Day 4 – The Search for Wind – Loch Eck, March 2017

March 29th, 2017 • By: Leigh Murray Canadian Canoe trips, Trip Reports

The last day of Graham’s killer canoeing sessions and he couldn’t have booked a better day, if he had a hotline to the big man himself! The sun was splitting the skies, predictions of 18°, and apparently no wind. So I cast off my old faithful dry-suit and didn’t bother bringing my pop-up sail. I was totally up for a nice leisurely paddle on Loch Eck and shades were at the ready.

The scenery didn’t fail, it was picture perfect as we were kitting out our Open Boats.

Having passed around the 5L bottle of screen wash Graham R. kindly helped me carve my very own bailer. Graham S then declared we were going to get wet – great, the one day I didn’t bring my dry suit! Fortunately you can always count on Sandy to save the day, he only had a spare dry-suit.

On the water we did a warm-up. Stupidly I thought it was genuinely “warm-up” and got caught out when Graham later asked us all to cover off what skills from the previous sessions we were practicing – busted! “Eh….power starts, J-strokes, and bow turns”.

Graham then had us all perfecting our technique for maintaining a relatively effortless cruising speed using a Canadian-J (or Indian-J). Sadly it wasn’t effortless for me, the boat kept veering to the left when it was meant to be “effortlessly” tracking in a straight line. As Graham was giving the guys some tips I summoned the guru (Sandy) who explained my strokes were in 3 parts and I needed to have a more fluid stroke. I also had to employ correction throughout the stroke, rather than just at the end. This is when Graham’s previous advice popped back into my head – think of an aeroplane wing as it’s landing. Graham then came over to build on Sandy’s advice. We did a bit more practice on this and by the end it was starting to feel like a Canadian J – if perfected you should be able to cruise in a straight line, without a sound.

Graham then introduced us to pitch and 45° paddle angles to make a tight turn at the bow – OMG. There was a lot of power transfer, a lot of pushing water, a lot of leaning forward, a lot of heeling (and balancing), a lot of straight arms, a lot of twisting of paddles (not twisting of wrists), and a few “no keep the paddle vertical……pitch Leigh, pitch”. Yip Graham was very firmly in that coaching throne and my head was starting to hurt again. But I think I finally nailed it! It is definitely a very effective technique which enables you to keep in better control of the boat and turn more effectively in wind. As Graham explained the sweep stroke will give you a wider turn but as it glides, you will lose power and speed.

Sandy pointed out a perfect lunch spot so our next task, set by Graham, was to paddle in a straight line only using pitch and paddling only at the bow. Really not as easy as you’d think!

After lunch Graham got back into the theory with the sand as his black-board……..head was hurting again. After lunch it was rescue time. We talked through X-rescue, the Curl, the Scoop, self-rescue, and all in rescue. We paired off and started practicing them, with speed and sliding being key themes. There may also have been a moment I nearly wiped Graham out, which Sandy kindly caught on camera. I blame the bucket!

Graham then demo’d some self-rescues, with and without the bucket. Then it was our turn – it’s amazing how long it takes to bail out a full boat. Graham then helpfully pointed out if someone has a full boat, it’s quicker if the team help to bail the person out. However every time I helped with the bailing, water seemed to be bailed into my boat. There was definitely something wrong with that scenario. And at one point Graham usefully employed that ****** bucket to launch water all over me – that bailer came in handy.

I can’t remember what we were doing but Ross and I found ourselves in the green room (under an upturned OC), counting to three, pushing the OC up into the air then trying to right it with the least amount of water inside. What I do remember is that the water was cold and it wasn’t really working for us. Graham’s top tip of rocking, and breaking the seal before pushing up, resulted in more water inside the boat and me saying hello to the fishes.

After all our cold water fun Sandy whipped out his pole and sail to effortlessly demo how you sail an open boat. Graham R. admirably stepped up to the sailing challenge and got a very sharp turn under his belt – it was impressive to watch. Ross and I had a go too, under a fair bit of instruction from Graham. Sailing was a lot of fun but I think we all need a wee bit more practice to have any hope of trying to out maneuver Sandy.

It was definitely not a superficial session, lacking substance. It was a brilliant day and final session that definitely packed a technical punch. 😉
We’re all a little sad it’s finished but who knows, there might be a “Return of the OC” coming to a river near you.

Thanks for all your top tips Graham and putting me (and the guys) through our paces. Did you hear the army’s recruiting? No seriously, it’s been brilliant.


Spring River Bunkhouse Weekend 10th – 12th March 2017

March 22nd, 2017 • By: graham River Trips

With a dry February and start of March we weren’t very optimistic on finding much water for our weekend of awesome river paddling. Thankfully storm Doris gave us a deluge the weekend before which probably saved the trip. Blair, Campbell, Derek, Graham and Grant set off for Aviemore on the Friday evening, not a particularly nice drive as drizzly rain fell for most of the journey. Reaching Aviemore we checked into the Youth Hostel which we could not praise higher, friendly staff, clean comfortable rooms and excellent communal lounge. Off to the local for some refreshments then back to hostel to prepare for Saturdays paddle, note: always take room key when you need to visit the wee boys’ room, corridor carpet not that comfy.
Saturday morning we decide over breakfast that we will paddle the mighty Findhorn upper and mid-section 19km grade 2/3 with the odd grade 4 for a challenge. Off we set taking the B9007 over the Cairngorms with spectacular views as the skies were now clear. We stopped at Dulcie Bridge to look at the first major rapid of the day; right on cue a group of kayakers came into view showing us how to run what looked a daunting grade 4. Having watch this group take on Dulcie Bridge with ease we completed the shuttle and were ready for our adventure. Putting on some 2km above Dulcie Bridge we quickly come across some interesting grade 3 rapids which certainly woke us up especially for those that took an early bath, confidence dented we continued down river quickly overcoming our fears and enjoying the start of our day. Dulcie Bridge rapid was on us before we realised it

Blair and Grant decided that a portage was the option for today, Graham briefed Campbell and Derek the does and don’ts and lead us round the corner of no return. Derek rounds the corner to find Graham sitting in the eddy he had planned, Derek decided that eddy wasn’t big enough for two and shouted over anxiously “I’m going down”. Having memorised the line from the bank hit first wave bang on line but deciding that the rock mid-stream was too close for comfort and moved to river left only to find a huge cushion wave which made mincemeat of him attempted roll failed and 2nd no better so swim was now on the cards. Graham having witnessed the carnage chased down river only to get stuffed in massive hole where only his bomb proof roll saved him. Campbell however didn’t fare as well as hole wouldn’t let him go, after what would have felt like forever he capsized and swam this getting him out of his “near death experience”. Graham having got Derek into an eddy was now chasing boat no2; Campbell had managed to make it to the bank on his own.
 Having all survived Dulcie Bridge a bite to eat then carrying on down river where we found Campbell’s paddle 1km later. Some more exciting grade 3 rapids with a few more swimmers along the way, we reach Leven’s Gorge and a rapid we considered “wall of death” with a known syphon under a gigantic rock on the right. It it wasn’t the wall we were worried about but the nasty entrance to the rapid where nothing short of a perfect line would put you in mortal danger, as brave as we all were we portaged first fall, with only Derek and Graham going for the “Wall of Death”, launching just below the entrance rapid with  Derek taking a much closer look at the wall than he wanted. Continuing down river more good grade 3 rapids and swims as we reach Logie Bridge a group decision is made that time is not on our side as 6km still to go and only 1 hour of light left, we end our days paddle here and grateful to the friendly fishermen that drove Graham to his car. An excellent day’s paddle relived round chat at dinner in the Royal Tandoori where we discovered that water levels had peaked that day 1.4 on gauge “High Level” just as we went through Dulcie Bridge.


Sunday a less energetic day where Blair, Campbell, Derek and Graham took on the River Feshie a much shorter grade 2/3 river. More time to enjoy the scenery today with some nice bumpy grade 2 while watching the gliders, a few grade 3’s to keep you alert with an unusual portage when river ran through a forest. The finale of the weekend was the gorge section leading to Feshie Bridge, we scouted river deciding our line entering gorge with a couple of grade 3 falls, only the brave Graham took on Feshie Bridge rapid. With bank protection set he approached getting his line bang on, having had to brace on a wave found himself going over a rock slowing his approach into final pool which could only be described as a cauldron, Graham survived after a brief moment of panic while rest of group looked on with respect and thinking to themselves they had made the right choice. Just for the record having looked at the pics on google images, the river was pretty high.

The weekend ended with coffee and cake at Loch Inch, Many thanks to Graham for all his efforts in arranging weekend from competent river
guide, taxi driver, selecting accommodation, praying for water and even sunshine. “Flawless”

Day 3 of Graham – The Seach for the Wind

March 6th, 2017 • By: graham Canadian Canoe trips


Day 3 of Graham’s hunt for the wind took us on a trip down Loch Arachay in to Loch Venachar. After finding little wind and mirror flat water on our previous trips to Loch Lomond and Rhu , Graham was feeling optimistic on the back of Storm Doris. After a drive through the flooded Trossachs things were looking promising, we dragged the canoes through a flooded swamp and got onto the water. The put in was pretty sheltered and gave us time to warm up by practicing some of the skills we had learnt previously. We then headed down the Loch and true to form the Scottish winter failed to deliver the wind; however Graham kept us working by challenging us to think about what was happening during the catch and power phase of our strokes and to focus on the angle of the blade and what we were doing at each stage. As always I found that making fine adjustments has a noticeable difference on the outcome and performance of the canoe. We reached the end of Loch Arachay and joined the river which links the two lochs. With not a great amount of experience of canoeing on rivers I was looking forward to this section, the river was moving fairly quickly and the vast amount of low lying branches made it an interesting wee journey. I was glad to see the improvement in my control of the canoe as my newly found skills were put to the test as we weaved our way in and out of the branches.

With our heads fully intact and limbo skills tested we arrived in Loch Venachar with a change in the weather conditions. The wind Graham had been seeking had finally found us, we had a discussion on forces and the use of the beaufort scale to measure wind and after a short debate whether the conditions were force 2 or 3 we headed across the loch only for it to die down again. The rain had set in and we stopped for some lunch. Sandy, prepared as ever unravelled a tarpaulin and set about making a shelter for us all using his canoe and some paddles, for something so simple and easy it offered great protection from the elements. We dragged ourselves back out and onto the water, Graham set up a couple of scenarios and we practiced our towing and rafting skills. The wind was beginning to pick up and we had a nice tail wind to take us down the loch. This provided a great opportunity to practice the skills we had covered over the 3 days and to test out our trim. Sandy took the opportunity to test out his sail and seemed to be having a ball. The wind continued to strengthen to a strong force 4 possibly touching force 5 which gave Sandy the perfect opportunity to practice his voluntary self rescue skills, he tried out a couple of different methods using buckets and bags to counter the weight of the canoe when re-entering in order to reduce the amount of water in the boat. I was quite glad to be a spectator at this point as the conditions were quite challenging and it looked freezing. We had a challenging crosswind for our final cut across the loch to our exit point, I was surprised with how well I managed this and the control I had , Graham’s tips and advice appear to be paying off. Overall it was  another great day with lots of learning and surprises. Thanks again to Graham for his fine coaching and to everyone else for the banter, looking forward to the next  adventure.




River Allan – 19.02.17 – Tristan Armstrong

February 26th, 2017 • By: Sandy Johnston Uncategorized

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?

Regular Beginners Trip, Regular Skills Sessions and Intermediate Sea Kayaking Series

February 25th, 2017 • By: graham Beginners Trips, Pinkston AWWC, River Trips

We have just added 4 new sets of events which offer lots of chances to go paddling.
– Beginners Trips (1st Weekedn of month)
– Skills Sessions (3rd Weekend of month)
– Intermediate sea kayaking (A series of trips/paddles through the summer – we are taking names for these as places are limited))
– Intro to moving water and currents (Wed evenings at Pinkston in March)

Find out more about them on the calendar!