Canoe Leader Training

Last weekend, Leaders Nick and John headed to North Wales for a weekend of Canoe Leader training. By constantly improving our Leaders’ skills, we can provide better and better activities for our Explorers! John has written about the training here…

Saturday 16th November – Lake Day

After a comfy overnight stay in a cosy Scout hall – thanks Llangollen Scouts! – we headed to Bala Lake, the largest lake in Wales. The course began as we (Nick and I were joined by four others from a range of outdoor backgrounds) met our instructor: Alan Pinnington from Mountain Water Expeditions.

After a briefing on the aims and content of the course, we got on the water straightaway to demonstrate open water travel and towing techniques. Pulling into an inlet, we all got our poles out to travel upstream and up a small rapid – there were wobbles aplenty as poling requires standing up in the boat while waving a 12-foot piece of metal around!

We then practised some tracking – using lines to pull a boat upstream – before heading back down to the edge of the lake to look at some sailing. Unfortunately the forecast wind hadn’t materialised, but we still set up four canoes in a diamond raft and rigged a sail to get the experience of doing so.

Heading back towards the take-out point we splashed into the part of the day we were all dreading – showing the ability to rescue ourselves and others. Nevertheless, an ‘all-in’ rescue was completed in about 3 minutes and a dripping party were soon getting back into vehicles ready for Sunday.

Canoe tip: on a windy day, moving your bags or barrels around inside the boat to change its trim can dramatically affect your paddling efficiency.

Sunday 17th of November – River Day

The Canoe Leader Award means you should be comfortable and competent leading in Grade 2/3 water, so we put in at Glndyfrdwy on the River Dee for a journey down some classic and well-travelled whitewater.

Each group member led a section, demonstrating hazard awareness and group management as we progressed through various rapids. Finally we stopped at the Berwyn rapid to practise some ferry-gliding and the wetter skills of the day: swimming in moving water, throwline use and boat-to-boat rescues. It was at this point that I took an accidental swim – handily demonstrating being able to swim myself and my canoe to the side just before we were asked to.

Canoe tip: make sure your spare paddle is accessible but well-secured (eg. under your airbag) so that you don’t lose it if you go for an unexpected dip!

The wet stuff over and darkness approaching, we took out at Horseshoe Falls and portaged to the start of the Llangollen Canal, where we had a pleasant evening paddle to the take-out. A somewhat drizzly debrief followed, where we were all given positive feedback and points to work on before saying our goodbyes.

Overall, a really instructive and fun weekend. Many thanks to Alan Pinnington at Mountain Water Expeditions for providing such positive and high-quality instruction.

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