Monday, 29 July 2013

Going round the bend while messing about in boats

‘There's nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats,’ the Water Rat tells Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

If the sentiment is an exaggeration, it’s a forgivable one. Few things can give quite as much pleasure as wandering around on water, aimlessly or aimfully, whether the boat
’s driven by wind, by oars or by paddles.

’s a truth we’ve proved again during our visit to family up here in Scotland, out East of Edinburgh.

Aimfully, we took kayaks out a couple of days ago to Bass Rock, described by David Attenborough as one of the wildlife wonders of the world. It has a 150,000-strong colony of gannets, supplemented by countess  cormorants, various gulls, and other sea creatures including puffins and seals.

I can’t confirm the number of gannets, but have no trouble believing it. As we approached the rock, a volcanic extrusion thrust out of the seawater of the Firth of Forth, the sky seemed to fill with clouds of birds. 

Well, OK. Swarms at least.

Swarms of sea birds filling the sky at Bass Rock
More aimlessly, we went out today on a river, or perhaps more accurately a long, narrow lake. Now, that was really just messing around in boats. 

I should point in passing that, for me, it’s the word ‘in’ that’s truly key in that expression. I suffer from a tendency to lose concentration and forget that the quicker and easier to drive through the water these boats are, the less stable they’re likely to be. Rather more often than I’d like, I’ve found myself leaving my boat precipitately and involuntarily, and finding myself messing around not so much in a boat as alongside it, or even underneath it.

That’s not always much fun. Particularly in Scotland. Never let it be said that Scottish summers don’t have their charms, because they certainly do. It’s just that the message that it’s a warm season seems not to have got through to bodies of water out of doors. The sea’s really bad, but even rivers offer sharp reminders that Edinburgh would be in the middle of Hudson’s Bay if it were a few thousand miles to the west, or form a pleasant twin city with Norway’s capital Oslo if it were a few hundred miles to the east.

So I get into a boat up here with some trepidation. And today the Scottish weather was at its tricksiest. It waited patiently while we got the boats out on the water, remaining pleasantly warm and sunny until we got past the point of no return where we might have changed our minds and headed home. Then, with frightening speed, it quickly covered the skies with clouds before opening them up right over us and pouring torrents of rain directly on to our heads.

I’m not talking pleasant refreshing showers. Or at least, it wa
s the kind of refreshment you get not from a glass but from a fireman’s hose. Any sense that falling in would be a problem was quickly dispelled. It would hardly have made any difference.

What passed for shelter when the Scottish weather
sprang its surprise on us
The conditions didn’t stop us having a great outing, once we gave up on the forlorn enterprise of trying to find shelter. We ploughed on through the downpour determined to enjoy ourselves instead of complaining. I even found the experience quite instructive. I understood why we use the expression ‘going round the bend’ for losing one’s sanity. I kept thinking ‘I’ll just go round the next bend – things may be better there.’ 

I can confirm that madness really does lie at the end of that belief.

But a good time was had by all. Because, when all’s said and done, Ratty was right. There’s little in life quite as much fun as messing around in boats. Whatever the conditions.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

So is the rainwater the same temperature as the seawater? The whole experience seems rather chilly.

David Beeson said...

Chilly's right. But then the clouds parted and the sun came out again - and it was bliss again to be in Scotland.

Awoogamuffin said...

Looks like fun! One day I hope to go out to sea with Davide too

David Beeson said...

I think you'll enjoy it...