While the full lockdown and then the 5-mile travel guidance has been in place sea kayaking has been off the agenda. But, as the restrictions ease, there's opportunity to get out on the water again. Lorna, Allan and I met on a sunny afternoon at our usual launch spot at Sandend for a short excursion.
Heading west from Sandend brings great paddling straight away with a series of channels and leads behind rock stacks. On most days the narrower gaps are inadvisable due to swell surging through, but a combination of low swell and proximity to high water offered the opportunity to paddle all of them. this particular gap is just shoulder width at its narrowest - but went easily.
It's a great little area to weave through, and full of interest.....
...as well as wildlife. The last time we were able to kayak here the seabirds were just beginning to scope out the cliffs. The breeding season is now nearly over, chicks like this Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) are well grown and on the way to fledging. The Moray Firth is rich in seabird colonies and those on this stretch of coast are remarkably relaxed about passing kayakers - provided one moves slowly and quietly there's no agitation at all from the birds.
We continued west and crossed the county boundary from Aberdeenshire into Morayshire before pulling in at our outward destination of Cullen. A sandy beach in the outer harbour makes for an easy and convenient landing. we had a particular reason for making Cullen the target of our evening - Allan made a phone call and we walked up to the town's main street.....
Six or seven of the Bottlenose Dolphins for which the Moray Firth is famous treated us to a fairly close pass with much jumping and tail slapping as they hunted their own fish for supper - it's such a treat to share space with these creatures, and seeing them on this first outing back seemed extra special.
What little breeze there was died completely as we approached Sandend making for a tranquil, relaxed end to our evening paddle. After so long off the water, it was good to be back!