This week’s conundrum ‘would you mind running an open boating session’?

My Fellow coach Young Michelle contact me during the week and asked the question could we? Well of course we could, but not without the help of Young Julius and his Mr Fix it skills.

Happily Julius was able to help and fit a kneeling thwart into the forth of our open boats, so we can now teach two students. Thanks Julius as that was the exact number I was asked to teach.

Next issue the students needed the lesson, but the tide wasn’t the kindest to say the least. Within the coaching world its always about minimising the risk and setting up safety, which with a couple of phones we were all set up and ready to go.

Many thanks go to Julius, Elaine and Mary Jo without whose help this wouldn’t have been possible.

On the day with Elaine slid into a sea kayak MJ ditto slid into an open canoe we were ready to go. Further complication was a group from the OCA (Open Boating Association) arrived and were launching at the same time as both my students and myself.

I’ve set the scene for you, I also had another lady in a sea kayak (Heather) who wanted to learn open boating so she was out on the water with us in a sea kayak.

Did I mention it was a flood tide with high water at about 13:30, not the ideal tide/time to put complete beginners who had never even sat in an open boat before!

Solution easypeasy send Elaine through the channel between the moored vessels. Her job was to catch the two students at the far end. Mary Jo was in the middle of the channel opposite the floating pontoon keeping station, checking all was well. The Heather in her sea kayak was in the eddy opposite the pontoon and waiting on instructions.

The first student was loaded into their boat launched out into the fast flowing water. They had no paddling ability in an open canoe but they had the sense to stay in the middle of the boat. After a pause the second person was launched and I hoped with good results, as I couldn’t see what had happened to the first. Enter the OCA, who wanted to launch a couple of there open canoes, while at leased one was left on the pontoon making access somewhat tight. A quick tie of the painter and push into the river and some space was created.

With Pete Symour’s boat (OCA member) being launched complete with dog, I had to muscle my way in and head off as I needed to check all was well with my students. I beckoned to Heather in the sea kayak to follow. Mary Jo was also sent down through the channel and head into the eddy behind Victory where I had spotted a large eddy.

I arrived at the rear of the moored vessel Victory in an area which had a huge eddy I’d scouted out earlier and I could see that Elaine was some way down river with one of the students. I started teaching open boating strokes with the one who had made it into the eddy whilst keeping an eye open for Elaine and my other student. Time for me to step in and get the two open boaters together.

Leaving MJ in charge I headed off to where Elaine was apparently doing a vee assist with her sea kayak and my lost student and doing a good job. I just needed to make it happen a lot quicker, so a quick pencil rig was set Elaine released to join the others and we paddled merrily back to the shelter of the moored vessels where I could start teaching them the black art of open boating in a controlled environment.

Not the easiest tide for the students to work in, but the best I could find without having to paddle any distance. With Elaine working with her colleague in a sea kayak. I set to work teaching the open boating paddle strokes and how to move the boat a round. Yes, we covered forwards, backwards, sideways and of course turning. All very similar strokes as found in kayaking.

We had plenty of time to enjoy the water and just kept adding more and more degrees of difficulties. They both did remarkably well, to such an extent that Elaine was teaching them contact towing from a kayaker’s perspective which they seemed to be enjoying, whilst I worked on a few kayak strokes with Heather in her sea kayaker.

We continued to practice until mental fatigue cut in and although they all had learnt a huge amount it was way to much for one lesson and time to get off.

MJ had already got off the water, but I still had one lesson to teach the students. How to ferry glide across the now ebbing river over to the pontoon. Paddle on the down stream side and use the power of the water to drive you across seems to be a phrase I use frequently here.

Suffice it to say they not only made it across they helped put all the boats away. I even taught them an easy knot for tieing the boats down. With that job completed time to head home.

Another interesting day on the river, easy when you have excellent colleagues.

So a big thank you to Julius for repairing the boat, Elaine and MJ for running safety and teaching where they could.

Have a great week and hope to see you on the river soon.


PS Next week is a little more teaching open boating before assisting Andy with the club tasters. Sounds like I’ll need a lie down after that session as well!!