Ever looked into the eye of a whale?...
There's a punchline, too - it was a life changing experience. No joke. You ever have one of those experiences where you realise that that one thing you thought was the most awesome experience of your life was actually pretty dull? You know the effect that moment has, as it backflushes through your entire lifes catalogue of awesome memories, marking everything down by ten? This was one of those moments.
I've been going out to sea for most of my life. I need to go there. It's the only place I feel like I belong. I need to get lost in the wilderness, get the fuck away from the meaningless bullshit that is the rest of my life. Real life some call it. Seems more fake to me than the life I experience when I'm miles away from dry land.
Ailsa Craig is a large volcanic plug which rises from the ocean floor, eleven hundred feet straight up in the air, two miles in circumference, ten miles off the west coast of Girvan. A twelve mile open crossing in a sea kayak is a serious undertaking and today I'm doing two of them.
This trip marks the top of my game. I've never tackled anything this big, this serious but, on the other hand, I know our team is more than up to it. FNG will get the beasting of his life but me and my wingman, Neil, have been ready for years. We just never got the weather when we had the time.
Half way out to the rock and distant thunder, rolling across us from the harbour we left an hour or two behind, reminds us just how exposed we are out here. I'm stoked, we've gone past the point of no return. Now "Paddy's milestone" is closer to us than where we came from and that means that, even if something goes horribly wrong, the quickest route to dry land puts us on our target. We're going to Ailsa Craig!
The plan is to head out to Ailsa Craig, land, grab some lunch and then head on to Kildonan on the isle of Arran, another twelve miles to the North. The next day we complete the triangle with a thirteen mile crossing back to Maidens.
So we're halfway to Ailsa Craig, flying along on some quartering swell, then waiting on FNG catching us up. He's not got the hang of surfing yet and is taking ages, backing off every wave that offers him a lift. Suddenly the sky is filled with gulls and razorbills, circling around in a feeding frenzy. Then Neil shouts "Dolphin!"
I've been kayaking for thirty-odd years, sea tripping for more than twenty of those and, in all that taime, I've never seen a dolphin. I've missed dozens of trips, for whatever reason and tales of dolphin sightings have come back from several of these. It's become one of those things that sits near the top of my bucket list.
I follow the line he's pointing and I see it arcing out the water, half a mile away, on the horizon. I'm double stoked now. Ailsa Craig and a dolphin sighting in one day but it aint over yet. A couple of minutes later and it broaches fifty yards to our right. Something is wrong, tho. I've seen dolphins on TV, they're not that big. Maybe I imagined it but I could have sworn Flipper was longer than my boat. my eighteen foot kayak.
Then it came up right next to me. Less than a dozen meters to my left. It was enormous, easy twenty feet, maybe add another couple to that. I was thinking Orca but the rational part of my brain told me it was the wrong colour and the dorsal fin was the wrong shape. More like the shape of a surf curl than the long pointy thing that grows out of a killer whale's back.
Unbeknown to us, what we'd just seen was a Pilot Whale, second largest of the family Delphinidae, the dolphin family. It spotted us half a mile away, swam over and circled round us, checking us out. It was an exhilirating, emotional and, most importantly, humbling experience. Here was this huge fucking creature, granting us passage through it's space. I realised that I don't, in fact, belong here. I am merely blessed with the opportunity to pass through on occasion and, right at that moment, I realised this.
For some reason it's important to me to post some evidence of this experience. Like if you see for yourself what we saw, you'd get the same effect but I know that's not the way it works or I'd have felt the way I did that day a hundred times or more, watching youtube. Regardless, here's a short clip Neil's GoPro caught from the back deck of his kayak. http://youtu.be/9WYepywiftE?hd=1