DAY 9 - DAYS OF WINE AND HEATHER
An early evening arrival in Skipton, and a hundred miles covered seemed cause for mild celebration. So have spent two days off the water and mostly up on the moors, walking and talking. Funny feeling changing ones method of locomotion from arms to legs. As I was striding through the heather I sort of felt that I should still be paddling with my arms, which would have looked amusing to the grouse, snipe and partridge watching my passing.
It was strange, too, not having the kayak to worry about. I may have mentioned before that paddling a kayak is a bit like travelling with a horse (something I've got quite a bit of experience of). Whilst you're in the kayak or on the horse everything is fine, but one can't just get out/get off and walk off leaving either kayak or horse tied up; one has to find a safe place and for a full-length kayak or a horse that can be hard. So far I've left the kayak safely in a garden centre, in numerous canal side pub beer gardens, outside cafes and once in a supermarket. As long as I can see it from the window or someone has promised to keep an eye on it then I can sit back and relax.
In Skipton I packed the kayak up. The whole process from laden sea-going craft to a couple of bags beside me in the Boat House pub took twenty minutes. The Boat House is part of the Clarke family's Pennine Cruisers business. They've seen quite a lot of me in Pennine Cruisers over the past few days. Firstly, they were keeping a parcel for me. My forgotten bivi bag, without which i have been sleeping out in all weathers over the past week with just a poncho-tarp for shelter. Perfectly comfotable but no lee way for error, especially as I have an down sleeping bag (2-Season AlpKit Pipe Dream) - very good and happily coping with three seasons and more of weather, but still not good if it gets wet or even damp). Normally i just have to live with the consequences of my stupidity, forgetfulness or errors. But good friend Mark has baled me out by finding the bivi bag where I'd stuffed it into my bicycle pannier bag (what was I thinking when I did that? The subconscious is an odd thing) and sending it to Pennine Cruisers to pick up. Then I prevailed on them to store the packed up kayak for these couple of days so I didn't have to take it up onto the moors.
Zoe Clarke might have had a bit of sympathy for a fellow paddler; a while back she was in a team who took Canadian canoes the whole length of the Leeds and Liverpool - 127 miles, remember - in just four and a half days. Pennine Cruisers (www.penninecruisers.com) also provided a guide to the coming Aire and Calder Navigation. For reasons of comparison I've bought the Pearson Guide rather than the Nicholson; quite different in style and layout and will take some getting used to - not least as the maps are randomly aligned rather than having north always to the top.
I haven't totally escaped kayak activities these past days. One evening I borrowed a sewing machine and ran up a spraydeck - some light waterproof nylon, elastic and shock cord and a lot of stitching. On flat canal waters the kayak itself is totally dry, but its been annoying to find my bilges filling up when there's been persistent rain, and now the temperature has dropped it's good to have a sealed, warm, dry cockpit to sit in. It's time to get back on the water again. Enough of this shore leave and carousing. A big breakfast disguised as a land lubber, another cup of coffee and then on with the waterproofs, buoyancy jacket and cap, Fifteen minutes - I'll time myself - to put the kayak together and then I push off towards Leeds.