"In the ever varying conditions of wind, waves and rapids the possibilities for acquiring skill in the control of the canoe with poetry and grace are unlimited." Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle.
From Day 1 onwards, everything you do in a canoe will allow you to enjoy what Bill Mason knew better than most after more than 40 years of canoeing. There is nothing in paddlesport quite like working out how to handle a 15 or 16 foot boat so that every trip becomes an enjoyable series of one sweet move after another. Regardless of whether you want to paddle as a tandem pair or as an independent solo, your very first lesson will give you the elementary skills you will continue to sharpen with every successive lesson and trip thereafter.
Paddling a canoe skilfully on flat water is something that can be picked up very soon and can lead to a lifetime of safe pleasure on the water. There are inland lochs and expedition trails in the Highlands that can't be bettered anywhere. Imagine a three day journey through Inverpolly National Nature Reserve, or four days on the Great Glen Canoe Trail.
Flat water is one thing. Paddling a canoe on moving water is something else. Quite suddenly the boat comes alive, like a horse. From the minute the power of fast water affects the boat and your strokes counter the movement so that you go where you want to, when you want to, you begin to appreciate how responsive and agile the boat really is.
On slow sections, the stability and effortless travel of your craft introduces a combination of tranquillity and surprising pace, unique to canoes. Your connection with the river world becomes special and unlike anything else. It's just, well, different.
Unlike tooty little river kayaks, it's a bit more difficult to get 4 canoes on the roof of a Ford Focus. So club canoe trips are a bit more difficult to organise logistically. In contrast, it is much easier to move around and carry your kit in a canoe; there are no spray decks to worry about and the only roll you need is the one in your sandwich box.
Basic training (perhaps as part of the club's Introduction to Paddlesports course) will give you enough skills and safety awareness to recognise your limits and use a canoe as part of your outdoor activity with peers, regardless of whether there are enough club trips organised. It is hoped that the club trips on a variety of canoe friendly rivers like the Beauly, the Oich, the Conon and the Spey can be arranged about once a month during the year. These will be led by a Level 3 coach, who will aim to progressively smooth your skills and widen your experience of different conditions.
Whatever, like Bill Mason, you need never stop enjoying the canoe and you can look forward to discovering something on every canoe journey for the rest of your paddling life.
by Malcolm Wield
The Club has 10 open boats which can be hired, along with paddle, buoyancy aid, etc. We aim to have a regular calendar of trips throughout the year. Please be aware that no club boats are to be used on water rated above grade 3.
Photos: J Hooper