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Back from Shetland

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Linda and I have returned from 2 weeks in Shetland, while Scott and Beth are in Scotland for another week. The paddling in Shetland was magnificent beyond description and even photos don't completely do it justice. We made great friends and played in countless sea caves, but mostly we just marveled at the incredible majesty and beauty of the place.

We have over a thousand digital images to sort through and will post some of them soon. Here's a wee taste:


Approaching Lyra Skerry, The Snolda (stack) and the cliffs below Virda Field on Papa Stour.


Linda basks in the light from the opening in the roof of Kristan's Holl cave (aka, Christie's Hole) on Papa Stour.


A portion of the dramatic coastline at Eshaness.

If the pictures don't show up in your browser, right click on the icon and select "View Image".

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Good question. In the two weeks we were there, we only barely scratched the surface. Aside from the incredible paddling, there are lots of hills, valleys and lakes to explore. I guess the real question is: "When are we going back?"

As for Spiggie, it's a beautiful area, but I have to say it was a disappointment for me, or at least a big letdown. After everything we had already seen, it was sort of like like comparing a wading pool to the Maine coast. We thought about paddling to where Spiggie drains into the sea (a culvert) and hand-lining the boats in just for yucks, but the day we paddled St. Ninian's Isle (just up the coast from Spiggie), the conditions were a bit too rough on the exposed coast to do the extra distance on a lark. The girls had already departed for a sheltered beach while the guys did a circumnav of the island and one of our party was well into his "adventure zone". It would have been a tough slog and the girls would have been left on the beach for at least an additional hour. That wouldn't have been fair, to say the least.

Here's a picture of Richard in his "adventure zone":


This was taken after we had gone through a considerably rougher stretch a few yards prior. The seas were running 2-3' with considerable reflected chop from the nearby cliffs, which explains the fuzzy photo. BTW, the local description for such conditions is "a bit lumpy".

The first time we paddled with Richard, we hit a stretch of water 300-400 yards long after The Snolda where the seas were hitting 5' at times, with a fun combination of swell and reflected chop. It was quite manageable and we (Scott, Linda and I) were having a great time, but Richard was into his "adventure zone", as was our other companion, Veronique. Afterward, he admitted to being glad he had done it and to feeling better about his paddling ability for having gone through it. He's one of the rare paddlers who underestimates his ability, so he'll probably outlive the rest of us...at least if he doesn't keep paddling with crazy Americans! ;-)

BTW, that's a headlamp ("head torch") he's wearing. They were indispensible for investigating sea caves.

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The idea for this trip started about 5 years ago when I discovered that my father's family originally came from Shetland. I started looking up place names on the map and was struck by what appeared to be a very interesting coastline...Must be good kayaking!

I searched on the web and discovered the Shetland Canoe Club and saw that they had a Kayak weekend each year in July. I made contact with the leader of the club, Tom Smith, and got more info from him. When we were up at the Kittery kayak show in Durham two winters ago we watched Nigel Foster's slide show on paddling the Faroe islands. After the show I asked if he had paddled in Shetland and his eyes lit up! So it didn't take much to get a couple of my paddling mates psyched about going, and we took about 6 months getting travel and housing arranged.

It was great to start the trip at the Papa Stour Kayak Weekend and get to know some of the local paddlers...A really wonderful group of people. I also had a marvelous time searching out the places of my ancestors and just being in such a uniquely beautiful landscape. Can't wait to go back!!!


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Linda and Scott did a great job of pulling this trip together and I can't thank them enough. It was an amazing experience and it was great to share it with good friends.

I agree that going there for the Papa Stour weekend was ideal, as we met a wonderful group of paddlers. However, I wouldn't hesitate to go at another time if that weekend isn't convenient. The local paddlers we met are quite active and enthusiastic and were more than willing to show us their very special islands and fill us in on their history.

Tom Smith and his wife Norma are real gems; warm, friendly and very accomodating. Tom was the only dealer/outfitter in Shetland until he closed his TV repair/kayak gear business recently (yes, you read that right). He is now operating a guiding service and I would recommend him wholeheartedly. I think it's fair to say that without his assistance, our trip might not have happened. At the very least, it would have been much more difficult to organize.

If you have any inclination to paddle in Shetland, GO! You won't be disappointed!

BTW, we found something that Shetland paddlers have in common with us: they love to eat, too! We introduced the term "PPPO" to them; we'll see if it sticks. ;-)

Here's a pic of Tom sporting some familiar headwear:


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