It started raining here on Friday … or was it Thursday? I don’t suppose it matters.
I do know for certain that as I drove home after work on Friday the rain turned to sleet and then the sleet turned to snow. I also know I turned off the TV around 8pm and went to bed just so I could lie their listening to the wind and rain buffeting the house. It was elemental, with wind gusts up to 60km/hr. It was the sort of night you were glad to be curled up in a nice toasty bed.
The only negative of this wonderful demonstration of natures power was that my plans for the weekend all involved rivers and specifically going down them … and I’m scared of rivers, very scared.
I was however also determined to get back onto bluebird before our planned Xmas adventure, so I still managed to convince myself to get out of bed and drive down to Huonville by 7.30am where I found myself staring out a rather swollen river. A quick check of the water gauge at the bridge showed the river was running at 2.8m … about 1.5 metres higher than I was hoping, but I didn’t need a river gauge to tell me that the river was high … I could see that myself …
|The Huon Bridge
As I was sitting in the car wondering what to do, the skies opened again, and didn’t stop for the next hour.
I spent this time sitting in the car reading motivational blogs, thinking and chatting on the phone … basically just trying to talk myself into being brave. Surprisingly this finally worked … at least enough to get me to set off towards Ranelagh to drop off my bike at my planned finish point before continuing on up to Judbury to start the paddle.
|Bike and cycling gear stashed.
Half way to Judbury I pulled over to have a look at what I call the mushroom rapid (because it’s near Huon Valley Mushrooms) and what I saw took all the confidence I had slowly built up over the last hour, tossed it in the trash bin and clicked “Empty Trash” for good measure.
The last time I paddled down here I remember getting caught on the rocks before this rapid and losing a lot of plastic off my boat … this time there was a long line of standing waves heading around the corner into the main rapid which I couldn’t see from the road. I had no idea how much directional steerage I’d have in bluebird to handle those conditions and I had no idea if I had the skill or the boat to get through to the other side. My panic metre was rising.
I still continued on up to Judbury and walked down to the launch point before I finally made the decision that today wasn’t the day to learn how Bluebird handles in the water … not by myself in any case.
|That’s a lot of water.
As I tried to figure out what to do, I had an inspiration and chose to download a geocaching app for my phone and went and bagged some geocaches for a while.
|Notice tiny geocache in hole at base of tree.
I know that probably sounds random, but as I was standing looking out over the river, I recalled I had once planned a cycle route around the Huon River based on collecting geocaches and that there was a geocache around where I was standing. I never did that ride as after doing some Geocaching around Mt Wellington I decided that geocaching is not for me and so gave it up. However recently I’ve been following Jens Voight’s numerous tweets about geocaching so I thought I’d give it another go … turns out it’s still not for me, so back to the main story …
This diversion did serve a purpose … it distracted my mind enough that I figured out a Plan B … I would paddle from Ranelagh down to Huonville to at least dip my toe in the water and see how bluebird handled. A brilliant plan.
I therefore went and picked up my bike, drove back down to Huonville, got changed into my paddling gear, loaded bluebird and paddle into a backpack and proceeded to once more cycle to Ranelagh to start the paddle … I think I looked rather dashing cycling down the highway in my thermals, kag and wetsuit shorts … even if I do say so myself …
It didn’t take long to get bluebird ready for flight …
and then with no more excuses we launched …
- I am a complete and utter wuss … once on the water, the river speed was very easy and it was really quite a doddle.
- There is no way in an Alpaca Raft that you can paddle upstream against a strong current … no matter how stubborn you are.
- Bluebird is very unresponsive going across the current … or in fact anywhere … you have to plan where you want to be a fair way in advance.
- She handles well when crashing into things .. I tested this the only way I could think … I looked for a hazard in the river and rammed it … simple but effective.
|Notice the log sticking out of the water. I rammed it to test stability.
later on I also rammed the bridge, just for good measure.
|Huon River Jet Boat
All up, the day wasn’t what I had planned, but at least I dipped my toe in the water … next time I’ll try and go the whole way.