" /> Paddle Log: November 2006 Archives

« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

15 November 2006

Following the Path

I spent an hour and a half out on Shadwell Basin last night trying to perfect my open boating strokes.

Having studied Bill Mason on the bus, I was determined to get the hang of the Canadian, or knifing J, stroke. After several minutes of uselessly slicing the blade out of the water, I suddenly got the feel for how to angle it such that a slight upwards pressure would provide the necessary steering correction. After a bit of practice it was working reasonably well on my on side.

I was also determined to improve my regular J stroke on the off side and this too came quite quickly. Next I tried some bow cuts and jams. Bow cuts are just like bow rudders in a kayak and presented no problems but bow jams are more tricky and tend to stall the boat and leave me in an awkward position.

I ended up with some support strokes which, again, are quite similar to the kayak equivalents and were easy enough. I chickened out of my plan to practice climbing back into the boat unaided from deep water as it was just too cold.

Overall I am pleased with my progress and paddling with a single blade is feeling more and more natural but I would still like to get some coaching from someone who really knows what they are doing.

6 November 2006

Greatham Bridge to Houghton Bridge (River Arun)

Today was my first outing on our local river, the Arun, and was an opportunity to get three generations of the family out in the boat! The weather was great for the time of year and we had a fun trip, although my route plan ultimately proved over ambitious.

We aimed to catch the ebbing tide from Greatham Bridge and worked on a guesstimate that high water would be two hours later than at Littlehampton (the nearest reference port which is at the mouth of the river). The logic for this was that I have seen HW Houghton Bridge quoted as being HW Littlehampton +1:30 and, given the short distance up river to Greatham Bridge from Houghton Bridge, and the fact that it was the day before springs (when tides reach inland faster), I thought two hours seemed about right. Actually, the difference was probably nearer to three hours so we had to work quite hard against the last of the incoming tide for the first hour or so of the trip.

We had originally planned to go as far as Offham but our slow progress against the tide meant that it was soon clear we were not going to get that far. Fortunately, we were able to call in a pick up at Houghton Bridge and got out there after an hour and a half and about 7km.

1 November 2006

One star assessment

Last night was the final session of a three week beginners course on Shadwell Basin. Despite the return to GMT and the first really cold evening of the autumn we had an undiminished group of eight enthusiastic paddlers.

We spent an hour and a half working through the one star award requirements including some extra work on low braces and stern rudders. Everyone did well and demonstrated all the strokes with increased confidence from last week, although some are still having difficulty paddling a straight course. I find this one of the most difficult things to help people with but did have some success by getting them to stop looking at their paddles and simply look where they are going.

The aim of the one star test is to encourage beginners in the sport and the aim of our club, in running introductory courses, is that people enjoy themselves enough that they want to come back and join us but I find the BCU's inclusion of 'theory' questions patronising rather than encouraging. I would be embarrassed to ask people some of the sample questions like "On finding litter what should you do?". FFS.

That said, I think it is worthwhile to stop at the end of the practical session and talk, touching on the different aspects of kayaking and canoeing, the BCU, the access issue and raising safety awareness. Not surprisingly, people always seem keen to chat about a new hobby anyway and I find it much more encouraging when they ask me intelligent questions!