Canoeing for Adam’s Ale? JFACHQ take to the water

On Friday the 4th of July this year members of the Joint Force Air Component Headquarters (JFACHQ) took a well-earned day out of the office to participate in Exercise ADAM’S ALE, an Adventurous Training event held in the idyllic setting of the Force Development Training Centre Danesfield on the River Thames.

The canoeing safety brief took place at 0900 sharp with nearly everyone understanding that this was local time (Flight Lieutenant Dan Shaw apparently works in Zulu time), the 24 personnel were split into pairs with a party of 6 twin-canoes taking the easier going upstream route, whilst the others departed downstream to negotiate the weirs and locks.

The weather conditions were surprisingly superb with clear blue skies and calm waters making for excellent water based activities. However that didn’t seem to help the pairing of Sergeant Nick Dehavilan and Senior Aircraftsman Danni Silk,   who tipped over their special issue über-stable Gucci sporting kayak and thoroughly drenching themselves in the murky waters of the Thames.

The rest of the morning was enjoyed by taking in the beautiful scenery of the local countryside, tainted only by the sharp realisation that, with the exception of a Euromillions jackpot win or Director JFACHQ’s flying pay recruit and retain incentive, none of us would ever be able to afford the ‘Lord of The Manor’ lifestyle that we were all so envious of whilst paddling along the river.

With lunchtime fast approaching, the support team ventured into Marlow for some Friday fish and chips, ready for the canoeists return at 1130. Following lunch, with satisfied but over-full bellies, we did exactly what our Mothers told us not to for all those years by heading back to the water and having a raftbuilding competition!

After being split into 3 teams of 6, work began with haste using just 4 pine poles, 4 barrels and various lengths of rope. That is except for Team Alpha, the Execs team, who formed a strategic working group, wrote a Strawman paper and appointed Wing Commander Andy “I’m Always” Wright as their Project Manager.

The urge to build a tripod was too much for Team Bravo, led by Squadron Leader Nick Trown, who focused on crafting a rather bizarrely-shaped triangular vessel, utilising only 3 poles, 3 barrels and random fastenings of rope.

Meanwhile Team Charlie was sure of victory with Commander Ady Mudge at the helm. That was until he informed his team that he knew nothing about sailing or  knots as he was a pilot in the Royal Navy and not a sailor.

After an hour building the rafts it was time for the triangle, square and oblong to take to the water. The brief was simple, all 6 members must be on the raft, paddle across to the opposite river bank, disembark, run around a tree, get back on the raft and return to the point of origin. The first team back would be crowned victorious.

Team Alpha seemed to have misunderstood the brief, either that or the resident PTI Sergeant Matt Hunt failed to check their understanding, as they had only 4 crew members seated on the raft with the other 2 members operating as outboard motors in the water at the rear.

Team Bravo made it approximately 2 centimeters from dock-side before Senior Aircraftsman Technician Simon Dawes and Flight Lieutenant Graham Lord started their audition for this year’s Titanic pantomime. They must surely have hit the only iceberg in the Thames for their raft to break up as violently as it did. This resulted in the rather embarrassing deployment of the Safety Boat. Squadron Leader Trown was heard to say “Well the ladies on board clearly aren’t as light as they said they were!” And so, Team Charlie claimed their moral and just victory from the cantankerous Team Alpha who were disqualified on return to port.

The afternoon’s festivities continued with a quiz in the bar at the Danesfield Arms with Flight Lieutenant Luke Savage’s team running out as easy victors. No one could answer the seemingly impossible question “If James is 5, Henry is 3 and Edward is 2. Who is 1?”

Overall, an excellent day with life-long friendships being forged and common enemies discovered (only temporarily), all for free in a beautiful location with excellent facilities. Why not try it for yourselves?