Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Winter on the Water


Alison French
Plockton | Lochalsh

Skye Winter Storm

Autumn arrived with a bang! Stormy, blustery, changeable weather. Trees and hedgerows heavily laden with fruit and berries (one of the best harvests in years!), and autumn colour looking splendid, albeit short-lived as the gales deftly removed leaves from their branches.

The gales gave us waves! The intense low-pressure weather systems that start out in the Atlantic generate ocean swell. As these weather systems move and get closer to the UK the swell changes. Swells can join together with other swells and become larger; swells can oppose each other to become smaller and more confused; the wind can increase or decrease the size of the wave; the depth of the seabed and tidal currents can create interference. Where the swell meets land it undergoes a process of profound modification and we see breaking waves and surf.

Kayak Navigation

Kayakers need to consider carefully the effect of swell and waves on their choice of paddling venue (as well as lots of other factors!). A group of experienced intermediate to advanced paddlers will often go looking for ‘conditions’ to give them a chance to play and strut their stuff. The less experienced may well rise to the challenge, but might need a more gentle introduction to build their confidence and work on skills to enable them to manage and feel comfortable in a more challenging environment.

Kayaking Skye Winter

The Isle of Skye and it’s neighbouring mainland areas provide us with the perfect playground (or office for those that make a living from sea kayaking). Skye has a coastline that has every aspect, which means whichever way the wind or swell is coming from there’s the opportunity for paddling on the more exposed and therefore rougher shorelines, or choosing to stay sheltered in calmer more benign waters. Add into that the dramatic cliffs, bays and headlands and world-class views you have a location that always has a full cupboard of ingredients. It’s up to the kayaker or instructor to work out the best recipe to suit everyone’s tastes, as long as there are no allergies to salt water!

Talisker Winter Waves

The stormy weather has now given way to a spell of glorious settled late autumn weather. Despite the sunshine and calmer overhead conditions, we’ve still had that ocean swell working its way onto our shores. This has been perfect for the British Canoeing Sea Kayak Leader training and assessment courses that I’ve been involved with recently. Sometimes I’ve had to work away in different areas to deliver these courses but am always thinking how perfect Skye and Lochalsh are as a venue. I’m looking forward to running leadership training and assessment courses based here in 2019. Right, better get back to my winter admin jobs and website updates!