Moby Dick

Day 47 – Pennan to Lossiemouth – 6th July – 35.3 nm

The split-shifts continue - we are nearly 50 days in now and Paddler is getting tired of paddling, Team Manager is getting tired of everything else.  The long days are starting to add up. Team Manager’s diary sums it up with: “Not enough sleep leaves me faffing and undecided all morning”. I could agree with this of course, but I’m too tired and can’t be arsed.

Tarbet Ness beckons and the weather forecast is a little mixed ahead, we need to get to Lossie’ today to be in a good position for the crossing.

On the water before 8:00; launch off a slightly smelly beach at pretty Pennan and then out under grey skies, with a gentle chop. The forecast today is for no swell and winds should be light, throw in the split shift and it looks like it’s going to be another double-edged long day.

Along the cliffs the fog still lingers, but today it drops no lower than the top of the cliffs.  I pass by some Puffins on the way out and then head to Troup Head. From here it’s a straightforward stretch with no tidal problems or headlands - a direct line towards Portknockie then.

3 hrs later the breeze has dropped, the chop has faded and I find myself sweating a little as the overhead grey turns blue. A little short of Portsoy I notice a number of tight circles of gulls squabbling on the surface. I head over to investigate only for them to abruptly disperse and head off. This repeats a number of times, but then as I close on one of the squabbles, a sudden white wave spoils the oily calm and I watch my first kayak-viewed whale break the surface, while the feathered squabblers dodge the big-mouth of doom.

It’s dead calm now and I find myself amongst a number of whales, the sounds of their ‘blows’ comes from each side and I watch more of the gull squabbles form – a useful indicator for where to watch next. The trip has had a scattering of wildlife but this is the best so far, I spend the next hour or so working my way along the coast with my fish-herding Minke friends for welcome company.

By the time I reach the headland it seems that the word is out and people can be seen on the tops looking out to sea, a converted trawler festooned with binoculars heads in the opposite direction, while small boats head out from the harbour. It’s no longer peaceful out here. The whales, it seems, feel the same way – they quietly disappear.

The tide is against me now and after 5 hrs or so on the water it’s time to head in. In 2012 I ended a shitty squall-dodging day on a grim and miserable beach by Buckie. The Gods of Fate have another laugh when I find myself hauling out on the same beach, more of that déjà vu stuff it seems. At least the sun is out this time though. We pass the time for a few hours, while Buckie is viewed safely from a distance.

Motivation is lacking and I struggle for excuses to not get on, the wind is picking up and things are going grey once again. But eventually I succumb to the inevitable and start to head across Spey Bay. The wind strengthens as I head further out and soon I am surfing along towards Lossie’. It’s a good following sea, not quite too big, but enough to put a smile on my face. It’s strange how confidence ebbs and flows from day to day – one day this could be big enough to make things tense, on another the same is a bit of a hoot. Whatever... today’s good, bring on the miles.

The low, featureless coastline gives a further-out-than-it-is feel, but with the following sea the miles tick off nicely.  I survive an attack by a militant Guilliemot, and then cross the chop outside the harbour before gliding smoothly into the natural harbour on the west of the headland.

Long day – good miles – extra calorie pizza for tea.