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Seals Smuggling Vikings And Recovery
Posted by Will Lunn
24th Sep 2015


Seals Smuggling Vikings And Recovery

“Unless you have sat in a one man kayak with an angry Bull Seal bellowing a warning at you for invading his territory you will not fully appreciate just how vulnerable it makes you feel.”

What sort of rogues and adventurers have these rocks seen over the years? Stories lost in the ancient geological makeup of the basalt craggy rock formations. Nordic men feeling solid ground beneath their feet for the first time after weeks at sea as they pull their trusty raiding longboats up on to the shingle of one of the sheltered bays and coves.
Vikings landed on these coves after their voyages across the North Sea from Scandinavia. They would have stood up on the bluffs looking across to the Copeland Islands and beyond to Ailsa Craig and the Galloway coast of Scotland. Years later the hidden coves were popular with smugglers bringing barrels of whisky and rum ashore to avoid import duties first from the local Irish lord who controlled the Down coast and in later years of the Crown customs authorities.
A huge Bull headed seal basks on an isolated rock with no knowledge or interest in the human history embedded in this stretch of coast. His life depends on the tides and currents of the Irish Sea. Will the next movement of the tides bring in fresh mackerel to his feeding grounds? Slowly and doing my best not to spook him I paddle closer. I make sure the paddle hardly breaks the water with soft gentle strokes. He looks up and watches my progress towards his domain. When in his opinion I have got too close he lets me know with a warning snort.
Unless you have sat in a one man kayak with an angry Bull Seal bellowing a warning at you for invading his territory you will not fully appreciate just how vulnerable it makes you feel. His natural playground, his world where he can easily swim in the heaviest of seas while you are nothing but a dilettante visitor far outside what is a natural comfort zone . I dip my head and retreat with a few light backward strokes of the paddle. He seems reasonably content with what he takes as my natural submission to his position as alpha creature on this coast. From my withdrawn position I spend a last few minutes marvelling at what nature can do before heading back for land.
As I power along with each paddle stroke building momentum I become a time traveller. I am back sitting in the old scrapper of a BMW. Struggling to regulate my breathing and desperately trying to calm the painful tension seizing up my legs and hands. My knuckles are white squeezing the steering wheel.
Another panic attack out of nowhere. I was sitting in the bar with my usual coffee surrounded by some of my oldest friends. I am talking about guys I have known me entire life. The banter was the usual but not over the top as we watched Liverpool play on the big screen. On the face of it if I could pick a place and a group of people to be surrounded with these guys and this bar would fairly high on the list but still the anxiety and panic attack hits with savage power.
Out of the side door without saying a word to anyone. The lads are used to my erratic behaviour by now. There might be a few texts from the closest mates asking if I am OK but other than that it is not a big deal…for them. How long can I carry on having my life terrorised by these attacks? Living with the constant fear of the panic breathing and unwanted tension in the muscles will hit. The darkest of thoughts then conspire. End the pain and fear now. Just half an hour and it would be over.
Lifting the kayak out of the water. One hand holding it with the help of my hip. It is a fair walk back up the stony path to the car but more than worth it. Squelching along in my surf shoes with the weight of the boat pulling at my arm I feel alive. Yeah I was that guy in the car a year ago but this is who I am now.

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