The phone rang just as I was heading for the river on Tuesday. I answered it but explained that I would have to call back as I was going kayaking. My friend on the other end was incredulous: but surely its too cold? on the Thames? at night? is that safe? I often get this reaction and sometimes I have to push myself to get out paddling on a cold winter evening but it is always worth the effort.
Tuesday was no exception, eight of us paddled from Wapping to Waterloo Bridge and back. We were well wrapped up for the cold but by the time we had expended some energy working against the tide to Tower Bridge we already felt over dressed.
On nights like this, when the tide is ebbing strongly, we often cross the river here to paddle against the slower current on the inside bend rather than sticking to the river right convention (we are small enough and close enough to the bank to keep out of the way of other traffic). Ferry gliding across the powerful current in the flood lights of Tower Bridge was exhilarating and soon we were sneaking along the south bank close to the shore where the water is slack.
After a good workout we paused just shy of Waterloo Bridge. A few minutes of inactivity reminded us of the freezing temperature and we promptly set off on the tidally assisted return journey.
Paddling back under the red glow of London Bridge, slipping past HMS Belfast unnoticed like Cockleshell Heroes and leaving the City through Tower Bridge I relished the experience of winter kayaking in this unique location.