All posts by Mike Alter

Paddle on the Dee

Need to paddle. Can’t paddle due to Covid – Boo

Need to paddle. Can’t paddle due to Covid – Boo

Need to paddle. Can’t paddle due to Covid – Boo

(It must have been awful living with me, like a child constantly asking if we are there yet)

Gov says we can paddle!

Need to paddle. Will go after work on Friday from Sandy Lane – Yay!

Monday – Weather is great. Is it Friday yet? No. Boo

Tuesday – Weather is great. Is it Friday yet? No. Boo

Wednesday – Weather is great. Is it Friday yet? No. Boo

Thursday – Weather is great. Is it Friday yet? No. Boo

Friday – Yay!

Boo, its blowing a hooley.

Too windy to load the sea kayaks onto the car on my own?

Hmmmm, but I need to paddle and its Friday. Therefore it is not too windy! (Quality logic, and after a few squeaky bum moments they were loaded)

Collect Ruth from work. M53 is very blowy. 55mph, no 50mph, is plenty. Change of plan, Eccleston Ferry is more protected from the wind than Sandy Lane

So with that decision made we headed to Eccleston ferry. This is a great place to launch from to paddle flatwater on the River Dee (more scenic than at Sandy Lane). Point to note is that the car park is reduced capacity to reduce Covid risk – not that that stopped the person who was obviously living there in a campervan.

Anyway, a lovely paddle into the wind. A couple of sprints past the trees that were ominously creaking / depositing sections into the river and a decision made not to stop at the usual picnic spot at Crook of Dee ( a great little beach to land on – perfect for family picnics) and instead go to the iron bridge. Headwind all the way there, tailwind on the way back.

Not the longest paddle in the world, but so good to be back in boat!

As for the trip on the Dee.

Park at either Sandy Lane in Chester or Eccleston Ferry (details below)

Head upstream until reach turn around point (not too many stopping points – Eccleston ferry or Crook of Dee are best). River is more countrified above Eccleston Ferry, and there is an increased likelihood of seeing Kingfishers in this section.

Then paddle back

Distances / points

Sandy Lane to Eccleston Ferry (4km – Easy launch at SL, car park with slipway. No real stops until Eccleston Ferry. )

Eccleston Ferry to Crook of Dee (1.6km – slightly harder launching as have to carry boat over a fence or through kissing gate. Good point to stop at CoD with place for picnic / run around)

Crook of Dee to Iron Bridge (1.7km – no real get out points)



Carrying / Lifting a canoe

As we all know, open canoes can be quite heavy. Therefore, it is important to lift and carry them correctly.

Low level carry

Image result for carry a canoe
2 person carry

2 person

An easy carry over shortish distances is for 2 people to go to either end, bend legs, and then following an agreed command to lift with a straight back.

To ease the load on your wrist, you can support the weight by utilising a sling over your shoulder.

Image result for carry a canoe
Multi person carry

3 or 4 or more person

To ease the load on two people, if there are more of you then simply ask more people to help carry. Again, communication is key to lifting the boat cleanly.

This eases the load on the people carrying, but it is slow and carrying through confined spaces or uneven ground can be difficult.

High level carry

For carrying solo, or on longer distances, it is often easier to carry a canoe up high. HOWEVER, it is very important that we lift the boats properly (otherwise your back will go twang and you wont be paddling that day!).

Below are a selection of videos that show how to lift a boat for a high level carry. My favourite, whether carrying solo or double, is to lift / lower with two people

2 person lift & carry – my favourite, whether carrying as a pair or using the centre yoke. These two vids show 2 person lift and a 1 or 2 person carry.

1 person curl and carry – VERY IMPORTANT TO BE SMOOTH!!! NB, note how you can reduce the weight by resting one end on the floor

1 person lift and carry – a great way to lift that puts less risk to your body.

(Thanks to Ray Goodwin for posting the vids)

Mike A

Spey 2019 – Multi day canoeing in sunny Scotland

Having sorted a shuttle so that we could make the trip to Scotland in one car, Ruth and I loaded the canoes onto the trailer and headed north. It was time to go to the Spey again – one of the best multiday canoe trips in the UK.

We had done this trip before, but with all the recent rain the river was considerably higher and flowing far faster than last time. With some initial trepidation as to what the camping sites would be like (waterlogged?), we loaded the boats with food, camping kit, spare clothes for the shuttle and launched into the ultimate relaxation escape.

With the higher water level, we noted that the river sped by with far greater ease than last time. Although we were in the shadows of the high Cairngorms, this was one of the flatter sections in which we enjoyed the autumnal sunshine and marvelled at the turning of the woodland leaves.

Despite not being quiet, straight away we started seeing fabulous wildlife including several raptors and otters. Even more amazing, no midge, and for paddlers raised on the rivers of Wales, we had only friendly waves from the riverbank!

The first day was a great shake down as we haven’t paddled loaded boats for some time, but all too soon it was time to look for a suitable place to set camp. We spied a location that was perfect, so we landed and set up for a night under the stars – perfect, I do love a good wild camp. Zzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzz, “Oi, stop snoring!”

Morning brought a heavy mist / fog which provided a readily taken excuse for a lazy start – our reckoning was that we couldn’t see far enough ahead to read the river (Any excuse for another brew).

Eventually the fog lifted enough for us to head off. There was a notable increase in the frequency of the easy rapids as we zoomed along under the sun; passing deer, leaping salmon and numerous distilleries.

Having settled into the flow of the canoe trip, we eventually reached the first major rapid (washing machine). Helmets on we ran on sight – far easier with more water – and got through with very little water splashing into the boats.

At the second major rapid, Knockando, we again successfully ran on sight and carried on our merry way towards the sea.

Although through the major rapids, the river never lets up and it was an interesting paddle all the way down towards Spey Bay.


During the last few miles, the river changed its nature again as it became braided. Finally we encountered seals, if you go onto the sea you may also see dolphins, at the river mouth (100km from the start).


What a fabulous multi day paddle with great weather and great company. As Ruth left on the 3 hour shuttle it was time for me to settle in for a long wait. Unfortunately, the café shut at 5pm and the wind was beginning to get up – so it was a case of make a shelter out of the canoes, inflate the thermarest, put on my tunes, lie back, watch the bunnies play, and …………. Relax

Open boats really are the best way to do this type of trip. Can’t wait to get back – hopefully next year. Who knows where we will end up in 2021!

Mike & Ruth

Out of the docks

The initial open boat training in the docks had been done. Now the plan was to go on a river trip!

For some, this was simply another river in another type of craft. But for others this was their first paddling adventure away from the docks – AWESOME!

Canoes collected, spirits high, we headed to Farndon to paddle the river Dee. The chatter in the car was excited and loud, well it had to be to overcome the sudden cloudburst that we were driving through, but that didn’t dampen spirits.

Everyone helped to unload the kit, subconsciously picking up tips about how to secure boats, and got ready. Food was packed into dry bags, dry kit left in appropriate vehicles and the plan was sorted:

  1. This is the river.
  2. We are paddling 10 miles that way to Eccleston ferry (no time restriction on car parking as there is at Sandy Lane).
  3. We are stopping for lunch, make sure you have food with you.
  4. Speak up if not feeling well / cold.
  5. Stay out of the trees. Watch out for the river wide tree that we have heard about but we can get through.
  6. If you get side onto an object, lean onto it.
  7. Have fun!

After those rousing Churchillian words, the team lowered the boats to the river (using excellent manual handling techniques) and headed off on the adventure.

It started well.

It didn’t last!

Keith decided that he would be chief child on the trip, so with a big grin he proceeded to pull the full length of my fluorescent pink swimline out. No reason why, just because he could. Thanks!

Not perturbed, we carried on. The teams practicing their tandem team work as they glided down the river, using great communication to ensure they moved the boats where we wanted to go – past fishermen, the strange assortment of huts on this section of the Dee, pirate gnomes, but luckily no cows dancing the conger.

The new open boaters were making this look easy. Luckily the river provided with a slight constriction of flow. Never one to miss a learning opportunity, we used this to practice ferry gliding and break outs. The photos don’t do it justice, but this simple piece of moving water allowed for half a hour of really fabulous river learning. Paddle stokes and power were modulating according to need, angles of attack were played with, and bow rudders there were many.

All too soon we headed off, a quick stop for lunch and then effortlessly travelling down the river to Eccleston ferry (this avoids the boring run into chester) and journeys end.

A fabulous day, I had a really nice day on the river AND there was real progression by paddlers who had done very little open boating.


Open boaters – half the paddle, twice the paddlers.

You missed out if you weren’t there!

Mike, Ruth, Keith, Graham, Rim, Joyce, Karen, Martin, Steve & Ellie


The Three Amigos go Open Boating at Llangollen

The Three Amigos go Open Boating at Llangollen

There have been lots of club sea and river trips. With the recent intro to opens course being such a success, we felt it was time to get more club open boat trips. That was the plan, so Mike issued the call to all open paddlers and Ian Bell duly responded (there were others who wanted to come but were kept away by prior commitments).

The weather was mixed, but that didn’t stop us. We arrived at Llangollen, sorted out kit and decided that we were going to have a good skills day.

On the water, a quick warm up and then we headed up stream. In kayaks that normally means carrying the boat up the field. But in canoes we started with a quick wade up the first rapid. We then poled up the next rapid (Top tip – helmets and shin pads are good idea!)

At the next rapid, we used the painters to track boats up the drop. Most used painters, however Mike had removed his painter, forgotten to bring a sling, and so had to use his 15m swim line. It worked, but he then had to faff and re pack it. Did we wait for him? Err………………!


Up at the railway bridge rapid, the sun shone and we had a great time surfing and crossing. It looks really smooth in an open boat – half the paddle, twice the paddlers!



Ready for lunch, we turned and headed back to the centre – it took us rather less time and effort to get back.

Fuelled and raring to go, we ran tombstones. After that we thought about playing in the middle stopper – however it didn’t look nice, so we just had a chat with the designer of the new Venture Canoes Afon.

Then down to bottom wave where we cut it up with all the playboaters. Obviously, they couldn’t cope with the fantastic display of surfing 15 ft opens, so they left. More funtime for us!


Feeling tired, it was time to go home. Ian (death before portage) Bell tracked his boat (pulled it with ropes) up the rapid and we headed for the car park.

A fabulous day! Looking forwards to seeing more open boaters out on the river.

Ruth, Ian & Mike

Ruth Edwards

Intro to Open Boating

Fabulous day on the intro to canoeing 🛶🛶🛶 course down at the docks.

Everyone did really well, with paddlers progressing from never being in an open boat to paddling solo, others playing with running pry’s, and some people rescuing fully swamped boats!

Well done all 🎊🎉. Can’t wait for our trip down the Dee.

Link to video about rescuing a capsized boat / swimmer

Going Underground

For day 2 of the Anglesey weekend, 11 LCC members decided to head around the stacks on the ebb tide.

The wind was blowing strong as we headed to North Stack, giving choppy confused waters, but everyone coped superbly as we surfed into Gogarth bay. Once in Gogoarth, we explored all the caves and crevices, even finding one cave that we could all paddle into and then come out another entrance.


With the tide having eased at south Stack, we entered the chop and went far outside of the headland – the birds were nesting so it was important not to disturb them.

A quick lunch, and then it was back to more rock hopping and cave exploring, all the time marveling at the fabulous jellyfish and amazing geology.

Another great LCC day on the sea.


Mind your head! An almost LCC trip to the Skerries

Firstly, an apology to anyone who would have liked to come on this trip but didn’t see the advertising email. It’s still in my drafts, which might explain why I got no responses.

Anyway, with a great forecast for the weekend, a trip to the Skerries was planned and agreed.

So on a glorious morning we set out from Cemlyn. At the first way point we turned our attention to the second way mark and distant Skerries, only to see them disappearing in a fog/haze bank. Oh well, good job we had the compass.

Crossing some confused water tidal flow we arrived at our second way point (Victoria bank cardinal mark). Some quick photos in the eddy being formed behind the buoy and it was off to way point three (Coal rock south cardinal mark). NB, its amazing how far you drift when you stop to take a photo.

The Skerries were still hazy

But as we neared they became more visible.

After a pleasant paddle, with quite a bit of tidal assistance, we arrived at the Skerries, where we were met by quite a few seals, puffins and a vast number of terns.

Breaking for lunch we headed to the lighthouse.

When I say we, I mean Ruth and Ian. They were ahead of me, and the shouts of “Ow!” that followed the mob attack by the diver bombing terns led me to decide that discretion was the better part of valour.

In the spirit of true comradeship with my fellow paddlers, rather than offer assistance, I reached for the camera and waited for them to make the return dash! Top tip, at this time of year, bring helmets for the walk to the lighthouse!!!


Following a lazy lunch, it was back into the tide race and back to our start point via West Mouse. Where we saw some White Ladies and a couple of Purpoise.

A brilliant day, the only way it would have been better is if we had seen the Orcas that were spotted at South Stack.

Mike Alter, Ruth Edwards & Ian Bell

The Orme

It was a late shout, but Ian Bell decided to join me for a leisurely paddle around the Great Orme.

Launching at West Shore, close to high tide so as to avoid a carry in, we paddled around to Llandudno where Mr Punch appeared to be assaulting a policeman.

Lunch enjoyed, it was back the way we came. Alas no seals on the way back

A great LCC day on the sea.

Mike Alter, Ian Bell

Access Needs YOU!

All, there is a Welsh government review into access to water in Wales. It is VITAL that as many paddlers or water users respond to this.

For those new to the sport, some context:

1930’s onwards people believed you needed permission to paddle on rivers. Fishermen didn’t like sharing and even managed to persuade some policy makers / judges that this is the case.

Access agreements were occasionally formulated, always in favour of fishermen, but many (most) rivers remained off limits. example of an access agreement included the river Dee above llangollen, which allowed about 4 days use per year.

Quality agreements were limited. Attempts to make sharing more equal was rebuffed by the fishing lobby. They even managed to have access to water removed from the right to roam act.

Late 90’s / Early 00’s – a doctoral thesis suggested that there is a right to navigate all rivers.
A seperate government study found that paddlesports do not disturb fish.

After more attempts to make access agreements fairer, including a government attempt that actually REDUCED access whilst attempting to improve access, Paddlesport bodies diecided to ignore them.
Legal position of access is disputed.

Welsh government is reviewing again. So far the well organised committees of Countryside Alliance have made 600 submissions AGAINST access (be careful, their stratergy appears pro access but it is not)
Dissorganised paddler who would rather just paddle, have made 12 submissions to improve access.

PLEASE help!!!!!!! Respond to the survey below.

FURTHER, if possible, please write to the Welsh Assembly to tell them why access matters. A pro forma example letter will be distributed late August.

NB – be very careful if liking the the countryside alliance posts / comments re access, they actually want to REDUCE access.

Mike (you might have to cut and paste the link. More information is on the canoe england, canoe wales websites facebook pages. Also see waters of wales)