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Nick Ray

Around 95% of our people are volunteers, generously giving up their time while juggling family life, work, hobbies and other commitments. We’ve asked some volunteers to choose something that represents their relationship with the RNLI. This month, it’s the turn of Nick Ray.

Nick Ray with his kayak on a beach

In Summer 2015, Nick travelled 2,015 miles around all our 47 Scottish lifeboat stations. He’s raised more than £4,000 to date. His solo trip started at Kippford on the Solway Firth, travelling clockwise before finishing in Eyemouth 4 months later – all under his own steam, using his trusty kayak.

‘I read Nicholas Leach’s excellent book The Lifeboat Service in Scotland: Station by Station and it occurred to me that a similar trip would be a good excuse to fulfil my ambition of circumnavigating the Scottish coastline.

‘On average, I covered about 20 miles a day, but my longest stint was 45 miles. There was an initial bit of doubt about whether the trip would be possible, but my kayak never failed me, even in awful conditions like 2m swell around the west coast of the Orkneys.

‘She’s a Nigel Dennis-designed Explorer, and I’ve named her Sahwira, which means “lifelong friend” in Shona (I’m from Zimbabwe). By the end, I was actually talking to her, congratulating her on tackling tough bits and greeting her every morning. She’s the object I’ve chosen, but the supporting safety kit was essential too – I had a VHF, personal locator beacon, flares and a satellite tracker.

‘Sometimes it was lonely out there. Even with the best planning in the world you think: “What if … ” But you have to trust your kit and push on when you can. There were many highlights too though, like rounding Cape Wrath on a sunny day. It’s this hugely iconic, majestic headland just looming out into the ocean. The Vikings used it to navigate and there I was with my little kayak, doing the same.

‘Towards the end of my trip, the lifeboat stations had begun tracking my progress and actually coming out to meet me. Beers were bought for me, dinners were cooked, places to crash for the night offered – it was all hugely touching.

‘I have infinite admiration for the lifeboat volunteers, who never judge people who get into trouble, and for the extended network of families, shore crews, fundraisers, support teams and so on. I was incredibly glad to know they were all there for me.’

Get the RNLI’s tips on kayaking safely.

If you’d like to plan your own fundraising adventure, check out our fundraising guidance here.

The Scottish circumnavigation may be complete, but you can follow Nick on Twitter: @LifeAfloat.