Well friends. What a day.
It is now 12.40 am- and I am downstairs after a wee snooze, but with a mind too busy to sleep any more. So- I turn to this weblog, my old friend for getting stuff out of my head, and into- who knows where.
Some of you will know that I made the news this afternoon– I am fine now- just very sore and feeling foolish/thankful/tearful and very very loved. I am very aware of all the stick I am going to get over the next few weeks, but I am also carried by the wishes and prayers of friends and family.
Well I went for a canoe trip this afternoon. It was calm and not too cold, and I have been hankering to be out on the water for a few days. Today I went on my own, as no-one else was daft enough to come with me. Our 16 foot open canoe is too big really for one person, but I have paddled it for years, and have never been in any major trouble before.
So I paddled along the shore past Dunoon, and out towards the Gantock rocks, just off Dunoon pier. There are usually a few seals there, and I planned a quick look, then either back up the coast, or if the tide was too tough, then in to the shore, and a walk home to return with the car for the canoe.
But off the Gantocks, the tide tipped me over.
How it happened, I am not fully sure- I turned slightly across the flow, and because my canoe was not well balanced (having only me in) it was enough to flip me, and I was in the water, and in trouble.
I was able to function quite well. I tried flipping the canoe, and bailing, but failed. I tried riding th upturned canoe towards the shore, but the tide would have made this impossible. Iconsidered swimming to the Gantocks, but the way the tide was swirling, I am not sure I would have made it. I took the decision to leave the canoe, and swim. I am still not sure this was the right thing to do.
But I set off, swimming to shore. The challenge of this can be understood from looking at this map. The Gantocks are about 400M from the pier and breakwater, but as the tide was sending me down stream, I was then level with the west bay, which put land around a kilometre away. .
I set out, aware that cold was my enemy, needing to keep going, but getting weaker- very reliant on my buoyancy aid. I occassionaly shouted to try to let people know where I was- but was not sure that anyone had seen me. I think I was in the water between 30 mins and an hour.
I almost made shore. I was perhaps 100-200 M away- still moving, but very tired- when suddenly I was hit by the down wash from a Sea King helicopter. That was scary. It was like trying to swim in a tornado. I turned and saw the police launch, and assumed that they would drag me in, and I would be shipped to Dunoon cold and shame faced. But the next thing was that I saw a winch man in the water next to me, strapping me into a hoist, and felt myself being lifted up in to the chopper.
They pulled me in- and I could not move. I was hyperventilating, more from the shock of finding myself the centre of so much attention. But I realised too just how tired I was, and how incredibly cold.
They told me, despite my protests, that they were taking me to hospital in Glasgow. I was just desperate to let Michaela know I was OK, but they said that was a job for later.
So I arrived at the big hospital in Glasgow, and found myself shivering uncontrollably. My core temperature had dropped to 32 degrees- which would be classed as mild hypothermia. Considering the length of time I was in the water, in February, this is remarkable.
They stripped me and struggled to find veins to pump in warm saline, and covered me in a perforated plastic sheet through which they pumped warm air. The aim was to raise my temperature by one degree an hour. I shivered like a man suffering shell shock, but it worked.
And eventually I got in touch with Michaela, and when they had flushed enough of the lactic acid out of my system, she came to fetch me, with our friend Maggy, leaving the kids with other friends Andy and Angela.
It is so good to be home.
I now need to sleep. But I have been re-reading my earlier post. It is full of irony I think!
What kept me safe? Sure, I have a good layer of insulation- and I did not panic, but did what needed to be done to get my self out of trouble. And some kind soul saw me, and phoned 999.
Michaela told me that she had a flash back to early this morning, before the kids went to school. As they crowded into the bed to wish me happy birthday, she had a sudden feeling that something bad was going to happen to me. She prayed.
Now I know- this sounds a bit fanciful. Why would God save me, but not the young boy who died falling through a snow cornice in the Cairgorm mountains today? is this just spiritualising after the event?
I do not know, all I know is that I am grateful.
And in the ebbing of tide, I felt for a while the ebbing of life. And I am grateful that now it still flows strong in me.
And wondering- what next Lord? What next? Because I am on his time. I always was.