Where do you turn to when you need help? Right, to your own countrymen. They will definitely help you out. This is the best advice ever.
Eastcoast paddling is different than Westcoast paddling. The Eastcoast doesn’t have snug little inlets, sandy beaches or lochs to land the kayak safely. No, it has a rocky coastline with high cliffs and small awkward little harbours. At high water, there are some sandy beaches but at low water, the beaches are long and littered with a lot of slippery rocks. The second bit of very good advice is to study the coastline at home using Google Maps to see where the cleared beaches are. That really helps to avoid being stuck on a beach because of submerged dangers like rocks.
But sometimes the best of studies do not materialise in reality….
We are paddling from Dunbeath northwards to Sarclet harbour. An average trip of around 20 kilometres. The weather forecast predicts two low-pressure areas, one to the north and one to the south of us. Nothing to worry about, the weather looks fine. We leave on an early ebb tide, wind in the back, nice manageable swell waves in the back. We are happy kayakers. As we paddle we notice the waves are getting a bit higher. No problem, we are happy fast-moving kayakers. And the waves increased a bit more. Still, we are happy high speeding kayakers. There is nothing we can’t handle! Perhaps only the landing on Sarclet Harbour. 4 meter high swell waves are rushing between the boulders blocking the entrance to the landing beach! Actually, this doesn’t look like a harbour at all!!
What to do, What to do?
Go back? The tide, wind and waves are against.
Go on? But for how long?
Alex quickly checks the map, the only safe harbour is Wick. 20-kilometre further up the coastline….
What about the tide?
We still have 3 hours left on the ebb tide.
20 kilometre in 3 hours?
There is no other option. We eat some cookies, put on a brave face and go for it.
By the time we reach Wick harbour, it is 21.00 hours. Tired after 6 hours of paddling in large swell waves from the back, we arrive in the safety of the harbour. But also getting in the funnel-like harbour are huge big swell waves. OH NO, no surfing, no surfing!! Otherwise, we will CRASH into the harbour wall!!!
Slowly we paddle in avoiding the surf waves with a few backstrokes. Alex spots the entrance of the marina just in time on the left side of the harbour and we drift to safety. Only to stare up 5-meter harbour wall. We are exactly at the lowest of the ebb tide in the marina where we can’t get out and there is no grass to pitch the tent.
What to do? What to do?
The only thing you can do in times like these is to rely on your own countrymen to help you out. We spot this huge big Dutch sailing yacht while paddling in the marina so we knocked on the boat. An elderly chap with wild grey hair looks around and then down.
‘Goedenavond meneer, weet u hoe we uit de haven kunnen komen?’ (Good evening sir, do you know how we can get out of the marina?)
It is always nice to talk in your own language after 6 hours of heavy paddling, being hungry and tired and have no idea what to do next.
‘Well, you need a key to get out of the marina. But get yourselves out of the water first and put your kayaks on the pontoon.’
So we did and we told him and his wife our adventure and our plan of putting the tent up somewhere in a park in Wick.
‘No need for that. You can stay on our boat tonight if you want. I can imagine you want to have a hot shower after an ordeal like that. Here is the key to the bathroom a token you can put in the shower.’
We had a lovely hot shower, a nice meal, good company and slept as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Thank god for fellow countrymen/women!