31 March 2007

I'm all wet Mr. Mainwaring...

Just finished a weekend of White Water Safety and Rescue training with Tom Parker and felt like dropping into the blog to post up my thoughts because that's what blogging is all about I suppose!!!

It all kicked off 'early' Saturday morning with a rendezvous of 9am at Halton Trainstation's car park. It wasn't actually that early as I am up most mornings by 6:15 to deliver the nation (more the local area) with their daily news so anyway we made it in time and soon after our coach pulled in, driving up from Bangor that morning. The course kicked off. A quick talk and a few points jotted down on the white board followed before we got changed and headed, minus boats, to the section of river best known as Halton Rapids.

Obviously a WWSR course would not be complete with out a fair amount of time spent in the drink so as soon as we were on the waters edge we all lowered ourselves into the current and set off defensive swimming and then aggressive swimming and then we did it all once more for good measure before heading off to practice with our throw lines. Once we had practiced with our throw lines on dry land it was back to the water for some more swimming and instead of getting ourselves out of the water we were pulled out on the end of the yellow twine.

We then broke for dinner (Sausage Roll - Corned Beef Sandwich; no condiments - Mini Cheddars and then maybe a Blue Riband) before heading back down to the water for some more work in the water. This time, having covered most forms of retrieving casualties from the river we jumped in on the sharp end to practice live bait rescuing. It was quite fun actually, but it must be remembered that when in a controlled environment under no stress or anxiety it may be fun, but when it comes down to needing these skills something dreadful must have happened for such an event to of arisen. Not so fun then. The day was wound up with a session on crossing shallow stretches of river before heading back to the cars to get changed and warm up a bit before looking at mechanical advantage for removing pinned boats. A good day in all.

Sunday rolled around with clear blue skies and a rather bright sun, however we still had a 9am start in the car park at Halton where Tom had spent the night in the back of his van. The day kicked off with some entrapment work on the disused train track and was made that bit more entertaining with the frequent cyclists that needed to get past our handlebar high ropes. Much de-rigging and re-rigged quickly ensured to let them on their way. Once this session was complete we moved, for the first time, onto the water and into our boats.

I was using a Pyranha Burn for the course, kindly provided by Tom, as I was going on the basis that I needed a boat I could get in, with shoes on. This meant that when I was running up and down the bank I wouldn't be in risk of damaging the old Gore-Tex feet of my dry suit. On the river, in our boats, we focused on Communication, Line of sight, Avoidance and Position of most usefulness (CLAP) before heading for dinner (Sausage Roll - Red Leicester Sandwich; no condiments again - Mini Cheddars, Flapjack and then a Take a Break).

During the dinner session we ran through some scenario's on the white board whilst sat in the afternoon sun before heading, for the final time, back down to the river. Once at the river we paddled back up to the rapids and from there set up a tensioned diagonal line to cross the river. It was quite fun zooming down and across the line, whilst just pointing with one arm the way we wanted to go. That was now the WWSR course syllabus complete so we rounded the day off with two scenario's. The first scenario's consisted of a failed throw line attempt for one swimmer and then a quick coil and throw line rescue of another swimmer. The second one was more complex and this saw Tom take a swim and then entrap himself leaving us to rescue him and his boat.

That was it really. Tom delivered a might fine course in a fun, friendly atmosphere which allowed us all to learn new skills that one day may prove vital.

More pictures can be found here.

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

30 March 2007

View from my Window

I should have posted this twelve days ago when the country was littered with snow (BBC news item here), but didn't get around to it. The reason I have posted it now is because of the competition which appeared on Fuel my Blog a couple of days ago.

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

Counting down the Days

Just broke up for Easter. Not only does this mean that I have two weeks without college, but also means that there is one college term left before I leave formal education and embark on a gap year, which is in no way planned.

Tomorrow I'm on a White Water Safety and Rescue course with Tom Parker and then a week on Saturday I head to Scotland for the rest of my Easter Holidays. At the moment it looks like it could be a week of low water fun[!].

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

27 March 2007

My Jackson Rocker

When I ordered my nice new shiny Jackson Rocker a couple of months ago from UK Canoes I had been told that a shipment of Jackson boats, which included a blue Rocker for me, would be leaving state side and arriving in the UK this coming weekend. So on the off chance that the shipment was early I gave UK Canoes a bell on my mobile, whilst stood outside one of the college restaurants, in the hope that I would hear everything but bad news. Unfortunately it wasn't to be; instead they said they would give Square Rock, the UK importer, a call to find out what was going on. I hung up saying I would ring back later.

Five hours later I was sat on the bus - after spending an hour-and-a-half working on my 3D Design project, which is coming on rather well - ringing UK Canoes again for an update. I was hoping for everything but bad news. Instead I was greeted with everything but good news. Square Rock had received a blue (the colour I wanted) Rocker however there was a problem. The blue plastic wasn't baking right over in state side meaning the plastic was extremely brittle; not the ideal situation for Scottish Burn, Lake District Beck and Welsh Ditch bashing where hitting rocks is the norm and therefore anything but brittle boats are wanted. This news was delivered to me after hearing that Jackson Kayaks had been having trouble with the Rocker moulds.

So what now? Wait a couple of months in the hope that Jackson Kayak can get the problem sorted and the blue boats would be made to full strength. However, the guy at UK Canoes told me that it may be up to a year before the problem with the blue boats would be sorted, or maybe the problem would never be sorted. This is far from ideal. The other option available for me was to change the colour I had laid down in the order from blue to something else like red, yellow or green. I had, had my eyes set on a blue Rocker to match my All-Star and seen as I am paying so much money, which I have had to work bloody hard for, I expected to get what I wanted.

Instead I bit the bullet and changed to a red Rocker, I suppose it will do, but I am still far from happy. Through my 3D Design work I have come to realise that compromise sometimes has to be made in the name of quality control and for the consumer, me, to get the best product possible. My gripe however, is not really with the fact that I can't get the Rocker in the colour I want, but the fact that I had to go about getting the guy at UK Canoes to find out from Square Rock what was going on with my boat. Only then did it come to the forefront that their was a problem with the blue Rockers and that I would either have to wait a long, long, long time for the boat of my dreams or change the colour. Why was I, or UK Canoes, never contacted as soon as Square Rock realised there was a problem with one of the orders they had on their books? If I hadn't rung UK Canoes would the problem have been left to stand until Jackson Kayak had sorted the problem at their end?

It seems to me that at times the whole of the kayaking retail sector has a problem with customer service. Over on the good old UK Rivers Guidebook there are countless threads about manufactures, importers and shops screwing the consumer over when they have had complaints about products or not received the service they expect. Why is this? In many other retail sectors customer service has been exemplary.

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

25 March 2007

An Amazing Find

Just did a Google search for 'Halton Rapids', where I will be next weekend paddling/swimming on a White Water Safety and Rescue course with Tom Parker, and to my surprise when I went to the second page of results shown at the top were the names of two people I know extremely well. In fact it was down to these two individuals that I first got in a boat and got hooked on paddle sport. From here I dutifully clicked the link to find the above picture staring me back in the face.

The picture was taken on New Year's Day 2006 and from what I remember the Lune was fairly meaty that day and only a couple of us got on the water. In fact I've just looked back to my logbook and pulled this out for the particular day:
Paddled the lower section the most as there was a nice set of waves a short ferry from the only real eddy at the bottom. Managed to spin in these a couple of times. I ran the rapids from half way before heading back to the car. Managed to miss the best wave but got out and walked back around it to try again; I span in it that time.
Not really War and Peace, but even now I am starting to remember that day of paddling. What also struck me by the picture is how much my boating kit has changed; looking at it the only piece of kit I am still using are my AT's and they are showing some abuse. I'll leave it here before I get even more sentimental and carry on searching the Internet in the hope that it will bring me back some more wonderful gems of history.

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

24 March 2007

Finally... It's Over

Again, this isn't one of my pictures, but taken from this website. I would have had pictures of today, but the small problem of me forgetting to pick my camera up as I left the house put an end to that idea.

Today was the assessment for the Beginners Course I have been running for the last couple of weeks and has been mentioned in this post, this post and maybe even in this post. As it was an assessment for the BCU 1 Star and a capsize is needed for the candidate to pass we had to leave the relatively easy to arrange trip down the canal for something a bit more wild and exciting. After much deliberation about venues it was a toss up between a day trip to Coniston and Peel Island or a morning to Garstang where a meander (pictured above) in the River Wyre creates a lovely tranquil stretch of river ideal for an assessment. In the end I made a decision on heading to Garstang as many of the 1 Star candidates were under ten and unable to paddle great distances, which would have been needed for the Coniston trip.

There were a group of fifteen going for assessment, thirteen of which had attended the course I had been running and the other two had attended the previous course,
but had never got around to doing their assessment. I split the group up between the three assessors we had and then headed for the water. With my five candidates I ran through the whole 1 Star syllabus before going through it once more to ensure I was happy with everything demonstrated. In the end I passed four and failed one as they refused to capsize.

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

20 March 2007

The Welsh Access Campaign

Recently the Welsh Canoeing Association has really been pushing their access campaign. What with the release of t-shirts and stickers with the above slogan emblazoned on them as well as the launch of their very own blog they are really trying to improve the situation for the better in Wales. I must commend them on their excellent work even though I have never really paddled in Wales (I've dabbled at the Tryweryn) but I hope that in the future I will be enjoying the Welsh rivers with no added stress of dealing with access issues.

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

17 March 2007

Lancaster Canal... Again

Not one of my pictures, but taken from this website, which I just stumbled across through Google. The pub featured in the picture, The Hand and Dagger, is where the canoe club meet every Wednesday night and where we set off from today.

I'll use a bit of Japanese Poetry to narrate the trip...
A Morning on the Canal

Went to the canal
It was a windy day. For
A Beginners Course.

- A Haiku by Iain Robinson.
That's all for now.

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

12 March 2007

Rumour Mongering

I'm no different from any other person in the fact that I like a good old rumour. So when I logged into my Pay Per Post account, where it is possible for you to increase site traffic, today and noticed that they were actually asking me to go and create some rumours on what their "big news in the next few weeks" is I kind of jumped on the chance.

As far as I can see there is a couple of possibilities to what their "big news" is:
  1. They have realised that when my little fingers tap away on the little white keys of my keyboard it inspires so many blog readers that they have designated a special day in the Pay Per Post calendar to me and my blog!!!
  2. There payment scheme is changing for the better, making a bloggers life so much nicer and therefore having a great impact on the blogging world. Well those that use Pay Per Post anyway.
  3. Pay Per Post is planning to register their interest in my plans for a Gap Year and make me an ambassador for their site as I travel with my kayak spreading the good word.
Alternatively, you can click your way over to Pay Per Post and find out what their "big news" really is.

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


On Saturday I said:
"Tomorrow [Sunday] I will hopefully head north to the Lake District for some paddling of my own. Check back tomorrow evening to see what goes down."
Well if you checked back yesterday, I am sorry, because I did not post about what had gone down. To put it bluntly I didn't head north to the Lake District, in fact I didn't even go paddling. Instead, I headed south along the M61 to Manchester; the birth place of the computer, the home of the oldest public library in the English speaking world, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution and home to over 85,000 students. It was one of these that I went to visit.

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

10 March 2007

Lancaster Canal

I posted nine days a go about being lumbered with the responsibility of organising the canoe club's beginners course and to date my organisational skills must have played off. Today was the half way marker of the course - three sessions are now complete, and three remain - and the first time the pupils paddled on water which is not chlorinated, heated and crystal clear. Instead they are eased in to a canal session where the water is murky, filled with spilt diesel and far from the heat of the swimming pool. All of this happens on the Lancaster Canal - just outside the village of Clifton, a settlement on the rural-urban fringe of Preston - by the Hand and Dagger pub and Bridge 26.

Once all the pupils had been kitted out with equipment from the canoe club's vast store they headed down to the water's edge for a demonstration in getting in the boat.

Once on the water we headed north, going with the wind, and soon we reached our final destination. Here we did some tuition on 1 Star strokes and then headed back into the wind making slightly slower progress.

In the whole journey along the canal we came across no canal barges until this one at the very end. Luckily most of the group had got off the water.

Tomorrow I will hopefully head north to the Lake District for some paddling of my own. Check back tomorrow evening to see what goes down.

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

07 March 2007

Boys and their toys...

I've already blogged once about a similar topic, but that time it was how I started to get slightly addicted to image manipulation using Ulead PhotoImpact, a piece of software similar to PhotoShop.

This time however I must admit that I have a problem, a problem with video editing. One of my paddling companions, pictured above in the yellow Liquid Logic Vision, sent me a link after I moaned about my fruitless hours spent on the Internet searching unsuccessfully for a free video converter to convert my numerous .mov files to a format, which is compatible with Windows Movie Maker. The link they sent me took me across to this lovely little website and after a couple of minutes I had a fully working free video converter on my computer and the first .mov file was being converted to .avi. Good stuff!!!

Now with the video conversion side of things sorted I can spend countless hours in Windows Movie Maker making countless mini-movies from the clips I have collected over the years. So far I have created two films. One is entitled Eskimo Topolino Duo: In Action, which is pretty self explanatory and the other is a 'documentary' of the Etive featuring my good self. This is entitled The River Etive: A Scottish Odyssey, and is most certainly tongue-in-cheek.

Most of my image manipulations and video creations will appear here.

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

04 March 2007

I'm back

I made a quick post today before going out paddling and now here is a post about all of the adventures. Two posts in one day, you don't know you've been born.

The plans had been made by the club chairman that we would be meeting at the Waterhead Car Park at half-ten and we did though a detour was made to begin with. This detour was to pick up one of the club members and kit for them from the canoe club's container at the Hand and Dagger pub, near Salwick. Whilst we were there we also picked a boat up for myself. Why not the All-Star? Why not the Rocker? To answer the latter: the Rocker left America on the 23rd February and won't be here until a week before I leave for Scotland at Easter. To answer the former: I had promised someone a ride in the Eskimo Topolino Duo and this was the boat I pulled out of the canoe club's container.

We arrived with a few minutes to spare to be greeted by the sight of about a dozen cars loaded with one, two, three or even four boats. It was going to be a big trip. Once parked out we jumped and things were organised before clothes were changed and boats changed cars and headed off to the get-in, which is on the shores of Grasmere. To get from the road, the A591, to water level a eight foot wall has to be descended and the kit has to be passed over and down this wall. Did I forget to mention that whilst this is all going on one of the busier roads in the Lake District is behind you and cars are honking horns as you park half on the pavement, half on the road whilst things are unloaded?

Some of the group on the shores of Grasmere, with the boats at their feet.

Once on the lake the group headed off into the wind to the mouth of the Rothay. The boats, which belonged to the drivers were towed behind some of the paddlers and were eventually deposited just before you drop into the river. Here the drivers took the boats off the tugs after leaving their cars in the National Trust Car Park between Rydal Water and Grasmere. This is where I picked my front seat passenger up and off we headed down the river once the large group had split into four.

The Rothay can be characterised as a grade two bumble in some of the finest Lake District surroundings. The rapids, of which there are little, tend to be rocky, shallow and short. Today was no exception though there may have to be an exaggeration on rocky, as it may have been said that the river was a tad on the low side of good. In the first section of the river I eased my front seat passenger in with a bit of breaking in and out and the odd ferry glide and then we hit Rydal Water. The wind had whipped up into a bit of a manic frenzy and there could have also been some rain, or maybe spray from the waves. I don't really known, but it was wet and windy. Whilst crossing Rydal Water the group stopped briefly for dinner before heading on down the lake and into the next section of the Rothay.

Once you join the river again, almost immediately you come across Pelter Bridge rapids, which has had some bad press within the canoeing fraternity this week. Unfortunately, with the Topolino Duo being so long we came under some difficult whilst descending the rocky rapid. The boat got turned sideways from a glancing blow with a rock. It wedged on some more rocks with the downstream edge raised. It could have been a catastrophe, but luckily we managed to stabilise the boat and out I jumped to move it off the rocks, jumped back in and got down the remaining section of the rapids to watch some other paddlers scrape and bash their way down whilst I also got some pictures.

Pelter Bridge rapid, my front seat passenger is the blue helmet right of shot.

The river, once this rapid has been descended, flattens off with a stout current and plenty of eddy's to break in and out of. The majority of these were tiny and so, with a bit of work, we got the Topolino Duo breaking out of them fairly well. After a while this section is broken up with some stepping stones. None are really wide enough to fit a boat through easily unless the passenger tips it extremely far on edge with the Topolino Duo this may not have been wise so we portaged. It must have been the first ever portage made on the Rothay.

Our chairman negotiating the stepping stones.

The river once again takes on the same nature as before and as you start getting into the busy metropolis that is Ambleside the banks become canalised and on several occasions water is added to the river. Sometimes it is through Scandale Beck or Stock Ghyll converging with the Rothay or one of many road drains topping the level up.

The front seat passenger's husband having a shower in one of the road drains.

One of the best features on the Rothay is the wave found right at the end known by some as the Hotel Weir, by others I'm not sure, but there is probably a different name for it somewhere. Maybe we should start calling it something else like Bus Eater or Nile Special or Corned-Beaf-sur-Rothay?

Dropping through the wave formed by the weir.

The group sat in the surfers left eddy at the weir.

A paddler nearly going over on the wave.

Surfing the wave.

Another paddler surfing the wave. To get this shot I was sat in the river (it was that low) about two meters away from the bank and the same distance from the lip of the weir.

Once enough time had been wasted at the Hotel Weir we headed on downstream where a Force 3/4 gale had now developed on Windermere, which you have to traverse to get to the car park where your nice warm, dry clothes await.

Getting out at the end of the day.

More pictures and a video can be found here.

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

Last night...

There was a total lunar eclipse. I took a photo before it happened, it came out blurred because I was shaking with excitement [!] and the pre-set function I was using had a long exposure time.

I'm off to the Lakes today to hopefully paddle the Rothay, if there is enough water, from the back of the Eskimo Topolino Duo. If there isn't enough water I may go for a wander through Ambleside instead.

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

01 March 2007

I've been lumbered...

I went to the pub last night, and ended up coming away with the huge responsibility of organising a whole beginners course for the canoe club. Not that big a problem, except the first session is tomorrow evening in the pool and a creche has to be booked, hand-outs printed and a talk arranged couple this with a mad hunt for instructors and what you are left with is a boiling pot of anxiety. Add a dash of college work to the mixture and your just left with a bit of a stressfull situation. No need to worry, a quick look through some photo's of some rather nice white water relieves the tension and dreams of the next river trip will get me through it all.

The picture in question came about after Sunday's paddlings adventures. The camera was set to sequential shooting, the shot was underexposed by 1 (according to the guages) and I set the light intensity to 'sunny'. Once home the photo editing process began on Ulead Photoimpact.

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