Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Full Stream Ahead: Again!

The view from the boathouse
 Our river, the Yorkshire Ouse, is a ridiculous river. Having spent most of the summer at such a low level that we were practically scraping the fins through the silt boating up, we are now in overnight flood season. The levels go up and down like a 'bride's nightie'. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure(?) of coxing the J15 boys upriver in against a stream so rapid that it took them all their time to make any progress at all. Again this week after a torrential thunderstorm on Friday night (both in York and up in the feeder hills), the levels rose steadily. Sunday morning at the juniors training session, the tow path was covered, annoyingly only by two or so inches of water, which made boating up a real problem. If the levels are higher it's fine to plop the boats in the water just at the bottom of the boathouse steps -the fins and rudders won't catch. But because there wasn't quite enough clearance under the hulls, we had to (very tentatively) paddle through the water and put the boats out just past where the towpath ended. Very cold, especially for those without wellies. I had my Crocs with me, so I wasn't too bothered about the getting wet, although the getting cold was a bit unpleasant! Some of the juniors, who hadn't been out during such conditions, were a bit phased about taking their shoes and socks of and paddling about, but that's what seperates ruffty-tuffty rowers from ordinary mortals (as I pointed out to them). Because there was a fair bit of stream on the river (but not too bad) the younger ones went out in quads and the older in doubles. I had a crew of J13s - quad scull novices - including my own Bright-Eyed Boy (some quad experience under the belt) and one lad who'd never been in a quad before.
It was a bit optimistic asking them to warm up in pairs 'arms only, body lean, quarter-slide' etc. Feeling the flow of the river I swiftly called for full slide and asked for a bit of a squeeze to get us through the arch of the railway bridge where the venturi effect was evident. Rounding the corner to St Peter's Straight, the onslaught eased a little and we made reasonable progress upriver until we reached the turning point before the next bridge. Spinning the boat was a doddle: just paddling a bit on bow allowed the current to drift the boat round and we easied (well actually, we didn't, we had to keep backing down slightly to remain 'stationary') as the coach shouted out instructions to me. Start rowing, then stern pair (the slightly more experienced pair) to square blades, then back to feather, then bow-pair (including the new boy) to do the same. It was the usual rocky old business, although I did (briefly) get all four on to square blades . Spinning the boat for the upriver leg by the boathouse wasn't easy: we had to turn earlier than we would normally and even then there was a bit of a hairy moment when we drifted slightly sideways nearly under Lendal bridge.
Another circuit, same stuff. The new boy coped, and kept up, remarkably well given that everything in a quad scull happens much faster than in the single tracers that theclub normally starts them off in. As they were true lightweights, and the river was high, their session was a bit shorter than the normal one-and-a-half hour's stint. Landing the boat was rather tricky too - I couldn't quite see where the edge of the tow-path was, and not wanting to damage anything, had to shout to a rower in wellies for directions. I was a bit worried about plunging off the invisible edge of the path on getting out too!
All safely landed, I had to co-opt the Husband to help carry the boat up the steps and, after washing it, help slot it back into its rack. The little guy at bow just wasn't tall enough to be able to half-turn it without dragging the gates on the floor. Aww! My feet, which had just got wet again were freezing - I felt that I'd never deserved a steaming latte and sticky-toffee muffin as much.....

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