Planned Trips... and Beyond!
These have been running once again, at Richmond Pool, with a new discount-for-pre-pay system to ensure that we at least break even (and have been doing quite well). These sessions will run until Easter and then resume in October.
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 River Trips 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
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). In 2013 the Moriston was great, but the heavens opened overnight and things were very high on Sunday - some paddled the Arkaig. Perhaps less drama on more recent visits, and I'm sure a contingent will be returning in 2019.
Circumnavigation of Skye. Andy has worked out a plan for this 180 mile trip, taking a couple of weeks (9 or 10 days actual paddling) which needs to be done with spring tides somewhere between the third and fifth day (depending on starting/finishing point). The original timings were done for Easter 2017 - April 8th to 17th, but no-one was up for that (obviously it does depend on the weather). The idea will still fly at almost any easter if anyone is interested, otherwise, any two weeks with springs in the first week could be made to work. Contact Andy for details and finding a suitable schedule...
Sea Paddling in Shetland 2018. 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 was planned (and fully booked well ahead) for June 2018. This was very successful despite a rough crossing and less-than-ideal weather, being hostel-based near the centre of the islands, with day (or evening) trips out paddling, walking or cycling. 2019 will see another attempt on St. Kilda (also fully booked with a waiting list...) A 2020 trip to Orkney following a similar pattern is now in the organisational stages. 2021 is provisionally set for a trip to Norway (either Helgeland or the far north near Hammerfest) but numbers will be limited as this is not going to work with a big group. We're thinking two camper vans with three boats on each as a maximum.
France/Austria/Norway. 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). 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...). So 'Norway 2013' (whitewater) took place very successfully in Austria instead, with a Norway trip still planned for a summer trip in the near future. Current vague plans for 2019 focus on a three-week stay in France including a bit of canyonning, via ferrataing and so on.
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. He is hoping to paddle the middle section - Port Hardy (on Vancouver Island) to Prince Rupert (just south of the Alaskan border), 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.