Continuing on from last week’s newsletter update. We are still experimenting with one to one paddling, however we are still hampered by the Pier House restrictions – primarily lack of access to toilets and washing facilities.
Our chair ( Sarah Deeks ) has been active in promoting our cause, but as I write this there is no sign of a change.
Experimental Paddle No 3
This was another of those complicated paddles to organise, but with Ash (master canoeist) leading the way a plan was hatched. Ash had arranged for Emma Simpkins to join our little group and I (Steve) had arranged for MJ to turn up at the Pier House on Sunday morning.
Having gained access to the pontoon via the locked walkway, we picked up both Ash’s canoe and the club’s Nova craft. These we decided would be paddled tandem thus enabling social distancing to be maintained.
Ash simply lifted his boat over head and carried it to his car whilst Steve’s boat was manhandled by four of us. Its quite a heavy beast. With Ash’s help it was hoisted on to Steve’s car and again with Ash’s help was lashed down ready for our journey.
Destination Walton Upon Thames. Ash had arranged to met up with Monica and Luigi and their tandem inflatable kayak. So with the destination set we travelled in convoy arriving at Walton Marina, where Steve and MJ’s boat was loaded onto the water, whilst Emma and Ash launched from the public slipway.
There ensued a lovely paddle on the flat water passing some very expensive homes. On route we passed Elmbridge canoe club mostly known for their Hasler events, however we did find the slalom course. With Emma put ashore Ash went to play in the weir. MJ and I didn’t, we felt too unstable to indulge, however Monica and Luigi certainly did.
Ash even loaded Emma into his boat and again headed into the weir. With all this excitement Ash felt the need for a swim, so diving over our moored boats where he disappeared into the depths, producing a large splash not appreciated by MJ. Next it was Luigi’s turn to plunge to the depths. Steve decided to leave this to the youngster and with MJ on board headed off down a promising looking cut in the river.
We paddle through a boat yard apparently based on an island. Carrying on this quiet little area, we spotted many species, including dragon files and their electric blue markings and of course a plethora of butter flies. With no one else around it was super peaceful. We carried on only to come to a halt in front of a full width river weir.
We turned around and headed around the other side of the boat builders island where we met Monica and Luigi out looking for us. All three boats joined up and we paddled a more formal route, to the start of the Godalming Canal. Its lock gates where shut so it was an about face and we returned the way we had come. Our destination was Monica and Luigi’s River Barge!
Encouraged by the thought of food we paddled to the Barge. Decanting beside the 75 foot long river barge chairs were pulled out and wine was poured, it was a warm day – you understand. They even produced a vegetarian cannelloni mini meal for Steve, whist full blown meat was cooked for everyone else. There was salad, chips with humus, beer etc etc a very generous and filling meal,
We sat out on the river bank enjoying the view until we really had to leave. Even then Luigi offered to tow our boats, but having eaten now was time to burn off a few calories. Luigi captained the boat back to their berth stopping off to drop MJ off beside Walton Bridge. in the mean time Emma and Ash paddled back to their launch spot as did Steve. Even Monica decided to paddle back to burn off those calories, Not only that but having wished us a good journey, Monica paddled off into the distance to their ship’s berth.
We had hoped to met up further up river, but places to moor a 75foot barge are limited so that was the end of day’s paddle. Emma headed off leaving Ash, MJ and Steve to make their own way back to the pier house to unload boats.
By the time MJ and Steve arrived Ash had already secured his boat on the pontoon. Ash amazingly picked up the Novacraft and carried it to the pontoon to be locked away. Amazing strength and determination.
With the boats secured and the failing light we each headed off having had a fabulous day on the river.
Thanks Ash for organising, Emma for supplying veggie friendly food as did MJ. Finally a huge thank you to Monica and Luigi for hosting us, supplying food and drink on their fabulous river cruiser.
Experimental Paddle no 4.
A Wednesday afternoon easy paddle against the tide to Hammersmith Bridge and then on to the Crabtree.
This was an attempt to see what the club could or could not manage during the lockdown.
Having organised Young Michelle as a second coach, coach Steve wondered if we could safely take out six people. As it happens it was five and one of those was young Liz, one of the original club coaches. You’ll be pleased to hear Liz is now back and joined as a club member.
So maybe this explains why we can’t paddle as a group just yet. Two people on the pontoon at one time. So that is kit up and launch before anyone else may be on the pontoon. Those waiting should be on the bridge keeping two metres apart, before it’s the next pair’s turn to get on the water. If someone needs help getting a spray deck on or off we can’t help! If they struggle to lift the boat off the rack we can’t help. Need help launching we can’t help. Was that spraydeck or buoyancy aid worn in the last 72 hours? We have a system, but is everyone aware of it. Was the paddle you have chosen used in the last 72 hours?
There is a great deal of can’t rather than can. For those adhering to the social lock down we simply can’t adhere to the rules and operate as a club, hence until we have the next update we are limited in what we as a club may or may not do. We do have coaches heading out, but it is at their discretion as to whether they wish to engage with our membership and take additional club members with them.
Coach Steve’s experimental paddles has meant a couple of people have been out for a paddle and established what in his opinion what is possible and what isn’t.
Wednesday and a simple little paddle on the Thames.
Having got over the faff stage of getting on the water, it was a simple paddle against the tide towards Hammersmith Bridge. We had limited time so our destination was fixed by that. We all would have preferred to be out longer, but external influences often dictate what we can and can’t do.
A launch into the flooding tide and a gentle paddle towards the Chiswick Eyot where we had a treat of spotting a grey dotted seal happily swimming towards us. We were heading around the outside of the Eyot, so I suspect it was seeking shelter from the incoming volume of water.
Our party consisted of Michelle, Liz,Julius, MJ and myself (Steve). After the excitement of the seal it was a lovely paddle to Hammersmith Bridge. A testing paddle for the two canoes of MJ and Steve,but one we had completed many times before.
At Hammersmith Bridge it was a check on the time and yes we could go on, so we did. We arrived at the Crabtree and pulled the boats up on the ever diminishing shoreline and broke out drinks and nibbles. We were plagued by flies, so it was a relative short stop. We had to get back, so it was a quick get back on the water and we floated back to base on the ever faster flowing tide. As we were in the middle of the river we had to be mindful of the increasing number of rowers and only a few sailing boats.
It’s starting to get a little busier out in the water.
We all got off and the social distancing thing stated all over again. Which with a small group was acceptable, but not possible with a larger one.
We were out a mere three hours of paddling but a wonderful break to be back on home ground and our patch of water.
Thank you Coach Michell and Liz, Julius and MJ for a smashing little paddle on the Thames.
Hopefully the next governmental social easing will allow us to take out more club members and possibly a guest or two?
Keep well and stay safe.
We hope you are enjoying 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