From Eileen van Helden, National Representative, South Africa
Amabele Belles, Cape Town, South Africa
We BCS paddlers frequently use the term roller coaster to describe our journey, and in South Africa, and many other countries, it is a very appropriate term to describe the course of our paddling over the last 2 years.
Since our last update to IBCPC in August 2020 when we were in hard Covid lockdown, a lot has happened, but much has stayed the same. On 3 October we were back to paddling after a 6-month break, but had to observe strict safety measures: a symptom questionnaire, temperatures taken and registration before each session; keeping one metre apart while on the jetty; masks to be worn until we are actually paddling, after which they are optional; no drummer allowed since they face the stroke pair! We can have a maximum of 10 paddlers sitting in a zigzag pattern on a normal 20-seat boat, so it is quite a good workout! The minimum for boat safety is 8 paddlers, and this makes for tight number planning. This strict protocol has led to cancelled sessions when we do not have enough paddlers for a particular session, and to disappointed paddlers when we have over 10, and a subset of the team get a half-session on the water. We have learned to adapt where we can and make the best of a fluid situation.
The second wave of Covid led to the second cessation of paddling from mid-December 2020 to the end of January 2021.
Back to paddling in February this year and then in March, as if Covid wasn’t enough, the Waterfront experienced a minor natural disaster. A pair of humpback whales happened to be chasing a school of mackerel past the harbour entrance and the shoal took a sharp right turn into the harbour to escape. Sadly, those waters did not have enough oxygen to support the extra fish numbers, and there was a mass die-off. This caused a further depletion of oxygen, leading to an expanse of sterile, milky turquoise coloured water that unfortunately smelled very strongly of ammonia and would take months to clear.
So, we had to find another paddling venue, and moved to Century City in Cape Town, home to a huge shopping mall, offices and a network of freshwater canals around natural wetlands and manmade islands forming a bird sanctuary.
In July, the country went into the third Covid wave and we stopped paddling……. again. We have now come full circle with August last year, when our only team activity is bailing the winter rain out of the boats! We look forward to the end of the current wave, but the only way out of the vicious circle is vaccination. The vaccine rollout is ramping up rapidly and the percentage of the population vaccinated is rising fast.
We still have a strong sense of being part of a team, mainly thanks to our WhatsApp chat group, but we all miss paddling dreadfully. We live in hope.