In late 2021 Sara Khalil came to us wanting to teach women, girls, and people…
by Megan Stewart, former Supervisor at Kayak Pittsburgh
We spent hours looking out of the bus windows at the dreary, rainy day. While this type of weather is normal
in Ireland, we had been anxiously awaiting our Atlantic Sea Kayaking trip in Skibbereen, a small coastal town in Southern Ireland. The temperatures were low, and the rain continued all day. We were so nervous the trip would be cancelled. We finally arrived at our wonderful Airbnb just as the rain stopped. As we made some tea and dropped our bags, we started to notice the sun peeking out – finally!
6:30 PM rolled around and we all piled into our taxi. Our driver drove us down bumpy, backcountry roads. We pull into the harbor about a half an hour later. The sun was just beginning to set as we sat on the kayaks and completed introductions. There were 10 of us; three couples, my two friends and me, and our instructor Jim. Jim was roughly 60 years old. He had on his wellies (rain boots), a coral sweater, and white hair. Jim was laid-back, although you could tell he had some very interesting stories. He made us all promise to “zen-out” and slow down for the night. We were going to take in nature and relax. I was sold.
We got into our wet suits and spray skirts. Although we had all previously bundled up, I was so thankful for the extra layers. We had some brief instruction and pushed off the pebbly beach in our tandem kayaks. First, we navigated around some sailboats allowing each pair to get comfortable in their boats. While admiring the unique assortment of sailboats, we began hearing the squawks of large, black birds. Hundreds of these birds were flying and calling to each other. It looked exactly like a scene out of the classic film, “The Birds.” Jim explained to the group that scientists have discovered this species of bird came together every night for a few weeks at the end of summer. They met yearly to determine how many eggs to lay the following year.
The sun continued to set, which made it more difficult to see the birds, so we carried on. We started paddling through the harbor toward the Atlantic Ocean. The sky darkened and our night vision started to adjust. The water was flat and the stars started to shine. Jim instructed us to stop paddling and close our eyes. After traveling for a week, living out of hostels, and alternating between trains and planes, having that moment of absolute stillness was so refreshing. We sat back and looked up at the stars, staring at constellations and watching shooting stars.
As we paddled back, we looked for the darkest areas to search for bioluminescent algae. We put our hands in the water next to the boat as we glided along. Slowly, shimmering blue dots speckled the water next to our kayaks. The algae sparkled behind us the whole way as we headed to shore.