Sunday, November 23, 2008

Open Boating on the Severn River

I drove through snow covered hills early one morning to meet Phil and Dave for a little canoe trip. It was my first time in whitewater with an open boat, so I was a little nervous. We put in just above a class II rapid and the river got easier from there. It was all the wrong way around, but an exciting start! I has done a bit of research online the night before just so I knew what I was getting into (you can never trust whitewater boaters!) and I’d read about the “horrendous weir” on this stretch of river. Weirs are really common in the UK and can be deadly. In the states, they’re called low head dams and they are much less common (but just as deadly). Phil and Dave promised me it was impossible to miss the portage, but I kept reminding them it was coming up!
We played in some small riffles while I tried to figure out how to ferry, peel out, etc with just one blade. It was a fun new challenge. I was happy that our canoes were pretty standard touring canoes rather than the narrow, highly rockered type outfitted with thigh straps and things for running difficult rapids.

Finally Dave and Phil headed to the shore in a big calm pool and I could see the BIG horizon line made by the weir. We got out and had lunch in a bird watching blind. It was still pretty cold and damp so it was nice to have shelter! After lunch we dragged the canoes around the weir and it was indeed pretty horrendous! After 2 big man-made drops, the river gradually settled down again through some small rapids. Phil found a superb surf wave to play on.
It took me a few of tries and I had to watch Phil’s moves more than once, but I finally got on it. Phil’s analysis of my first attempt was that I wasn’t committing enough. “You’re just one stroke away from Nirvana. But when you get on it, it’s going to try to flip you!” Yeah, no shit. Maybe that’s why I’m not really sure I want to take that last stroke!! The picture below says it perfectly - my posture, the blade angle.....I'm definitely weighing the odds that I swim instead of surf! I finally did get on the wave though and it was excellent fun. I’m sorry we don’t have a little river close to home!

Phil scored me a cabin at his buddy’s outdoor center for a few nights and I got some work done on my laptop at the local coffee shop in the morning and the pub in the evening. It’s a shame to be wasting precious days in the UK working on my laptop, but I’ve got a very competitive proposal due when I get home. The proposal is for a permit to operate kayak tours in La Jolla – something Aqua Adventures has been doing for 20 years and we might not be able to do anymore. The request for proposals was announced the day before I left for the UK and the proposals are due a few days after I get home, hence all the work. I should know our fate in December or January so keep your fingers crossed for me!

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