Having finally waved the last of the fast(?) group off on their way to Putney and to decide whether to grace Wetherspoons with their custom, we launched a small, select group: Sarah, David, Louisa, Dee, Marissa and Julius. First challenge was to get past the lifeboat; we managed to launch just before low water at Chiswick Pier and getting past was an exercise in pulling past the lifeboat (in an appropriate safe fashion). There was still a fair amount of flow, the sun shone and for many of our group it was their first time back on the water for a long time.
We quickly made our way down river, avoiding the moored boats and getting up close and personal with some of the barges at Dove Pier. Once the other side of Hammersmith Bridge, Julius decided that the whizzy Red Sea kayak he was paddling could do with a work out (we were all in much shorted boats); we wave goodbye to Julius and watched him head off to struggle with his conscience and give Tim Martin any more money at The Rocket…
The tide had changed by now but when not paddling, it was touch and go whether we moved or not – there was a F4 gusting much higher behind us coming from West/South West, something we were to experience on the way back.
We paddled down to the Crabtree – debated briefly on whether to brave the mud, the vicious wall and the crowds or whether to just head back; we went for the latter.
The wind, which had helped us against the tide on the way down, really made its presence noticed once we returned through Hammersmith Bridge, with whitecaps and classic win-against-tide chop coming over the front of the boats.
Out of practice or not, the returning paddlers gritted their teeth and paddled hard against the waves (one paddled so hard that she almost disappeared). It’s at times like these that you really notice how much the river winds – and how on one reach the wind can be against you and on the other right in your face.
Sad plane-spotter fact; if you want to know which direction is which on the river in West London, those planes landing in Heathrow are going due West.
We got back with minimal drama to the pier, tired but happy; Sarah demonstrated her perfect exit technique and we returned to dry land, equally dry.
Nice paddle, nice bunch of people – and didn’t miss the pub.
See you next week.