Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Days 3 and 4

Today is the start of the expedition phase where starting from Glasbury we travel down to the Boat Inn at Whitney to camp. The purpose of the trip is to look at expedition travel by canoe and all that entails without the added  considerations of a white water section to negotiate. So we looked at the sealed packing of kit, methods of securing  bags or barrels in the boat disrtibution of weight and the start of the day a session on poling. With a small current flowing poling for the uninitiated can be quite fun to watch especially when you're standing on the bridge looking down.

Here are the lads preparing to experiment with their first crack at poling and this is Saul ( below) just going with the flow about to disappear form view under the bridge!

Ollie giving the guys a demo

This day is a short report due to the fact that I had to get on with college work so had to sit in a cafe at Hay all day while the team paddled down to Whitney. It was tough! We all camped at the Boat Inn and here are the tents after a windy night.

Day 4

Today's plan was a short trip on the river to the get-out spot with a bit of raft building and improvised sailing on the way.

The guys ended up with a tri hull raft with an improvised sail rig using poles and a group shelter as you can see. They had to paddle it to start with against the wind but then the river took a 180 deg turn and they had the wind behind them.

Here's the team photo and this is Ollie (self portrait!)

In all it was a great trip and everyone had a good time some threatening to go canoeing again the following weekend!!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Day Two

Last minute checks

The second day was to be the tester day. The day when all the would be kayaking cynics would be silenced in deference to some canoeing action which would hopefully stretch their comfort zones more than a little. After all today we would be doing 'Hell Hole' and initially we allowed the very name of the place to etch fear and trepidation into the hearts of the unsuspecting!


Robbie and Dan trying to get into the eddy
The get-in which used to be the worst kept secret get-in between Builth Wells and Boughrood, is on the Bachawy Brook / Wye confluence. This point provides a flat water opportunity for students to practice some eddy manouevres just upstream. Practice done and the insistence on some backwards paddling to test the 'brakes' we set off downstream for some technical action.

Matt successfully navigating the narrow channel
 The first little tester was a grade 2 section which a week before with about 2 foot more of water in the river, was a sensible ride through a couple of waves avoiding a couple of rocks.Today a whole different paddle, with a narrow section the only way through and more than a couple of rocks to get around. However success to all and they made the eddy after big rock at the bottom. Well done lads - we're getting there

 Next the main attraction of the day, 'Hell Hole', was looking interesting because with the level low a different technical proposition to previous trips. We spent some time looking generally at hazards and features on the river form the view point of the rapid. One hazard we noticed was a branch sticking up vertically just above the water surface and obviously attached to something bigger unseen under the water. It was just in main outflow of the chicken chute river right hand side. An added feature to avoid.
We gave the team their own choice of route so that they could heighten their concentration and explore their own judgement and decicion making processes. We wished to find out what they would choose to do if we weren't there. A couple decided on the chicken chute and others went for a line down the middle and elsewhere.

What was amusing them I wonder?
Ollie and I dropped down with John in close pursuit in the middle and on river right respectively, and Ollie checked out the chute from boat level close to. He made the decision to insist the rest of them avoided it due it's fierce look with most of the water pushing into and under the rock band river right. So with a lot of insistent arm and paddle waving everyone got down avoiding the chute - no swims to report!
Saul and Ciaran navigate Hell Hole

After lunch we tripped down to the wave under Llanstephen suspension bridge which we expecting to be a gentle piffle of a play surf before continuing. With the level low the grabiness from a bigger drop was in fact up. This was felt most severely by some difficulty keeping a boat straight on the wave and also a serious concentration needed for a side surf. I almost became a swimmer on this with an almost boatful of water and Matt, brave man, for I guess one of his first attempts at surfing an open boat was swamped and spun by the wave. Watch the video clip!

The last rapid which if planned is no great challenge with a number of  eddies to slow the process down. However for the uninitiated as this clip shows the challenge can be too great and they can end up wet!! Matt you just love your trout scouting!

For the rest of them a bouncy wave ride out, although Saul and Ciaran had a shakey moment as you can see from this clip!

Robbie and Dan took on a bit of water here but managed to survive another day!......and that's how day two ended!

Monday, 7 March 2011

University Canoeing Residential Day One

We left Buxton about 10.15 and went west to Leek then Newcastle and down to Shrewsbury stopping for coffee at about midday. Then  down to Leominster and further west to Glasbury and finally on to Llyswen to meet up with Ollie about 2pm. We got the boats and kit unloaded and the guys got the boats down to the water's edge while Ollie and I did the shuttle. We were doing the section from Llyswen to Glasbury which has a short interesting bit of white water ideal for an introduction to moving water manoeuvre in faster water for relative beginners. The water level was lowish but still enough to get down without bump and scrape. At this level the way down is often more technical so requires quite a bit obstacle avoidance, nevertheless everyone got down without incident.

We got the guys to experiment with the concepts of edge, speed and angle as they got their boats into eddies either side of the current.  There were a couple of near misses as edging wasn't quite sharp enough but no swims on this occasion. We finished on a gentle paddle down to Glasbury in a perfect evenings sun accompanied by a light breeze against. The lads decided to raft up to paddle the last mile or so while Ollie and I paddled on discussing the plan for the next three days. We egressed at Glasbury and after sorting the shuttle arranged to meet up at the tomorrows get-in at 10am. A great start to the course.