Inverness Canoe Club is a busy club, active in sea kayaking, white water and open boating. We have fantastic rivers, lochs and coast line on our doorstep or in easy reach for a day trip, for every kind of boat and ability.
After a season of training in 2015, with introduction and refresher courses in spring, 2 foundation, safety and rescue courses in the spring/summer and a Level 1 course in the summer, quite a few people were eager to consolidate their new skills and use our fleet of 8 open boats. The club trailer was fine for our sea kayaks, but too small for so many open boats. This dilemma heralded the purchase of a brand new trailer in late autumn, which opened a whole new bunch of travel possibilities. First use was made for a 3* open boat training weekend in November, with 7 boats taken from our Inverness base to the venue at Loch Oich.
About the same time Malcolm Wield announced 4 Sundays in December and January for day trips. The last trip of the year was a fantastic trip down the River Oich. No coaching, just enjoying a crisp, dull, misty but mystic atmosphere on a river running on high and with each of the 7 participants as a solo paddler.
For the first trip of the year, in January, a training day was planned as preparation for the season ahead and hopefully some multi-day trips. On a very chill Sunday, 13 paddlers and 9 open boats met at the Dochgarroch Locks and headed for Loch Dochfour and the wee bay there. A lesson followed on how to erect a shelter using a tarp, rope, poles and different knots, including the rigging and test of a hammock. Another task was also very welcome on the cold day: lighting a fire and getting the kettle on! As this was not a real camp, we cheated a little bit with some pre-prepared kindling for the fire, as the woods where damp and frozen. Anyway- who doesn't take kindling in the boat when going on a multi-day trip!? Purists please note!
After our lunch we carried on paddling by using our poles. The bay is shallow enough for poling and further out deep enough for propelling using a variety of pole strokes. Some needed a wee bit of encouragement to stand up, but in the end everyone was enjoying it and had a big smile on their face. The old wooden trawler wrecks were a welcome obstacle course. For those not using poles (we had only 3 pairs) an exercise in reverse paddling skills.
Unfortunately we had to skip the lesson in canoe sailing as there was no wind, not the slightest breeze. At least we saw an open boat prepared with a fully rigged sail, thanks to Colin.
On the way back to the locks there was the option of a wee detour down the weir, which was tackled by half of the group. For 1 paddler at least, it was the first time down the weir in an open boat. A wild ride, a slightly swamped boat for some and great fun for everyone!
I can't wait for the next trip with an open boat, even if it means a difficult decision further on in the season, as actually I'm usually a sea kayaker. But I have really started to enjoy hearing the song of the paddle!