Friday the 8th of November saw 7 intrepid paddlers head west along the south coast in search of white water. After installing themselves in the well appointed but remote Heatree centre we all retired to our beds eagerly awaiting the following day. By dawn our ranks had been swollen further to make 8. We split into 2 teams. John K and Rob were set to introduce Sarah to the lower Dart in the most civilised way possible, whilst Adrian led Jen, Matt, John T and I on a more rowdy trip down the Dart loop and lower.
The paddle started smoothly despite my early swim after mucking around in a very small but deceptively sticky hole near the put in. We had a couple more that day but with no serious consequences as Adrian and Matt made an excellent safety team. We surfed, squirted, boofed and eddy hopped our way down the river, whooping and hollering in joy as we went. Both groups met at the Salmon Leap Café at the get out to exchange stories and most importantly eat cake. Sarah was, despite a few reported swims, super elated with her first WW experience, although when she reported how gentlemanly Rob and John had been we did worry that she may have knocked her head. Rob also told us of conquering his old fear the weir. Well done to both.
A quick hose down and some dry clothes later, we headed to the pub for a dinner which was well received, despite some incompetence from the kitchen. Beer mat flipping and drinking the local “2 stroke” kept us entertained for the evening.
After a little rain overnight the river level held steady. Group dynamics changed slightly, seeing John K and Sarah head back to the lower Dart, Adrian taking the rest of us on the loop again this time with me in my OC1 instead of a kayak. The water lapping just below the slab at the Newbridge put in, we launched and made our way downstream. Again expertly led by Adrian. More fun was had by all and everyone was happy until the rapid known as Lovers Leap. I in my OC1, which for those who haven’t seen it is basically a big purple bathtub pretending to be a canoe, had been put at the back of the running order, so was the last to run the rapid so expertly done just previously by my peers.
I had crushed this one the day before so no problem …… until an unseen rock tipped me over! I found that I had no stomach to try my roll in this rocky rapid so soon found myself swimming. Adopting the “starfish” or “dead spider” pose I had been taught I bounced downriver. Suddenly a rock slid under my bum and held me in place. I was sitting mid rapid quite comfortably with a small pour-over either side of me. Unsure of my next move I decided I was safer to hold my ground and await rescue. “If only I had my lunch with me” I thought as I watched it and my boat wash round the corner with Adrian in hot pursuit. After a group of novice paddlers hurtled past me narrowly avoiding a collision, I can admit that some expletives may have been used, I was plucked from my precarious perch and reunited with my boat, and lunch. It seems fitting at this point to mention just how well Adrian and Matt conducted the rescues over the weekend, excellent work guys, thankyou.
The rest of the paddle was pretty safe in comparison, with Rob again showing that his weir fear had subsided.
As always ACC absolutely crushed it on and off the water, putting on an awesome weekend. Can’t wait for next time.