It’s amazing what a difference a week makes!

Another week’s teaching open boating for me, whilst the club ran two Sunday sessions. Our Sunday sessions were led by Coach Leon group one and Coach Dean group two. There was a beginners group which went out at about two o clock with our beginners and first timers. These guys were led by Coach’s Sarah and Michelle with youthful backup from Julius.

Sunday and a high tide at approx 11:30am not the best time to choose to teach open boating, but like most things you make it work for your students. This week it started out as teaching one lady and then amazingly there were two!

Dee, one of our club members who had a challenging open boating session the previous week arrived and said her brother who was cycling from Teddington and would be here shortly. Brilliant news, as I didn’t want to get on the water until high tide or shortly after it. Reason was it’s safer and less confusing to have the water flowing only in one direction.

We spent some time discussing open boating in general length of paddles etc killing time before Dee’s brother arrived. With Brother arrived and his bicycle put away, we headed down to the pontoon, where it was paddle stroke demonstration time. Kneeling on a mat on the edge of the pontoon we worked on the J-stoke, which happily seems to go quite well.

With practice strokes complete it was time to get in the boats. A bit of a wobble here and there but a successful launch of Dee and then her Brother. It was obvious from the start that Dee had benefited from the previous lesson and looked a lot more secure in the boat. Her brother it was obvious wanted to take on a navigation so we did.

With very few rowing boats about I could let them both paddle freely. It wasn’t long before I suggested they paddle nearer to the side of the river where there was less current. Dee opted for the sit and switch technique of paddling which isn’t elegant,but still gets the job done. Her brother worked with the J stroke until the tough sitting position caused difficulties in kneeling and then we used the revised half sitting half kneeling technique, naturally swapping sides as required.

In this fashion we made good progress along the side of the river. I suggested we have a break on the foreshore on the opposite side of Barnes railway bridge. Passing under the bridge proved a tougher challenge than they had anticipated. The river flows faster and because of the topography the wind picks up here, yet they both made it through and they deserved their short Break here, just beyond Barnes Railway Bridge.

As we arrived the first club group led by Leon passed us by on the opposite side of the river returning back to the pier house. Shortly followed by Dean’s group, which although I only saw them once they had passed by, I was obviously instructing and had my back to them. We even had the welcome sight of Julius paddling up to meet us in one of the newly modified open boats. Julius of course made it look easy.

Gathering up my little group, let’s see if we can get a little further? We made it to the white hart where the stronger cross wind hit us and a decision was made to go no further. I instructed them to cross the river attempting to hit a point on the opposite side, which was a bit of a challenge for them, but worked out well.

We were now almost at Barnes railway bridge, so time for some eddy turns around the pier legs. We each took turns trying to stay in the eddy behind the bridge legs. Everyone did really well and each gave it a go. It was such a lovely current, I reasoned a good opportunity for a rescue, but it wasn’t required.

A gentle paddle to the cross over point and another opportunity to ferry glide across the river. We were attempting to paddle on the downstream side. On crossing the river it was a gentle paddle through the historic boats and a slight pause as we had arrived back, just prior to taster group going out. So a quick dismount of my group and cleared the pontoon of canoes before helping launch Sarah’s first group of beginners and then repeated the launching for Michelle’s group with help of Julius.

After all the kayaks had left both Dee and her brother spent time helping me to put all the open boats away.

So ended another delightful session of open boating on the mighty river Thames,

Maybe see you next week?

Coach Steve