Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The big chill

Off into the snowy night we flew for a weekend of canoeing adventure in Inverness!
I had sent many emails the week before trying to ascertain if our arrangements were feasible - everyone insisted on going ahead despite the earliest snowfall for 17 years.
Northern Kayaker's mantra, 'It'll be fine!' proved to be correct. It was, cold, but fine.

NK and Mags confer.

The venue for the Level 2 coaching support day was Muirtown Basin - sheltered and with good access. The adjacent Sea Scout hut was a welcome retreat from the chill where we could ask Mags questions to clarify technical undestanding and coaching. It was a great opportunity to think skills through on the water in a small group with an expert on hand.

Not the usual scene in the viewfinder.
Opportunities for paddling canoes in Orkney are very limited. Presently we have access to one open boat and virtually no access to sheltered flat water. With minimal daylight hours the options for developing the necessary skills and technical understanding in order to achieve L2 coaching certificate are limited, and its a serious challenge to set up coaching in open canoes. As volunteer coaches with full time jobs outwith the outdoor activity industry, the obstacles to achieving our goals at times seem to be insurmountable.

NK powers into the arctic wind.
On the second day of our weekend visit we had the opportunity to coach a group of brave paddlers who had volunteered to be our students. It was a really useful experience to plan, discuss with Mags and then deliver a session and observe each other and the paddlers. Thanks to Justin we had the warm of the hut to retreat to from time to time, and the benefit of his open canoe experience.

I knew the BCU regulation hats would come in useful one day!
The day started out with blue skies and sunshine and with NK delivering the first session on forward paddling in tandem. Justin went on to coach turning in tandem and after another session from NK on solo forward paddling, I coached a short session on solo turning.

Demo on the pontoon.
As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated. The wind became a bit of a bother and staying warm was a challenge. The boats filled up with snow, but everyone was stoic, and fortified by cups of tea, cake and chocolate we carried on in the spirit of the voyageurs. It was a great learning experience all round - many thanks must go to our hardy volunteer paddlers!

Paddle your own canoe!

 We arrived at the airport in good time, feeling pretty pleased about having achieved what we had set out to do while around us the country was grinding to an icy halt. Little did we realise as we checked in, that though NK had the foresight to buy a can of de-icer for the hire car, Mr Flybe had failed to buy a big truck of de-icer for the planes. Back to Nairn we went for the night, this time at the expense of Mr Flybe.
The next day we waited.....

and waited....
Eventually the discrepancy between the 'information' given by the Flybe and airport staff and the available information we could access on the public access internet became so absurd (truck with de-icer on its way/A9 blocked, plane from Shetland expected/its on the tarmac at Sumburgh) we cut our losses and ran to the train station.
Its nearly 24 hours later - can you tell?

 Armed with a can of de-icer and a wire brush the Scotrail man prepared the train for its epic journey on tracks buried under the snow and off we set.
A brief stop at Lairg.

Weighed down by ice, the trees clattered along the side of the train.

Finally on the Hamnavoe and a few home comforts!
In spite of the 24 hour delay in getting home the trip was great fun and full of valuable learning experiences made possible by Steve, Mags, Eleanor, Justin and our fab coachees. Thanks folks - see you at Easter!


  1. You could have sat home in front of the fire and put your feet up but look at the fun you would have missed! Loved your post, the weary traveller and the brewski at arrival. It all adds to a memorable experience.

    Tony :-)

  2. My travelling companion, Northern Kayaker, earned her brew - she did all the driving in the snow!

  3. 'Mr Flybe forgot to buy a big truck of de-icer for the planes'. Oh how I laughed when I read that(in hindsight)!

  4. Hey ho, what's a little bit of snow! You are obviously dedicated coaches.