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Club members take part in some rough water training on the Blackwater

Clive Marfleet on the Blackwater

Sunday 28th June 2020. Blackwater Training trip – Written by Clive Marfleet
Attended by Johnnie MCC, John BCC Mark BCC Leaders Clive MCC Barry BCC

Having had a lazy week I needed some therapy (that’s paddle therapy), so off I went to check the tides… low tide midday (reduced options), I then checked the wind… more problems, force 5/6. Mmmmm, do we paddle some where sheltered or go for some rough water excitement? having picked the soft option the last few times I decided to go for the big stuff out at Bradwell for some big wave action (I could always change option/venue if it looked too bad or the group were not up to following a lemming like me). All looked good when we arrived. We had a nice experienced group and were joined by fellow sea leader Barry Iszard and some of his paddlers from Bramston CC. This meant we had more back up, so we could push the limits.

The plan was to do some sea training, so a safety brief was given and we discussed; what, where and how we paddle etc. Off we went, being low tide we had the shelter of the island from the Blackwater sitting in the lea of Pewet Island. It looked rather rough out there, and I wondered whether my group would manage the conditions. With that in mind, we buddied the group up and set out for a test paddle round the 2 yellow buoys and back to the lea of the island.

Everyone passed the test, now for the harder challenge… staying buddied up we set off for ‘Ross Revenge’ the Radio Caroline ship, which provides a good focal point and some shelter in the mid channel. Roughly 56 minutes latter after paddling against wind and tide we had arrived. As a group we enjoyed seeing a large seal playing in the waves. A brief group chat and then off we went for the next challenge… paddling around the front of the ship and back to Bradwell beach.

Going with the wind and tide meant we had surf waves pushing us all along. The group practiced different techniques on the waves and discussed the reasoning of having varying distance in front and behind fellow paddlers. (too little room can mean that the conditions can accelerate you into another kayak)

Good group skills and two leaders meant we had no problems, everyone enjoyed the surf and all stayed upright! 20 minutes later, we landed on the sandy beach for lunch.

After lunch we headed back on the water and paddled towards the baffle wall (a 20ft high metal wall 50 mtr long approx. 500 mtrs off the beach) which provided another safe shelter area for the group. Whilst there we witnessed a peregrine falcon (the fastest bird in the world!) The bird glanced down at Barry and decided the kayaks were just a bit to big to carry off.

The group then set off from the safety of the wall and into the bigger waves, briefly losing sight of each other between the waves. The waves were definitely bigger than expected from the wind against tide situation, however, the group coped well and continued to paddle on to find some space to practice a spot of wet rescue work (Johnny was up to try rolling in challenging conditions!).

With a quick return to Bradwell, we were in a good position for some rescue work. Johnny was ready to go for his eskimo roll when all of a sudden, he gets knocked over by a wave! His paddle comes up, his boat turns and Johnny starts to rise up, but it’s not enough, he’s back under… try’s again… almost up! and under again. Oh no, it’s swim time. All good fun, but now is a good chance to practice some self rescue in these testing conditions.

Johnny keeps good contact with his kayak and paddle, and then starts to get his paddle float brace on, next step is to empty his boat, and now the tricky part… getting in…. he’s up he’s in but his boat has to much water in it, making it unstable, and he’s over again! this is fun. Time for some help or rather someone else to help. Mark from Bramston CC comes to the rescue and reaches over to get Johnny’s kayak, but things don’t go quite as planned with Mark now capsizing with only one hand on his paddle, will he roll? He’s up and slightly unstable, time for a bit of kayak support, but also to get Johnny out of the water and into his kayak. Now in paddles Barry, he’s quickly gets Johnny’s boat all sorted and Johnny safely back in his boat – showing just how quickly the rescue can be done in these conditions by experienced leaders.

After the group had, had enough we started the 500mtr paddle back to Bradwell with waves hitting us side on until we got back to the small creek entrance. But the fun didn’t end there… the conditions took a turn for the worse with a heavy rain and gusts hitting us 200mtr from the jetty. It will soon blow over thought the group. Mark and Johnny made headway for the jetty with Barry deciding to hang back with John. All seemed safe and good until Mark decides to head for the beach which put him side on to a heavy unexpected gust, which catches him off-guard… he’s over and out of his boat, although luckily, he’s in standing depth water, so walks his boat ashore. As we all make land the rain stops and the sun appears. All the group end the day with happy smiling faces, now it’s time for home G&Ts and hot tub.

It was great conditions to practice some rough sea conditions, everyone enjoyed themselves and the members of the group who are looking to develop their skills definitely improved and got comfortable with the changing conditions throughout the day. Safety is always paramount on these kind of training trips and the leaders within the group are constantly thinking about group safety and are always fully prepared with navigation maps/tools, VHF radios and flares etc… and I wasn’t even needed to step in to help rescue anyone!