Having spent a few days getting my new (to me) Mega Outlander 16 kitted out to my satisfaction, I then had a frustrating wait for some decent weather to coincide with some free time. At last, towards the end of January, I had a few hours spare on a day when it wasn’t actually raining, and decided to take the canoe for its first trip. I chose a pleasant stretch of the Chesterfield Canal, from Kiveton Park to Thorpe Triple locks and back – just a gentle stretch of easy water, but one of my favourite short local trips.
This boat is so much lighter than my others, so I didn’t bother taking the trolley for the portage, and was soon setting up on the towpath. There was frost in the shadows still, but a winter sun was trying its best to give some warmth to the afternoon.
Past Albert’s Dock, a narrow boat was shut up for the winter. Sheltered from a moderate wind, I enjoyed the reflections as I passed by.
The wind was mostly behind me on my journey out, but in places the canal hid behind woods, affording some shelter. Here I enjoyed a quiet reach through the woods, with the winter trees stretching up into the sky. The boat was proving to be a fast and easy paddle, effortlessly covering the water, and yet responsive when I wanted it to be, so I spent a little time getting used to its handling, turning and spinning for the fun of moving over the water.
Near Thorpe Triple locks is my favourite stretch of this short trip. The cut curves gently through the woods, and the low-angled winter sun can glance through the trees. Calm water adds a dash of magic with its reflections. I stopped for a few moments to admire the view.
Reaching the locks, I moored up to stretch my legs for a few minutes. The wind had got up a bit now, and the sky was beginning to fill in with cloud. Snow was forecast for late afternoon, and it was looking like I might have a bit of a fight with the weather on my return trip, so I didn’t linger long.
For once though, the wind didn’t pick up when it became a headwind. I was pleasantly surprised to find it had dropped, even though the approaching cloud looked heavy with promised snow. The speed of the outlander came into its own now.
Without too much effort I was able to cover the distance to my starting point much quicker than usual, and it was only in the last hundred metres that the snow caught me.
Even so, I was grateful for the warmth of the car after packing up in steady snowfall. I had managed to grab a quick paddle against the forecast, and had christened my new boat. Not a bad afternoon…
Photographic notes: As well as this being my first trip in the outlander, I was also road-testing a waterproof Lumix compact camera (if ‘road’-testing is something you can do in a boat…). This is a little compact camera that fits nicely in my buoyancy aid’s pocket, and has a decent waterproof rating that should allow it to survive a swim in fast-moving water and still work. It even has a video function, but I haven’t tried that yet. As you can probably tell, its picture quality isn’t up to that of a DSLR, but it was certainly easier to pack!