Adventure

Garry Boater X – why you should be there next year!

This is my third year at the Garry Boater Cross (X) second year competing and I’m here to tell you why you should be signing up for next year’s race!

The Organisers

Before I start talking on anything else, big shout out needs to go to everyone who helps make this event a success.  Daryn Hubbucks and Kev Barclay have been running the events since 2012 (I believe), supported by Gavin Miller and Howard Aspinall. The amount of effort they put in clearly shows in the smooth running and excellence of the event.  There is so much work put in behind the scenes from t-shirt’s ordering to organising running order, ferrying about podiums, arranging prizes and trophies, ensuring everyone is looked after on and off the water and about a million other things, as well as, competing in the event itself!  The guys’ whole families get involved and without these wonderful people events like this would not be possible.  Thank you!! 

It’s thanks to Kev, Daryn, Howard, Gav and friends that these events are such a success.

The Location

The past few years’ people have stayed in Cumbernauld’s Campsite in the town of Fort Augustus. It’s a beautiful town with only a few pubs and some really quaint wee shops including a wee jewellery shop called Iceberg Glass where they blow stunning glass creations like the Jelly Fish pendants I’m currently coveting.  People are very friendly and it’s not too far from the Garry.

The Set-Up

The setup is perfect.  If you arrive Friday afternoon as a lot of folk do you will congregate somewhere on the campsite to help draw names from a hat (plastic bag!) to see who you will be racing in the first heat.  Depending on how you place in the first race will determine your placing in the next race until your final where there is everything to play for because everyone has the chance to place on the podium for your heat.

Male champions Michael Brown, Gavin Miller and Ewan Campbell took 1st, 2nd and 3rd at this year’s event

The People and Atmosphere

This year there were 17 women and 42 men racing and it was glorious.  I was feeding off the energy that everyone was exuding, trying to calm people’s nerves and generally having a great time with everyone I met.  Everyone is honestly so supportive and the atmosphere is addictive.  When you’re nor racing you spend some time on the ‘cheering rock’ in the gorge of the bridge at the finish line, shouting words of encouragement to your fellow participants, inspiring them across that finish line!

Mulling around between heats (c) Linda Stewart

The Race

The race starts at 12 and is every hour after this.  When I took part in the race last year I was sh**ting myself.  I always seemed to put pressure on myself to do well, despite not having trained or even having the desire to race competitively.

Ride that wave (c) Linda Stewart

Coming back a year later I had managed my own expectations and had two ambitions.  To go as fast as I possibly could and to stay upright because I knew a capsize would place me out of the race.  Of course it is competitive as it’s a race but everyone plays fair and I’ve never had any problems myself with any of the other racers.  As soon as the whistle or shout ‘Go!’ is sounded everything else turns off and you race your wee heart out as fast as you can, trying to avoid a tussle that could slow you down!  Once in the gorge you use the flow to catch your breath before powering it down the rest of the course to a cheering finish line.

(c) Linda Stewart, GBX 2017

The prizes

Everyone who enters of volunteers on the day recieved a goody bag with a Garry Boater X t-shirt, stickers, juice, packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.  There is always a raffle of some kind at the end using bibs to choose a lucky winner and most of the podium placed winners receive a small prize of some sort.  This particular year the trophies were out of this world created by Jennifer Hartnett and I am beyond stoked to have one sitting on my sideboard at home!

Stoked and disbelieving Danger

The After Party

This year’s after party was not as legendary as previous years as the council have upped the licence costs of local businesses in the area and the Campsite staff couldn’t afford to open the Campsite Bar/BBQ as before, however, that didn’t stop most of us having a boogie and beer underneath a gazeebo in the Campsite grounds, with some attempting a mini pub crawl around Fort Augustus.  Hopefully we’ll be back to normal next year but safe to say the people make the party anyway.

Well deserved pints in our GBX 2017 tees

If you are having reservations about entering please don’t! This event is completely accessible to everyone no matter how long you’ve been paddling. An example of this at both Garry Boater X and Tully X this year was Andreana Caldwell entering and competing after only paddling a couple of months. She felt supported and energised by the events and would also recommend to everyone!

Andreana crossing the finish line at Garry Boater X 2017

Remember you can do your bit by sharing the Garry Boater X and Tully X events, offering assistance to the guys (as I’m sure there are numerous jobs they’d love help with) and simply signing up to give it a bash, ensuring it’s continued success!  See you all July 2018 

Hugs aplenty! Suzy and Danger (c) Linda Stewart

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That time I painted a bike

I bought my Fixie from Edinburgh Bike Co-op for a bit of a steal.  It’s a heavy bike but I have my cycle-cross for going fast and had been talking about fixed gear for an age.  I must have had the bike for about 9 months, riding it a handful of times before deciding to repaint and rebuild.

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I had no real idea on how to proceed at first so began happily pinning and researching through Pinterest and the wonderful web, had enough inspiration and went for it!

 First up I stripped the bike down to the frame and chain, greased any open or vulnerable parts (threads in the bottom bracket, head tube, seat tube) and masked off bits I didn’t want to get any paint in.  I then roughly sanded down the frame by hand which took a wee while but I was really aiming to remove all the lacquer and then a little bit further.  I probably should have done more but basically got the frame and forks to the point all the lacquer was off and the paint lightly removed, rubbing it down with a damp cloth to remove any residue.  I know other ways are using paint stripper but I wanted to avoid using chemicals when a bit of elbow grease would do just as well.

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I then sprayed the frame and forks with white primer, leaving 15 mins to dry between coats.  After the 3rd coat I lightly sanded down before adding the final coat and let it dry (which was when I ran out of primer).   I then added some off set masking tape to one of the bottom brackets as I was adding fluro pink to parts of the bike and wanted a bit of a ‘outside the lines’ look.  I proceeded to spray the seat stem, part of the back bracket and forks with Halfords own Fluorescent Pink, leaving to dry between coats as before.  I left this overnight and began the hard work the next day

 This part took roughly 50+ hours over 6 weeks.  I was sitting from 30 mins to 4 hours if I got into the groove, in the spare room, with a yoga mat, tea or beer and a couple of lamps if it was dark, listening to audio books and using my ‘Fixie of Dreams’ Pinterest board for inspiration.  I used POSCA pens which were incredible to use, a paint brush to blend or thin the paint, a pencil to sketch out bits I was too scared to freehand and an industrial black sharpie for the leopard printing.

The tense part came when it was time to lacquer my handiwork.  I had intensely tested the lacquer by applying a large amount to a scrap of metal I’d drawn on and it had bled, however, multiple layers of thin, even layers didn’t cause any bleeding and after about layer 3 or 4 I was able to spray freely.

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I finished the Fixie off with a Brooks saddle, some lush sky blue Ergon GA2 Grips and some fluro Spokin Thunderbolts and Stars. I’m really stoked with the outcome, finally seeing something artistic through to the end and as a result, enjoy riding this bike about 60% more!  It’s like being a kid again, blasting around, bunny hopping and skidding, saving up to add different parts to the bike and make it even more RAD!

If you have any questions on the project please leave me a comment as I actually love talking about it!

The Leny, Callendar

The Leny was really my first taste of white water and since we’ve run it numerous times, I wanted to put in writing how much I love this stretch of river. The first time I ran it at 0.8, swimming about 70% of the time, I knew it was going to teach me a thing or two about kayaking on white water.  Please note I’ve only run this at a maximum 0.9 and know from kayaking pals that the whole river changes above this level. I know this is probably quite obvious but I wanted to include the note and if I ever get to the point of running it above a metre I’ll be sure to add to the entry.

We run this from the put in, a long layby just passed the turning for the Ben Ledi Car Park, to the get out, a public car park just passed the Lade Inn, on the left.

From the get in until the 1st bridge, there are no real rapids and this gives you time to warm up by ferry gliding and catching eddies. As you come up to the bridge catch an eddy on either side to have a look at it because there are some challenging eddies to try and make on the way down. This rapid is good for practicing ferry gliding or surfing a wave in the higher levels, but is actually quite a tiring rapid as it’s  relatively narrow and can flow quite fast.

Fergus ferry gliding

A little further down the river on the left hand side, there is a small play hole we normally practice bracing in or shooting across. It’s relatively forgiving however, there are a couple of rocks directly below so ensure you have a quick role or a solid brace!

Dani below the play hole

There is a train of big bouncy rapids just before the falls and on the right hand side, the remains of a railway bridge. On the way down there are a few eddies to retreat to if the speed is too much. Make sure you make Last Gasp Eddy on the right as this is directly above the falls, dropping into the eddy as far right as possible. There is a small drop and at higher levels the stopper could cause a capsize! Portage is moderately easy here but make sure you stop and have a look at the falls!

Ian running the falls

You get back in at a large deep pool, great for practicing roles, edging, bracing etc before making your way towards Wee Stinker. I’ve always run this just right of the middle, before curving slightly to the right to hit right of the rock above Wee Stinker before the drop, ensuring a smoother landing.  Again, at higher levels the landing can be rather bumpy so really positive strokes off the drop and keep paddling out of it.

Ewan running Wee Stinker  

From here there is a bouncy stretch just before S-Bend. S-Bend can be handled a few different ways so suggest getting out for a look before attempting, if you’re unsure.

Generally I run it by eddy hopping down the right and hitting the last eddy before the bend. Take care in getting into this eddy as there is a guard rock located at the top of the eddy which has caught many a paddler out, so try and catch it a bit further down than normal. Depending on the level you can miss out S-Bend and go down the chicken shoot but the rapid is such a thrill to ride!

Fergus on the surf wave at S-bend

From the eddy, ferry glide to the other side, however there is a big surf wave in the way! Try to stay as high up as you can, concentrating on giving positive and hard paddle strokes and either go into the eddy on the left or turn on the rapid and shoot down the curve. I’ve capsized on the hole before, tucked up and dropped into the pool where I rolled back up but I did take a few knocks. This is a grade 3/4 which is mainly that is due to the hole in the middle and the stopper at the bottom. It’s also far easier at 0.7 as even at 0.8 the whole dynamics change.

For the rest of the river, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty, but keep alert and ready for rocks as the remainder can sometimes be a bit of a scrape.

NOTE: Watch out for hidden rocks. I’ve paddled the river up to 0.9 and there have always been something to catch you out. Also if this is your first time running the river, I’d recommend getting out for a wee look at anything you aren’t sure of but Wee Stinker and S-Bend if nothing else.

That time we…had our first overnight Kayak Trip

As most things with us, this trip had been planned a few weeks before we embarked on an overnight adventure.  We were going from the top of Loch Shiel, near Glenfinnan House.  Some lovely people in Glenfinnan allowed us to stash a motorbike there for the duration of the trip, enabling us to have a van at the get out and to also know there was a higher degree of safety to our belongings.

We loaded the boats, getting in just beside the Loch Shiel Cruises ‘Port’ and were on our way.  As we started off about 1pm, we were prepared to paddle about 4-5 hours to give us enough time to set up camp in the light.  I will add here that the geek in me was loving the start of this excursion because Loch Shiel from Glenfinnan was used in the Harry Potter films.  Namely where Buckbeak flies with Harry and a lot of the long shots of the ‘Dark Lake’!  It was even more stunning in the flesh. 

Coffee Break Stop on Island

Coffee Break Stop on Island

We managed a couple hours, stopping for a brew on a wee pebbly beach.  We maybe made it 9 or 10 miles in total and camped on a fairly flat grassy beach.  The tents went up, followed by an awesome shelter courtesy of Gus.  The wind had been blowing in our faces almost the whole time, but as soon as we stopped and put the tents up it disappeared!  The midges descended upon us straight away so the nets, spray and fire came out on force.  We’d planned ahead in as far as a Tupperware full of spicy chicken curry materialised and we had a filling meal with rice and beer, followed by a few Rusty Nails*, watching the fire and stars without light pollution, feeling inconsequential, safe and warm.  

Gus Built Shelter

Gus Built Shelter

After a fairly good nights sleep we got up to a wet and windy morning.  We packed up, chocked down some cold porridge** and hot coffee then set off again.  We knew of a Burial Ground as Gus and the ‘Angry Plums’ had been there before, so we were going to stop off there and I think it’s called Eilean Fhianain.  I managed to find a link to a webpage which shows its exact location, which I’ll link to at the bottom.  The island was completely mesmerising, melancholy and beautiful.  We took our time to visit some of the graves and stood in astonishment gazing upon monuments, dedicated to those who have long since passed.  We had toyed with the idea of staying on the Burial Island but am very glad we decided against it as it would have been totally disrespectful and disruptive of the peace which surrounded this exceptional place.

Burial Island

Burial Island

We said our goodbyes and headed off once again.  The wind was picking up again, along wide a side of rain, so the going was a little tougher than the day before.  Despite this, we were making great time and would be hitting the river soon enough.  When we reached the river and once we were passed ‘Acharacle’, the wind dies down again and the river started to take us a little faster, making the going a bit easier for a while. 

We paddled under Shiel Bridge  which comes from ‘Moidart’ to ‘Acharacle’ and an even older and smaller bridge a little further on, aptly named ‘The Old Bridge’.  Be careful when going through this and out the other side that you don’t hit an eddy line like these two idiots!  It’s all caught on Camera, so don’t worry…

Just past the bridge

Just past the bridge

We passed ‘Cliff’ and a few more bends to ‘Shielfoot’.  We did pass a couple of Anglers, one was brand new and motioned us to go behind him and another who was not quite as friendly, but as it was such a gloriously miserable day, with no sign of any other kayakers for miles, I’m sure he was just feeling harassed by the level of disturbances he surely would have had that morning  😉

Leaving ‘Shielfoot’ behind we reached the rapids that join ‘River Shiel’ to ‘Loch Moidart’ – What a RUSH!! The white water was bubbling all over the place so naturally just went for it, one after the other.  We all made it down without any trouble, including Gus in his ultra long  Sea Kayak!   Another pit stop here for lunch of smoked sausage, Mars Bar and a brew, camping food at it’s best!  From where we took a break we could see the ruins of Castle Tioram, which we paddled right around when we got back in the water. 

As Loch Moidart is a salt water Loch, we start to get pushed on a little by the waves and soon the Castle is behind us as we travel on towards ‘Kyles Wood’ and turn toward the top of ‘Eilean Shona’.  This was my absolute favourite part because not only did we see a couple of seals but also the scenery was breathtaking.  We turned into a sort of valley, ‘Kyles Wood’ on our right and were reminded why Scotland is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We managed to hit the tide at the right time and avoided a carry across a road/path, but if you were to miss it, it’s not a big task to carry over it.  We took in some amazing scenery and stopped off on ‘Coral Island’ to stretch our legs which is a little white coral island, just before you enter the sea.  From turning into the top of ‘Eilean Shona, we had been staring into the sea in the distance, evaluating and debating the roughness of the ocean.  As we were on the island, we looked again and deemed it to be suitable enough to paddle on without much difficulty.

On Coral Island being a poser dick

On Coral Island being a poser dick

I can tell you now, I learned an important lesson that day.  Always check the weather forecast and let someone sensible/professional know of your intentions!  We survived, that much is true, but we had one hell of a scary ride.  As we started off, the sea was not too rough, but before we knew it, we were scattered, moving up and then sinking low on massive waves, parallel to an unforgiving almost evil looking coastline.  Powerful waves were completely smashing against a ragged shoreline and I did at one point in all seriousness think I was going to end up in the water, hurtling towards those cold hard rocks!

But as always in ‘Baw’s to the Wa’s’ situations I found my inner calm and beasted my way through the danger, unashamedly I shall admit I left Fergus and Gus behind.  My reasoning was I was one less being to worry about and turning round to check on them while timing massive waves coming for me at the same time was pointless and pretty reckless.  I should also admit to you all that this is not the first time I have been in danger so you should maybe not follow any advice I give, ever!

Glenuig Alive but not very well...

Glenuig Alive but not very well…

We did make it around the coastline and ended up back at Glenuig, the same but also changed.  All’s well that ends well though, we ended up in the ‘Glenuig Inn’ (who do rather awesome guided Kayaking tours, as well as serving brilliant food) feeling rather tired but extremely happy that we were all alive and unscathed.

Bewildered but warm

WTF did we do?!?

We didn’t bother camping another night, instead heading home, while Gus drove we got out our face on Whiskey to celebrate, Viking style or victory in battle with a magnificent and terrifying ocean, vowing never to do anything as stupid ever again…..until next time!

*Rusty Nail; made by mixing Drambuie and Scotch whisky in equal measures

**Cold Porridge; is actually not as disgusting as it sounds if made the night before with milk, oats and honey with nuts or fruit added as an option.