Setting and Running Shuttles
The process of using vehicles to get to the start of a paddling journey and back from the end of the trip is referred to as a ‘shuttle’.
A minimum of two forms of transport are required in order to complete a shuttle. One will be needed at the start of your journey and one at the end.
Cars, vans, buses, bikes, taxis, motorbikes and trains are all some of the types of transport used for ‘shuttles’ by kayakers around the world.
If you have a willing non paddler friend the easiest way to complete a shuttle it to ask them to drop you off and then drive to meet you at an arranged point at the end of your trip. This person is often referred to as a ‘shuttle bunny’ and if found is worth treating like royalty as they are very rare and a great assets to a paddling trip.
If you don’t have shuttle bunny you will need to think about how you are going to use the transport options available to help you complete your trip.
How to set and run a shuttle
One of the most common shuttles involves two or more vehicles. Here’s a quick guide to how to do this.
1. Drive all the vehicles, people, boats and gear to the top of the river or paddling run.
2. Unload boats and get changed into paddling kit
3. Designate one car to be the ‘shuttle’ car. This will be the car that will return back to this car park / point and stay there until you have finished your trip.
4. Place everyones warm dry clothes for the end of the trip in the other vehicles so they are ready at the end of your run.
5. Drive all the vehicles to the bottom of the river.
Make sure you know where the best take out point on the river is to get to these vehicles. Plan ahead so you don’t get stuck.
6. Use the shuttle car to drive all the drivers back to the top of the run.
7. Go kayaking. Make sure you take all the keys with you and secure them safely to your person (not the boats) in waterproof cases or bags.
8. Finish the trip. High five each other then get changed into your dry warm kit.
9. Use one vehicle to drive the shuttle car’s driver back to his / her car.
10. Drive back to the finish and reload all people and gear into the correct vehicles.
10. Finish the day with a nice cup of tea in a nearby restaurant or pub and debrief on your days adventures.
Most of the time this process can be pretty simple and involves following a road that runs alongside the river. However sometimes it can be a bit more complex and involve other forms of transportation or big hikes. Make sure you have prepared for your adventure. Gain local knowledge of the area and carry suitable equipment and supplies for your trip.
In some situations you may choose to leave more vehicles at the top of the run if the access and parking is easier. Plan this into your shuttling process.
Plan, plan, plan…. Utilise Topo maps, goggle earth, and local boating knowledge and forums to find out the best ways to do a shuttle on your planned run.Sometimes a good old fashion road map will not be enough information. In some cases you may even need to get things like wilderness permits for your hike in.
Lastly use all of you acquired knowledge to get a good idea of how long it will take to run shuttle so you can build that into your time management plan. Sometimes a shuttle can take as long as or longer than the paddling trip.
It’s all part if the adventure.