to bring the alliteration of the wilderness expedition to a close, it needs to be enjoyable, even if at times the sense of challenge may seem overwhelming.

The common sabotaging blocks in achieving my goals are my lack of self-belief, procrastination, not attending to immediate matters to address developing situations, becoming distracted, a poorly organised approach, and allowing a sense of failure determine whether I progress or not. Neither am I good at drawing on any learning from my achievements and successes, instead preferring to dwell on where I think I'm failing. It's ironic how aware of this process I am, yet allow it to play out time and again. 

This year's first aspiration is to not allow this to happen for 2018. I will nip any self-defeating behaviour in the bud and draw on inspiration from my recent kayaking and other adventurous successes. If I attend to this aspiration as the overarching goal, then the list which follows ought to be well within my reach. It all seems so very easy!

Here's the short list of what I want to achieve in 2018. In fact I will change this, it is the list of what I will achieve in 2018.

  • Kayak the Three Peaks.
  • Kayak to Muckle Flugga from Tobermory and back.
  • Complete writing "Strong Winds are Forecast", the book about my 2015 journey.
  • Establish a You Tube "LifeAfloat" channel and make at least two films a month for this.
  • Sail our yacht at least twice every month when the weather allows.
  • Become proficient in addressing and resolving electrical issues on the boat.
  • Make contact with all the important friends in my life.
  • Teach myself twelve Scottish folk tunes on my tin-whistle.
  • Watercolour painting at least once a month.

The list is self-explanatory and contains some demanding items to achieve. I can see which of these will require the greater attention to prevent procrastination and as I write this I'm aware of a my determination to not allow this to happen. Already I have pleasantly surprised myself by not succumbing to the temptations of avoidance and distraction when I had recently set myself the task to settle down to write. The feeling of achievement at the end of a successfully busy day is sufficient reward indeed. 

This blog entry outlines the contract I have set with myself and by sharing it here, I'm inviting you to play a role in the success of my new year aspirations, by checking in with me from time to time and holding me to account. For example it might be that you ask me to post a recording of me playing one of the tunes I have learned on my tin-whistle! However you  interact with me, I will accept your interest and support with gratitude.

So then, 2018 is under way and I'm looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. It's not a case of leaving this to chance because of course, I have the means to influence the outcomes I'm aspiring for. I sincerely hope that the same is true for you too and that this year is a wonderful one for you in so many ways.

Dear Reader - my warmest wishes to you for a happy and fulfilling 2018.

The Beginning

Every journey begins with a single step and so it's true with writing a blog. My intention is to write here as often as I can, sharing ideas, thoughts and feelings about my life on the boat, my sea kayaking adventures and my life in Scotland in general. I enjoy writing, particularly if I'm sharing matters that excite and interest me.

I'll write about just about anything that catches my attention but I'm sure the common theme will be my life as a sea kayaker and a yacht live-aboard. It feels exciting embarking on this blog because I cannot be certain about what lies ahead. Whatever transpires I hope I catch your attention too and in some way evoke a variety of responses to what I am sharing.