TWO Stornoway canoeists are to paddle from the Outer Hebrides to St Kilda in a plywood and canvas kayak, re-creating the first open rowing boat crossing to the archipelago in 1965.

Christine Stewart and Dolina Swanson's attempt will be the first time two women have made the 40-mile trip.

The women, both members of Stornoway Canoe Club, will use a boat made specially by boat-builder Angus Smith which will be a replica of the kayak used by Hamish and Ann Gow when they did the first crossing.

Ms Stewart, 55, said: "To be the first two women would be quite an achievement. It's just so exciting. We work well together and it's a case of just going for it – never say die."

The women hope to make the crossing within 13 hours in June, taking turns to have meal and tea breaks, so one person is always paddling.

Ms Stewart said: "If we get a nice wind – think positive – that will push us, but it's not a race. We usually do 3mph in normal conditions in training and we're building on that."

She said they had done 20-mile trips before, but nothing as long as the new challenge. They would be prepared for "anything" and were practising self-rescue in case they capsized.

Ms Stewart, a mother of three, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years ago, and while it does not restrict her mobility, it leaves her dealing with "horrendous tiredness".

She and Ms Swanson, a school auxiliary, are training at weekends, giving Ms Stewart time to recover. She said: "If I have something to do, I lie low for a few days. Because of this long paddle, I'm saving all my energy for that."

Ms Swanson, 49, a mother of two, said: "I think we have the stamina and mentality to do this and enjoy it."

The pair will probably set out from the Uists as part of the project co-ordinated by Mike Sullivan of Stornoway Canoe Club. Their training and the crossing will be filmed for BBC Alba.

Mr Gow, now retired from his day job as a colour etcher in the engraving trade, said it was "marvellous" his trip was being re-created.

Explaining how he and his former wife Ann came to do the trip, he said: "I'd previously covered all the west coast of Scotland in a four-month canoe trip. All the islands had been covered on the west coast so the only thing to do was St Kilda."

The pair set out from Hougharry, North Uist, and the toughest aspect of the voyage turned out to be the effects of the weather on visibility. "Most trips, you could see where you were going. I was confident we'd be able to see St Kilda, as it sticks up like a sore thumb, but we couldn't see it at all.

"I'd underestimated the effect the east wind was having on the warmer prevailing westerlies – it created a sea mist. The first sign that land was ahead was when gannets flew out."

It took the pair 14 hours to get to Boreray on the St Kilda archipelago, though it was another six hours before they got to Village Bay on Hirta, having sheltered in the lee of a cliff on Boreray until the mist cleared.

Asked what advice he had, he said: "You've got to be comfortable to be able to sit for hours on end."