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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

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

Saturday, July 12, 2008

River Spey open canoe weekender - 4/7/2008 - 6/7/2008

I didn't really have the time, but I went on the Edinburgh Kayak Club's open canoe weekender anyway.

Despite running way late, I was second to Ali arriving to Capro to collect boats and meet up with my ride. Christina and I were scheduled to paddle together and catch a ride up with Chris in his van. He was hauling a canoe up for his dad as well, so we left Edinburgh with a fully laden van and got plenty of stares along the way. Home sweet home for the weekend was the Aberlour Gardens Caravan Park and we arrived a bit before 10pm. In other words, plenty of daylight left to spare.

With snacks on the way and all, I wasn't in the mood to cook dinner when we arrived. Once my tent was set up, I caught up with fellow kayak club members and eventually the midges dined on us. My headnet was put to good use, but in reality a whole body net would have been much better.

The next morning reached faff factor fifty as we got organised, fed and on our way to the river. We launched a few minutes before noon after the drivers completed the first half of a long shuttle. The sun was out and it was nearly warm for this displaced not-really-a-Southerner.

I taught Christina a few moves that she could practice in the bow of the canoe to help me steer and we were off. In retrospect, it may not have been the best of ideas because she corrected me sometimes a little too much, like aiming us straight when I really wanted us to be angled a bit to one side or the other.

Unfortunately, the theme of the early miles was screaming children. Claire's youngest was going through the terrible twos and the tantrums were loud. David's younger daughter may not remember last summer's dunking in the Tweed but still wanted no part in getting wet. Splashes of water were followed by screams of "I don't wanna get wet!" The under 5's do deserve some leeway. We stopped for lunch and sun probably not quite at the halfway point for the day with the bigger rapids were still to come.

The little people walked around Blacksboat rapids with strategic parents and familiar guardians. The water channels up pretty well through a reasonable sized drop. The drop isn't so much a problem as the waves that follow it. A canoe filled with water isn't so easy to steer as several of us discovered or rediscovered. Sadly, the line I chose/got sucked toward was on the wet side and we were up to our knees in water. Many thanks to Charlie for rescuing the boat and various ropes for fishing us out.

It took a while to warm up again and I was a little disappointed by the next (deliberate) swim stop because my while hadn't quite been reached. We were waiting for the boats with little people to portage around some more rapids. Eventually, Charlie decided that there was good enough for him and sent the rest of us on to the planned takeout while he waited for the portagers.

The remaining miles moved quickly. I feel slightly guilty saying I enjoyed the quiet but only slightly. Toward the end, I talked Christina into having a shot at paddling stern on the next day.

River stories and displays of cooking prowess (or gear displays) dominated the evening. A couple of disposable barbecues became the fire pit for the evening as Kieran's friend let out his inner pyromaniac. I didn't think it wise to mention to a teenager that I get paid to set fires. Sort of.

I called Brian to brag about the gorgeous sunny weather. Apparently, it had been chucking down rain all day. Eventually, midges chased me to bed.

The next morning, we opted for the short 5ish mile run from Fochabers to Spey Bay. It's a beautiful end to any Spey trip not only because of scenery but also because of the nice little cafe at the end.

Not to be outdone by Kieran, Jenny did her seagull imitation and put herself, Niamh and Emily into the drink. Emily then helped the Watsons clean the inside of their boat. With both boats emptied, we were underway (again) with a few minutes to spare from Charlie's launch time goal.

The final section of the Spey is not free of rapids, though there really isn't anything of consequence. We took our chances with the eroding wall and had no problems. Lunch stop was a shingly beach that looked much like all the other shingly beaches, which posed a problem to Chris when he left his lunchbag behind. Several of us waited while he trekked back to retrieve it and the rest continued on to the cafe.

I took the chance to let Christina try paddling solo during the lull since she was about to weasel out of what she asked the day before. I told her when we saw the big arch bridge there was less than a mile of no-consequence water left. She understood half of what I tried to explain, which isn't bad for a first go, and once Chris rejoined us, she stayed in the stern. Though I did have to do a few corrections, she did very well.

We were last to reach the get out beach, though not last out of the water. Chris and father went to play in the surf. I wasn't so keen -- still not fond of ocean currents -- so I took a few pictures and helped get gear to the cars. The cafe was a nice end as expected.

Sadly, our journey stretched a bit longer than just packing up and heading home. Chris' van had a hose problem and overheated. Fortunate for us, we stopped beside the Scottish Woodlands office and one of their employees was working overtime. He let us use his phone, which made up for the lack of mobile reception in the area. We also got a supply of water before the guy went home. Chris was able to fix the problem before the AA guy could help, though it wasn't a perfect fix. He recommended for the long haul home and consequences, we should get a tow. On the bright side, we saved lots on fuel. On the less bright side, it was a long wait and a long ride home to Edinburgh.

Still, we were home by midnight, which meant I was in bed before 1am for a way early start into an overnighter at work. Fun!

Epilogue: The verdict on Chris' van is still out but he is optimistic that a week of TLC and weekend of repairs have fixed the problem (and some other ones).

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