Saturday, October 3, 2009

ACA L4 Certification: Day 4

Day four of five sees us gathering up at a public launch point near Assateague Island in Ocean City. I wasn't really sure what to expect and we started off the day with a little quiz. Of course I had written down the tides several days ago in pre-planning then forgot to recheck the numbers. Missed that question. I did know this was a full moon having camped out under the spot light of its glow. The launch point was relatively calm being part of the enclosed harbor. He paddled out a little ways and found a nice little area off Assateague for some on land talks. We hear about tides and how they are formed as well as an idea of what we would expect today. This talk was a very scaled down version of the one from the tides and currents class I had taken while in Maine. We walked over to the ocean side of the island to check out the surf and conditions, they were looking gnarlier then I had ever been out in. We did a warm up and stretching before hopping back in our boats.

Teaching Stokes
We broke up into two groups to teach the strokes. This worked out well for two reasons, first being that we were actually a large group today with a total of 13 people, 11 of which were instructor candidates. The second reason was to prevent bias. While I had paddled with Tom before I had never paddled with Mitch before. So he could better evaluate my skills then someone who has seen me doing better and worse. The certification only represents what you show on the certification day. I was given the task of teaching the sculling draw as the current was pushing us up against a rocky sea wall. Then as we were heading back I was given the task to teach the hanging draw. I do find that I need to do turn more when doing a full sweep to prevent getting my hand behind my shoulder.

Working with Current
It seems strange to work with current in a sea kayak, even though I know it is possible to deal with current, I have only had to deal with it in either a sluggish form, or in my whitewater boat. Today we actually had currents and eddies that were easily visible and workable. We first worked on peeling in and out of the eddy into the current. The same principle applies in the sea kayak as the white water boat, lean away from the current when peeling. We also worked on ferrying across the current and paddling up against the current. We then worked our way around the inlet moving from eddy to eddy. On the other side of the inlet we found some standing waves forming and played in them. We worked on surfing and paddling backwards. I think that paddling backwards is the bane of my sea kayaking. I can fight the boat into a semblance of control when paddling forward but because I don't sink the boat enough, I have less control when going backwards. I did manage to brute force the kayak into control but it wasn't pleasant. We then moved out across the channel and set up for lunch at the small beach.

Working with waves
With the current work out of the way we then turned our sights to the ocean. From the ocean we had about 6-8 foot ocean swells combined with the shoals and beach to give 4-6 foot waves. I had never been out in such conditions before. We paddled out to the shoals and tried to cross them. I ended up being window shaded by a particularly large wave but manage to roll back up, thankfully. Of our group, one person needed a rescue, one person did a re-entry & roll, and the last guy tried the re-entry & roll, then a cowboy entry and finally got back in unaided with a paddle float re-entry. We regrouped and left the weaker person behind, then crossed the shoals. I think this was just to see what we could do as we didn't do much except turn around and surf our way back to the guy we had left. Back in closer to shore, we worked on a checklist of items, we rolled in surf, turned our boats in circles, and did re-entries and rescues. It was a very long and extremely tiring day.

While waves are a challenge to paddle in because they can break over you and roll you, tossing you around. ocean swells are just plain tiring. The swells we encountered were quite large and were moving through the rocky sea wall, not around it. We made our way back to the inlet opening and held position while waiting for a break in the boat traffic to head back in. Paddling with the swells is tiring as it really feels like paddling up hills then kind of sliding down hill. The down hill slide being not nearly as long as the up hill slog. We held position at the mouth of the inlet when one person went over and had to bail from the kayak. A few people went to the rescue but due to our location the instructors stepped in and set up a town and we all paddled hard to get into the inlet. A brief window had opened up in the boat traffic and we took it.

At first I was nervous about the conditions but once we got out there, I felt that they were big but I was able to handle them. I worked really hard today as my arms feel like lead and so to do my legs. I even felt I was having a good time on the way back with the ocean swells. I find that by the end of a long day like this I am extremely hungry. Due to the conditions, it is hard to eat on the go especially when being asked to tow or pivot your kayak. I think my problem is that I am not that hungry at lunch and while I try to eat enough, it seems like it never is. I might have to find a more energy dense food that doesn't fill me up. Lunch is so short we really don't have much time to digest and a full stomach isn't that comfortable for me. All in all a good day but I am left wondering if I will be too sore tomorrow to do anything.

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