3.5 Men in a Boat (and a rescue)

4th – 6th September

By
Dave Jones

Lee Grainger had mentioned some months previous prior to his Birthday on 21st July that he would like to organise a wild swimming weekend on 4th to 6th September 2015. We had booked the club hut in advance for myself, Lee, Andrew Wright & Tom Keeling. Some of you may remember ten year old Tom Keeling from his first club meet to Seatoller some months back. 

Two other groups were also present at the hut doing their own activities which included a Sea Kayaking team that was going to Trearddur Bay, consisting of Graeme Stanford, Tracey Stanford, Ken Priest, Pete Poultney, Chris Dean, Jo Cheung, Jo Tansey. The other group, consisting of Mark Stephens, Fred Hammond’s, Paul Brindley & Oliver Stephenson, were Kilimanjaro training. 

Mark Stephens picked me up at around 17.00 hours and we started our journey down to North Wales making a short stop at Llangollen to pick up supplies. When we arrived Lee, Andy, & Tom had already arrived they had decided to eat at Plas Y Brenin on route, when arriving we started to settle in. The two other groups arrived later on in the evening followed by good conversation and a few drinks. 

Saturday was a very special day for two individuals, it was Graeme’s & Tracey’s wedding anniversary - congratulations we know you had an enjoyable day followed by a nice evening at Saracens restaurant. 

Trearddur Bay group rose early and left for their kayaking day, others rose later and we opted for a good hearty welsh breakfast at Caffi Gwynant prior to our day commencing. 

Lee had arranged for us to hire two Canadian canoes from Plas Gwynant Activity centre, after breakfast we got changed into out wet suits and drove up to the centre to place these canoes onto Lee’s vehicle. Even though Lee did had roof bars we did not have the correct spanner to fit the canoes to the bars, so Lee threw a sleeping bag onto the roof of his car, and it took three of us to lift the canoe into place. These canoes are around thirteen feet long, so even though we were only canoeing on Nant Gwynant you have a very good overhang on both the front and rear of the vehicle and without roof bars we were hoping that this canoe was not moving until we got it on water. 

We offloaded the first canoe leaving Andy & Tom and myself and Lee went back for the other canoe. I got to admit that Lee ensured that the canoes were secure and at times I thought the tension applied may of dented your roof! 

The weather was fantastic with glorious sunshine, as mentioned our day was going to consist of canoeing taking into account Lee’s idea of wild swimming. We placed small items into the canoe, got our life jackets on and took to the water, Lee had set up an helmet cam taking footage of our exploits. Looking across to elephant rock we turned left and headed towards some boat houses ensuring that we had familiarised ourselves with our boats and more importantly how to row. 

Myself & Lee shared one canoe and Andy & Tom were in the other. We decided to head right across the lake towards elephant rock, on approaching the rock we heard a male voice shouting us from the shoreline, we rowed across and heard that a female was injured whist out walking. We pulled the boats into a rocky area and myself and Lee went to investigate. We had lost site of the guy that had alerted us and at first we thought was this a joke, Lee jokingly had said “be careful he has a Scouse accent” on hearing this I carried my paddle with me as security. (no disrespect) Eventually we caught up with the guy that informed that a lady out with her husband had fallen and had become nervous about carrying on with their walk. 

She had some marks on her legs where she had fallen but thankfully there was no real injury except for being scared walking on slippery mud. We asked where they had walked from and where they were staying, they both stated that they were staying at Nant Gwynant camp site, we asked if they would like to be taken back to the camp site via the canoe to eliminate them walking back. They gratefully accepted our offer and myself and Lee helped the individual back to the shoreline who was clearly very shaken. We decided that the injured lady was going to sit in the middle of our canoe and her husband was going to sit in Andrew & Tom’s canoe. 

We started to row across to the camp site trying to reassure her that she was OK and this was the best option for them both. We arrived at a little sandy bay area passing a guy that was also wild swimming, we dropped them off and they went to sit down on a bench probably reminiscing on their adventure, we had obviously done our good deed for the day and by now we really wanted some adventure. Whilst by the campsite the river runs round into some lovely secluded areas, we rowed around looking at campers who were looking at us a little weirdly, by now Lee was trying to keep me on track with my rowing and on a couple oftimes I had to get him out of trouble LOL. 

Andy decided it was time for a photo opportunity, we got out the canoes to stretch our legs and Andy set up his camera on a fence post taking a photo of the rescue team ha ha, we got back in the boats and decided it was time to get wet with some jumping off elephant rock, we got back in the boats and headed our way across back to where we originally came from, we tied the boats up next to a family that had done the same, they was also clambering up the rocks to find the ledges prior to hurtling themselves off the rock into the murky water. 

Lee had kindly lent me some wet shoes which was ideal for climbing onto the rocks and obviously the water just drains from them when getting wet. We opted for a lower ledge first just to get used to the water and Lee had positioned his helmet cam for video footage to be later viewed in the comfort of the pub. 

Tom was a little cold from getting out of the canoe and climbing up the slippery rocks, and opted to dry out in the sun watching the younger minded adults make fools of themselves jumping into the water and climbing back up to do it all over again. After a few more jumps myself and Lee found an higher perch to climb up to and take a bigger leap, Lee went first and I knew that as soon as he hit the water I had to follow him, I threw myself off hoping that my body kept upright prior to hitting the water, I soon sank to the deep murky depths with my life vest bringing me back to the surface quickly, as mentioned the water was very cold, not so much jumping in, but the actual swimming back to the rocks to clamber back up again. Andy had opted to stay on the lower ledge (sensible choice mate) and was taking photos. 

Tom had to be encouraged and was very brave jumping into very cold water, and eventually even went off the upper ledge, see attached photo, this was one photo that had to go in the newsletter, after numerous jumps, Tom had become very cold and started to shake so we decided it was time to row the boats around the corner and dry out and have some lunch. 

We got the boats to where the rescue had been done previously, and got all out wet gear off apart from suits and started to dry clothing on rocks, we started to skim stones across the water to see who could get the most skims. We ate Pork Pie, Biscuits etc. 

We got back in the boats and headed back down the lake and at the very end it runs into some small rapids that can only be described as exhilarating, but I knew that at the end we were going to run out of water and would have to pull the boat back up stream against the current. 

Lee got out the boat at the end, Andy and Tom had decided not to go down in the first instance, so I was left to pull the boat back up stream, I kept falling over on the slippery rock, but kept laughing so much that I could not keep my balance, Lee was laughing and was taking photos of me keep falling over, we got back in the boats and canoed back to where we had originally started by the cars, we pulled the boats back in and decided it was time just to just do our wild swimming, we done the obvious splashing to each other and sorry Tom if I splashed you on numerous occasions, Lee described me later on in the evening as being like a man possessed when in water. 

We had a full day out and decided it was time to get the canoes back onto the sleeping bag and make two trips back to Plas Gwynant, trying to take wet suits off by the car must have been laughable for car users passing us by the layby. 

When we got back to the hut it was shower the wet suits down and then a shower for myself, we sat outside and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. 

We heard that the Treaddur group were also on their way back. We decided to go to the Tanronen Inn for our evening meal, and we got a table in the main restaurant area for the group, followed by after drinks in the bar area, reminiscing on our days adventure and looking at photos and video footage. 

Everyone was back at the hut later in the evening for a good evening of conversation, and our wedding anniversary couple Graham & Tracy had also come back from their romantic meal. 

On the Sunday morning some opted for the Caffi Gwynant again, some decided to go for a run, I restocked wood for the hut and done some general chores. 

As always weekends go to very quickly at the hut, everyone said their goodbyes and made their journeys back home. I would like to thank my fellow members Lee, Andy and the young very brave Tom Keeling for a very enjoyable weekend. 

Canoeing and jumping off rocks never really appealed to me, but it goes to show that if you give things a go you never know if you are going to enjoy them or not. Also we were glad that we could offer our help and support to two individuals that needed help, none of us know when we may require support. 

A very enjoyable weekend was had by everyone and see you soon on further adventures 
This article was written by Dave Jones and published on this website on the 1st October 2015