Home and dry!
Allow me to introduce my new best friend! David Campbell saved my life, when he pulled me out of the water after a kayaking incident off the south coast of the Sleat peninsula of Skye. I set off from Breakish around 9am, paddling through rough water until after the Skye Bridge. I continued past Castle Moil and around the Kyleakin headland. On expert advice, I kept to the centre of the channel until I passed the Glenelg ferry and then moved in closer to the Skye side as the straits broadened.
After a comfort break in Kylerhea, I embarked on what I expected to be the final leg of a 35k paddle to Eilean Iarmain. I allowed myself a shortcut, which took me across a wide bay, further out from the shore than I planned. Suddenly the wind swung around to the southwest and whipped up the water all around me. My balance deserted me and, with it, my ability to roll up and so I pulled myself out of the boat and prepared to swim ashore. At this stage I felt fine and, wearing all the appropriate safety gear, I was confident that, having sorted myself out on the shore, I would carry on and make my rendezvous with Annice, especially as I was well ahead of time. Within a few minutes a fishing boat skippered by Neil Robertson pulled alongside, offering to take me to Kyleakin. When I declined, Neil agreed to tow me towards the shore. On account of the tide and underwater obstacles, this took longer than I expected but, when the time came to cast off and complete the swim on my own, I still felt strong.
I noticed two figures on the shore, one of whom was wading out to help me. I discovered later that local residents, David and Janette Campbell, had been alerted by a friend in the wildlife hide above the village. As I approached David, still clutching my kayak, paddle and a croc which had come off my foot, I was getting entangled in seaweed and that is the last thing I recall, until coming to again, surrounded by the combined forces of Kyle Coastguard and Stornoway Air Ambulance! According to David, whom I visited a couple of days later, I had succumbed to hypothermia, obliging him to launch into the water and come to my aid. For a moment he feared the current would sweep us both out to sea and, having lost a great uncle off the coast of Islay in similar circumstances, I can appreciate the danger we were both in. However, by God's grace, he prevailed and landed me, kayak and all!
Richard Talbot, a volunteer with the Kyle Coastguard, informed me that I was being flown to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. "Can I not just go home?" I protested weakly. Within fifteen minutes I was being wheeled in to A&E and, after three hours under blankets and connected to a spaghetti junction of tubes and drips, I was pronounced fit to return home, courtesy of my dear wife, Annice, who drove all the way to collect me.
In reflection, I am profoundly grateful to God and for the many kind people through whom he rescued me, especially David who risked his own life in order to save mine. I am also full of admiration for the alacrity and professionalism of our rescue services. And as Andrew Rowland, the doctor who treated me, remarked on my release from hospital, I have come away with plenty of sermon illustrations!