At last we have some news to tell you about.
If you read last week’s newsletter you will know that last week the club was experimenting with one to one paddling and whether that would allow us to return as a club to the river.
I have to confess that as a club it just isn’t viable at this time. The concept of only two people on the pontoon at anyone time, even getting to the pontoon through the now locked access way isn’t the way to go as yet.
With the toilets and changing rooms still under lockdown we cannot operate fully at this time.
The way forward at the moment appears to work where a coach will contact a club member and they arrange to go paddling together. This only works if they have their own kit and need no assistance, hence its only open to experienced paddlers. It’s not as we would like it, but I think you would agree we are in extraordinary times and like all clubs we are trying to find ways to make it work.
Things are improving with the PLA agreeing to open the river for paddling as have the Environmental Agency, hence we have already run some experimental sessions.
Think positively, things are improving.
Best wishes and keep safe and well.
If you are invited to paddle, Sarah Deeks has put a template in the garage. It simply says which boat you took out so that we can be certain no one else has paddled the same boat in the last 72 hours. We want anyone using a club boat to fill this in.
When it comes to any club kit please put used kit as far away from the door lock as possible – that way we will all be using different kit. When it comes to paddles I would suggest a wash down to be super safe. I will be emailing our independent paddles to let them know it is possible to go out.
Access key holders are Sarah and Dean.
News from our Experimental Paddles
I am almost embarrassed to write this as I know so many of you will say that could have been me, but several experimental sessions have been run.
I can tell you the joys of paddling without looking over my shoulder to keep an eye open for rowers has been a joy. Also as there is little other river traffic there isn’t any ambient noise so you can hear the paddle swishing through the water, birds singing from the trees and another delight is little or no aircraft traffic.
What it has gained in tranquillity we have noticed an increased in inflatable kayaks, river swimmers with leg floats and stand-up paddle boards, of course most have no idea of the local navigation rules, but with no motorised launches plying the river its a very relaxed attitude out there.
Trip News – Experimental Number One
With the PLA opening the river on Wednesday of last week, there may have been an escape to the river that evening, however there was definitely one of the following Saturday.
Sarah and Michelle had a lovely paddle towards Putney Bridge on a lovely ebbing tide. So much was the excitement of returning to the water and as the tide was still ebbing they went further arriving at Westminster Bridge and as there was no river traffic only them, they carried on.
They finally arrived at St Pauls where the outward leg of their trip out came to an end, it was only then the paddle back where at some stage they picked up the tide.
What an epic paddle into central London and what an opportunity!
Brilliant paddling and even better photo’s supplied by Michelle McCarthy.
Bet those shoulders felt it the following day?
Its surprising how un paddle fit you become after even such a short layoff.
Experimental Paddle Number Two
This was a complicated paddle, the first for me (Steve) since the lock down started.
MJ and I headed down for a gentle paddle on the Thames. As we were in Canoes its always harder work than you might think, but worth the effort.
As we headed out Julius and Ash launched each keeping a very safe distance apart. In fact Ash had a appointment to get to, so he overtook us and disappeared into the distance. We were travelling against the tide heading in the direction of Richmond.
As far as social distancing on the pontoon, only two people at a time its really tough making sure to keep your distance and not assist.
We slowly progressed up the river as I say with Julius tagging along with us, so we swapped our pairing on more than one occasion.
One of the many difficulties associated with the virus is no available toilets on the river. With all the pubs shut it presents an additional complication.
Whilst waiting on the foreshore just passed Chiswick Bridge MJ spotted an opportunity. After a brief chat with a rower disinfecting their boat she disappeared only to return a more relived individual, which was handy as I was removing a splinter from my hand. So two things here, my paddle dried out, hence the slinter and I was thankful for the first aid kit I always carry.
On we paddled still against the tide where arriving at Kew Bridge we meet up with Ash with Emma in his boat and Monica and her partner Luigi in their tandem inflatable kayak. The plan was a barbecue on the beach somewhere ahead!
It was at this stage that I realised that sitting on a wooden plank wasn’t doing my rear much good – its the lack of paddling I told myself. Julius suggest sitting on my kneeling mat! Oh the joys of a comfortable seat are not to be underestimated.
We travel on the Brentford side of the island still against the ebbing tide. We could view the various boats moored along what I am told will become a new marina.
Ash, Julius Monica and Luigi took one of the exits through gap in the island to join the main flow, whist MJ and I continued on paddling the channel. MJ led the way and decided this is what these canoes are designed for. Trying to find a route through where the water may or may not be deep enough. Of course we made it through to the end of the island where we saw Julius waiting for us.
Having whizzed out from behind the island we then continued on in two separate groups still against the ebb tide. Just passed the entrance to the Grand Union canal MJ had a phone call and it was a good excuse to find some foreshore, which we did just beside the entrance way.
Phone call over and we headed on again. In the distance MJ spotted a couple of boats on the opposite bank opposite Syon House and its famous Stone Lion atop its façade. We paddled on with more energy. Crossing the river at the last moment we could see Ash had built a fire. Apparently he even brought wood and was making Egyptian coffee. With MJ and Steve’s arrival it was halloumi warmed over the fire Ash had made. Infact Monica took charge of heating of the halloumi in a rack that Ash supplied. Its amazing how much kit we can carry in these canoes.
After a socially distancing snack, it was time to go. so dousing the fire which was on the foreshore we each headed off now in the direction of the tide. Dropping off Emma and leaving Monica and Luigi to deflate their tandem boat we headed back to the pontoon. Although there wasn’t much if any wind I put the sail up which to be quite honest made for better shade than a sail.
We quickly arrived back at the pontoon, where Julius had already arrived. Ash and I headed down to Hammersmith Bridge, just because we could and caught the last of the ebb tide. We were both amazed by the amount of silt built up on the Surrey Bank before the bridge. A truly huge amount. I am told there is a general notice to rowers advising caution using the inside station and I can see why.
With the bridge reached and almost the end of the ebb tide I sailed a few widths of the river as there was a patch of wind there, before returning back to the pontoon. We did encounter a few people on the foreshore where photos where taken of the odd people paddling the river…that was us. We than met some folks on the Eyot who weren’t aware that they were on an island in the river. All we could do was advise them and tell them what to do if they got cut off.
Amazing day on the river. A start at about 10:30 and a finish at 9pm. An exhausting yet super fun return to the river.
The following day I felt the effect of an all-day paddle. Sore would be the best phrase to describe it.
We hope you enjoyed our experimental paddles and we will continue to paddle safely when we can.
That’s all for this week’s newsletter. Next week we may have more news about what is possible and what isn’t!
As I said at the beginning, we are running some experimental sessions, however it is unlikely that anything like normal paddling will return before June, even then subject to the changing conditions.
Stay safe and keep well