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26 July 2006

Back on the river

After a few weeks absence I was glad to get back on the river last night. Five of us paddled to Temple Steps and by the time we got as far as Tower Bridge we were all out in a sweat, despite being in our lightest paddling gear. The hot weather had also fuelled the growth of green algae so water quality was not great.

The Thames is one of the best places to be in London on a beautiful summer evening like last night and the riverside pubs of the South Bank were overflowing. I could sense a lot of people watching us as we paddled past on our way back to Wapping and, as well as the usual curiosity, I suspect there was more than a little envy in their gaze.

4 July 2006

Open canoeing

I am currently in the process of buying a house near the river Arun in Sussex and, in trying to think of the best way to make use of the location for paddling, it occurred to me that an open canoe might be the answer. This would be ideal for family picnics or for taking visitors out on the river. If it works out well I might even manage to fulfil a long held ambition and do a family camping trip down the Dordogne.

The shameful truth is that I have never learnt to paddle an open canoe so tonight I set about it. Shadwell Basin has a fleet of Old Town Discovery 158s and so I equipped myself with a selection of weird single bladed paddles and took one for a ride.

The sight of an open boat caused some amusement among the hardcore playboaters who took the opportunity to use it as an obstacle for tricks but once I escaped these marauders I had a decent learning session.

The thing that struck me most was how much hard work it is paddling solo and how much energy seems to be wasted in the steering part of the 'J' stroke. I also experimented with different kneeling and sitting positions but could not get comfortable kneeling. It was a good introduction and made me realise that I definitely need some instruction before taking this further. In the meantime I am keeping an eye on eBay for a boat!