As part of coach Steve’s slower paddles there was only one sign up so an easy paddle on an extremely easy tide.
As my club member hadn’t paddled for a year due to lockdown, it was a very gentle introduction to paddling, so no heroics was required. A little worrying and just as the flow was right, just in front of the pontoon we practiced a little edge control.
Its funny those boat designers spend big on designing boats and as a generality we sit in the middle of the boat and don’t think about edging at all, relying on our paddle strokes to turn the boat. Yet by edging, the boat turns and does so more intuitively. It’s simply practice when the opportunity arises and feeling what/ how the boat reacts to the edge you have engaged. As a coach I digress.
After the practice of edging the boat into the gentle flow effectively doing S turns on the flow. As there was only one student we could repeat this exercise a few times, to get the feeling for the chosen boat.
With that little exercise completed we headed out against a very forgiving ebbing tide towards Chiswick Bridge. My club member experienced some concern that the boat wasn’t travelling in a straight line and big corrective stroke were required on one side. Mostly this was caused by not paddling for sometime.
Coach’s solution in these conditions slow the paddling down, fix on a point in the distance instead of the front of the boat and as the vere of course occurs correct it, with either a sweep stroke or a stern rudder. As this was the first trip out it was the sweep stroke that was the main stroke used.
I could give you a whole hosts of reasons why this occurs, but this isn’t a coaching forum. Suffice it to say as the session went on, the forward paddling required less and less correction and all this without resorting to lowering the skeg on the boat – excellent.
We paddled on through Chiswick Bridge and onto the shoals before Barnes Railway Bridge where we stopped for a break and a leg stretch. Coach Steve had brought water so we rehydrated in the glorious sunshine beside Chiswick Railway Bridge.
We passed Elaine’s group, obviously the executive group as they stopped for coffee, who were just heading off as we arrived. We simply passed each other at a safe distance. We could have paddled further as it was ideal conditions, but my club member needed to get back, so having rehydrated we headed back.
We paddled on the mIddlesex bank side of the river until Chiswick Bridge which we passed through, however Coach Steve held us there to check ho was at the rowing crossing point and make sure we were safe to cross to the middlesex side in safety. With that manoeuvre complete it was a simple paddle down to the cross over point just upstream of the pontoon. Its here just as were starting to cross the river a rowing eight travelling in the opposite direction came towards us at high speed. We gathered together to look like a bigger target, yet were still crossing the river. We had made our intentions clear and I guess this crew had decided it was low water and at that point would paddle down the centre of the river. I only point this out as you always have to keep a lookout even at the end of a paddle.
Disaster averted we continued crossing the river to line ourselves up on the moored vessels and home. Coach Steve got off the water and although the club member didn’t need it was there just incase. Can’t have the client fall in the water!
After we put the boats away, well my canoe my client disappeared off, spot on time now thats timing for you. You’d think that was it, but there was a boat along side the pontoon with a broken engine, so it was coud they moor there or did they need towing to a repair yard? They received permission from the pier trust to temporary moor, but as to their repair, I couldn’t help them. They needed access to the underside of the boat and on a flooding tide, that wasn’t going to happen there. Whether the RNLI could tow them to safety I don’t know as they the RNLI had passed us earlier in the day heading towards Richmond and weren’t back on station yet.
With all this occuring the taster group lead by Michelle, Andy and Safi returned, so the stranded boat became less of a priority than our club tasters returning safely. They all seemed in excellent spirits and had a jolly time, so hope to see those that sign up as club members of the water some time soon.
So that was the end of a quiet paddle on the thames. Maybe see you out there sometime? Hopefully without the excitement at the end of the paddle.