Saturday, September 12, 2009

BCU 3 Star Training, Day 1

I wasn't sure what to expect on my first day of training for the 3 Star Sea Kayak Award. I had read that conditions needed to be at about 10-15 knots of wind, 3-5 foot seas and at least a couple of knots of current. So in my mind, I was picturing big waves, big winds AND big current. My imagination got the better of me and worked me up into a worried state. Turns out it should be at least one of those conditions and not necessarily all those conditions. Once out on the water, I realized the conditions really were not so bad. In fact I didn't think them bad at all, which is a good thing. This means I was ready for this type of water and comfortable with it. I did figure out I wasn't in very good shape in spite of all the whitewater paddling I have been doing. Time to start working on attaining so get in shape.

I already have a membership for my whitewater L3 certification and an L3 personal achievement award through the ACA, the American Canoe Association. I wasn't sure why I wanted to get another membership and personal achievement award in the BCU system (British Canoe Union). After looking at the levels of the two systems, I realized that there are advantages to training in both systems. The ACA L3 is not quite equivalent to the 3 Star. In fact the 3 Star is a bit of a step up and is a great stepping stone in bettering myself. This way it looks like I can take smaller steps and bounce between the two systems. I had not taken any ACA training with my L3 assessment, rather I got the 3 Star training but with no conditions. My understanding is that the BCU system is focusing on the journey and leadership where the ACA system focuses on the skills to do the trip.

We started out with a foggy and overcast day. Temperatures were not too bad but the water was definitely on the colder side of things. I had chosen to wear my light-weight wool thermals over my mid-weight wool thermals. I had an extra top layer just in case. We started off with a very long and winding back paddle through the ships and various ship buoys littering the harbor. I thought my arms were going to fall off. I don't think I have ever paddled that far backwards before, ever! Definitely worked out some muscles. We moved on through the morning, paddling around to the various small islands, landing on one and "saving" our paddle from hypothermia. Of course it is a good idea to save someone above the high water line. I didn't realize we didn't have to actually open up the space blanket, those things are like a can of worms. Once I got it out of the bag, it expanded beyond belief. I ended up shoving it into my dry bag to fold up later.

We had a working lunch. There were so many things to go over from navigation, to tides, then strokes and concepts. We worked on some navigation and tide work over lunch as time seemed to be in short supply. After lunch we took some time to surf the wave that forms over the little rock shelf. This was lots of fun. I hadn't had a chance to surf in quite a while. I had some control over my boat but I could still tell the wave was pushing me along to surfer's left. Not a good place to be as it was shallow there. One guy managed to do a bow stall with his 18 foot sea kayak, quite impressive. We also had a bit of a traffic jam, one boat plowing over another.

In the afternoon we worked on rescues and boat repair. I found out that my light-weight wool thermals were not going to keep me warm for prolonged sitting or immersion. Good thing for the borrowed dry suit but damn it was cold. Various rescues then on to boat repair. My partner for the training got out of his boat and sat on my deck while we pulled his boat up between us and tried to "repair" it. We found that the Gorilla Tape he had didn't stick to it, neither did the Hippo Tape I had. I found out afterwards that the Hippo Tape really needs to be applied to a dry surface. I might have to try it again some other time. In the meantime, we found out that Duct Tape seemed to be the winner. Window flashing is also supposed to be a great item which I have seen in use before and really should go out and buy.

We were supposed to be on the water until about 4:30. Our trainer asked if we were okay with staying out later. For extra training we were happy to but we were getting tired. I finally asked if this was a two day class or if I was mistaken. He thought I meant is this normally a two day class to which his response was that this could take up to six months in England. I restated that I meant this weekend, and after a show of (tired) hands, we headed back. He was a little apologetic yet happy to keep working on us tomorrow. So we headed back exhausted but feeling good. Almost all of us were signed up for the class tomorrow and only a small few were signed for the assessment on the Monday.

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