Friday 5 February 2016

26/7th November 2015 - That was the canal, this is the sea...

The more observant might notice that while there's plenty of cold water and darkness involved, this isn't a blog about a caving trip.
For a recent significant birthday, my wife bought me a kit for building a sea kayak (see here for the build blog and here for the launch) and after just a few trips away (see here, here and here.) in a borrowed kayak, Dick too is now the proud owner of a very shiny boat.
While it is fantastic to get away into the wilds, sometimes you need to find adventure on your own back door step and leafing through Jim Krawiecki's superb book (Northern England and IOM - Fifty great sea kayak voyages) opened my eyes to a great trip, possible without even putting the boats on the car.
As the saying goes, "Time and tide wait for no man", and so it was that a school night had to be chosen to allow us to catch the spring tide as it reached it's highest point at around 1 in the morning at Skerton weir.
Setting off from the Moor gate canal bridge we were soon paddling out through the outskirts of Lancaster and into the country side.  As we paddled a large moon rose over the fields meaning that our head torches would hardly see any use the whole night.
Only the occasional dog walker on the tow path disturbed our solitude as we wound our way to the first key point on the trip, the start of the Glasson branch in Galgate.  Immediately we had a set of lock gates in front of us and commenced the first of 6 portages round the locks that bring the canal down to the Glasson basin.
The landing stages before and after each lock are perfectly designed for narrow boats, but definitely less so for kayaks, our kit becoming ever blacker as we crawled over the rub strips on each quay.
Finally we were lifting our boats out of the canal for the last time and stopped for a break before carrying them over the car park and down to the river.
Recently we've been watching some of Sid Perou's fantastic films from back in the day (see here for example) and I've been staggered by just how hard people used to be.  My admiration for the previous generation was slightly dimmed though when Dick produced a flask of tea.  The restorative powers of a flask are truly incredible and I suddenly realised that in nearly every film we'd seen there was a ubiquitous flask (as well as multiple packs of fags!).  This was their secret!  While it appeared that they were suffering, waiting for hours at the bottom of some spray lashed ladder, actually they'd spent most of that time enjoying a nice cup of tea!
Vowing never to leave home without a flask again and feeling totally invigorated we texted the girls to say that we were now leaving the canal and heading out into the Lune estuary.  A pilot boat was manoeuvring a large vessel onto the quay at Glasson and we gave it a very wide berth as we headed straight for the huge pylons in the distance that carry the power lines across the river. 
Fortunately the tide gave us significant assistance as we paddled what is technically up river towards Lancaster.  Even though I've lived in the town for many years, seeing it from the river gives you a very different perspective, the Millennium bridge in particular looking fantastic from river level.
Though still in town , the river becomes darker as you approach Skerton weir, marked out by the herons standing on the submerged structure waiting for fish.  Dick slipped effortlessly across a low part of the weir, while I graunched across a slightly higher point.  It's times like this when you feel quite smug with your tidal calculations.
Silhouetted by the sodium glow of the town, our final obstacle now lay ahead. Nearly all the height we had lost going down the locks now had to be gained in one unpleasant portage.

Dick about to get back on the water having portaged up onto the aqua duct.

The hard work over, there was now just enough canal left to reminisce about a great trip before we arrived back at the Moor gate bridge from the opposite direction.
This really is a superb trip and highlights the adventures that are possible close to home.

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