If you just go for a paddle than you can stop thinking about wanting to go for a paddle.

Monday, September 30, 2013

2013: Post 46 – The search of higher knowledge continues

During last weekends skills training on Long Pond we had a lunch-time lecture on weather. We were then tasked with following and logging the weather in the few days leading up to our departure for the upcoming weekend tripping portion of the Safe Kayaking Level Two course.  

There was a low pressure system in the area causing poor weather for the few days leading up to our departure.  But with a little bit of diligent weather watching and  logging from Tuesday to Friday last week, and from understanding the indicators to watch for (wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and clouds), I began to see that indicators were indeed pointing to good weather on the way.  By checking the professional forecast I could see my assumption based on observations were confirmed that things were looking up in regards to the weather.  

Day 4 - Friday evening (Sept 27)

We met at our predetermined meeting place Friday afternoon.  The students (except for Grant) were there on time but Richard, our instructor, was running late.  No matter, we just deducted a few points for tardiness...  We headed down the highway in the lessening wind and rain. Grant was driving in from Gander and we would met him at the put-in.

We arrived at Bellevue Beach and set to work unloading the kayaks and gear, and getting them packed up.  We did not have far to go, and actually could have walked to our camp-site along the beach from the put-in location.  

Richard, Nigel, and  Jeff

Once we had all the gear loaded we got on the water, Grant lead our small group to our campsite.   With the late start to the day, the drive to our put-in, and the time it took to pack, we were still on the water at sunset.  We spotted a small pile of driftwood and decided to check it out for a campsite.  Grant got out and had a quick look, and decided it would do.  

We had only paddled less than a nautical mile, but the object was not to cover distance this evening.  The main objective was for a group of people who really knew very little of each other to start the process of learning to come together to act as a group with a common objective, that of kayak camping.  Another objective was for it to be a learning process for those that have not packed a kayak for camping.  

So we all pulled up on the beach near the little pile of wood and Richard helped with providing some direction as to what needed to be done.... keep in mind that there were people on this trip will little or no kayak camping experience... Tents needed to be put up, the community tarp had to be erected, fire wood collected, and food prepared and cooked.  Richard had said before we started out that he wanted to be eating by 9 pm. I think it was about 8:40 when I checked my watch while we were eating.

Jeff tending the frying pan 

Greg and Grant letting supper settle a little

Greg busy washing up dishes 

With the evening meal eaten, and dishes cleaned up, we had a few drinks under the big tarp, except for Jeff (whose real name is actually Sarik; his nickname is Jeff) who is not of legal age to partake of alcoholic beverages.

We turned into our tents a couple hours later.  I heard some snoring from somewhere and moved this way and that, trying to get comfortable.  I always have a hard time getting to sleep when camping.  I was still trying to get to sleep around 2:00 am when there were light flashing off and onto my tent.  Then I heard a voice calling out "Richard Alexander... I'm looking for Richard Alexander..."

That's all I am going to say of this middle-of-the-night-intrusion on the first night of our camping weekend.  It's one of those stories to tell around a campfire on future kayak camping trips... and once the story goes around among our small kayaking community (and I am sure it will) just a few of us will be able to say 'I was there'... I'll just add that the occurrence was a very first for Richard, who has ran many of these types of courses.  Just goes to show that even the instructor can encounter new experiences on a course....      

Day 5 - Saturday (Sept 28)

We awoke to a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun was shining and the wind was low. Morning activities ensued - breakfast, clean up, break down camp, and pack up the kayaks.

Greg and Nigel

That's me (picture taken by Jeff)
Grant and Greg

Before getting on the water, Richard gave a lecture on towing...  

During the course of the lecture we turned around to find a morning visitor...

Once we were on the water we began practicing navigational skills that were taught the weekend before.  

It wasn't long before it was time to have a little stretch and some lunch, and so we took out on the sandy beach... 

Me again (picture by Greg)

Back on the water we continued on our way...

Richard and Greg

Sarik (a.k.a. Jeff)

 ... until we found a spot to practice surf landing and launching...

Nigel getting some help from Jeff and Greg  


As we continued along the shoreline we performed some towing exercises, but I neglected to take a picture or two. Further along, we found a good campsite.  There was a nice surf dumping on the beach and so we had an opportunity to try out some more surf landing. 

This time Richard went in first and then provided paddle signals for us as we each took turns landing.  I wish I would have taken some pictures but the surf was intense enough that I decided it best to be at the ready in case someone took an inadvertent spill while coming in.  I did find there were a couple exhilarating moments watching some of the other guys come in to the beach, but all hands made it with bodies and gear intact.

Tents were pitched, the big tarp went up, and firewood was collected.  Time for the supper meal...  

Greg and Richard

Grant getting steaks ready

Now this is really roughing it!!

With our meal finished and the dishes cleaned up, we kept the fire burning into the night and had a few drinks... 

Richard, Grant, and Greg

Greg in full relaxed mode



This second night I had the sense that as a group we were more relaxed with each other. We had a few good laughs. Richard suggested we call in to work the next day and tell them we wouldn't be in... we could just continue up the shore to Bonavista... I think the instructor was enjoying our little trip as much as the students...

Day 6 - Sunday (Sept 29)

I awoke early.  I checked my watch and it read exactly 5:00 am.  That was far too early to get up so I tried to go back to sleep.  During the night I had dreamed that I was a very old man and all my kayaking buddies and I were at the food court in the Avalon Mall. Everybody else was very old too.  Since we were all too old to paddle we were sitting around drinking coffee and reminiscing about paddles we had done... 

Today would be the last day of the course.  I wondered what Richard had in store for us. Then I wondered what we were having for breakfast. My mind was too active and I tried to sleep.  I kept checking my watch and eventually my 6:00 am alarm went off.  Still too early and I tried to get comfortable.  I checked my watch again and it was 6:10 am.  Shag it! I decided to get up.  It was a nice morning and I had it all too myself.  I walked around a little to stretch out and took a couple pictures...

Then I took down my tent and packed up my sleeping gear and stowed it all in my kayak.   I started to gather up some wood for the breakfast meal.  Then Richard strolled over and then before long Grant and Greg showed up.  Grant got the fire going and Greg sliced up bread... we were going to have grilled cheese sandwiches...   

Grant and Greg

Greg and Richard


With breakfast done and dishes washed, the big tarp came down, and tents and gear were packed into kayaks.  Richard gathered all hands together and had a little discussion on the beach before we left...

It was just a short paddle back to Bellevue Beach where the cars were waiting.  There was a little bit of surf so we got to practice another surf landing....

Grant and Greg giving Nigel a  helping hand

Jeff getting ready to come in to the beach

All hands

We proceeded to unpack the gear and carry things back to the cars.  The kayaks were loaded and we drove off, but we were not done yet.

Part of the Level Two course curriculum is to expose the students to current.  There wasn't enough current at Bellevue so Richard decided we would drive to Placentia.  When we arrived there wasn't much current there either.  Richard gave a lecture on crossing eddy lines and ferrying and then we got on the water to try it out.  


Da boys


After a while the current began to pick up more and we practiced some rescues and towing. Then it was time to call it 'done' and we set up a tow scenario that had all five students participate in some manner.  

Back on shore we had another group discussion....

... and then it was time to pack up one last time... 

Richard did a one-on-one debriefing with each of us and we said our good-byes and then headed back down the highway for home.

Final Thoughts

Was it worth my time and a few bucks to do this course.  Most certainly.  My buddy Hazen was right, I definitely got something out of taking this course.  Many things taught during the course I already knew, and some things I kind of knew, but there were some things that were new to me.

I have been busy over the last few years trying to learn to be a better paddler and it was good to have my current skills assessed and get feedback from the instructor on my progress as a paddler.

The camping portion was most interesting.  Richard employs a community type style whereby all hands are expected to partake in firewood collection, preparation of food, and cooking meals over an open fire.  He has a large tarp that is set up that serves as a gathering place to help foster a more social aspect to kayak camping; people can gather under it rather than wander off to their individual tents...

I have to say that I enjoyed doing the course; but it is a paddling course so what is there not to enjoy.  And I would highly recommend to anyone that might be thinking about doing the Safe Kayaking Level Two course to just go ahead and do it.  I do not think you will be disappointed. 

Thanks to Richard for a couple fun-filled weekends of skills training and kayak camping. And thanks to Johnnie for the help and feedback on the first weekend... it was really too bad you could not have joined us for the second weekend.  And thanks to Greg, Grant, Sarik (a.k.a. Jeff), and Nigel for sharing the experience with me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013: Post 45 – In search of higher knowledge

In June of 2008 I bought my first kayak (see this post).  Two or three weeks later I did the Flatwater/Level One kayaking course.  Since then I have been busy trying to be better at the things I had learned during that course and I have been busy trying to learn things that were not taught during that course as well.  I have put a lot of kilometres (I know I should say Nautical Miles) under my bow, learned some skills, made some mistakes, and have met a lot of other paddlers.  Mostly I have had a lot of fun.

Newfoundland Kayak Company advertised they would be running the Safe Kayaking Level Two course during September.  Normally this is a week-long course but they decided to do it over two consecutive weekends instead, making it much more appealing to me (no need to take a week off work).  My good paddling buddy Hazen had taken the Level Two course a couple years ago.  I have paddled a lot with Hazen and he felt I would definitely get something out of taking course.  I thought about it and decided it could be a chance to have my current skill level assessed and to learn some new skills - there could only be things to add to my development as a kayaker...   I had a phone conversation with the instructor about the course and I signed up.

Day 1 - Friday evening (Sept 20)

Last night five students showed up for the start of the course (I forgot my camera so no picture).  After introductions our instructor, Richard, gave us the lecture on navigation.  There were some things I knew already, some things I kinda knew, and some I did not know.  But this is generally the way of many courses.

Day 2- Saturday (Sept 21)

This morning we all met again on one of the local ponds (Long Pond), and were also joined by the instructor's aid, Johnie (a Level Four certified paddler).  

We started the day with a discussion on kayak design and then got on the water for instruction and practice on basic kayak control...

Greg getting ready

Richard and Johnie


Richard and Johnie



We had lunch and then a lecture on weather.... 

...then back on the water for some rescue instruction and practice...

Richard and Jeff in the water
 We finished off the day with a rolling clinic...

Johnie took video of each of us doing our forward stroke so we could see the good and the bad of what we were doing...

The day was long but fun.  Again, there were things I knew and some things I did not know.  But now I have things I can start to work on after the course is over.  I have a feeling there will be plenty of things to work on after the course is over....

Day 3 - Sunday (Sept 22)

We met at Long Pond again this morning, but the wind was blowing down the length of the pond from the southwest, which wasn't ideal for the days intended instruction. So Richard decided he would move the class to Gull Pond where we would have protection from the wind allowing us to learn unimpeded from the effects of the wind. 

Arriving at Gull Pond we set to work bringing down the kayaks and gear to the waters edge...

Before getting on the water, Richard had a discussion on different styles of paddles...

Yep, that's my Greenland paddle in the mix.

Then we got on the water for instruction on turning and maneuvering strokes.  I was kept busy enough such that it did not occur to me to take a few pictures.   The time passed quickly and before I knew it was time for lunch... 

With refueling out of the way it was time for another lecture.  This time it was on tides and current, and leadership...

Then back on the water for more instruction; this time on support and recovery strokes.  I made a conscious effort to take more pictures....


Greg working on bracing

Nigel and Grant

Greg doing a roll

Grant and Jeff

Group shot of  my classmates

Richard and Johnie

The first weekend portion of the course is now complete.  As a group we have gotten to know each other over the last couple days and I think everyone is having fun while learning and improving our skills.  

Next weekend will be the trip portion of the course.  This is the part of the course I am most looking forward to.  We'll camp for two nights (yeah) and receive more instruction and work on skills in the ocean water.  But until then I will have to review the provided course material to try to straighten up a few things up in my mind...