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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016: Post 21 – Culmination of eight years of paddling

In 2013 I did the Level 2 Sea Kayaking course... click here for the first part of that course and here for the second part.  Last year I signed up to do the Level 3 Sea Kayaking course but there wasn't enough interest and it did not go ahead.

Earlier this year the Level 4 Sea Kayaking course was offered by the Newfoundland Kayak Company, and for anyone not having the required Level 3 certification there would be a one day assessment offered (see the end of this post for that entry) and, if passed, the candidates could partake in the Level 4 course planned to take place in August.  

Five of us did the assessment, passed it and, armed with the required Level 3 pre-requisite, along with a sixth person who already had her Level 3 certification, we arrived in Burgeo, NL on August 1.

Day 1

I guess the six of us were enthusiastic to get going because we all had our kayaks loaded on the slipway at Aaron's Arm Wharf before the instructors showed up.

Before long the instructors (Richard, Dave, and Jeff) arrived and their kayaks were soon loaded.  We had a little pow-wow on the slipway and then off we went.  

This five day course had officially started.

Under clear skies, we paddled the short distance to Cornelius Island.  We had the use of a cabin there for the week, and it would serve as our base camp.

The owner of the cabin, Derrick, took us on a little tour of the island and then left us to get down to our course.  One of the first lectures we had was on how to make coffee... Richard had devised a new system in which the coffee peculator, a pot, and two stoves could be used together to make the coffee making process more efficient. 

Each day we took turns supplying the food for meals, but we each helped in some way in the actual preparation. On the first day Neville made Best in the West Beans.  He grossly overestimated the amount required and ended up with two pots of beans.  The beans were very good for supper, and even better with Ron's breakfast the next morning. 

In the evening we all congregated in the cabin and went over some of the pre-course work that we had to complete prior to the start of the week.  Also, after much discussion and weather consultation, we decided we would do our two day expedition trip starting the next morning.

Day 2

Tuesday morning found Ron cracking a couple dozen eggs... 

Dishes were cleaned up and the kayaks were packed up and off we went on our two-day excursion...

Along the way we each took turns leading the group, watching our marine charts, piloting along through some of the many islands in the area.  Between Rencontre and Baggs Islands we were asked to check to make sure our towlines were in proper working order.  We teamed up into pairs and took turns doing a short tow, capsizing, releasing the towline, and then rolling up.  

We carried on, making our way through the passage between Braggs and Vanils Islands, and pulled up on a beach where Jenn provided soft taco's for lunch.  After lunch we paddled around the southern end of Cuttail Island, the north end of Boars Island, and then carried on to Aldridge Head.

We began to cross over to Bay de Loup Point and shortly afterward someone yelled "swimmer!!!"  Jeff had ended up in the water.  The others went to his rescue and I decided there were plenty of cooks around the pot so I had a little chat to Richard while Jeff was being put back into his kayak.  

It seemed to be taking a while to get things straightened up back there, but when things were, I noticed Jeff was being towed, with Jenn supporting his kayak.  When they caught up they filled me in... Jeff had managed to dislocate his shoulder when he capsized!!!

It was a good thing we had checked that our towlines were in good working order before lunch, and even a better thing that Jenn is a nurse.  Unlucky though was the fact that our VHF's were not working so we couldn't radio for help.  All we could do was to carry on and tow Jeff to our pre-determined camp site at Red Island.

As we rounded Western Point, Jeff miraculously had a full recovery from his injury!!  Towlines were put away and then we had a discussion of the event.  From then it was a short paddle up Northwest Arm to our campsite on the north end of Red Island.

I had been looking at my chart and I just had a feeling as I rounded the north end of Red Island the scenery would be impressive.  So I picked up my pace a little and got ahead of the others.  I took a picture of the scene before me, our campsite in the distance...

The tents and our community tarp went up...

... and then Ron produced some pork chops for supper that had been marinating for a couple days.  Man, oh man, were they delicious!!!

Dishes were cleaned up and we gathered under the tarp and continued going through the pre-course homework until it was too dark to see, and then we simply enjoyed the evening fire and had a few laughs. At this time it did not feel like we were students and instructors... we were just a bunch of buddies camping and having a good time.

Eventually we all wandered away from the fire and to our tents.

Day 3

For the third day in a row we woke to sunshine and no wind to speak of.  Hazen got to work on breakfast... 

We packed up the kayaks and got on the water.  Today we would paddle back to our base camp on Cornelius Island.  We paddled out of Northeast Arm and turned our bows east.

We had only paddled as far as Tom Rock Head, and spent some time there practicing rescues whereby the paddler was separated from his kayak and only one of us had to retrieve both kayak and paddler... 

As we carried on our way Dave wasn't feeling too well.  I don't think he had been drinking enough water.... it had been quite hot the last few days and hydration is quite necessary when paddling.  Rather than just drift around, we decided we would tow him for a while so he could have a rest and drink some water.  The towing practice on the previous day really paid off.  We were much better at it today.

When we got closer to Burgeo Dave was feeling better and felt he could paddle on his own.  It was a warm day and so the towers decided to cool off by capsizing in unison, releasing towlines, and rolling up, feeling quite refreshed. 

We rafted up and had a chat while we put away our towlines.  

It was nearing lunch and I think it was Terry that suggested we paddle to Aldridge's Pond to eat.  After lunch we made our way past Burgeo to Circular Rocks where we practiced dead reckoning navigation, taking bearings to some of the many islands in the area.  Then we made our way back to base camp.

For supper we had Hazen Stir Fry...

Later in the evening Jenn made us an alcoholic beverage, but I cannot remember what she called it.  I think it was part coffee, part hot chocolate, and with a dash of rum... You bit the opposite corners off of a Tim Tam biscuit and then sucked the drink into the biscuit and popped it in your mouth...  it was yummy.

We were having such a good time and a good laugh with the treat and then Richard came over to try one...

I cannot remember if we did any of the pre-course work that evening though, but I'm sure we must have.

Day 4

Another nice morning.  It was my turn to provide breakfast... scrambled eggs on toasted English Muffins, with a babybel cheese in the center.

We cleared up and took the gear we would need for the day, and headed north to Normans's Head.

We did some work in the current, ferrying and rescues, as the tide flowed into Grandy Brook.  Later we took out on a nearby beach and, for the third day in a row, Jenn fed us lunch.  We lounged around in the sun and continued going over our pre-course work while we waited for the tide to ebb.

After a while we donned our helmets and finally, after all week, we got into true Level 4 conditions as the current flowed back out of Grandy Brook and into the ocean.  It was a lot of fun and I didn't even think to take a few pictures.

After the fun in the current we paddled over to a nearby beach and did some work with surf, landing and launching individually, and then landing a simulated injured person through the surf.

Of all the things we did during the week it was the practice of landing an injured person through the surf onto the beach that I really enjoyed.  All the other things we did during the week I have had exposure to prior to doing this course, except for this particular procedure.  I had read about how to do the procedure but this was the first time I had actually practiced it.  I guess this was something new to me so I was quite keen on the whole thing.

We did high and low braces in the surf and after a while we just mucked around.  I think Richard decided to forget he was running a course for a while because he came out and had a bit of fun trying to catch a good surf ride...

It was my turn to supply the supper meal back at camp.  The day at Norman's Head was a long one and luckily I had planned on spaghetti, which doesn't take too long to make.

Later in the evening we had a few drinks and a lot of laughs.  I think it was about 2230 hrs or so and it began to rain so those of us still up went off to our tents.  This was the first rain we had all week. I think it only rained for a couple hours though.  

Day 5

In the morning it was overcast but still a nice day.  Terry cooked up oatmeal and pancakes for our last breakfast of the week...

We cleared up the dishes and then finished going over our pre-course home work.  Then we ran through a couple go/no-go scenarios, and then Terry provided a lunch of Kedgeree.   Later, we each had our one-on-three session with the instructor's to discuss the week and our individual outcomes.

Richard gave each of us a Newfoundland Kayak Company baseball cap for all the hard work we put in during the week.  With the presentation of our caps we were each given a distinction...  Jenn's was for providing the best meals (no one can argue this lady has kayak lunches all figured out).  Ron's was for being the oldest person to have taken the course, and Hazen's was for being the person with the most artificial joints to have done the course.  Neville's was for being the best tower, and Terry's was for having the most interesting helmet.  For the life of me I cannot remember what mine was for... no matter, I have the cap.

We all took to the water for some final instruction on strokes, bracing, draws, and the like, and then Dave took a little video clip of each of us demonstrating them.

At this point the five day course was pretty much over.  All that was left to do was to pack up the gear.... 

... and to do the short paddle back to the slipway in Aaron's Arm.

Final thoughts

What a week we had.  The weather was phenomenal.  Richard said in all the years he has ran courses in Burgeo he had never seen the weather so calm during a course.  

My course-mates were excellent.  I have done lot's of paddling with Ron, Terry, Neville, and Hazen and we are all good 'ol paddling buddies.  I had not paddled with Jenn before though, but she fit right in to our motley crew.  We are gonna have to get her out on some of our paddling excursions... maybe we can talk her into providing the lunches!!

The instructor's were top notch.  The instruction was professional, but delivered in a fun manner.  If you ever get a chance to take courses from these guys your gonna learn some things and have some laughs doing it.

Burgeo.  What a fantastic place to paddle!  I can easily see driving down there in the future and spending a week in the area to paddle, camp, and just do some general exploration. 

So a BIG thanks to Richard Alexander for running the course, Dave Nichols (of Blue Dog Kayaking) who flew from Vancouver to help provide instruction to us, and to Jeff Martin who decided pretty much the day before the course started to come and help out.  

And a BIGGER thanks to Jenn, Ron, Neville, Hazen, and Terry for sharing the experience of the Level 4 Sea Kayaking course with me.  You guys made the week fun and provided a lot of memories over the five days.   

Interesting thing to note... This Level 4 course was the only one ran in all of Canada so far this year, and perhaps will be the only one.  We were lucky to have been part of it.


  1. Looks like you guys all had a blast Dean! Seems like you got to practice a lot of fun and interesting scenarios. Burgeo looks amazing!

  2. Well, its not really the culmination of 8 years of paddling, its just now you have the piece of paper to prove your proficiency. Congratulations!!! Even before I would rather paddle with you than with some "certified" paper holders.

    Burgeo area is beautiful having paddled Harbour le Cou to Burgeo stopping on Cornelius Island, paddling around the islands at the entrance to Burgeo and went as far east as you guys to Red Island.

    Tony :-)