Some people have mountains to climb, some people have boating exploits to achieve. In this case the OBBC (Old Buggers Boating Club, closely associated with the Canterbury Classic Boats group, ) have had the aim of boating (paddle, rowing, drifting or sailing down the Avon River). Early, pre earthquake investigations were made – checking the height from water to bridge arch, launching sites, tidal effect etc. All to no avail as the subsequent events changed the landscape of the city. However this year it was felt we were ready to give it a go in stages.
Stage I: Kilmore Bridge to Porritt Park.
Wes Purvis, Warwick Stevens, Cyrus Berry and I took this mission on, three kayaks and one Shellback Dinghy. A lovely summer’s day was chosen and off we went, easy going with a good current sweeping us merrily, merrily down the stream! It was a gusty NW and some sections were suitable for sailing the Shellback (sporting a small Optimist rig) but inevitably you would round a bend and the wind would be on the nose and no room for tacking. So it was a case of downing the rig and starting the Armstrong propulsion unit. No problems for the kayak fleet, they paddled on regardless! Warwick encouraged the sailor to go sail under the new Gayhurst Road Bridge, “looks high enough” but sweeping down it was not and a big panic to get the rig down.
We continued on until the landing place at Porritt Park came in to view. Here the boats were pulled out and car drivers were ferried back to retrieve cars and trailers from the Kilmore starting point. Mission accomplished!
Our next mission was to start as far back as possible up the Avon, in this case just below the weir by CGHS and travel through the city to the Kilmore Bridge where we started last time. As there are many shallow parts on this section it was kayaks only. Cyrus was so enthusiastic after the last trip on Warwick's spare kayak; he went out and bought himself one! I took over the second kayak of Warwick’s for this trip. The boats were launched and a team photo taken under the weir (no, we did not go over it!)
So began our winding paddle through the leafy suburb of Fendalton, Hagley Park and the Gardens, quite a few shallow parts where Warwick and I had to get out and walk, Wes and Cyrus had no such trouble as their kayaks were a different design and drew less water.
Shooting the rapids at the Antigua Boatsheds was a small thrill, Wes and Cyrus made it over with a bit of bumping but alas Warwick and I had to walk our kayaks down.
The earthquake rebuild was very evident as we wended our way through the city section. Lots of construction along the river bank, the Armagh St bridge closed off (we had to portage around the blocked off river), the Town Hall being excavated from the basement (masses of silt coming out) and some very deep sections of river past the Margaret Mahy Playground.
I really struggled with the later sections. A combination of poor back support and finding muscles that had not been used for a long time almost did me in. But we were all determined to complete the voyage and finally the end hove into sight. Thanks to Barbara Purvis for the coffee and banana cake at the end, boy was it appreciated! She also kept the photographic record.
A debrief and shuttle back to pick up cars ready for the final section next time - Porritt Park to the Estuary !