With the programme coming out quarterly, on paper, some trips are not occurring until four months after the programme went to press. Inevitably, some people find they have other unavoidable commitments. As soon as we know about changes, we will highlight them here (and try to get the main programme updated, but that's harder!).
Most SOC trips are planned in advance through the quarterly programme, in which one person acts as organiser for each trip. He or she acts as a contact point and coordinator, and may change the venue if the weather conditions are unsuitable for the originally planned trip or if a group cannot be got together for the intended venue. On sea trips, the organiser is usually the one responsible for route and tidal planning. The organiser is not necessarily responsible for leadership on the water, as all safety decisions are down to individual participants.
If you want to know what to expect from a trip on the programme, it's best to contact the organiser. But a number of trips appear often enough on the programme that we thought it worth adding some photos of SOC trips and a bit of description in our Information and FAQs section. We have Favourite Rivers and Favourite Sea trips sections, both of which are somewhat works-in-progress, but contain a lot of useful information already.
Some trips need a bit more planning than just arranging to get X number of paddlers to the put-in at an agreed time and do the shuttle. Scottish two-day or longer sea trips are usually wild camping, but whitewater weekends away and some longer trips, particularly those further afield, do need considerable planning and some commitment in advance to ensure that the trip has sufficient people to go ahead, and accommodation may need booking well in advance. Ferry crossings, youth hostel, self-catering or campsite bookings and perhaps flights may need booking (and it is so much easier if all are done together), gear may need to be rented at the destination or members' gear may need transporting. For these sorts of trips, the two-week to four-month lead time that characterises the normal way of building the programme is often not enough. The pages under this heading are intended to advertise possible future trips and the arrangements for future trips as their organisation is firmed up. When there's enough to say, an upcoming trip may get its own webpage, with a link from here.
We don't want to limit this page to the Section Leader - if you have a trip that needs advance organisation and you want to interest more paddlers before doing a lot of work, let us know and we'll happily post some details. Even if the idea is highly speculative "wish-list" stuff, you have to start somewhere !
Currently on the planning horizon are:
Boldron Paddlefest. We've now had four of these (October 2010, New Year 2011/12, October 2012 and New Year again) and most have been blessed with good water levels and lots of people paddling, even on the midweek trips. There probably won't be one next new year as we are intending to go to Uganda, but October half term this year may well see another event along much the same lines (starting on easier grade 3 rivers and working up to grade 4, water levels permitting). These are not exclusive SOC-only events, but involve paddlers we know from other contexts.
Introductory kayak course. With a relaxation of the club rules on coaching, we have been having well-attended pool sessions and a number of coaching sessions on the river. This looks set to continue - watch out for things in the programme specifically designated as "coaching". Equipment should be available for this, if you are not yet at the stage of having your own. We've already had one "introduction to white water" course, which, by all accounts was very successful.
Scotland at Easter. After a successful trip in 2012, with a mix of SOC and other paddlers, we returned in 2103 with more SOC paddlers. This was a bit short on water, so less successful. We haven't yet decided whether a 2014 trip will be happening, but if it does, it's likely we'll try to limit numbers a little - 22 in three houses was too many ! These trips are a full week of whitewater, mostly looking at grade 4 rivers. In 2012, we did the Etive, Spean, Loy, Arkaig, Pattack, Roy and Orchy, and gave the dam-release Garry a miss as we had enough rain and snowmelt to prefer to avoid the crowds. In 2013, we did the Nith on the journey up, Spean gorge, Arkaig, Findhorn, Meig, Carron and the Garry (dam-release was very welcome), and scouted the Braan on the way home. Again, these trips have not been limited to SOC paddlers.
Wet West Paddlefest. An annual weekend event with guaranteed water (Garry and Moriston dam releases) and good parties (!) based in Fort William. If there's rain, there are other river options besides the dam-releases (we've done the Roy and the Orchy most often), although the main event is the Moriston, a good grade 4. We went to the 2012 event (where some camped, others stayed in a Roybridge bunkhouse) with some ambitions realised and some still to achieve (not everyone went for the intimidating top drop on the Moriston). It's likely that a contingent will be there again in 2013, which is back to the more conventional mid-September weekend.
Sea paddling in Shetland 201x. Shetland is a fairly serious sea kayaking destination, as we found out in September 2009, when we had mostly force eights and swell up to 4.4m on the west side, but still managed to get out paddling all five days. A return in summer is at the outline planning stage, but 2011 wasn't an option as the sea paddlers went to Croatia. When it happens, it is likely to follow a similar format to the 2009 trip - hostel-based somewhere near the centre of the islands, with one- or two-day trips out.
Austria 2013/Norway 201x. There's a lot of whitewater in Norway, much of it horrendously hard. But Norway produces many excellent paddlers, and they don't start out as beginners on grade 5, so you will find a lot of easier rivers too, even if they don't feature much on youtube and UKRGB (or the coffee table style guidebook). We were planning a trip in summer 2013 (it will have to be school holidays), and hoping that after Sarah's return from Chile, New Zealand and elsewhere, it won't all be too tame ! There are useful notes on logistics and accommodation from a previous trip, in James Hastings' Splendours of Norway trip report. Unfortunately, rumours that the Newcastle-Bergen ferry may be restarted, which would make things a lot easier, seem to be unfounded - they can't compete with Ryanair (which is no use if you have a canoe trailer...). Currently 'Norway 2013' (whitewater) will take place in Austria instead, with a Norway trip still planned for a summer trip in the near future.
Currently beyond the planning horizon:
Iceland NW Fjords. This is an ambition for a long sea kayaking trip - but a feasible one, recommended to us by local paddler Þorstein Sigurlaugsson (see the write up of our two-day trip in Iceland with him). The great indented lump at the northwest corner of Iceland is connected to the main part of the island by a relatively narrow isthmus, so setting up a shuttle should not be hugely difficult, even taking just one vehicle and a trailer across by ferry whilst others fly (much like the Lofoten trip). The trip would need at least four paddlers, but probably no more than eight, and should take about two weeks (maybe ten days on the water, plus some weather days), although to leave some safety margins and time for setting up the shuttle, perhaps a three week holiday would be ideal.
Even more distant dreams - Andy now has all the maps needed for the circumnavigation of Haida Gwaii and those for the Canadian part of the Inside Passage. We are hoping to paddle the middle section - Port Hardy (on Vancouver Island) to Prince Rupert (just south of the Alaskan border) when Mary retires, and possibly the similar length sections north and south of that (both involving crossing Canada/USA en route) later. This looks to be about five weeks per section, mostly in relatively sheltered waters, but with a very exposed crossing near the beginning (Strait of Georgia and Cape Caution). Two or three more paddlers would make this a much safer and more enjoyable experience ! Killer whales, Grizzly Bears, Bald Eagles and Sea Otters are de rigeur, and much more fantastic wildlife viewing seems the norm.