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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, March 23, 2008

River Tweed - Peel to Fairnilee - 23/3/2008

With a cold, early Easter weekend at hand, what better place to be than on a river? Brian signed up for a kayak course up north, so I had the weekend to figure out for myself. I signed up to go on the EKC trip, which ended up on the familiar Peel to Fairnilee section of the Tweed. Having seen this section at both spate and trickle, I was keen to see it somewhere between the two but not so keen on the weather. The trip numbers may have been low due to the Easter holiday. The demographic split was unusual, too, but not really in a bad way! Of the 13 paddlers, 4 were men.

Charlie picked me up, then Ali, then his boat. We arrived at the boatshed to meet organiser Alan. The rest of the group trickled in. We had one first timer and a couple who would fit into the category of beginner/novice. When the sun was out, it tricked us into thinking the day might warm up. Faff factor was pretty low at the boatshed and reasonably similar at the Peel get-in. I don't know when we hit the river, but it didn't feel like lunchtime yet.

I practiced ferry gliding partly to continue getting reacquainted with a kayak but also to keep warm! When the sun was out, it didn't feel like 5 degrees. When the wind blew, it didn't feel like 5 degrees! We didn't spend a lot of time at the top practicing break-ins and break-outs -- there weren't any good teaching eddies this time around.

The rapids at Peel Bridge were a good introduction for some. I helped Alan chase Christina through them. We ended up near the front of the pack because it took a while to explain to her how and when to slow down and how and when to not slow down.

We found a few good eddies along the way to Fairnilee, but didn't linger too long in all but one. Emergency footpeg adjustment. The cold kept us from dawdling too much.

We reached Fairnilee and this time were not washed under the bridge so quickly. The plan was to take out above and inspect. At this point, I couldn't feel my hands or feet and every step was painful. I wasn't convinced that I would be getting back in the boat. Movement didn't help and Charlie couldn't get to his keys, so I found some semi-sheltered rocks and set up with a rope and camera. Initially, Ali stayed with me but then went to help people get their boats up the bank below the rapids. I wasn't convinced that I would have any luck fishing with my throw rope with my hands in their current state, but can't hurt for trying.

Fairnilee provided an exciting end to the trip, a solid grade 2 at the end of a very 1-ish section. Swims felt inevitable, though there were only two. Those two swims happened on the trickier river left line. Kudos to the newbies for going for the meat of it. It was a left to right chute with some weird water coming in from the river centre chute, so not the standard wave/hole pile to punch through. Christina followed and then led Alan through the easier centre line and had a clean run. Charlie took the centre line, too, a much drier option for an open canoe. Babs provided some of the day's entertainment. Her first run on the left line caught her by surprise. Her second run was still a little wobbly but nothing a good brace couldn't fix. Her second run also gave me my favourite picture of the day.

A couple of gusts of snow blew through at the end, both before and after everyone was off the river. My flask of tea was a welcome sight. Charlie provided more of the day's entertainment with his jetboil tea system. Fresh tea in minutes, no flask required. Charlie subscribes to the theory of All the Gear but No Idea, but so far, I can't fault his choices of gear.

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