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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mother of All Beginners Trips: River Tweed - St Boswells to Kelso - 7/10/2007

Announcement of a beginners trip to the Tweed brought all sorts of paddlers out of the woodwork. Lack of water and too much described the summer pretty well. I had been meaning to get out in a kayak for at least a month and others longer still. I'm not sure anyone bothered with a final count, but my guess was 45. Charlie had proposed the Tweed section that included the rapids at Mackerstoun, a longish 2+/3- (at low water) in an otherwise 1+/2- stretch of river.

Boatshed faff took less than an hour. More impressive, fearless leader David arrived on time. Fifteen beginners were outfitted at boated for the river and then all of us were minimised into vehicles for the trip to St Boswells. We were misinformed to find the car park in Newtown St Boswells, which made Callum and I, as well as our two teenage beginners among the last to arrive at St Boswells. Charlie led the caravan to the get-in. Once everyone was reasonably dressed for paddling, David divided us up into five groups for the river. The drivers ran shuttle and the rest of us socialised and eventually got into our boats and on the water.

Groups 1-5 did not necessarily run the river in that order. Groups 2 and 5 made a break for it and others followed not far behind. The intention was to spread ourselves out on the river. While we didn't quite succeed, it never felt too crowded out there.

We worked our way through each of the small rapids, making sure the beginners had a good sense of what was coming and how to run it. I never quite got comfortable in Amy's boat, but made the best of it. Dropping into anything, I submarined much more than expected. Toward the end of the day, it got funny, but during the early rapids, not so much. Our beginners did very well.

We stopped for a stretch break and lunch above Mackerstoun. I wished I had brought mine, because we spent probably the next two hours getting all five groups safely through the Mackerstoun rapids, a longish set of rapids that perhaps rates a 3- for requiring some maneouvering around rocks. The success rate for beginners was perhaps 50/50. There were some spectacular swims, including Charlie's with his open canoe. Perhaps needing assistance to turn the boat around in the eddy was a warning? His canoe ran the last drop expertly upside down and Charlie swam it well. The swimming beginners bought it in one of two places, either the sharp eddy line after the first drop or the bony entrance to the last drop. Borrowing Niall's camera, I took a lot of photos, which can be seen here. I was one of about 10 people who opted for the dry line, not really wanting to bump into any rocks at speed.

Once everyone was through safely, we set out again, sort of in our groups. I ran out of steam pretty quickly -- four hours on the water at that point -- so Niall fed me chocolate to fuel the last few kilometres.

Not that it was moving very fast earlier, but the last hour felt still and occasionally deep. The occasional gust of wind wasn't helping matters. The picturesque Kelso eventually loomed in the distance and we used the river left park as our get-out, avoiding the scrape of Kelso weir.

Sadly, Jean's car started misbehaving on the journey home. The power steering wasn't working, which made pesky things like turning very difficult. We reallocated boats and gear to reduce her hassle, got dinner at the Kelso chippie and headed for home. I crawled onto the couch beside Brian a little after 8pm beat-down exhausted. It felt good to be back in a boat.

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