Thursday 22 October 2015

Adventure Rowing

Owen Sinclair has written from New Zealand with another adventure, this time on a river that I would really think several times about before attempting - the Buller River in South Island.
One of the country's largest rivers, the Buller is used for white water rafting and kayaking so it is a challenging place for someone facing the wrong way. It has the highest flood water flow of any river in NZ.
Those tiny dots in the pictures are Owen, taken by his partner Ann on her iPad (click to enlarge - they are stunning full screen).
What a great place to row.

Owen writes:

Hi Chris,
I recently rowed my dory through the Lower Buller Gorge on the South Island West Coast.
I put in a few miles above Berlins where there is vehicle access to the river and my partner Ann followed by road.
Unlike the Upper Gorge, which I wouldn't be game to tackle, there are no big standing waves in rapids or real white water. But there are rapids. My GPS showed a maximum speed of 17.6 kilometres/hour at the end of the day. I didn't see that speed come up; I was probably rather
focused on not getting swept against a rocky bank at that point.
Mostly the GPS seemed to show 11 to 15 kilometres/hour as I came through a lot of the rapids sideways to the current pulling frantically to keep the boat from getting swept into the bank and overturned.
The photos were only taken in calmer areas. I saw some great scenery while rowing through alternating southerly showers and sunshine. 
A head wind on exiting the gorge made things hard although I gave up trying too hard once I realised I was still moving about 7km/hr without rowing. By way of comparison I average about 6 km/hr on a flat calm lake.
I was pleased to see the Westport bridge, my take-out point although 3 to 4 km short of the sea. The GPS showed 41.8 km, moving average 8.6 km/hr.
The dory is not exactly suitable for that river: much more rocker and no skeg would help. I could feel the bow being wrenched sideways, too strongly to resist at times. Easy to see why river dories are designed as they are.
The entire Buller River has been done in a dory, I understand over three weekends, by someone braver than me.


Unknown said...

Yum! Seeing the little kid fishing for whitebait in the last got me hungry for whitebait patties!

Chris Waite said...

I do wonder whether in rough fast flowing water like that if it wouldn't be better to turn the bow upstream in a rowing boat. Particularly suited to the dory with high narrow ends.

Then you can see what is coming at you and just by fiddling the oars to keep the boat in the best water, you can let the current do all the work; especially in the bad bits.

Maybe that was what Owen Sinclair did?

Christo the W