31 December 2006

New Year's Eve

I woke up today at my normal time, 5:58am, on a Sunday morning and went to do my papers. When I got on my bike I got off it almost immediately as the wheel jammed and refused to move any more. Great. I walked to the paper shop, with my bike and started on the papers only to find that my shoe broke. I tried fixing my bike, it broke again, I tried again and it worked. I went to deliver my papers and my bike lights broke. What a morning!!! So I was slightly apprehensive - OK I wasn't really, but its poetic license - when I approached this New Year's Eve paddle, as I have not taken a swim all year and if I survived one more day that would be a year without swimming, which would be nice, but with the morning I had, had anything could have happened.

Once I had sorted the palaver out of the early Sunday morning and got stuff together for paddling we headed north for the Lake District, and to be more specific the garage at Greenodd, which is also the get out for the Crake. An hour-and-a-half later we arrived at the garage and started to get changed whilst the rest of our party arrived. Once sorted we headed up the valley towards the put-in on Coniston Water, where more of our party were awaiting us. That's eighteen paddlers.

Once on the water we headed down the lake and into a rather brisk wind. When eventually reaching the river I was a bit shocked to see it at such a low level. With the recent rains I had expected it to be at a fairly decent level especially as the Crake is lake fed, instead it was at a lowish level and not even pushing medium.

Even in the low water there was the odd feature to play on, but it was nothing to huge proportions and not many moves, except the good old spin, could be pulled off.

The main event on the Crake is Bobbin Mill Rapid, which is a grade 2/3 section of small drops, which is totally impossible to walk, inspect, or extract swimmers until the very end. Most of my group had already run the rapid when I came to it, however I still sat at the bottom to wait for another group who I knew and the last stragglers from my group. It's a good job that I did hang around at the bottom of the river as one of the paddlers in the other group managed to finish the rapid and then get pinned on the run out. They were well and truly pinned, they couldn't move forwards or backwards. So it was out of my boat and into the water to perform a live bait rescue, which went without a hitch. The only problem was getting back to my boat which I had abandoned on an island in the middle of the river. There was nothing for it; I would have to swim.

Once Bobbin Mill Rapid has been descended there isn't much left on the river and most groups now take out, however I had managed to persuade the people I was with to carry on and I wish I didn't bother as the wind had picked up making progression downstream a bit hard. Just round the corner from the take-out there is a tidal feature, which only comes into play at the right levels and I think we may have just missed it as there was nothing much going down.

Once off the river it was just a case of packing up, heading to the pub and then back south to sort gear and such like.

More pictures can be found here.

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

27 December 2006

Real rivers don't have curbs...

Spent another day out on the water today, and this time it wasn't a local paddle either. Instead I got dropped off at the services on the M65 just outside of Darwen and then once kit was transferred to another car we headed north to Stockton-on-Tees and the Tees Barrage. Here there is a purpose built white water course, aptly named Teesside White Water Centre, which uses the tide as its main water source and therefore is not affected by the lack of rain we've been experiencing.

Once at the centre we paid our fees, browsed the shop and got changed before heading down to the course. I was once again in my dry suit and was loving the fact that I could paddle two days in a row without having any wet kit next to my skin. Bliss!!! During the day I made two full descents of the course and one smaller run. On the first descent I missed the top wave, but caught the wave just after it, on the second run I missed both waves and on the last, half run I missed the top wave, but caught the wave just after it before swiftly getting off the water.

Throughout the day most of our time was spent at Happy Eater, which is the main play feature on the river where it is possible to spin and get some nice front and back surfs in. The more experienced paddlers have been known to throw some helixes down and also nail some sweet entry moves. I also paid a brief visit to the next play spot on the course, named Cruncher, for a bit of cartwheeling and looping fun. Though I may just state that I didn't manage either.

Once tired and cold we headed for the changing rooms and then the cafe for refreshments and general socialising before heading home via the pub. I'm not out paddling for a while now, maybe three or four days, but I'm off climbing Friday.

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

26 December 2006

Boxing Day

Looking slightly sophisticated in the car park

I've been out paddling again today. I like this Christmas thing, there is so much paddling that can be done and there are nice shiny new pieces of kit to try whilst doing it all. For me I could try my nice Palm Stikine Extreme Suit, which is that new water just beads off it, for others it was new boats and the like. Oops... I've still not mentioned where we were paddling. It was Halton again. There hasn't been much water around recently and it would have been a bit of gamble driving higher up the Lune Valley so we took the easy option and had an even lower day at Halton than last Sunday.

Me testing the dry suit

I'm the small blob in the centre of the picture about a third of the way down from the top

There were quite a lot of people on the water today so I tried my best to avoid them all as I wanted to paddle on my own and have some me time on the water. I don't know what it is, but when paddling on your own everything just feels so much different. There is that added bit of danger that if the s@&t hits the fan your on your own and you've got to sort yourself out and I must admit I like that added edge.

Getting back in the boat after heading higher up the river

Today was probably the first time that I've headed so high up the river and that was just to avoid the masses that were also heading upstream. However, as I headed further up river I did discover some new features that I've never really exploited before. They weren't great, but it was something new.

Me being a chimp

As the river was so low today one of the worst holes on the river came into play. When I say worst I mean worst for catching, not the worst for playing. In fact I nearly threw down my first front loop so it mustn't be that bad, however to get in the hole you have to drop in from above, which involves a bit of a walk back upstream. This for me is quite an inconvenience as I've got to deflate my Happy Seat and Thruster and then re-inflate them when I get back in.

More pictures and a couple of videos can be found here.

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

24 December 2006

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and what better thing to do than go paddling and avoid all the mad rush at the shops and supermarkets. So it was an hour until mid-day and we parked up in the Halton Trainstation car park to be greeted by a cold winters day, with a little breeze. Getting changed was a bit unpleasent with temperatures just above freezing. Once on the water I warmed up quickly; even after having a couple of rolls.

The river was quite low today and even in low levels there is usually something to do on the rapids, but I don't know what it was but I just couldn't get anything going and everything just felt mechanical and unsmooth. Strokes weren't really linking into each other and I just got a bit frustrated and it just got worse and worse. I think I could have been slightly off form because over the past three days I've only had about ten hours sleep, as we've been calling in on people most nights to do our Christmas duties, and I'm knackered.

I should be back out on the water in two days time and hopefully I'll be back to better form as I can have a nice lie-in Christmas day and catch up on my sleep.

Merry Christmas!!!

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

21 December 2006

Christmas Time

It's four days until Christmas and I've still not even given this festive day a real mention in the blog; so here it is. College finishes tomorrow at twelve and then I have four-hundred and fourteen hours off from formal education. I have got A Level modular exams when I go back so there will have to be some revision, but that doesn't mean I won't be paddling for a vast majority of the hours I have free.

As for the sepia image of my Christmas Tree; I just thought it looked a bit different!!!

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

17 December 2006

Swimming Gala

Well, I've just got back from another trip on the Kent, the river I paddled last week before we did the Duddon and lost a boat. This time the trip took a different path, which could probably be put down to the fact that it was an organised trip by the local canoe club. This means that the ability of the paddlers varies greatly and therefore some people are a bit out of their depth. It does, for some reason, with all club trips, work itself out and everyone pulls together to try and make sure everyone enjoys themselves on the water.

Last week there was only two of us on the water and this week when we pulled up at Kendal Leisure Centre there were eight other paddlers waiting. I had managed to get a lift up to Kendal from Fulwood Leisure Centre, where the club runs pool sessions, and on this car was four more boats meaning the final number on the trip was twelve, which isn't to bad a number. So eventually, after managing to organise people we got changed and headed to the water. Briefings were done and I was assigned trip leader seeing as I had done the river the previous week and had scouted out all the lines and hazards.

Once on the water, in Kendal, we headed downstream and stopped to play in three friendly weirs, which were great for spins and such like. We eventually reached Scroggs Weir, the place we got on last week, and this is where you could say the river starts to pick up a bit. I, as trip leader, ran the drop, which marked the entrance to the first gorge and turned in the current to watch the next paddler get gobbled by the hole and take a swim. Thankfully, as I was the only paddler on hand the swimmer managed to take care of themselves and I just shadowed the boat to shore for them to empty. This rapid claimed a few more people, but luckily they managed to roll up. We carried on downstream.

When we hit the second gorge I went ahead to set up safety for the main drop, and two other paddlers followed. The rest of the group were scouting the rapid whilst safety cover was organised and thank god we had safety cover as the main event in the gorge claimed a further two paddlers who both had moments where paddler and boat parted company. Pieces of kit were collected and we headed off downstream again. Soon after, however, we came to the weir which we portaged the week before and I suggested we did the same. This seemed to take an age as it involved twelve paddlers getting out of their boats walking across the footbridge, down the road and down a steep bank to a spot only big enough to launch one boat at a time. We eventually managed it and headed on downstream.

The third gorge on the Kent is probably the worst as if you swim on the lead in you could end up swimming the next drop, which you definitely don't want to as well unless there is some pretty swift rescue work carried out. Two members of the group got out to inspect, whilst the rest of the group, with me leading, ran the first drop. Once the group were safely at the bottom of the drop, and the two paddlers were still inspecting, I shot off down the gorge to find somewhere to set up safety. Luckily I found a fairly wide ledge ten to fifteen meters above the next drop and got out of my boat and set myself up with a rope in case the two paddlers inspecting took a swim. The rest of the group ran the next drop and waited.

It was ages before anything upstream happened and when it did it was quite spectacular. The first of the paddlers, who inspected, ran the drop fine, nailing their line, and the second paddler, to put it bluntly, did not. They parted company with their boat and they were swimming where they did not want to be swimming. I got everyone's attention that their was a swimmer and then deployed my rope, landing it bang on the swimmers head. They took hold, I reeled them in like a fish and pulled them up on to the ledge to safety. Their boat meanwhile ran the next drop and got a bit of a hollering before being rescued by the rest of the group. I repacked my throw line and went to join the rest of the group who were now sorting out the swimmer and their boat.

I ran ahead to run the last drop on the river and nailed my line quite well apart from my right hand flew off my paddle as I landed the drop and my paddle was thrown back into my chest. I took hold and broke out to watch the next paddler come over the drop, miss their line and roll up. Sweet. The next paddler came over with out a problem and then the next four all took a swim. One of the swimmers parted company with their boat and it ended up being sucked into an undercut. I was back to being rescue bunny, I pulled out my sling and managed to clip it to the boat as I precariously edged my way into the undercut. As I pulled it came out and the pieces were all put together until all paddlers and kit were reunited.

Good times.

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

16 December 2006

More parting with cash antics...

Well, this morning I parted with more money.

This time it wasn't on a posh dry suit, like last Saturday, oh no, but it was kayaking related never the less. I have on order from Penstock Productions their Seven Rivers Expedition DVD and I also signed up to a year's subscription of LVM.

Whilst I was browsing their catalogue I came across a section dedicated to Katie Hilleke - sister of Tommy Hilleke, a well know creek boater from Asheville, NC - who isn't that bad a paddler herself. This section was there to help raise funds to cover medical bills incurred for the chemo therapy she has been having on a recently diagnosed case of colon cancer. I, with out hesitation, clicked the button to donate some money. Being a paddler means that you are part of a tight knit group who will try and support each other in a myraid of ways and this is how I felt it was best to show my support. It is nice to think that the paddling community would also pull together if I was in need, like they have done for Katie.

If you'd like to donate money to help Katie Hilleke you could do no worse by clicking here.

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

12 December 2006

I've always wanted a suit for work...

Saturday was an expensive day for me as I purchased a Palm Stikine Extreme Suit and an IR Union Suit to go with it. It's unfortunate that I can't actually use the dry suit yet (some of it was paid for by my folks as a Christmas present) as the temperature is suppose to start falling over this coming week meaning for cold water and colder paddling. I am therefore left to wearing it around the house for now!!! With the dry suit however, I can now say, when I'm working in an outdoor centre, that I have a job which requires a suit.

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

10 December 2006

One car, two paddlers and no real plans

It was Thursday when I sent an email out to everyone I paddle with on a regular basis and I only got a few replies back, and all of them, mark one, were a no for a paddle on the coming Sunday. So on the Saturday night I texted the person who had replied yes and at quarter-to-nine the next morning we were on the road heading for the Lakes and the Kent. As we only had one car the plan was to pull up at Seathwaite Bridge and get changed in the hope that some more paddlers had turned up and we could hitch to the top with them.

It didn't look promising when we pulled up. Well the river looked good, it was the best level I had seen it at, but the chance of hitching a lift didn't look promising. However, as we started getting changed a car with a boat pulled up and out popped one of the chaps I had paddled the Ingleton Greta with. They were heading up to the Brathay Pool and had just called in to have a look at the rapids under Seathwaite Bridge. They kindly offered us a lift up to Sroggs Weir and we politely accepted it. So we now had a means of getting to the top of the river and could still leave our dry gear, in a car at the take out.

Loading up the boats at Scroggs Weir

Once on the water we headed off downstream catching the odd wave and eddy before entering the first of the gorge's found on the Kent. The lead-in to the gorge was a fairly simple drop which had a bit of a powerful pile of water at the bottom, which buffered the boats about a bit.

Paddling through the first gorge

After this first bit of gorge the river opens up for a bit before the banks start getting steeper and form the second gorge of the river. This gorge is a bit more demanding when compared to the first as there is a more of a lead-in to the first drop and then there is a series of river wide stoppers to avoid/play in. In the level we were paddling it today the stoppers were OK for playing in, but in higher flows they start to form nasty holes of the highest order.

Looking up the second gorge

The river starts to widen out again and there was the odd wave to catch and some breaking in and out to do. We then came up to a weir. This weir has been run, and I have run it in low flows, but it just wasn't worth it today. It would be marginal whether you would get through or not, so we cut our losses, shouldered our boats and walked around it.

Walking over the footbridge whilst portaging the weir

The river once against enters a gorge near the take out and this is probably one of the most interesting sections. The gorge starts with a drop into a totally inescapable section for a swimmer with some fairly meaty waves before dropping over an l-shaped weir. The river then widens out before dropping over Force Falls. A two/three meter fall which marks the end of the trip and the take out.

The lead-in to the third gorge
The l-shaped weir
Force Falls

At the bottom of the river we came across the managers of UK Canoes and Paddlesport and a couple of other people, one of which is a member of my club and I had been paddling with them the week before. In fact they were the person who rescued my All Star when I was in the Eskimo Topolino Duo and the river started rising, almost taking my boat with it.

As it happened the manger of Paddlesport and two of their friends were carrying on to do another river so we teamed up with them and headed off to the Duddon, which they had never done, but the two of us had.

So it was a case of loading up the cars and heading along the west coast of Cumbria and heading up the Duddon valley to Ulpha to get on the river. This was the second time I had been on the river and it looked to be a similar level. If anything it looked like the river would be rising whilst we were on the river.

Walking the boats down to the river

The five of us got on the water and headed downstream. It wasn't how I had remembered the river, but that was over a year ago, and if anything it has improved the memories I had of this river. It was a real blast with lots of continuous grade III rapids with some pretty lumpy waves and holes.

We eventually came to the main rapid of this section. I ran it first and nailed the line, then four more paddlers came through, and one was swimming. I scrambled out of my boat, made a bit more difficult by my Happy Seat/Thruster Combo, and grabbed my thowline but it was too late they were out of reach. However, the swimmer managed to get themselves to the bank shadowed by the three other paddlers, which was a good job as there looked to be a pretty nasty weir soon after. I got back in my boat and ferried over to where they were on the bank starting out on the portage of the weir. I jumped out of my boat once again to discover that during the swim we had lost both the paddle and the boat. Shit.

Plans were made and implemented. The swimmer walked out from the river and headed for the road with my bivvy bag and pogies to keep warm whilst the remaining four headed downstream, after portaging the weir, to look for the boat and paddles. It didn't look that promising that we would find them as the river was moving at a fair speed. However, not long after getting back in our boats to go kit chasing I broke out into an eddy to find the paddle right next to my boat and that was only about three hundred meters from the weir. We carried on downstream looking for the boat and came upon that, wrapped around a tree, tree hundred meters from the take out. Ropes were attached to it and it was removed by the manager of Paddleworks and myself whilst the two other paddlers headed back to recover the paddler that had walked out.

All in all, when considered, it hadn't been a bad day. There had, at the beginning, been two paddlers, one car and no real plans and it had finished with us paddling two rivers and meeting up with three paddlers, of which I had met one of them on a previous occasion as they sold me my All Star and I am sure we'll be paddling with them again at some point.

More pictures can be found here.

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

06 December 2006

Ever wanted a...

Canoeing Logbook for your computer?

With a GCSE and an AS Level in ICT I've amassed a fair bit of knowledge in Microsoft Access. So, with this knowledge I've developed a logbook for all canoeists to record their day's out on the water. If you want one click here and place a bid, or just click buy it now. If this one sells I'll be putting some more up for sale on eBay so keep checking back and search for Canoeing Logbook.

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

05 December 2006

Responding to the Brighton Report

You may remember that a couple of months ago I posted on how the English access situation sucks. Well today Tamsin Phipps, of the River Access Campaign sent out a template to all canoeists, through the UK Rivers Guidebook, to help them lobby their local MP's. So get writing to your local MP by using the template below and with a bit (more like lots and lots) of luck all things access may start to improve.

Dear MP (MP NAME),

RE: River Access in England and Wales for Non Powered Craft

Did you know..
One of the biggest issues that face British Canoeists is the lack of access to the rivers of England and Wales. Canoeing, for the fifth year running, has been recognised as the fastest growing watersport (RYA Survey 2005). The sport is socially inclusive, ecologically sound and a fun, healthy activity for people of all ages and abilities. Canoeing also plays an important role in local economy.

The latest situation
The Environment Agency (EA) commissioned the University of Brighton to look into the feasibility of voluntary access agreements, the report “Putting pilot voluntary canoe access agreements in place” was published on October 3rd 2006. The British Canoe Union (BCU) has raised grave concerns over the report, the manner in which it was undertaken and its implications for the sport.

On behalf of DEFRA the Environment Agency asked Brighton University to test and demonstrate the processes involved in negotiating voluntary agreements and to secure voluntary canoe access agreements on four rivers in England (Mersey, Teme, Waveney and Wear). These rivers had featured in an earlier feasibility study carried out by the Countryside Agency.

What has the study actually achieved?
Very little indeed, 72kms (45 miles) have allegedly been "given" to paddlers, but in reality over 25 miles already had access agreements in place (the EA had sponsored a Canoeists Guide to one of the rivers). So in two years, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent to potentially gain a meager 20 miles of access, “secured – in principle”.

What is more, these voluntary access agreements tend to be highly restrictive and complicated.

There are over 41,000 miles of rivers (over 3 meters wide) with no access! At this rate gaining access to rivers is too slow. Voluntary access agreements are certainly not feasible or a practical strategic solution.

The report has shown in no uncertain terms that the work carried out was fundamentally flawed.

Just a few reasons why the study is flawed
• There was virtually no consultation with the British Canoe Union, the National Governing Body of the sport, representing the interests of over 50,000 paddlers. The Environment Agency do not understand a National Governing Bodies role I.e. not a statutory body or police force
• In the light of the Scottish Land Reform Act and CRoW as well as following example from other European countries, Canoeists are right to expect a more realistic approach to access.
• Emphasis has been placed on supply and demand being broadly in line. The supply of “water” includes lakes etc and bears no resemblance to the demand for moving water on rivers.
• Rather than finding an innovative solution this study fuels the angling versus canoeing debate.

What are we campaigning for?
New legislation such as the successfully implemented Scottish Land Reform Act 2003, that codifies responsible access to land and water. It protects the environment and activities of canoeists, anglers, other users and landowners who are all required to adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Canoeing is not seeking a conflict with anglers and other river users. It wants to successfully co-exist to the wider benefit of the whole community, as canoeists do in Scotland, all over Europe and the rest of the world.

Why more rivers access?
Increase participation in sport and recreation
A legal right of access to rivers would provide phenomenal recreational opportunities for a whole group of people including canoeists, swimmers, and boaters with, knock-on benefits for public health. The recreational aspects of canoeing could coincide effectively with government’s “everyday sport” and Welsh Assembly Government’s “Climbing Higher Strategy” if only river users had more access.

Olympic success
It is not just recreational paddlers that would benefit. British Canoeing has an outstanding record in the Olympic Games. Our athletes achieved three Olympic medals in Athens and in London 2012 we want to achieve 4 Olympic Medals including possibly 2 gold. A legal right of access will directly help to improve the UK’s Olympic standing.

Contribution to the economy
In addition to increased opportunities for recreation and elite sport, increased access to rivers would mean more money for rural communities. Research has shown that canoeing contributes about £750 million a year for the economy of England and Wales as well as supporting over 15,000jobs.

Support for the campaign?
As my MP I am also asking you to support the campaign. There are many ways in which you can do this. Perhaps you would ask Parliamentary Questions on our behalf? Sign EDMs that will happen in the next session of Parliament and ask questions of DEFRA.

One question that could be asked is:
If the Government is a firm believer in championing outdoor activities why then is it taking so long to move on the access issue? Could you please explain why your Government has chosen to approach Costal Access with legislation but continues to look at access to rivers through voluntary arrangements? Is not land and water intrinsically linked?

Where can I find more information?
Visit www.riversaccess.org

I trust you appreciate the valuable contribution that canoeing makes; to the health of our nation, to the economy, Olympic medal success and to the community.

Legally protected access would remove conflict from the situation and provide clarity and certainty for those visiting our rivers.

Thank you for your support.

Kind regards,


Get campaigning.

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

03 December 2006

Rising water and punishing winds

Well another day at Halton; there was no swapping of boats, kit or people to head off to better things this time because the water wasn't coming over the whole weir at the get in. This in all honesty means that the grade 3/4 gems of Sedburgh, like the Clough and Rawthey wouldn't be up. So I stayed at Halton with the rest of the club. I had managed to persuade one of my paddling buddies to drop the club's Eskimo Topolino Duo off at my house on the Saturday so I had that to keep me entertained on what has become a very familiar stretch of rapids.

Logistics were somewhat complicated seen as I had two boats, three seats and one person, myself, to get up the river to the rapids. It worked out that I shoved my All Star deck in my All Star and paddled the Topolino Duo up the river, towing my play boat from my chest harness. Once at the rapids I deposited the All Star on the island. I waited around for a while to see if there were any prospective candidates to go in the Topolino Duo, but when it looked doubtful I swapped boats and headed further up the rapids for a bit of 'me time' in my boat.

There were some alright waves on the river to get a bit of soul surfing in and I even managed to get a 360, and stick it, in one of the least retentive holes on the river. There was also one wave that I got air borne on for a split second. It was kind of unexpected so I didn't managed to throw anything down, but it was nice all together.

I eventually headed back down the river to my first victim (candidate) for the Topolino Duo so it was boat swapping time again and we eventually launched on the river. With a bit of shouting at my 69-year-old front passenger we got the boat ferry gliding and breaking in/out fairly successful. In fact we even pulled off a rescue when someone swam. It wasn't long before I had a new passenger, and this passenger had paddled with me before in the Topolino Duo on the Washburn in August. This ultimately meant that I could push it a bit more and we headed higher up the river.

By now a couple of hours had passed and the river was rising slowly, so when we headed higher up the river the water was getting bigger and a bit more lumpy when compared to earlier. In fact the river had risen that much a nice looking Christmas Tree floated past us as we launched onto the water and headed through the big waves to where the rest of the club were waiting to head on downstream and get off the water as it had risen that much the rapids were starting to get a bit washed out, and the place where we usually got out was under water.

Another picture and a video can be found here.

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