Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Sunday 5 May 2013

Taking to the water again

If you've been following my blog since last summer you might remember that I went off to do some Bikerafting in Aviemore with the guys from Backcountrybiking. I had a great time, learnt loads and came away convinced of how useful a Packraft could be in Scotland. I took advantage of a little pre-Xmas sale to buy a raft, paddles and inflator and have since added some rigging to the raft and an inflatable gilet. However, my opportunities to use the equipment have been somewhat hampered by the weather. If it's not snow, it's gales and neither are that conducive to setting out in a lightweight raft.

Paddling round the Pentlands reservoirs is nice, but today I finally made it onto some moving water in the shape of the Tweed. The weather forecast was looking decent and we'd had some recent rain so I was hoping that the water level would be sufficient. The Tweed is handy too - there's a big car park in Peebles right by the river and various paths, tracks and roads for returning on the bike. Of course, the day I decide to go down to Peebles, it turns out to be the Gala day. Not only is the car park rammed but the riverside paths were being used for the kids races!

So, rather than have a quite play around during setup, I had to get on with it in front of an audience. I'm sure a few were wondering what I was up to when first I got the raft out, then started inflating it, then strapped the bike on. 

This was the first time I'd carried a bike on my own raft and I was pretty nervous about it. I first strapped on my (now almost empty) rucksack, with the bike on top. I reasoned this would protect the raft from any sharp bits. Having got that sussed out, I blew up my inflatable gilet, slid the boat down to the river and slipped inside. The water was flowing pretty fast at this point so it didn't take me long to get away from the park and settle into some paddling. 

Most of the trip was quite straightforward. I'd look ahead, try to spot any unsettled patches in the water, steer around them and carry on. Occasionally, it would get a little wilder as the river burbled over some rocks but it all seemed to be going exceedingly well until I reached a little island near Cardrona. The right channel was fast and deep, but a number of trees seemed to be across it so I steered towards the island and pulled the raft ashore in order to have a better look. I'd been correct - that channel would have been a really, really bad option. That left me with a wider, shallower left channel that started OK but eventually got so shallow that I grounded and had to exit the raft mid-stream. Of course, that meant my shoes and socks were now full of water! 

Once under way again, I managed to avoid any more scrapes and just enjoyed the rather different views I was getting of quite a familiar stretch of land, although rounding one bend I hit such a headwind that I was actually getting blown back upstream!

My original plan had been to go all the way down to Innerleithen but I'd had a late start and made slower than expected progress so I found a decent bit of bank to scramble ashore and set about removing the bike, putting it back together, deflating the raft and packing everything for the short spin back to Peebles.

Lessons learnt today?
  1. Some sort of more aquatic footwear required, probably teamed with Sealskinz socks and flat pedals.
  2. Get  a protective sheet for the raft so I can put the rucksack on top of the bike. It was rubbish having no access to snacks!
  3. Set off earlier, especially when there's not a huge current to sweep you along.

Still, it's all a learning process and I feel this is setting me up for a couple of longer trips I have in mind for the next couple of months.

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