I always enjoy getting my gear out for the first paddle of the season – and for the past decade (or longer?) this has often been the Jock River Race, as a fun little paddle. This event draws in alot of casual paddlers, as well as a handful of serious folks out for a race. I tend to end up somewhere in the middle, as I cruise steadily though the scenery, soaking this all in.
Event day can be varied, depending on water levels, and temperature – you have to watch your email and website to ensure there are no schedule updates: it does change depending on water levels, and how quickly things melt. This spring, it was targeted for Saturday April 16, and that’s when it took place! First thing for me is always to find my paddling gear, and ensure I have enough warm layers. Uncovering the kayak for the first time this season, pulled to front of lawn on the grass, and strapped this in to get moving
After loading way too muck gear into the car (prepared for anything), I drove out to the put-in to pickup my number (new format this year), and get the car shuttle going to the finish area with Rick and his brother (Mike) who were also participating. This way my vehicle will be at the end when I’m finished. There is also a public shuttle, though trying to avoid that approach for now.
Start area is always a bit of a scramble with a bit of moving water – and inevitably, there are folks who manage to dump into the mighty Jock at the very start! With 175 watercraft registered this year (a record), there’s lots of help to retrieve any overturned boats, equipment, and paddlers. Rick helped me carry my kayak to a quiet spot in the woods where I could collect my gear and push off.
With all kinds of boats lined up along the shoreline and at the waters edge, it’s probably the most challenging part of the paddle. I got my gear together, and headed onto the water to get myself out of the way, and tuck into the far shoreline where there is a bit more space.
We start in groups of 5, spaced 30 seconds apart – so it does not take long to get everyone underway, and I started myself about 2/3 of the way to be in the middle of things.
The paddle this year was more casual than most, as I did enjoy myself dipping the paddle into the waters and floating downstream. Tried to be chatty as well with the participants as I cruised by folks – it was a partially sunny and glorious day. Water levels have already ebbed, as the flooding in The Fen had subsided – not many floodplans left, though a few looked tempting as always. I chose to stay in the main flow, which is always the safest approach. Cutting corners sometimes gets folks stranded – though I did see a few kayakers manage to easily navigate a few of the hairpins with a shortcut!
Moving waters were simple – and a bit lower than average this year (I’m guessing). Definately took a bit of scanning to ensure deeper pools were found to minimize the bumps – in a few weeks this would not be passable.
There is a stretch near the end of 750m (or so) that was almost continuous moving water and a lot of fun – then flattens out to another 500m cruise right into Richmond, to finish at Jock River Park. There are timers there, along with over a hundred watercraft pulled up onto shore in the park for successful paddlers. As it was a mixed sunny afternoon with warmish (+9C) temperatures, nice to be onshore and stretching the legs again.
Rick and his daughter arrived shortly behind me, and Jeff arrived right behind me too in his 16 foot yellow Necky sea kayak – side-by-side with my Perception Alcamy, that’s a boat defiantly built to be running a bit quicker (longer, and thinner profile). Getting out of the water, it’s always good to get a little help, and folks are there to pull you up onto shore to keep your feet dry – always appreciated. There are finish tents in place with some fruit and muffins available – and the awards start once everyone is in for the more serious paddlers.
At the finish, everyone was enjoying themselves, boats were being collected and hauled away onto vehicles to make space, and there was some good will and spirits everywhere. Winter is past, and this is the first sign of spring for me! Richmond is actually an interesting historic village, and I do enjoy being there to check it out as well. Great to be out and about. Getting my gear home, it’s always a haul get everything put away, hung up to dry, and ready for another paddle. Settling down with a warm mug of tea and a nap is the best way to finish the event.