Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to meet any requirements before taking a canoe trial session?
You should be a minimum age of 10 years and be able to swim 50 metres in clothing.  At your first session, you will paddle in a group in sheltered placid water until you gain experience.

What is the cost of the first trial session/course? A charge of £20 is made for the ‘Come & Try it’ session this is also the initial joining/admin fee for the club. Come & Try Contact Form

At which point would I need to take out membership and what are the costs? After your ‘Come & Try it’ session, on your next visit to the club you will be asked to complete the membership application and pay the annual membership fee.  The membership year runs from 1st April so a pro-rata payment is required to take you to 31st March. 

What are the session costs to members?
If using the club’s equipment, the cost is £4 per session. 

What should I take with me to my first session?
You will need to bring a change of clothes with you and during the winter months, ensure you have a warm coat or fleece to wear after the session.  On the water, wear lightweight clothing and waterproof shoes.  In the winter, also bring along a windproof cagoule and hat, as well as thermals and canoe gloves or ‘poggies’ if you have them.   If you do not have any waterproof shoes, then old trainers can be worn for the first few sessions, but be prepared that they may get very wet!

In the summer, wear a sun hat and sun screen and take a plastic bottle of water with you.

Please note that due to health and safety reasons, you will not be permitted on the water without suitable clothing and footwear.

What equipment is covered in the hire cost?
The use of a canoe, paddle and buoyancy aid is covered, although you may wish to purchase your own buoyancy aid after a few sessions.  After a year, it is expected that you will invest in your own equipment and boat which can be stored at the club for a nominal storage fee, when there is apace.

How long do I need to arrive before the start of the session?
It is important that you are ready with your boat and equipment at the session start time.  We would therefore suggest you initially allow 15 minutes prior to the session start time to get changed, get equipment out of the sheds and check your equipment before going on the water.  Boats should be checked for no holes or cracks etc, buoyancy, foot rest and seat fitting securely, no bits of rope or trailing lines and where applicable rudder, rudder wheel, rudder wires and steering tiller bar.

When lifting boats, keep a straight back and bend your knees.  Do not drag the boats, especially over concrete as this damages them.

How long do the sessions last?
Weekday sessions last 1½ hours and Saturday sessions are usually 2 hours.  At the end of the session, you will need to put all of your equipment away.  Boats should be stored on the racks with the nose (bow) in first.

Can I attend any of the canoe sessions? There are currently lots of different sessions at the club and the criteria for the groups  varies.  For some of the groups you must have passed your British Canoeing Discover award.  Some of the groups are purely for Race training or Slalom.   Further information can be found on the club notice board and website but if you are not sure ask your coach.

Do sessions run at the same time all year round and during the school holidays? Roughly yes !  Sessions do run all year round and during the school holidays but very occasionally sessions are cancelled or changed particularly during the school holidays.  Any changes are put onto the website in the Calendar section.

What happens during the dark in the winter months? There is sufficient ambient light from the town centre to light up the waterways sufficiently for canoeing to take place.  If it is too cold alternative sessions take place indoors.

What should I do if I capsize?
If you capsize, try to keep hold of your paddles and boat.  You may be able to stand up and empty the boat and get back in.  You may be able to swim to somewhere nearby where you can empty the boat.  Or you may need to rely on the others in your group to empty your boat and help you get back in.

Always paddle in a group of 3+ with people who can rescue and learn rescue techniques as soon as possible.

Is there any chance I could pick anything up from the river water?
You may have heard of Weil’s disease, an infection carried in rats urine which contaminates water and banks of lakes, ponds and rivers.  We are not aware of any of our club members having contracted Weil’s disease but all canoeists should be aware of the symptoms and advise their GP if they develop any symptoms after exposure to the water. Symptoms start 3 to 19 days after exposure to contaminated water and early symptoms are similar to ‘Flu’.  Doctors can treat the symptoms simply with antibiotics so it is important to contact your Doctor quickly.

Is there anything I can do to prevent getting Weil’s disease?
Always wash your hands as soon as you get off the water and before you eat anything.  Shower or bath as soon as possible after canoeing.  Cover all cuts and grazes to avoid infection from river water.

Are there any rules as to where I can paddle ?
The main ruling is ‘River Right’  paddling on the right hand side of the river so that passing other craft avoids possible collision.   When trying new waterways always check the access agreement.  Some rivers are privately owned by the landowners and you are not allowed on them, for other rivers you may need to purchase a licence, usually from the Environment Agency.  When you join British Canoeing this membership will give you access to all the British Waterways, the Thames, the Norfolk Broads and some other waterways too but you must remember to put your membership sticker on the boat.  British Canoeing also have access officers around the country who can advise on where to launch and get out, safety aspects such as weirs, sluices, local wildlife, etc.

Are there any other local rules ?
There is a local agreement with the fishermen. Where the fishing platforms are situated upstream of the Bailey Bridge we have agreed that canoeists will avoid that area.  This means paddling upstream on the River Can on the right hand side of the river and paddling downstream to the confluence on the left.  When there are no fishermen there is does not matter.   The maps detailing where else fishermen are allowed to fish on the town circuit is at the end of Bell meadow and at the end of the ‘island’ opposite the seacadets.  There is presently a very good relationship between anglers and canoeists in Chelmsford and any incidents should be reported immediately to the club Chairman or Secretary.   

As a member, will I need to buy a club uniform?
You can wear your own clothing to paddle sessions, but if you choose to race, you will need to wear club colours  to race events.  After attending one of the National Sprint events at Nottingham, you will be entitled to purchase a club Sprint vest. There is also a different club vest for Marathon races.

What does membership to Chelmsford Canoe Club include?
Membership includes use of the facilities at the club i.e. toilet, kitchen and shower facilities.

You are welcome to use the tea and coffee making facilities.  All kitchen equipment should be washed and put back after use.

All under 18s are automatically registered to the Youth section of British Canoeing, which gives you 3rd party liability insurance up to 10 million.  As a British Canoeing Member, you are entitled to enter British Canoeing competitive events.  Membership of British Canoeing also entitles you to paddle on all BWB waterways and several other rivers without purchasing an additional licence.  Adult members are encouraged to join British Canoeing at their earliest opportunity.

Coaches are not paid and give up their time voluntarily and all members should show courtesy and respect to their coaches.

As the club is a ‘self help’ club, it would be appreciated if members and their families could be pro-active in finding out how they can help out whenever possible.

Why is there no dustbin ?
The club saves a lot of money each year by not having a bin collection and as access to the site is restricted it would be very difficult to arrange bin & recycling collections.  This means that all members are expected to take their own rubbish home with them and recycle appropriately.  The club does book skips every so often to clear the site of rubbish and unwanted items.

How can parents help?
Ensure that children arrive and are picked up from sessions on time with the correct equipment.

Regularly check the club notice board for events which are taking place and any changes to club sessions.

Help out at Chelmsford Club events – serve teas/coffees, take times at start and finish of races, help out with any barbeques after events.

Bake cakes for club events.

If you have a skill which may be useful to the club i.e. plumber, painter then offer your services voluntarily.

Join one of the committees – details of current club committee members are on the club notice board.

Support the Club working party, which takes place at 1pm on designated Saturdays.  You will need to wear old clothing as jobs include painting, gardening, cleaning and clearing.

Can I bring my friends & family along ?
Yes we would love to meet them.  First of all consider whether they are coming for a ‘one off’ session or whether they are likely to join the canoe club.  For a ‘one off’ session, perhaps for visiting relatives pen friends etc.  there is a non-member boat hire fee of £7.50 per seat.  If you are not qualified to take them out yourself you will need to enlist the help of a qualified coach.  Friends wishing to join the canoe club can be fast tracked into the most appropriate session or next beginner group, there will be the usual £20.00 Come & Try it fee followed by joining the club the next time they come. 

Will I need to take any proficiency tests? The Club follows the British Canoeing guidelines and all beginners are expected to work through the basics and achieve their Start and Discover awrds.Can I gain further qualifications ?
After the Discover award there is the Explore award.   There is also the opportunity to undertake Foundation Safety & Rescue Training and Coaching awards.  To find out more contact the club coaching officer.

Which competitive events take place throughout the year? The club programme is set by the Coaches and the Racing Committee for each year and can vary to accommodate whatever the members would like to do.  Activities are in the main led by qualified coaches and the most active group at the club race.  The race team enter the Flatwater Winter Marathon Series, the regional Hasler Marathon Series, the Essex Summer Sprint Series, the National Sprint regattas at Nottingham. 

Is there a training programme to help me prepare for race events? There are several training programmes written by club coaches on a month by month basis.  So whether you are in the highest Divisions trying to break into the British Team or just starting out in racing there are programmes you can follow.

Are there any dietary recommendations to follow for race events? i.e. when and what to eat before races? The basic rule is :  stop eating 1 hour before your race but keep drinking water, after competition or training try to drink & eat within half an hour as this will aid recovery.  Advice and encouragement to eat good food is readily available recommending Bananas & fruit plus cereal bars for convenience.  Sometimes during the winter we have toast with jam after the sessions.  Several of the clubs top coaches have undertaken training in nutrition for sport so please ask them for advice.

Am I expected to participate in all race events? The more club activities you can participate in the more fun you will have.  No one is able to get to every event because we all have other commitments in life.  Experience gained from paddling in competition and on other waters will aid your canoeing

What is the qualifying criteria to attend the Nottingham National Sprint Regatta and which is the best one to start with? When you can complete 500m in less than 3 minutes.  The Regattas early in the year are used as Selection events for the GB Team.  The July Regatta is an Inter Club competition which is usually very busy but the overall standard of racing is slightly lower.  The National Championships are held in September so the racing is in Age groups rather than the usual divisional system.

Is it possible to attend canoe sessions only without attending race events? Yes of course, but some sessions are for Race Training and there is an expectation for people attending these sessions to compete.

I have moved from another club? The club will welcome you, you will be asked to meet with one of the club coaches for an initial session to establish which group would be most suitable to your needs.  If you have not gone through the basic BC Awards you will be asked to join beginner groups which have more coaching support.

Can I use wings? The club race coaching team consider that asymmetric paddles are better for beginners to establish good technique.  Then moving to wing paddles when they are stronger, usually as they reach Division 6 in Marathon or Division C in Sprint.  There are many different styles (disciplines) in canoeing and most use specific paddles all beginners are able to try a variety of paddles before purchasing their own. 

Do you run any family social events throughout the year? There are several social events through the year a typical year would include:  quiz night, Christmas party; bowling; etc.  These events are organised by the members so anything is possible.

Can we have a BBQ ?
Yes, you will need to check with the Club Secretary that the date time you require does not clash with other activities.  You will need to do your own risk assessment to make sure everyone is safe and looked after and you must clear up afterwards, taking all rubbish off site and leaving the BBQ equipment clean and ready for use again.

How will I find out information about events going on?
All events are posted on the notice board and the website does have an Event Calendar