We decided to head back to where this all started for us 5 weeks ago and attempt Aldermaston to Shiplake again and face our demons today. The boat now has new seats (about an inch lower, which should lower our centre of gravity and make us more stable) and new boots. For this trip we would need to be self sufficient and prepare for a long day (approx 17miles). Our last outing was with Paul at Marsports and we would now need to pull everything together and make sure everything was set up correctly and the kit was working, in my head i felt we needed to have a capsize and have a certain amount of time today paddling in wet kit, this would make sure everything was tested and ready to go. I wasnt expecting the day to pan out the way it did.
It was raining when we got to Aldermaston, we needed to try out the spray decks anyway so we put them on from the start, Julian dropped us off and waited for us to leave, as soon as we got in the water we both knew we had a problem with the boat and the flashbacks appeared from our first outing. We got out, the seats had moved, the spray deck was putting me off and everything felt wrong. It suddenly sank in that we had changed too many variables and we were about to set off for what would turn out to be a horrendous day on the water.
It took us 20minutes to sort the seats, I know we should have done this back at base however today was about dealing with the unexpected and making sure we knew how to deal with it, anything can be fixed and adjusted with the right tools in a warm garage, however when you're, cold, wet and tired can you still fix it with limited tools? We got back on the water, and set off again, the sun came out and there was a glimmer of hope with the boat and how quickly we were moving, I didnt say anything but we were moving faster with less effort. A mile in Ed asked what we were doing differently as the change in speed was noticeable, i'd learnt how to paddle properly, the lesson had paid off. This would later turn out to be the only enjoyable part of the trip as at the lock at mile 8, we'd have to get our new boots wet.
Wet suit boots are designed to keep your feet warm even when wet by trapping a layer of water between your feet and the boots, your body then warms up the water and keeps them warm, if the boots dont fit properly they hold too much water and cause problems. My boots were too wide for my narrow feet and when full of water i was struggling to steer the boat, this in turn made the boat unstable and was causing problems for us both. Eventually we capsized just before we got to the oracle at Reading, got back in the boat we and carried on.
Jordan got some super photographs of us here, Sonning Bridge, and Shiplake lock, we had to carry on and chew through this knowing we only had to get to shiplake, we made it, and hour later than planned but with a greater understanding of our progress and a list of changes and improvements we would need to make.
As Hilly told me a couple of weeks ago, 'The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle'.