RunnerHeader Press

Brian Wilson and “Dances With Waves”

RUNNERHEADER PRESS – Classic Sporting Tales

Dancing with Waves while the wolves stay at home

I believe that you can learn a lot about your sport, and about the cast of mind needed, to make that sport work for you too. About the trials and tribulations, and about the highest points, of doing what you are setting out to do.
Sifting through my own book collection I have spent a lot of time and effort looking for second hand copies of books by people engaged in different kinds of sporting activity, which can no longer be found in print. Classic Sporting Tales go out of print so quickly that the only place you can find them, if you are lucky, is in the Public Library system, a second hand bookshop, or, perhaps, on AbeBooks, or Amazon ‘Used and New’. Often at collectors prices.
But, what happens if you only want to own the book, to read it, perhaps more than once, in a much cheaper edition?

I didn’t think too much of this until I read “Blazing Paddles” by Brian Wilson. This is a record of Brian’s kayaking journey around the Scottish coast, starting in Gallowa’, and finishing near Edinburgh.

See this link at amazon for a certain availability:

Scottish Coastal Odyssey
For some reason I am fascinated by kayaking, I have even bought two. It is something that really appeals to me, that I want to do, and that I feel I should be able to do.
To just get in that boat, and fly, off to the far shores, where the shadows roar. The problem is that I have had two false starts at taking up this sport.
The first time I got into a boat belonging to the Charlbury Canoe Club, on the River Evenlode, in Oxfordshire. This is a small river, with not a huge amount of kayaking space, but I got the boat 50 yards, and promptly turned it over! This put me off for sure, for a whole year.
My second beginning was with the Falcons Club, on the Thames in Oxford, the Isis (does anybody know why that part of the Thames is called the Isis?).
The Falcons are a racing club, but took me onto their beginners course. I knew nothing about the different kinds of kayak, and racing kayaks are just sooooo tippy. I didn’t even get into it and I went straight into the river.
I did go on to complete the course, but ever after maintained this fear of suddenly falling out of the boat. I reinforced this by taking my own boat out onto The Evenlode in flood. I was thinking that I shouldn’t really be there, but was unable to turn back, because I lack the skill, the nerve, and the sticking power, to get that boat round.
I then got stuck in an eddy, and sideways onto the current. The water began to pour into the boat, and I had to make a hasty exit, grabbing for the bank, rather than the boat. I then spent the next two days searching for the boat and paddle.
If I was really fierce, like Brian (!), I would have sailed into the river on my PFD, and swum to my boat, which had upturned, grabbed my paddle, and have manoeuvred myself into the bank, emptying the boat, and getting back in, just like Brian would have.
But I didn’t. The Evenlode is now down to a trickle, and I still haven’t been back. However, I will, ‘cos I still really like the idea of it all.

And that is why I was attracted to Brian’s first book, “Blazing Paddles”. Here is a man who can actually do it, who has learned the skills necessary to sail off to the far shores under his own steam.
Have you ever thought that you are reading an account of somebody doing something difficult, that requires more than just a level of skill, but a bloody minded commitment to finish a task despite the worst that can be thrown at it, by wind, weather, tide, and the vagaries of people come across?
But, think, you too could plan and undertake such an adventure, even if only in your daydreams, and such narratives as Brian’s are what makes these things come alive, seem possible, to somebody, just like you.

At the back of the “Blazing Paddles” book there is an advert for Brian’s scond book, “Dances with Waves”. Except that you can’t buy it any more, the ad is out of date, and you are hard pushed to find a second hand copy. I did track one down, via the Public Library system.
“Dances With Waves” is Brian’s second tale of paddling adventure, this time circumnavigating the coast of Ireland which, when you think about it, has a certain circularity to it. You would need an epic portage to get acrosss the Scottish/ English border, much harder than the one the Vikingd did to prove that the Mull of Kintyre is an island, and therefore part of their domain.

“Dances With Waves” was first published in 1998 by the O’Brien Press in Ireland. It has long been out of print. Second hand copies, if you can locate one, are turning the book into a real classic.

See this Amazon link for the latest state of play:

Around Ireland by Kayak (Another Ireland) 
Brian’s first book, “Blazing Paddles”, is a record of his first sea kayaking voyage around the coast of Scotland. The voyage around Ireland is a logical extension of this trip.
“Blazing Paddles” though, is still in print, published by a company in his Ullapool home town. The question of why “Dances With Waves” is not in print is a deeper mystery at the moment though.
As Brian himself says the writing is of a different order to “Blazing Paddles”, mixing a real appreciation of the Irish coastscape with stories generated through the coast, and research into the myths and tales that abound in the Irish dreamtime beyond Tir nan Og.
The description of the voyage too has more of a density, though Brian’s penchant for meeting, and interacting, with a whole variety of stray characters haunting the shores is continued from the earlier voyage.
RunnerHeader Press is interested in working out a way to republish this book, and Brian is keen to bring the book into print himself. Whether he chooses to work with RunnerHeader Press, or not, is up to Brian, and I hope that he does choose to do so.
Whatever that outcome I would like to hear from people who might have an interest in this book, and in buying a copy. Perhaps you have read it, and would like to share your experiences of it? Please do, you can email me at the above address.

Please let me know. I intend to keep working here, and to bring more information about this, and other books which are relevant to the themes of RunnerHeader, and Classic Sporting Tales.

Well, I did get an email about Brian’s book, based on what has been said above. Thank you very much – one can make conections across the ether. Brian has just informed me that he is going to republish to the book, “Dances With Waves”, but with a local company in his home town. This should hit the shops, I don’t really know when, but sooner. A new edition of “Blazing Paddles” will come out around the same time.

Anyway, there are further interesting blogs out there, about kayaking trips, and voyages on the wine dark sea. Douglas Wilcox’s blog :
has a lot of great stuff on trips across the Scottish western seas too. Cailean’s blog offers useful advice in the Western Isles; and Highland Mist’s one is also set in Scotland’s North West.
Douglas’s blog links to other kayaking sailors blogs, others are such as, about kayaking around the San Juan Islands. These lie off the Washington State Coast, just below the Canadian maritime border. They are reachable from Seattle by fast boat. I have to say that I made that trip once, and I was sick as a pig chopping up and down across the fiery straits of Juan De Fuca – so much so that on the way back I decided to take a sea sickness pill. Wouldn’t you know it, it was calm as a milkpond, and I was suitably comatose all the way back, within reach of the landmark Seattle tower, famous from Frasier, and whose name I suddenly forget.


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