A Slower than Average Paddle on the Mighty River Thames

Date 15 May 2022

Lovely weather for a paddle and to start with a lovely tide and then the tide gods turned against me.

I had cancelled the club session I normally run on the grounds it was too dangerous a tide. I wasn’t wrong and that was a mere 7.7 m one I guess not helped by the previous night’s rain and it felt like every other boat that could float was out on the water. Not only the rowers, (single, doubles, quads and eights) there were five personed out rigger canoes, four paddling and a steers person. Add in the sight seeing boats transiting our area and a couple of outlandishly fast speed boats who definitely didn’t know the navigation rules, but persisted with their speeding. It all made for bouncy water and much shouting from the rower’s support boats.

It didn’t affect me too much I had planned to pole my way up towards Hammersmith bridge, but that didn’t go quite to plan with the wash the  aforementioned boats were creating, but the good news was a there is a nice sheltered section behind Chiswick Eyot which should shelte me  from the chaos on the tideway, once it had filled with water.

I did meet one of our lovely lady club members who told me she would be back for more lessons. It’s alway great to see our club members in a boat or not.

Paddling alone presents many hazards and to be honest is quite risky, but it was Sunday and I fancied time to practice my canoe skills – namely poling against the tide.

I poled out from behind Chiswick Eyot till the black Lion where one of the safety boats from the sailing club had broken down with an outboard that had failed. He had dropped an anchor but it wasn’t holding him, so I offered a tow to the river bank which he declined, so onwards to Hammersmith I went.

The tide was now really strong by now (definitely not suitable for beginners) but I persisted and made it under Hammersmith Bridge.

I did take a couple of pictures before passing under it and having a pause outside the riverside studios, wondering what to do next go on or turn back?

The answer came from a text of one of our ex club members (zen master Ash) who was out on the water in his canoe, so I headed back somewhat more speedily than I originally headed out as I was now paddling with the tide. Meeting up just opposite Chiswick Mall. We both paddled back towards the club and both decided it was too dangerous to try to get off in the fast moving water we blasted on through knowing that the tide would turn much later. So it looked like a paddle to Kew Bridge was on the cards!

Easy paddling with the tide although we both practiced eddy turns around each of the bridge pillars as the opportunity presented itself. By the time we passed under Chiswick Bridge I was definitely feeling the cold. Paddling with the tide didn’t produce any heat so a pause by the rowing club and an opportunity to add a layer and use the facilities.

We had previously inspected the new workings under Barnes railway bridge which was totally underwater as we passed through. Despite all the signage it’s now really dangerous for the rowers passing under the railway bridge and out side of it of the construction area.

On we travelled until my paddling companion (Ash) became hungry and a stop at the black bull was suggested. The Zen Master leaped out of his boat nice and safe and just as I was about to standup in my boat Ash remarked be quick there is a wave coming!

Suffice it to say it motivated me to make sure I had at least three points of contact to hoist myself safely onto the walk way.

From here on it was like a sketch from a comedy show. Having chatted to the head chef outside we went in order food and drinks and then I disappeared to use the bathroom to wash my hands. Sensible thing to do. Rookie error, Having washed hands I noticed they had moisturisers. Big mistake trying to open the bathroom door was challenging with slippery hands. Even worse was my fizzy water came in a screw top bottle! I had to ask another random person to open the bottle as the lid just slipped through my hands.

That problem sorted and food arrived and being vegetarian I had noticed my colleague had many carrots on his plate. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Very nicely a large plate of freshly cooked carrots arrived for me yum.

At this stage we became entangled with a group of Polish gentlemen who had been out on a stag do down in Brighton. Apparently the Polish stag was enthusiastic, or may be it was the best man wondered if we could take the groom out for a mini trip on the water!

Now we all know that drinking and swimming is a no no, but the rainy weather had passed us by and the river was in a very gentle ebb, so…. Then what transpired was a comedy show in itself.

Best man assisted by the groom into his bright green mankini there are pictures which I haven’t included on grounds of decency.

Strapping on my buoyancy aid to said groom, he looked almost dressed for the occasion. The plan was to paddle out around a post and paddle back. Ash was to run safety as required and I would film it from the shore.

We emptied all the kit out of the boats and off they went. All was going so well until the stag became blasé and immediately fell in. Of course he floated in the buoyancy aid and didn’t travel very far before Ash performed a perfect boat over rescue getting the stag back into the boat. It was something of a disappointment that he made back to shore to his Polish friends.

More drinks were served ours were non alcoholic and after a period of time we had to make the best excuse in the world to leave….we have to leave before the tide turns!

With that adventure complete it was a straight forward paddle back to the pontoon with very little additional excitement. Although we did see a young fox walking on the river back.

By now it was probably 8:30pm before we had put the kit away and each went our separate ways.

Not what I would consider a standard paddle but like most situations we had sufficient experience and kit to make a group of Polish revellers happy and for me a mere 10 hours on the water time.

Who said you can’t paddle a canoe against the tide? Our colleague Dean does it all the time.

Can’t promise this level of excitement each week, but then again you never know.

If you read this to the end then well done you.

Maybe see you on the water sometime soon.