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...

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