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Author Topic: Paddling UK canals?  (Read 1623 times)

cyclocross

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Paddling UK canals?
« on: January 16, 2020, 01:01:48 PM »
I'm heading to the UK to paddle from Milton Keynes to central London on the Grand Union Canal. It's 66 miles over 6 days and my plan is for this to be more of a floating pub crawl than any sort of athletic endurance event.

1) Has anyone from the USA done this and if so, did you get a CRT license to do so? I want to do things on the up and up which means paying for a license. I'm fine with that since the fees support maintenance on the canals. Challenge is they require you to have boaters insurance.

2) Is anyone familiar with the conditions? It's a canal controlled by locks so there will be no current but I'm also wondering about weeds and wind conditions.

3) How time consuming is it to portage around the locks?

Area 10

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2020, 06:12:25 PM »
Most people doing trips like this will take up membership of British Canoeing, which covers you for a lot of UK waterways and has other benefits too.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canoeing-and-kayaking/licensing-your-canoe

If you ask on the Stand up paddleboarding UK and Ireland Facebook page Iím sure youíll get detailed answers to the portage questions.

As for weather - this is the UK, the only certainty about the weather is that it will likely confound you. You could have 50 knot headwinds, driving rain, and 7C temperatures. Or it could be windless, 20-30C and youíll need sunblock. You might even get both weather extremes in one day. So paddle prepared for all eventualities. You donít say when you are coming, but if it is winter, expect some foul weather at some point (or even every day) that will make the pub a necessity not a luxury. Itís been a very wet and windy winter so far, but mild temperatures. But that could all change next week. Or not. No-one can tell you. This is why the British talk about the weather so much. If you come from a place where the wind rarely gets much above 10 knots, the amount of wind in particular can surprise people. Inland itís not too bad, but still, be prepared. 66 miles in bad UK winter weather would feel like punishment, not a holiday.

Btw, I donít know what you mean by ďCentral LondonĒ, but paddling the Thames in central London is a challenge, if you do truly mean central London. Donít fall in: there is a reason why the Kinkís song Waterloo Sunset starts with the line ďdirty old river...Ē.

Anyway, ask on the FB page.

TallDude

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 06:13:15 PM »
Everything you need to know.  https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/141.pdf  Interesting read.  SUPB not SUP  ::)

 Sounds like some sketchy places along the way. It's a very narrow canal that twists through nice areas and industrial areas. The vandals that hang out near some underpasses and dark tunnels sound like a problem?   
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cyclocross

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 07:59:01 PM »
Thanks for the tip on the FB page and British Canoeing!! My current conundrum is my American insurance broker has no policy which will cover me to the satisfaction of the CRT because here in America SUPs are not considered to be boats as far as liability/insurance is concerned. British insurance agents who do offer such policies won't sell me one because I don't reside in the UK. Hopefully membership in British Canoeing can resolve that for me.

Weather I'm not too worried about. My trip is the first week of May and I expect it to be cool and damp. The weather in the London area pretty much always matches the weather in Seattle so I'm used to quickly changing conditions and know the value of a good layering system! We've also had a pretty windy and wet weather and even had snow this week.

I was originally planning on going down the Thames to Battersea but apparently the London Port Authority doesn't let you paddle past the Putney Bridge. Now I'm thinking about taking the Paddington branch of the Grand Union and getting out in Little Venice right before the Haida Hill tunnel since I've heard tunnels are off limits to paddlers. Also a lot less traffic than the Thames which I imagine is probably like paddling on Lake Washington here in Seattle but without all the seaplanes!

Area 10

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2020, 05:25:12 AM »
Yes, British Canoeing membership should cover most issues, including insurance.

Unless you are very brave, Iíd avoid paddling on the Thames anywhere near central London. It is fast moving, dirty, very turbulent and very busy. It will NOT be at all relaxing, and is downright dangerous, really. The Thames outside of London has some amazingly beautiful and safe stretches however. Friends have paddled right through central London (and races have been held), so it can be done. But, really, why would you? So, yes, avoid it.

As for safety, the issue that TallDude raised, the UK is generally pretty safe - much more so than nearly all other countries in the world. Of course, anywhere there can be problems if you are unlucky or unwise or both. But at least no-one is going to pull a gun on you :)


Wetstuff

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2020, 06:02:25 AM »
I've never been on the canals, but I watched a number in the series 'Travel by Narrow Boat'.  Mildly entertaining compared to most programming, but would provide a preview for what you might see.  ' Sounds like fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRBzs422Dhk

Jim
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TallDude

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2020, 08:02:27 AM »
Not quite RedBull or X-Game worthy, but some sight seeing to be had :D
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cyclocross

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2020, 11:59:45 AM »
Ha, this is the program that actually planted the seed for this trip in my head!

I've never been on the canals, but I watched a number in the series 'Travel by Narrow Boat'.  Mildly entertaining compared to most programming, but would provide a preview for what you might see.  ' Sounds like fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRBzs422Dhk

Jim

blackeye

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2020, 12:12:43 PM »
I recommend highly "Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)" by Jerome K. Jerome. He recounts a two-week boating holiday on the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and back to Kingston. Yes, it's old, but remarkably fresh and funny.

cyclocross

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2020, 12:15:49 PM »
Indeed! I'm going to be more about channeling James May than Laird Hamilton. ;)


Not quite RedBull or X-Game worthy, but some sight seeing to be had :D

Stew

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Re: Paddling UK canals?
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2020, 01:43:18 PM »
I do a fair bit of canal paddling, and in fact you'll paddle past me on your way down as my local canal is part of the grand union.

You should find it fairly simple going. Portaging is no big issue, though there can be a few in quick succession.

For insurance, advice is always go with BCU for the simplest option. To be honest, I've never been challenged as to if I have any and neither has anyone I know.

 


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