14 November 2007

Regent's Canal

As the finale to our little intro to open canoeing course six of us set off last night for Limehouse Basin and a trip up the Regent's Canal. The idea was to add an element of journeying to the course and do something a bit more interesting than practicing strokes on Shadwell Basin. The logistics of getting boats to and from Limehouse within a normal Tuesday evening club session was the major challenge but, in spite of heavy traffic on The Highway, we managed a fairly slick operation and had an hour on the canal.

There is good access to Limehouse Basin from Basin Approach off Commercial Road but parking in the Basin is not available (use Mill Place/Island Row instead). We paddled as far as the junction with the Hertford Union Canal at Victoria Park for a there and back distance of 4.6km.

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24 August 2007

Greatham Bridge to Pulborough

I had been waiting for summer to try another family canoe trip but it has taken me this long to realise that summer 2007 has been canceled and not merely postponed.

Greatham Bridge is a good launch spot for adults but it can be a bit tricky getting small children in and out of the canoe as the banks are steeply sloping and muddy but by climbing over the odd gate one can usually find a suitable spot. Once we were all safely aboard we headed up river against the ebbing tide towards Pulborough. I was paddling solo most of the way as my wife was too busy entertaining our youngest to help. Paddling four people against the tide is hard work and it took an hour and a half to cover the 5km to Pulborough.

The return, with the tide, was a bit easier taking about an hour and afforded some lovely views of the Downs.

South Downs from the River Arun

12 June 2007

Open canoe coaching

The water in Shadwell Basin is feeling much warmer, unfortunately, we have a blue/green algae bloom to go with it. That didn't stop us from doing some fun rescue practice at the end of a leisurely session.

Coaching: 3 students, 1.5 hours.

1 May 2007

Open canoe coaching

After all my recent courses I had decided it was time to start running some of my own so tonight was the first of what I hope will be many open canoe coaching sessions on Shadwell Basin.

I only had a couple of takers but I am sure this will grow as open boating becomes a regular option at THCC on a Tuesday night and everyone else sees what fun we are having.

With only two students I was able to cover a lot of ground and they both made great progress.

gunwale bobbing (click to enlarge)

22 April 2007

Greatham to Pulborogh Brooks

Since buying a canoe in November I have been itching to get the entire family out in it but it has stayed in the shed most of the winter as I didn't want to put them off for life.

Despite all the good weather lately, yesterday was the first time we got around to a family trip.

Both boys, aged 4 1/2 and 9 months, found ways to get comfy and we had a delightful paddle on the Arun from Greatham Bridge towards Pulborough and back.

Although we did not cover much distance it was a successful experiment in getting the family on the water and I hope we'll do a lot more over the summer.

Getting comfy

17 April 2007

Open boating course assessment

That word again. Following our open canoeing course over the last few weeks tonight was the date set to run an assessment. We were a mixed group and had hoped to do the BCU's Two and Three Star tests. In the event our coach was only qualified to sign us off for Two Star but hopefully there will be a chance to upgrade this in a few weeks.

12 April 2007

Open boating practise session

Tonight was due to be the conclusion of our open boating course but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute. Instead of getting qualified tuition we simply spent the evening teaching each other and practising our strokes on Shadwell basin.

6 April 2007

Guildford to Godalming on the Wey

Rowing boats (and one canoe) at Farncombe Boat HouseTaking advantage of the long weekend and the beautiful weather, three of us from THCC met up in Guildford for a paddle on the River Wey/Godalming Navigation in an open boat.

We had a lovely day out covering about ten miles in a there and back trip with lunch at Farncombe Boat House.

29 March 2007

Open boating course part 3

Another session with Gary from KJO on Shadwell Basin running through Two and Three Star open boating skills.

22 March 2007

Open boating course part 2

A second session on Shadwell Basin with Jacko and Dennis from KJO. Unfortunately, the dark hindered the session a little but I did get some good one on one with Jacko in the boat on my J-stroke.

1to1openboat copy.jpg

15 March 2007

Open boating course part 1

Over the last few months I have been avidly reading Bill Mason and teaching myself some open boating skills but I was also keen to get some coaching and tonight we started a three week course at our club. The growing interest in canoeing, as opposed to kayaking, was evidenced by the turnout of ten eager students on a dark and chilly March evening.

We spent a couple of hours on Shadwell Basin looking at a number of strokes and for my part I concentrated on off-side and cross bow strokes. At the end of the session we did some rescues and practiced climbing back into the boat unaided from deep water. I had previously been frustrated at my inability to do this but some simple instruction in a better technique (climbing in to the middle of the boat) made it seem easy.

30 January 2007

Coaching in open boats

Its been a while since I did any open boating so when a couple of newcomers to our club enquired about the possibility of coaching I was pleased to be able to help. I am now just a few weeks away from an assessment for a Level 2 kayak coaching qualification and, if I can follow it up with a 3 star open canoe cert, I will be equally equipped to coach canoeing and kayaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed being back on the water in an open boat and coaching skills which are still new to me meant it was easy to understand the challenge of transitioning from double to single bladed paddling. We covered J strokes, box strokes and some experimentation with kneeling versus sitting.

I think it was a good session and with only three of us there was plenty of time for individual attention. I am looking forward to making open boat coaching a more regular fixture.

Coaching hours: 1.5

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.

29 October 2006


After a few months of thinking about it and a few weeks of eager anticipation, having placed an order, I picked up an open canoe yesterday and took it out on the water for the first time today.

The original plan was to put in on the River Arun at Pulborough but the flow looked very fast and the put in rather steep and slippery. Instead, we headed to the lake at Southwater and all the family enjoyed playing around in our new toy in the warm autumn sunshine.

open canoe at Southwater (click to enlarge)

3 October 2006

Fun and games

Tonight I had another open canoing session on Shadwell Basin. Open boating seems to be gaining popularity in our club and tonight there were five of us out together. This gave me more confidence to try some wet skills including rescues - much easier than in a kayak - and climbing back in, which I found hard work.

One trick that amused the kayakers was the 'stack': two boats rafted together with two more stacked across these and a fifth boat (with person standing) stacked on top of them.

Practicing my canoeing skills in a group was a lot more fun than trying to teach myself and it looks like I will have a few more open boaters to learn with over the winter.

12 September 2006

Starting to hear the song

Tonight I had my second proper go in an open boat. It was much better than the first attempt, mainly because I had previously just plonked myself down on the stern seat. This time, after reading Bill Mason, I tried sitting on the bow seat facing the stern and this was much better. I also got quite comfy kneeling on the thwart and my J-stroke (at least on my right hand side) is coming along nicely.

I still found it much harder work than paddling a kayak and after an hour an a half I had had enough. There were a few moments, however, as I was poised, kneeling on the thwart, when the boat felt like putty in my hands and as the sun went down I'd swear I heard the song.

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!