This is what I call a pyjama paddle, suffice it to say it was an early start for me.
During the week Coach Elaine and I spoke about the necessary timings for the day. Coach Elaine put together a comprehensive map of our route and timings to reach various points on our route.
Both Coach’s Elaine and Steve were concerned about clearing the head of the river rowing race before they started. This required our group of sea kayakers to make the transit before the race started. That meant paddling as far as Kew Bridge to be clear of the racers before they started.
It was with some dismay we noted a tandem kayak paddling merrily down the centre of the river into the very heart of the race start.
We think the tandem folks were simply unaware of the race, but I am sure it didn’t do our reputation as kayakers in general any good.
It was a stop off at Kew Bridge for coffee, we knew that reaching Richmond half lock with the gates up wasn’t possible so the urgency was now taken out of the paddle. From Kew Bridge we paddled on the Brentford side of the Ait’s I taking the earlier exit whilst everyone took the longer route all the way to Brentford Canal entrance. I reasoned that the water gets quite shallow, but apparently there was sufficient for them to pass through.
On we paddled passed the Pink house and the London Apprentice and further on, mainly as I was asked where the river Crane was, I pointed out its entrance. We kept as quite a tight group along here as the PLA boat went by.
I think then it was the toughest stretch as we completed the section up to Richmond half lock. The tidal flow for me in a Sierra was strong, so that was the section I felt the power of the water most. In passing over the skiff lock I was grateful to Elaine and Jules for assisting getting the old bloke in and out of the kayak. Ill explain later a mistake I made on the day.
After passing through the lock it was a short paddle into Richmond. The tide had dropped considerably and we moored the boats on the sandy foreshore beside the slug and lettuce. We each then went in search of food. My solution was the fish and chip shop around the corner, but a couple of the guys went to the pub and eat in front of a roaring fire so they tell me.
Food consumed we got on the water and met up with the Chelsea Kayak club on the return leg of their trip to Teddington or possibly beyond. They were surprised to see me in a Kayak as the last time I had met them I was returning a rental bike someone had thrown in the river. It was on top of my canoe.
Onto the lock where Jules helped me get out of my boat and Elaine helped launch. One of our group expressed an interest in surfing the underflow. I explained that it wasn’t a very good idea and there were safer places to try that.
The rest of the paddle was simple. We just paddled back with the ever ebbing tide. Easy. Our plan had been to return before low tide, which we did. We even met up with Sarah and Michelle’s group who were on their return leg after a day of teaching a group of beginners.
All in all a good days paddling.
I like to reflect on these trips and maybe learn from my own mistakes. My biggest mistake of the trip was to wear my canoeing boots. I was reminded they don’t fit into a kayak when I was attempting to get in. In fact it made for difficult boat exits and entrances throughout the day. Secondly day cruisers don’t have the same speed as a sea kayak. I had to paddle quite hard to keep in touch with the others, but I knew that from the start.
Next week I am back into a canoe, my now preferred vessel – until I purchase some smaller shoes.
Elaine’s blog of the trip has plenty of photos to show what went on.
See you on the water
Postscript As we were all getting on the water, I went and had a chat with the RNLI guys working on their launch, who warned me of an obstruction under the north navigation arch of Chiswick Bridge.
We had to investigate as we passed on our outleg. All we could see was a car’s roof rack and a pile of tree branches caught in it.
On our return with the river now at a much lower level it turned out to be a car! Not an ordinary car, but a range rover. How it got there was open to speculation, but I know the PLA won’t be happy as all the car’s fluids are liable to leak into the river and add to its pollution.