Another planned day out by Sandy, making use of whatsapp to keep everyone up to date, and allowing myself, Derek, Chris, Leigh, and Campbell sign up for the day. An exciting river trip in the grade of 3+. We were all looking for a challenge, something to push us a little bit. Checking the river levels the night before confirmed my worries, very little rain around. Where would we go? We all meet up at Miller Street container and Sandy drops the bomb, Allan Water is his hope. My instant thoughts go back to my last paddle there….lots of swims. My chances of staying dry had just diminished. The back ups were the Teith and the Tay which will go in most levels.
So off we went in hope with 4 kayaks and two open canoes, making use of the trailer to cut back on cars at the get out. On arrival we checked the level, a little lower than we wanted, SEPA says 0.7 ish, but we like a challenge and went for it anyway. We do all the essential faff, get the boat and equipment out and sort out the shuttle. A great chance for those not shuttling to chuck about a throw bag to get that practice in. You never know when it going to come in handy!
Starting at Kinbuck we had a gentle flat paddle for a while until we came the first real obstacle Ashfield weir. A massive weir with one route down river right on the fish ladder. Not one for the canoes so a great chance to use lining techniques to get those bigger boats down the flow. Some of the kayakers chose to run it, an exciting rush of water shooting you down a drop of 3 metres in height. Just the thrill to start the journey, but wait, round the next scrapey corner was another drop. This one was too rocky to run in these levels, so lots of team work got the boats down and round this rapid. Heading down the river we come across other rocky rapids that keep us on our toes, and occasionally me out of my boat to get off another rock, reminding us to really pick those lines carefully.
The river provided plenty of excitement on the way down, with onlookers at Dunblane watching our amazing boat skills! We caught sight of of deer, and some ponies that looked at us as if to say “How do you move without legs or wheel…magic!! I managed to find a nice bit of foam for a kneeling pad and Campbell found a beautiful balloon, which he managed to keep for a long time down the river too.
The two main hazards on the river were the large weir at Dunblane and a rapid nerve wrackingly called Wall of Death. The weir has major tow back on it especially in higher flows, and with Sandy’s stories of other’s near death mishaps in there, with the tow-back dragging people in, it managed to make most sensible people stay away and portage round. I decided otherwise. I had a massive open canoe and the river left offered a safer option with a rocky ledge half way and much less tow back. So the team set-up safety for me and I prepared myself for it. I had my line in my head. The team were ready for me so I started down. I then started doubting my line, and before you knew it I went over the weir and managed to get the front of my boat stuck on a rock. Time to get out and drag my boat off another rock. Massive fail!
Our last major hazard of the day was the Wall of Death. It should come with its own music with a name like that. It needed inspected first, and safety set up where we could. Campbell and Chris confidently descended the rapid with skill. This left them available to pick up any swimmers at the bottom, and they did not have to wait long for one, when two came along. Myself and Leigh let our boats go down without us, unintentionally, but Campbell and Chris did their jobs brilliantly and rescued us and our boats. Sadly Leigh lost a shoe. How ever are we to find it? It was gone forever. Sandy came down and showed us how it should be done in an open boat. As he pulls into the eddie next to us, what had he managed to bring in with him, floating there in the water, Leigh’s shoe….it’s a miracle! All in our boats with all our equipment, and most of us dry, we headed down the river for the exit point. All agreed it was a great day out, with a lot of learning too, and I’m sure we are all happy to head up and do this river again, prepared to take on higher flows also. It’s definitely changed my opinion of it.
Who’s coming out with us next time?