A Deelightful Time

Same forecast as that the previous day which had changed plans to go out on the sea, but this planned trip was not going to be revised from that of a recce of a stretch of the Dee, in preparation for a future, multi-day descent of the Dee. Winds were a bit of an issue at times but only made progress harder than ideal, most of the time we were sheltered or the current outweighed any headwind, and at times we even had a tailwind.

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Putting in beneath the main falls of the Linn of Dee, we expected an easy and rapid free passage all the way to just beyond Invercauld, about 17km downstream, where we had left a car. The first rapid of merit on the Dee, listed in guidebooks, is that at Invercauld Bridge and we had stopped to check it out before commencing our paddle. From the bridge there was nothing too concerning and we could see an easy place to stop before a rapid slightly out of sight just beyond this.

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Off we went then, gliding along in a nice swift and gentle current with no challenges expected other than the wind for the next couple of hours, but within a couple of minutes there was a surprising amount of noise from up ahead and before we knew it we were descending an unexpected rapid, with a fallen tree lying bang in the middle. This was probably one of the trickiest rapids I’ve run in a canoe and thankfully there was no swimming, just a bit of sloshing about in the boat from the water taken on. Another rapid soon followed which was at the upper end of anything I’ve paddled, great fun, but why no mention of these in the book?

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Another kilometer passed and an obvious, longer rapid lay ahead, time to get out and see what we were in for. We agreed a route down and then took it in turns with the other two providing safety from the side. Another challenging one – this was proving to be a much more useful (and fun) day than expected. Here though we noticed that with about 4 hours of good light, we had only paddled 2 of our 17km in an hour and thoughts and chat started to turn to options for not getting to the end, did Braemar have a taxi service we could fall back on?

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All was well though, the rapids were over now till Invercauld and with that, less delays. Our high forecast winds too helped out largely being from behind at this point so we made up for lost time most of the way to Invercauld and thankfully so, as light was changing visibly as we inspected our last rapid, the one that had been out of sight from Invercauld bridge. Another one to decide on a descent path and run it as planned (hopefully). Plenty of water taken on in the waves but it was just a kilometer or so to our finish so we paddled on in half empty bath tubs in fading light to finish a really enjoyable day.

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A cracking day out, much more interesting and challenging than expected and possibly a good choice of stretch if we don’t manage to get water of the same level next time which could force us to start lower down, missing out on the initial interest we found this time.

Re-reading the guidebooks since, I can see the reason for no mention of the early rapids is that generally canoes put-on the river lower down, perhaps then the high water we had was unusual in allowing us to start so far up the river.

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