50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 75

Well I made it down to No.7, but in the long wave train below the rapid my boat finally broke so that I had to look around the nose pointing up into the sky to see where I was going. The banana had been bending further and further and I had been supported by buoyancy for most of the way, but hey, I was still paddling and moving forward. Until I broke my paddle in one of the bubblies above No.8. Then I started doing the math. “I’ll never make Josephine’s in this boat. In fact there may be nobody at No.8 and it’s a hell of a long walk from there to Josephine’s. If I don’t get a lift to Josephine’s and have to walk there, all the people will have carried on to St Elmo’s and that is a moer of a long walk!” Boat and paddle disappeared into the deep pools of the Umko and I sprinted about 4km down to the track below No.8 where I just caught a lone Landy driving off. It was literally like a scene out of a movie, sprinting behind in the dust screaming, “Waaaait! Heeeelp! Don’t leave meeee!” That was the last time I paddle a single on the Umko, so you can imagine, I’m very keen to settle the score. Right now it’s Umko 1, André 0. Rowan Rasmussen’s Yellow Banana One year I had a personally memorable finish in a yellow-hulled experimental single I had built for the Duzi in the woodwork room at Pinetown High School. To cut down on weight, the Master of woodwork suggested I use a heavy but strong timber called Lagaan so I did, using ultra thin sections about 7mm X 30mm. That wood was heavy compared to Spruce so I’m not sure there was a weight advantage at all. It lasted a low year on the Duzi and two and three quarter days of the Umkomaas but going into something heavy - probably No Name because it was near the end somewhere - both gunwales snapped and the boat folded up around my knees. I carried on, as it managed to keep a somewhat reasonable shape at first, but slowly it collapsed into a stupidly embarrassing V-shape. I crossed the line in my bright yellow banana after a frustrating epic jumping in and out of my “boat” to cross the interminable sandbanks. Remember how that water below Saiccor Rayon Factory was so polluted with something that ate and burned your skin? (Colleen Whitton mentioned that too). This walk ended in a swim Bryan Scatter Slater - one balmy evening in the valley In 1981, with three months of paddling experience and one Dusi behind us, my Pommy mate John and I decided to take on the Umko. That year the race was from Josephine’s to Goodenough’s Weir. We started at 9 and by 10 we had wrapped the boat. It could still be paddled by one person sitting in the back, so we set out one guy paddling and the other running over the hill, to rendezvous on the other side of each loop in the river. Sometimes we didn’t rendezvous perfectly and then echoes of JOHN! JOHN! JOHN! could be heard ringing through the valley. The cut-off was at Riverside Store at 2pm. We arrived there 20 minutes before. We decided that we would continue with our run/ paddle/ run since it couldn’t be much further now, could it? At 4.30 the boat finally gave up completely. We cut out the cable, each took a half and started dragging. By 5.30 it dawned on us that maybe this wasn’t going to work. We took out the seats and pumps, ‘donated’ the boat to the locals at a kraal and set off once more. At this stage we must have looked like a marauding impi (a small one!) with shield (seat) in one hand and assegai (paddle) in the other. It wasn’t long before we decided to ‘donate’ the seats at the next kraal. As it got darker, we were no longer able to cut overland and were forced to follow the river. At about 6.30 it was so dark that we could no longer see where we were going and, when we fell into a deep donga we decided that the only option was to get into the river and float down. It sure is ‘different’ floating down a river in the dark hearing the sounds of unknown rapids up ahead! At 8.30pm we drifted into the overnight stop with pumps and paddles, starving of course, and feasted on half a can of tinned peaches, which was all that was left over from supper. OK! When the walkers start swimming we’d better head off to a chapter called ‘On the Water’. The Ancient Art of Boat-Building - Rowan Rasmussen Ca noe design has come a long way since our trial-and-error attempts to move the technology forward. Some other boat-building memories. • Do you all recall buying hundreds of eighth inch by two inch brass nuts and bolts from Rance Colley in Umgeni Road to construct your boat? • Cutting L-shaped aluminium lengths into hundreds of little angles to attach crosspieces to the gunwales which were first genkemmed and then brass screwed onto the hull. • The smell of genkem as you used a whole tin to glue vinylon inside the hull because most races the poorly constructed fibreglass sans gel coat would crack and your boat would fill up with water. • That lovely feeling of fibreglass splinters on your shoulders, neck and thighs from coming into contact with rock-roughened hull, which would still be a reminder two days later. • That sinking feeling after having spent most of the night cutting up chop strand and working it in with steel washer rollers- three layers plus three strips in the V - and a hairy mess jammed into the nose for thickness, only to arrive proudly the next morning to see a gooey 75 • • • • mess of collapsed chop strand sagging limply off the mould walls and a sticky pool of purplish resin in the V - all the resin having followed the dictates of gravity and meekly run out of the fibreglass because you forgot to add accelerator to the MEK and the chemical reaction with the resin had not occurred. Going into a ladies curtain shop to buy wired stretch cord and O screws so your mom could thread it through your cumbersome bulky vinylon spray cover. Paddling with hardly-cured and still sticky home-made paddles because they were the last thing you managed to complete the night before the race. The sinking feeling of driving down into a valley and finding a bony river that had not been filled with an artificial release of water the night before. The somewhat crazy practise of placing two additional layers of surgical cord over your spray cover under the cockpit lip in the days before pumps ‘cos you had no plans to portage anywhere on the Umkomaas and had no desire to stop and empty on the way. UMKO 50 Years