Watching the video captured from the camera I had mounted on my buoyancy aid, I still don’t know which standing wave got me. I was pretty nervous despite having already run the other big features on the Loop, (the Washing Machine and Lovers Leap) without any problems, but the water that day was pushier than I had experienced on the Dart before. It was no White Nile but it was more than enough for me.
I sat in the eddy before the last drop of triple falls receiving final instructions from Roger and watching the lines that other paddlers were taking. The longer I sat there the more worried I got; I was starting to over-think it. I pushed away from the bank, peeled out into the flow and went for it. What followed is a few frantic seconds of paddling, a heroic but ultimately futile high brace, then kayaking the remaining metres of Triple Drop upside down. I tucked up for my roll but bumping along the bottom I lost my paddle and bailed. It was over so quickly; within about ten seconds I had gone from attacking the rapid to swimming.
I sat on the bank, my confidence and my helmet dented, convinced I was a terrible paddler. This was day one of a weekend with SSWAC. Thanks to the coaches last year I had become a 3-star white water kayaker, but at that moment I didn’t feel like one. I had pretty much decided there and then that I would spend Sunday refreshing my skills with the coaching group.
Sunday morning and I was with a group being led by Gill and Mark, the same coaches who had taken me through my training, kayaking the Lower Dart. I was very much back in my comfort zone and was looking forward to the day’s paddling.
Stopping in an eddy to allow the trainees to practice breaking in and breaking out I realised how far I had come since my first trip with SSWAC; features that had demanded my entire focus when I was on my 3-star training were now more than manageable. I was playing in the fastest waves I could find and hitting eddies that I would have missed a year ago. Gill and Mark also gave me the opportunity to lead, where I had to read the river and decide, then execute the best way to take the training group through sections of rapids, something I not had the chance to do before.
In a way I wish I hadn’t taken the easy way out and instead re-run the Loop but I think I also needed to spend a day seeing how much my kayaking has improved. On every trip, I have found myself on bigger and more challenging water so I have always been that nervous trainee constantly learning. At no point have I looked over my shoulder to see where my modest skills had been before meeting SSWAC a couple of years ago.
Sitting here at my desk at work, my technical dismount in Triple Drop seems such a long time ago. My muscles ache the good ache, I have some brilliant kayaking tales to bore my colleagues with (which get more embellished with every retelling), and I am looking forward to the next time I can get my boat out. The only thing left to do is sift through all the footage I took and put together a quick video for Facebook that backs up my exaggerated stories.
Thanks must go to all of the coaches with SSWAC. I have so much fun, and you make me a better paddler on every trip.
Upper and lower darts, the loop, washing machine and spin dryer. Reminds me of my first few weeks at college, but this was actually the backdrop for the SSWAC kayak moving water weekend in Dartmoor.
The "great escape" from London and a sedate drive past Stonehenge on Friday evening saw us arrive at the Pengelly caving centre in Buckfastleigh, Devon at about 10 o'clock. The centre is well equipped for caving and also therefore paddling trips, with kitchen, dining and common rooms, showers and drying room for kit and dorm rooms of various sizes with wall to wall bunks.
Chris and Roger assessed the river conditions early on Saturday morning and after a full English breakfast we assembled at nine o'clock to find out the plan for the day. There were seven coaches and eighteen paddlers in total. The aims of the weekend were to "provide 3 star kayak training, 3 star assessment, personal development sessions and for those that are experienced simply a fun trip". Consequently, we were split into three groups; the 3 star group would be carrying out their training and assessment on the lower Dart. The novices group, which included me, would also be paddling the same stretch of river at a more leisurely pace and the experienced group were heading off to the "loop". My son was in the 3 star group so he would not have to suffer the ignominy of seeing his dad swimming!
I was a bit apprehensive having never paddled a kayak on moving water before, but John and Gill Farmer, our highly experienced coaches, immediately put me and possibly others at ease by finding out our experience and talking us through the plan for the day. We covered safety and the signals we would be using on the water. The fifteen minutes spent in the comfort of the common room and before we were anywhere near the water was ideal and meant that I was now more confident about the day ahead.
The start of the journey was the beautiful setting of the River Dart Country Park just outside Buckfastleigh. To me the river looked very fast but once on the water the adrenaline started to flow and things didn't look so scary. Our group of five paddlers and two coaches worked our way down the river, stopping in an eddy (calmer side water) every few hundred metres to regroup and for coaching advice. Soon break in and break out, eddy line and edging had a more physical feel. For me, it was not quite "man and boat in perfect harmony" yet, but I knew what I was supposed to be doing with the boat! One tip: when your coach says "there is a hole in this next rapid which you might want to avoid", do take their advice.
After a brief stop for a hot drink and lunch we eventually caught up with the assessment group at a part of the river called "the slabs" where they were practising throw line rescues. I must have had a premonition of this fact as capsized just before the slabs and so gave them a "live swimmer" to practice on. Thank you Chris and Ian for a textbook rescue.
At Buckfast Abbey weir we all got out and Gill and John had a look at the water and pointed out the dangers and the possible safe routes down the weir. They decided that we would skip the weir for today so we carried on downstream and finished our journey well before dusk at around 4.00pm. What a brilliant day, I learnt a lot and was happy to have made it through the day with only two swims.
I don’t know how they did it, but David and his family, after having paddled the loop in an open canoe, had the energy to cook a delicious Red Thai chicken curry with rice and apple crumble for eighteen people. So, exhausted but well fed, we all slept soundly (well someone was certainly sound asleep in my dorm by the sound of it!).
Sunday was a shorter day on the river with the experienced group and the 3 star group taking on the “loop” and my group paddling the lower Dart with a bit more gusto.
It was Remembrance Sunday, so just before 11am we stopped, put down our paddles and rafted up on the river to observe two minutes of silence. Steve said a few words in gratitude for the sacrifices others have made for our peace.
John cracked the whip, metaphorically, and we were off again eddy hopping and ferry gliding our way down to the weir which after another careful check we did shoot this time; rather slowly in my case.
So, that was it. Two full days of paddling in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt regions of Britain with expert guidance and advice from some of the most experienced coaches around (all voluntary of course). Congratulations to Maziar and all the other Scouts/Explorers who got their 3 star award. All that remained was the drive home accompanied by the complete works of Elvis Costello (sorry Neil).
If your scouting sons and daughters (and possibly you) want to get some experience on moving water and work towards the BCU 3 star award then I highly recommend you get in touch with SSWAC.
Many thanks to Chris, Roger, Gill and John and all the other coaches and helpers at SSWAC.
Phil & Maziar Gregg
2nd Malden Scout Group
Day 1 Arriving not too sure what to expect
All attendees are put through their paces in the classroom what’s does this buoy mean and what do expect to see on the chart.
On the water our instructors with a devilish smile on their face set challenging tasks for all be it come along side, reverse and generally allow one to show off their power boat skills at low speed .All of this in the confines of Haslar marina.
With a broad grin across his he face it’s off into to Solent to demonstrate man over board and our high speed driving skills 25kts plus .The wind is only blowing a force 4. Again coach is a happy bunny it’s time to back to go to base for lunch, time flies when you are having fun.
The rest of the day is then spent developing skills to plan our passage at high speed to the Isle of Wight. A new trick learnt the 6 minute rule.
By the end of the day, our passage plans had been carefully chiselled onto our route cards. This contains essential course to steer, speed and time to waypoints destination IOW. It was then time to consult the seaweed and hope for calmer weather.
Day 2 Time to put into practice what we have learnt
BBC Shipping forecast
Gale force winds expected Wight F5 occasional F6
Moderate to rough seas
Westerly winds and the tide is going out. It’s Wind over tide get ready for a bumpy ride.
Gearing up all wondering if their plan would work confidences are high but also not too sure what to expect.
Boarding our 5.8 Rib craft 150 hp AKA Gust Nav team holding clip board with its stop watch, route card and charts in hand. It looks more the start for a power boat race you see on TV. Casting off and navigating through the busy port of Portsmouth into the Solent. The Nav teams first command to the helm ‘course to steer 245deg make your speed 20 kts, 6 minutes to first waypoint’. Bouncing over the 1m swell we quickly carved our route to Ryde and following the planned course we arrived at Wotton Creek. By now the weather in the Solent picking up to F6 making our dash across the Solent interesting. A new course to steer 030degrees speed 15kts time 12 minutes (that magic six minute rule works again) confidence high we arrived bang on target even Nick the instructor impressed. We were then shown the finer points of GPS navigation. On the return journey back to Portsmouth this gave for the opportunity for formation filming of both boats. Film to be released in the New Year!
Safely back on dry land, kettle on for a welcomed mug of coffee after another exciting morning on the water.
Debrief and certification
During the de brief both instructors commented on how nice it was to have Scouters who had prepared for the course, could drive and Boatablity could actually teach an intermediate course.
They praised and commended what a good job we do in the community. They could also see we operate in a safe environment. Medals/certificates handed out it was time to say our good byes.
On my drive home I reflected what a great course this was, learnt loads, appreciated high speed navigation especially as I come from a sailing background.
Next purchase for Sealion is a 5.8 150hp Deep V rib so that I can do my advanced!
A big thanks to SSWAC for arranging this .I would highly recommend this course and Boatablity to all. This course gives all PBL2 holders a greater appreciation of the skills you require to drive a power boat in B3 waters
Yours in Scouting
Ian Rowlands ASL
1st Surbiton Sea Scout Sealion RN 72
Kayaking on the River Dart - November 2011
So, there I was...appearing for all intents and purposes like the new kid with the shiny kit he doesn't know how to use properly.
I thought, "I'm fit....I've paddled before (though not on moving water)...how hard can it be?!" Within a couple of hours of being on the water, my illusions were smashed, my whole body ached, my lovely new boat I was so precious about was all scratched up, and I had acquired a more appropriate level of respect for kayaking! ! I was also exhilarated, and having a great, if challenging time!
It's the same situation for so many Scout leaders across this and other County's: we spend a night a week teaching different kids the basics of paddling, in a fairly packed programme of events. Our lives are busy enough and we have little time to focus or develop our own skills. We become complacent, and plateau...SSWAC are an excellent antidote to this. Their coaches are of the highest level - they are constantly training themselves and keeping abreast of current practice, and they run these courses both for the experienced to maintain their standards, and for the novice to learn new techniques, and critically, to practise on moving water.
After arriving at the bunkhouse, we had a quick briefing, and then off to bed. Yes, the usual snoring punctured our beauty sleep, and I was becoming slightly apprehensive for what lay in store the next day.
Cooked breakfast at 8am and briefing at 9...we were ready to leave and "shuttle run" our different teams to the River Dart. There were the inexperienced and learners - including myself; those hoping to gain their 3 Star Kayak Award, and the old hands who come along to keep their own skills honed, and show the rest of us how to do it. This final group were to paddle "the Loop" - a more challenging section of the Dart, the next day. During this paddle, I capsized 3 times, once on a (in my eyes) fairly steep stretch of rapids, and also had my shoe sucked off my foot.
Still, all in all, a pretty good way to spend a weekend, and I look forwards to doing it again!
Damian Merciar (2 and a half Star)
Assistant Scout Leader
1st Cuddington (Warspite) SSWAC Coaches become the Coached - October 2011
The last week in October saw coaches from SSWAC and Warspite Sea Scout Group attend a four star open canoe training course combined with an updated White Water Safety and Rescue Course. The course was based in Snowdonia National Park with the group staying in luxurious accommodation (a change from normal – don’t get used to it Gill) in the small town Bala.
The week was part of SSWAC and Warspites continued development to facilitate expansion of the activities both groups are able to offer Surrey Scouts. It was enjoyed by all, even with the abuse their bodies took from the physical exertion to bouncing off of rocks while swimming. A huge thank you to Richard Hunt from Warspite for organising the week and our thanks also go to course director was Ray Goodwin (Ray Goodwin Coaching) and his assistant Jules Burnard (Voyageur Coaching). Assessment next Easter anybody? For all those on the course the aide memoirs offered by Jules will be uploaded for use when we have the link.
SSWAC - Canoe Camping on the Wey - September 2011
The Wey Navigation is 20 miles long, and canoeing down it is very challenging. We had to tackle fishermen, canal boats, and weirs along the Wey (excuse the pun!). At the end, we were all exhausted, but after the trip and the camping there’s a real sense of achievement.
1st Molsey (Jaguar) Sea Scouts
My weekend with SSWAC on the Canoe camping expedition was a bit of an adventure. We travelled the length of Godalming and Wey Navigations in canoes, eventually ending up in the Thames at Walton. The adventure all began at 09:30 when, after a quick briefing, we were off travelling through woods and meadows. Each lock we passed had a different story and the scenery kept on changing. It is a totally unique way to experience Surrey. It hardly felt like twelve miles when we reached our campsite at the Send Scout hut, where we prepared our supper, pitched camp and enjoyed a well-earned rest.
The next day we would be travelling an equal distance. However, we had to carry canoes across roads and other obstacles to bypass the locks. The best lock was the Cox’s lock in which we had an opportunity to navigate down the weir, under the guidance of the SSWAC instructors- an exhilarating and exciting experience. Then later at Weybridge lock we travelled along the end of the weir and through a short tunnel beneath one of the nearby roads. At this point our journey was drawing to a close. As we left the last lock of the Navigation we entered the Thames and began the final stretch to Walton Bridge. For me the expedition was very rewarding, whether we were just gently plodding along the canal past farms and buildings or white watering down weirs. The experience has increased my love of paddling and I definitely want to do another SSWAC expedition soon.
1st Molsey (Jaguar) Sea Scouts
We ventured out on Saturday morning for a weekend on the water. Teamwork was essential to make portages over locks as swift and efficient as possible. Paddling in pairs we shared good conversation and laughter and after a long day of paddling we relaxed together with a tasty meal. A great weekend of adventure and exploration in good company and a great activity, would recommend it to anyone :)
Phoenix Explorer Scout Unit
Reigate Network’s Duke of Edingburgh on the Wye - July 2010
On Wednesday 14th July, Reigate Network set off on their Gold Duke of Edinburgh down the river Wye in South Wales. We hired boats from SSWAC and conned Mark and Roger into training us up and being our supervisors for the expedition. We were slightly concerned by reports of seriously low water levels the week before our trip, but luckily it chucked it down most nights so we had just about enough water to paddle in. We had a few incidences of getting stuck in shallow water which was quite entertaining. We started at Glasbury and finished in Ross, camping for three nights on route. Our campsites ranged from a bit of grass by the river on the first night, to a posh campsite with proper showers and toilets on the last night. Our project was to create a photographic tourist guide to the Wye, so we became proficient at identifying various birds and wild flowers along the way. We all felt that our paddling skills had really developed over the four days and really enjoyed the expedition experience. We’d like to say a big thank you to Mark and Roger for all the patience and hard work they put into our expedition training, and for all the time and support they gave throughout our expedition.
Reigate Scout Network
Charity Marathon Paddle - Wye - June 2010
Three members of SSWAC took it upon themselves to use their passion for paddling to raise money for "Hope For Uganda", a charity aiming to improve conditions for Women and Children in the poorest area's of Uganda. Below is a report from Mike Connolly.
The 100 mile canoe is over successfully, although we're all a bit sore round the shoulders, back, legs - well lets just stop there ;- )
Freddie Connolly and Michael Edmondson are going to Uganda with £1,800 to give to the ‘Hope for Uganda’ Charity widows and orphans (including L&G matching). So a massive THANK YOU from all 3 of us for your support in helping to beat our target.
From Glasbury bridge at 10.00 0n Friday 11 June, 64,000 padlle strokes each (192,000 paddles altogether then - wow!), around 150 "It's the Ugandan flag!" (we attached a flag to our canoe - should've thought about the fact that it's World Cup), a further 50 or so "Have you caught anything yet?" (answer "Not a sausage" from the fishermen even though the WYE gets stocked with salmon fry every year), 4 nights under canvas (mostly dry but it rained like cats and dogs on Sunday night) and 100 miles later we (Mike, Freddie and me) arrived at the finishing landing stage in Chepstow at 12.45 on Monday 14 June with 20 minutes to spare before the tide took away our water and we would've had to wade through the mud to get ashore - phew!
Thanks very much for sponsoring us and making our trip worthwhile. We'll be putting a few pics we took along the way on the just giving page later this week if you'd like to take a look.
South Wales Canoe and Kayak Trip - River Usk - 12th to 14th February 2010
Bear Strength in Brecon – by Paul Richmond
In mid February I went for a canoeing trip on the river Usk. The river Usk is in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. It is a beautiful landscape of mountains, fields and valleys. I have been on many canoeing trips where the river is in a forest or dull countryside but the river Usk is probably the nicest river I have ever canoed on. Luckily, it had many long smooth sections where this scenery could be admired, and believe me when I say it gives you a welcome break from a difficult rapid.
Numerous people from different areas came to the trip, all of different ages, abilities and experience. It was nice to have so many different people there, there were many people my age that I was travelling with, and many more experienced rowers for me to learn from. I went in a canoe down the river, but there were a lot of people with kayaks.
Primarily the river is known for its rapids. Rapids are areas of fast flowing water, usually with rocks beneath the water and obstacles to avoid. These areas will test your ability to read the river and communicate with those around you so the obstacles can be avoided. This was such a great opportunity to do this, as it isn’t something you can do on every river. One thing that amazed me about the trip is that the river has so many different parts. There are areas where you can practise your skills of ferry gliding, drawing and using support strokes. There are long smooth sections, short bumpy sections and of course, the drops.
On the section of the river we went down there was 3 major drops. For these you will have to get out of your boats and assess the best way to go over the drop. It is only a short part of the journey, but more than often it is the most memorable, and more often than not, the wettest.
Overall the trip was great. I learnt a lot, made some new friends and I got to practise my technique to move closer to a higher level. I got some new anecdotes, some great pictures and the upper body strength of a bear. It’s why I keep going back.
North Wales Trip - Ogwen and Tryweryn - 4th to 6th December 2009
SSWAC ran an advanced paddlers trip to North Wales, for those who were competent White Water Paddlers that wanting to push themselves to the next level. Travelling up on the Friday evening we all met at Cobdens Falls in Capel Curig to look at the falls. “Low, a bump and a scrape” I believe were the words to describe it. Anyway, we all continued on to the Greater London South West Scout Bunkhouse in Bethesda which was to be our home for the weekend.
Waking Saturday morning, crossing the road and looking at the Ogwen many had smiles on their faces, it was a good level to paddle and on our doorstep AWESOME!!!!
We put in at the Ogwen Caravan Park and all portaged the waterfall. Nine of us opted to paddle “The Gun Barrel” while the others protected the end of the rapid. Nine split into three groups. The first group aimed to follow the line, river centre to river left, hard left at the end. Number one went hard right, rolled in the muncher at the end but survived. Number two went centre at the end, rolled in the muncher but survived. Number three no problems, good line, number four, good line but a collision with some newly added gabions (that’s we didn’t know about) put a nice dent and crease in the nose of the boat, but never the less got a good line.
So it was the second groups chance, having been informed about the gabions, number one was down, perfect line, number two was down with a spraydeck that popped on the top drop, number three took an EPIC swim, completing an unintentional endo landing face first in the water and putting to MAJOR dents in the bow and stern of the boat before taking a painful swim, and number four and five no problems.
After an interesting rescue we all got back on the water and continued enjoying the paddle. Experiencing a new type and style of river trip for some, and for others enjoying the challenge of harder and more technical rivers.
Reaching the top of Bethesda town there is a dog leg, which turns into a interesting grade 4 rapid through an arch formed by a tree, no problems here, accept for one rather long swim, where the rescuer became the rescued half way through.
Getting to Scout Hut Bridge a small proportion of the group wisely chose to walk around part of the Fishermans Gorge as they had been pushed hard enough. Sometimes getting out and walking is the hardest decision of all to make, but never the less a wise one for those that did.
The gorge was enjoyed by all that paddled it with comments such as “That pushed me to my limits” and “That was good, but hard” it would be nice to show pictures of this stretch but nobody was brave enough (nor stupid enough) to paddle one handed to get any.
Joined by the rest of the group at the end of the gorge we continued down as the river eased and got out under the A55 road bridge. Some with more bruises then they started with, and some that needed to sit by the radiator with their boats to pop out dents and damage.
Saturday evening saw the rain come down, in true North Wales style making everything bar the Tryweryn a no go for the group. Looking at Cobdens falls again that morning the group parted company, some choosing to do the Tryweryn and others choosing the far more comfortable option. GEAR SHOPPING!!!!
Check out the Photos page for some photos taken by the group, and others taken by Adrian Trendall a local photographer who was at the bottom of the gun barrel.
3 Star Course - Dartmoor - 20th to 22nd November 2009
SSWAC ran its first moving water three star course of the winter season this weekend. Well over subscribed with a long waiting list we Filled the Pengelly Caving Centre Bunkhouse in Buckfastleigh which was to be the HQ of the weekend. With Trainee's, Assessment Candidates and some just there for fun 26 paddlers, supported by 6 parents as landcrew took to the Lower and Lower Lower sections of the River Dart. Three paddlers achieved their 3 star kayak award with others receiving training to pave the way to them attending an assessment in the furture. Below are two accounts from some attendee's:
"My name is Daniel and I am 12 years old. I went to the River Dart on a training weekend to improve my skills. I was in a group 3 other people and 2 leaders who made the experience better because they were funny and supported and helped me when I wasn’t so sure about something and when I capsized. I learnt a lot of things and overall it upped my confidence in going on white water river trips."
"My name is Matt Linley and I’m 16 years old. I have paddled with SSWAC for several years now. Through them I gained my 1, 2 and 3* kayak as well as my 1 and 2* canoe. From this I have managed to progress my skills and have now begun helping in flat water coaching, which I find very rewarding, and will soon be getting coaching qualifications.
Through SSWAC I have also done many river trips, which are always very enjoyable. We recently paddled the River Dart, which is a great river for all paddlers. It provided great experience for those being coached, as well as lots of challenges for the more experienced paddlers. The river also provided lots of fun with several play spots for me to play in."
Sunday 5th July 2009
During the first weekend in July we had a training weekend where about 20 people - adults and young people undertook their first training session working towards their 1* and 2* BCU awards. At the same time another group undertook (and passed) the BCU Foundation Safety and Rescue Test. We were lucky with the weather and the sun shone for most of the time - a good job as most course involve getting wet - particularly the FSRT, where much of the practical part of the test is spent in the water!
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