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...

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