28 October 2006

I passed

I've just got back from the Burrs Activity Centre where my Level 2 Assessment was today and I passed, which was nice.

The day kicked off at 10am in the car park at the centre where all the administration was done along with the written examination. We then moved onto the water with our four guinnee pigs. There were four trainee coaches going for assessment and I was the first to take the practical sessions so I had to do the warm up, which is always my favourite bit, and then get them on the canal to start the day off. I covered forwards and backwards paddling using normal coaching methods and then moved on to a few games to enhance these skills before introducing sweep strokes, where the next trainee took over. The next hour-and-a-half involved me stood on the canal bank chatting with two of the trainee's whilst the other one did their session. Not bad for an assessment really.

Before breaking for lunch we had to simulate a repair on our boats. This was left on during lunch and then after lunch as well, to see how good it was - mine was ripped off by a scrapey seal launch later on in the day. The assessment now took us above the weir on the Irwell to practice some three star strokes and concepts as well as some rescues. The day was rounded off with a run down the river, which I won't go into in any great detail as I don't rate the Irwell at the Burrs Activity Centre as anything above grade two sewage.

The last part of the day took us into the cafe for a debrief and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, with sprinkles and cream. Luxury!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...
Level 2 Inland Kayak Coach

27 October 2006

Drive North and Hope for the Best

Well I've been out paddling again today. This trip was organised last night by text after 8pm so it was a bit of a rush to get anything organised properly. All I really knew was that I was getting picked up at a quarter-to-nine the next day, today, Friday, and we were going to paddle some grade three.

So I got picked up just after a quarter-to-nine and we headed south to someone else's house I have only paddled with on a few occasions. Here boats were transferred and we headed south again before hitting the motorway and heading north. Then after a couple of miles, it was probably more as we got on the M6 at the Tickle Trout, we turned off for Forton Services and met up with some other paddlers, that I have paddled with on more than a few occasions. Here I transferred cars for a different group of people to chat with, and my kit stayed on/in the car it had been on for the last part of the journey, and we headed north again after some discussions on where we would paddle.

A couple of us, me included, wanted to do a pirate run on the Upper Lune, which isn't suppose to be paddled until the 1st November. However, the two drivers weren't so keen so we decided not to as it could have been their cars that were vandilised. It may have been a nice idea though breaking access and showing the snobbish landowners we will paddle no matter what. Anyway I digress.

We're on the M6 heading north to paddle the Rothay now, that river I did only a couple of days ago with my dad.
We turned off at the junction for Kendal and headed over to Ambleside. About half way to Ambleside I get a phone call from the other car. They've got through to the climbing wall at Keswick and they said there was some water in the river up there, the Greta. So we drive straight through Ambleside, have a look-see at the Rothay, which is much higher than when I did it on Tuesday, and carry onto the Greta at Keswick.

When we got to the Greta it didn't look promising. The little white marker placed on the bridge at Thelkeld wasn't even touching the water. If we were a couple of days late we couldn't have legally paddled the river. Anyway we were still in October so we could paddle it when we wanted and we were going to paddle it now we were there so we all got changed. A shuttle was sorted and we got on the water.

Once on the water we headed downstream and that was that really. I can't really say much more apart from that the Greta at Keswick is a really nice playful grade two/three run lasting for about five miles. On the way down the river there were countless eddies to make, some harder than other, and loads of little waves to play on and even some holes that were worth pumping the Happy Thruster up for. We got off the water three hours later and headed for the shining lights of Preston once we'd all changed.

I'd better go and get some stuff sorted out now as I've got my Level 2 Assessment tomorrow at the Burrs Country Park and a coaching session tonight at the local pool with the Deputy-Head of my old high school, which will be a bit weird with the role reversal thing that will be going on.

As always,
Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

24 October 2006

A mid-week Paddle

Well I haven't been out on a proper river run for a long time, so last night I made plans with my Dad to run the Rothay the following day seen as we were both on holiday. We tried a couple of people to see if they were up for the paddle but there was little interest. So Tuesday saw three of us, my parents and myself, heading north to the Lake District and Ambleside.

We pulled into the car park at Waterhead with blue skies overhead and a crisp morning air gently blowing. It was going to be a nice day. Canoeing gear was pulled out of the car and put on before we left the car park and headed through Ambleside, and along the edges of Rydal Water and Grasmere. The trip began on a small beach on the shores of Grasmere. To reach the beach involves lowering the boats over a very high wall straight from the roadside. When we usually do this trip we get a couple of car horns tooted at us, but there was nothing of the sort today, there was just another group getting on the water.

We got on the water and mucked around for a while to let the other group get ahead of us. This for me meant cartwheel practice and if I remember correctly some of them were quite good. Anyway, we soon headed off down Grasmere to the start of the Rothay. When we eventually hit the river I was a little disappointed; with all the recent rain I was expecting a fairly nice level, but this must have been the lowest I had ever paddled it. Anyway, in true British spirit I gritted my teeth and headed on downstream. The Rothay trip is split into two parts, from Grasmere to Rydal Water and then from Rydal Water to Lake Windermere. The first part of the trip was over pretty quickly; we passed the group that had got on before us and we quickly got ahead of them by a long way. The paddle over Rydal Water took a fairly long time with me in a play boat, but such a large expanse of flat, deep water meant I could get some cartwheeling practice in.

We soon hit the second section of the Rothay, and still it was fairly low even though another lake had provided some extra water. At the beginning of this section is the hardest rapid on the river. It's basically a quick drop in gradient with alot of boulders shoved in to boot. It wasn't anything technical, I made one break out just after the start of the rapid and then bimbled on down the rest making one last breakout before ferrying across the river to a nice looking playhole.

The play hole, I thought, had so much potential that I actually made the effort to blow my Happy Thruster up a bit more and see if it could be used. The hole wasn't deep enough really to use my Happy Thruster effectively, but I got a couple of spins in before heading off downstream.

The river eased off now and I think we spent most of the time just floating along in the current, letting the river take us along. We had to put the odd paddle stroke in to negotiate the trees but it was all easy stuff.

One good thing about the Rothay is that very near the end there is quite a nice surf wave, and depending on levels depends on how good it is. As it happens we must have cought it at a good level, even though the river was a bit low. The wave was forming nicely with a shoulder on the left which could be used for agressive cut backs across the face. This was the only thing that could really be done on the wave as it wasn't quite steep enought to do spins and stay on it. However the eddylines and current around the wave were good for stern squirts and the odd pop out. All good stuff really that added to the day.

Once finished at the wave it was just a case of carrying on downstream and onto Lake Windermere and back to the car park where we had got changed at the beginning of the day. On the way back across the lake I did the odd cartwheel and splitwheel until I got so knackered I was having trouble rolling, well I wasn't really, but I could see something going wrong eventually, so I got off the water, got changed and headed to the climbing shops in Ambleside to see what could be purchased.

Once finished in Ambleside it was back home, via the Brathay Pool, where an activity group were playing around, and then onto the M6 where a nice tailback was forming because of an accident. This meant that a journey that usually takes one-and-a-bit-hours took two-and-a-bit-hours so I suppose this put a bit of a downer on the day. Oh well; the only way is up.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

21 October 2006

Birthday Shenanigans

I've just got back from Garstang Wear where I had roughly two hours on the water. I've never been to Garstang Wear before so that was a bit of an experience. However, I don't think it was anything to write home about.

We got on the water soon after getting changed and the get in was a bit different. It wasn't just a normal slide off a shingle beach into the water, or a small drop into the water. Oh no. It was a full on four-to-five foot seal launch into really deep water. Once on the water we messed around on the flats where I got a couple of ends before heading down to the first of two wears. The first wear was quite shallow on the peripherey but in the middle where the current was the strongest it was deep and airated. Just perfect for cartwheels, though I only got a couple of ends and some really nice stern squirts.

When I got bored I headed back up the other side of the river where the drop from the bank to the river was higher than on the other side, where we initially got on. I got in my boat, blew my Happy-Thruster up to its full and threw myself down into the river to try and get a loop straight after the seal launch. I failed so I tried it again before heading on down to the second wear where it was really shallow. This meant we didn't hang around here for long so we carried on down the Wyre to the get out and walked back across the football pitch to the cars.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...


I don't know whether you've noticed but on the posts this month there has always been that little post script: "X days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!" Well that was today. So I've been ripping open envelopes and counting the money to put in the bank for my Gap Year.

There were some other goodies, that were not money, and these were the Jackson Happy Seat/Thruster Combo, rock on Eric 'EJ' Jackson for making such a cool add-on for the Jackson Kayaks, and some Doc's Proplugs to prevent that dreadfull syndrom/disease/virus (I don't really know what it is) Surfer's Ear.

Hear's to another eighteen years and hopefully many more. I'm off to the weir at Garstang to check it out and have a laugh down there this afternoon.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

15 October 2006


Still not been paddling on a proper river for ages now. However, I did get out of the house today, which is nice. I went climbing over in the Yorkshire Dales at a place known as Great Close Scar. The rockface looks down on Malham Tarn, which shares part of it's name with the famous Limestone climbs of Malham Cove. The climbs at Great Close Scar were nothing in comparison to the one's at Malham, though I can't really say as I've never climbed at Malham; I've just seen pictures of some mean looking routes.

I was picked up at 8:15 and taken to Bamber Bridge where we, the person I got a lift to Bamber Bridge with, cought another lift over to the Dales leaving the first vehicle in the car park at Sainsbury's.

Once parked in a field, in the middle of nowhere in the Dales, we hot footed it into the crag and started to gear up and check out the guidebook. The day saw us top out on six routes, and we failed on two. Crag: 2, Climbers: 6. I think this wasn't such a bad effort seen as there were three of us climbing each route, which ultimately means there were 18 climbs ascended. This took us, in total, 8 hours, which also meant we were walking out from the crag in the dark at 6 in the evening.

Once back at the car it was the same journey reversed, with the same stops and the same change over of vehicles.

PS. Six days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

14 October 2006

Boat swinging

I lied on Thursday when I said I didn't know when I was returning to the wet stuff. Well, I suppose I didn't lie, I just forgot to mention that I was going to the swimming pool for a demo night with Brookbank Canoes and UK Canoes, the local canoe shops. I tried seven boats (pictures above) in total over the hour session. That's, on average, eight-and-a-half minutes in each boat, which is no way long enough to give a fair review of any of them; though some of them really impressed me and some didn't.

Liquid Logic Hoss A nice creekboat, but too big for me. It's got a really nice outfitting, but didn't make any outstanding impression.

Pyranha Stretch One of those new boats by Pyranha, which has been advertised as a play-creeker. It was actually really nice to paddle and with some effort it could be cartwheeled on the flat. Well I got the bow down some way so that's a start. Final say on this boat: a bit of a marketing gimmick, in the fact that it is billed as a play-creeker - I think I'll stick to having a playboat and creekboat (when I get one).

Pyranha 4-Twenty The new offering in the way of playboats from Pyranha. It was, like the Stretch, really nice to paddle but very similar in shape to my All-Star. I tried the smaller size of the two boats and there was less volume in it compared to my playboat meaning I could throw it around better, but it would be too uncomfortable for the rivers I paddle in my playboat.

Prijon Cross The worst boat of the night. It was the most creekish of the boats I tried, but I felt the outfitting was just un-safe. The footrests were bolted like most creekboats, but there was then these straps to adjust the footrest with once you'd loosened the bolts. When I was paddling the boat I could feel these straps flapping around and therefore could be a bit of a snag hazard especially with the sewn in loops at the end.

Fluid Spice This boat was too big for me and I could see that if I was heavier it would be a really nice river-play boat as the ends were quite slicy.

Dragarossi Fish I was hoping that this boat was coming to the pool as I was interested in the thigh-hooks. However, these had been removed; I suppose this was for safety as they could prevent someone getting out when upside down if they couldn't roll. I really liked the boat even though some of the outfitting was missing. I could see it being really playfull in the surf.

Fluid Flirt This was the boat that I always wanted before I got my All-Star. When I came to buying a playboat however the small Flirt was too small and the medium one was too big. I did, last night, manage to squeeze myself into the small, but it was uncomfy so I probably made the right choice with the All-Star. I did manage to throw the Flirt around a lot as I was at the top of the weight range.

To bring this post to an end I'll just say the night was a really good idea and well worth going to, just for the fact that you could try so many boats for free in such a short space of time. It was a bit of a shame they didn't have many creekboats as I would have liked to try the Jackson Rocker, but I suppose they've no real attraction with them in the pool like the more playful boats.

PS. Seven days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

12 October 2006

Bits and Bobs

It's been done; my UCAS application has been paid for and sent off to my referee. I suppose this has come about because I've just got back from the University of Derby's Buxton campus, and this was the last University I was going to go and look around. There seems little point in delaying the paper work, so it's gone. As for the picture of the cow: there is no real relevence. The last couple of posts have been a bit dull so I thought I would brighten them up with a bit of farm yard humor. If your wondering why the cow is stood on a piece of waxed pine it's because it's a foam cow. I got it from the University Open Day today.

The University Open Day was rubbish by the way. I will not be going to the University of Derby - I'll be doing Outdoor Leadership at Newton Rigg and when I go it'll be one of the campuses of The University of Cumbria. That sounds posh. The best bit of the Open Day was the train ride which involved a two hour 'sitathon' from Preston to Buxton, where the Outdoor Activities Management Course is based at. From the train ride I have gathered two things: 1. I will never, ever have an office job where it involves a daily commute on a train. It's a breach of human rights, your treated like a sardine! 2. The sidings of trainlines, even when going through countryside, absolutely wreck the landscape. Something needs to be done. We should take pride in our environment and be making positive efforts to preserve it, not destroying it with needles wrecks of rusting crap that once formed the backbone of the British public transport system.

Now that the UCAS application is out of the way I can focus my attentions on getting my year out sorted. I've nearly finished applications for PGL and Acorn Adventure. I'm just waiting for my Level 2 Assessment so I can put on the forms, hopefully, that I'm a fully qualified coach, which should put me a cut above anyone else who is not already coach. I've also sent off for a programme from BUNAC's Work Canada scheme to see if it's worth looking at that as a possible gap year if PGL or Acorn fall through.

Planned return to the wet stuff: I honestly don't know, I wish I did mind. I didn't go out last Sunday, that's the reason for not having any paddling related posts put on the site that day, and I'm going absolutely crazy because of it.

PS. Nine days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

10 October 2006

The English Access Situation

This has been taken directly from the homepage of The UK Rivers Guidebook, one of the most popular websites in the British Kayaking community. Frankly, I couldn't put the situation, after the commission report on the viability of improving access to rivers by agreeement was released, any better if I tried myself.

We have long been looking forward to the completion of the Environment Agency commissioned report on the viability of improving access to rivers by agreements. Knowing what we all know about the viability of Access 'Agreements', it could not fail to aid our case. However, the final report is now completed and incredibly it is a total whitewash, a laughably un-academic and unprofessional piece of work. Early on, the survey team took the amazing step of jettisoning any rivers from their survey, which might be difficult to secure 'Agreements' on. E.g. almost the entire Wear was openly dropped from their study.

Despite this un-academic approach, in 2004 they still concluded that "Negotiated access agreements alone are unlikely to fully meet the demand and need for canoeable waters... canoeists are disadvantaged by the prevailing patterns of landownership and property rights."

Somehow this realistic conclusion was dumped along the way to suit political motives, and the very first line of the final report's conclusions now reads: "in the vast majority of cases, approaches to securing canoe access by voluntary agreement are successful." The rest is similarly ludicrous.

What can now be done?

  • Write to your MP's and tell them how much the situation stinks; maybe they'll try and do something about it.
  • Have a mass access rally/trespass to raise awareness.
  • Log your support on the BCU Rivers Access Campaign website.

PS. Eleven days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

Blogger Beta

I've just finished the transfer over to Blogger Beta. The blog has been running through Blogger Beta for a while now, but it has only just been today that I moved the template over to the more modern templates found in the Beta version of Blogger. Then, it's taken me a couple of hours to modify the 'widget' coding so the blog is how I wanted it.

With the Blogger Beta worked into my blog I feel there are a couple of advantages. The navigation through the posts is easier and you can now navigate to posts that are on the same topic. This can be found under the 'Categories' heading on the right.

PS. Eleven days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

07 October 2006

Lancaster Canal... Again

It's been a long time since I've been out, out on the water; both this Friday and the Friday before that I've been in the swimming pool. That's in on the water. The latter of these two sessions I was instructing and on the former session I was ripping it up trying to flatwater cartwheel and do other silly acrobatics without much success. In fact the last time I had been on the water was a very similar trip to this one.

The trip I talk about is the one where I lead a group of six beginners down the Lancaster Canal on their first tast of paddling outside. Prior to this they had only been in a boat on two occasions and both of these times were in a swimming pool. Well today I took ten of the sixteen people, which had been attending the course in the swimming pool, my boss from the paper shop and another lad who had just joined the club down the canal on a repeat trip. Four of the people who attended this first canal session returned, so my return rate is looking rather healthy at a respectable 67%. In fact that figure doesn't do it quite the justice it deserves; a pie chart is needed I thinks.

Earlier in the week I had, had a slight worry about the boat situation (would we have enough? would they fit some of the adults?) at the club's container, so in an aid to combat this I had brought my other boat - an Eskimo Kendo, which hasn't seen light of day for nearly a year - and I had got other assistants to bring their spare boats. Though, even with the extra boats, there was no problem fitting people out with kayaks.

The real problem came when I went to the paddle store to discover that we only had thirteen right-handed paddles, the other seven were left-handed. Now you may think that this is not a problem seen as I only had twelve students, however I did not know this at the time as I got to the lock up early by half-an-hour. The reason being I wanted to pull some kit out before anyone got there and the more important reason was that I had left my jacket at the swimming pool the previous night so I had to go via the baths to pick that up. When I realised I only had twelve students the worry was obviously un-needed.

Anyway, we eventually made our way down to the canal and got them all on the water. This took a while, but we managed and we were soon heading north along the canal, with the wind blowing on our backs and the sun - well there wasn't any sun, but it sounds poetic - shining on our faces. We made good progress, we ticked off the bridge numbers: 26, 27 and 28 went by and then the roar of the M6 motorway was heard over the chirping Parakeets, well there wasn't any Parakeets, but it sounds prosaic.

Then it happened. The worst nightmare for any beginner. The boat had a sudden change of mind on the line it's occupant was taking and looked to seek retribution by suddenly turning right-angles. The leading edge dropped, water piled onto the top of the stern and the boat was over. A capsize. Luckily I was close at hand to help the swimming kayaker. I soon had boat and paddler reunited and we were back on our way north to catch up with the rest of the group who were waiting, patiently under the motorway bridge with the club Chairman who had found a sponge in his boat and quickly turned it into an object which could lavish entertainment on dozens.

After watching from the bank, my legs had gone dead and they needed awakening, for a while I pulled on my trusty whistle, which is nicely built into my Astral Aquavest 300 PFD, and called the group to attention. I laid down my aims and objectives of the day and ticked the ones off which had been achieved, they had all been achieved, so I set about a plan. The plan basically consisted of three options.
  1. They could carry on northwards.
  2. They could carry on southwards (the way they had come).
  3. The group could split and some carry on northwards and others carry on southwards.
The group took the third option, and I have to say this is a fine option, but I would say that about any option as they all looked rather nice from where I was standing. So I split the group acording to each persons wishes and assigned assitants to groups and we were off. I headed, with a group of five, southwards to where we got on with two other lovely assistants whilst the other five assistants, headed off with seven students northwards.

The return journey was very similar to the departing journey apart from the fact that the wind was now in our faces and the sun, which was still not existant, was burning our necks to the colour of beetroot. It's nice to imagine there was sun because you then feel nice and toasty even though the wind was bitterly cold, anyway I digress. We seemed to be soon back at bridge 26, the place where we had previously launched, so we got out and toddled back up to the car park to change and some headed home, whilst others went to sample cuisine and liquids in the lovely hostelry. In these latter stages of getting changed and such like the other group returned with news of another swim. What a lovely day it had been!!!

PS. I should be out on the water again tomorrow, but this time it is for my own personal paddling. There have been many choices of paddling destination thrown around recently with the increase in the deposition of water from the lands above and these include the fine delights of the Greta (Keswick), Arnside Bore, Washburn or Burrs. What choices we have, either way there will be an entry to the blog narrating the days exploits.

PSS. Fourteen days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

01 October 2006

Rothay... A right off

I didn't go to the Rothay. It would have been a total right off; there hasn't been any where near enough water thrown down by the powers that be to bring this Lake District Grade 2/3- river into condition so instead I stayed at home and did... college work. Just like Wednesday, I started at 9am and am still doing it now. Well obviously not right at this moment, as I'm tapping on the ivories to create this post, but once I've finished I'll be back, knuckle to the bone, doing work and probably will be until 5pm. What fun I have on the day of rest, the day when all rivers should be worshiped for the pure enjoyment they bring to a small minority of people who like their water to flow downhill all frothy and white.

Got to go and do some more college work then. The pens are screaming: "Iain, Iain, Iain... Why aren't you holding us in your left hand, nib to the paper, to produce lovely scrawls of prose, which teach you things about the greater good? Why? Oh why..."

PS. Twenty days till my eighteenth birthday. Yay!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...