Sunday, October 4, 2009

ACA L4 Certification: Day 5

Today was the last day of the certification. Pretty much at this point we had demonstrated our teaching abilities and so we now had to demonstrate we could perform in the conditions. We didn't do much teaching today, in fact, it felt more like we just performed a list of tasks in various conditions. We played in the current as we were leaving the sheltered inlet then we were out on the ocean. Today was not nearly as rough or big as yesterday but we still had enough of a swell coming in creating some surfing conditions along the sea wall.

With the sea wall giving us a hard challenge to avoid, we did some group management while doing surf landings and launching. We also had to catch a wave in and surf it. I failed horribly the first time as I thought I was supposed to surf it sideways. I did eventually catch a wave in a nice surf, but I was rather timid about it. We then did some more 360 degree turns in the surf zone. I thought I had some trouble doing this as about halfway through the turn the surf turned me back to the starting position. So I started over not even realizing it had turned me in the direction I wanted to travel, so I did two 360 degree turns in a row. Everyone thought I was showing off, I wasn't. It was scary enough doing one turn.

We ended up portaging our kayaks back to the inlet side due to the outrushing current being so strong. Once back on the inlet side, we went back to the eddy and did some towing into the current. The fun part of this was we had to tow someone out into the current and once they hit the current, the tow-er had to capsize, release the tow and roll back up. I decided my roll wasn't confident enough so I did the extended paddle roll guaranteeing that I came back up. I had never done one before but it was nice. I have seen people using them as crutches to avoiding learning a real roll, but since I was having trouble I decided to use it. I also watched one of the guys on this event use the roll and break his paddle, I definitely didn't want to break my paddle.

After all this, we congregated on the beach and decided to get our feedback as a group. The person receiving the feedback stood up on a cinder block and everyone said whether they were at an L4 level or not. Everyone who was there to re-certify at the L4 level got their level. A few people who were at the L3 and wanted the L4 got their L4 level. Then there were 3 of us who had no level to begin with. Of the three of us, the first guy received an L2 with distinction. In a way I was glad to see him only get the L2 as he had some problems with teaching and performing certain strokes. The other guy received an L3 with a continuation for the L4, so with a little work, he should be able to get his L4 no problem. I received my L3 with distinction and with some work should have no problems receiving my L4. I really just need to get out in big conditions a few more times to get comfortable with them. I think I also need a boat I can control better so I will feel more comfortable.

All in all it was a great event and I feel I learned a lot from it. Someone said they tend to learn more from the certification events then they do from classes. I can see why. These are pretty intense ways to learn something and generally it is trial by fire. It was safe but definitely a learning curve.

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.

Friday, October 2, 2009

ACA L4 Certification: Day 3

Today was day three of the Certification training. It was more of a assessment of skills and teaching then a training per se. We had learned all the skills on the first two days and just had to demonstrate we could do the same things on moving water. The expected conditions were about 10 kt winds, about 2-4 kts of current, or 1-2 foot breaking waves. We pretty much had all those conditions at Chesapeake Bay where we had launched. Before we launched we had a few talks that each candidate was required to give. Each talk was about 10 minutes long and had to introduce a topic, go over the basics of the topic, wrap up the topic with a summary, then challenge the listen with a little quiz. We were critiqued on how well we could teach the topic we had been given as well as how well we kept the listener engaged on the topic.

History of Sea Kayaking
My topic was to cover the history of sea kayaking. I didn't find a ton of information on the internet and I don't own any kayaking boats so I had to get what I could from the internet. I had found that kayaking was first used by the northern native populations and was mostly or entirely used for hunting. In fact, qajaq means "hunters boat". I briefly touched on the different regions that had developed kayaking, discussing the types of materials those cultures would have on hand, mostly bone, drift wood, and skins. The kayaks were also sealed with whale fat to keep them water tight. I moved into how kayaking came to the rest of the world and the materials that it started with and how it has evolved. Kayaking is no longer just a kayak for hunting or fishing with but has been used for racing, slalom, whitewater, and freestyle to name a few. And while kayaking has become a very popular sport, being part of the olympics since the 30's, it is still in fact used to this day for transportation, farming and hunting as a way of life still. It was actually quite interesting to read up on the history of kayaking both as a sport and as a way of life.

We also heard talks about clothing to wear when on the water, which ranged from t-shirt and shorts all the way up to dry suits. We had a navigation talk as well as a talk about signaling devices. The last talk just before we got on the water was a talk about group dynamics and staying together from someone from Florida, so we heard his talk which included stuff about native Floridian animals to not worry about. It was rather humorous.

Out on the water we mostly just did a skills check off. We moved around in boxes against, with and broach to the wind to show we would turn and handle out boats in the wind and with wind generated waves. I actually over committed to one of my strokes (the bow rudder) and went over right in front of the instructor. Luckily I rolled back up. I really have to work on my roll and outfitting as I find that I tend to fall out of the boat.

After we were finished today we all drove over to Assateague to meet up with part of the group that was only doing the re-certification. Everyone from my group either had no certification or was going from an L3 level to an L4 level. Today was part of the instructor development workshop as well as seeing if we could perform and teach in the L3 conditions. We moved on without getting any idea if we were certified at the L3 level. A little scary when I think about the conditions we are supposed to be encountering tomorrow. They sound big.

Today I was the only female of the group. I know there are women out there who instruct but I guess there are still fewer women going up through the ranks then men. I noticed the same thing when I was getting my 3 star sea kayaking award. I wonder how well a women's only class would work at a kayak school?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

ACA L4 Certification: Day 2

Today was once again at Widewater and was relatively easy. This was now our turn to teach the "class" strokes with the assumption that the "class" had never learned how to paddle before. We were scored on how well we could teach the stroke, how well we could model the stroke properly and how well we could give feedback.

The teaching paradigm that we were using was a sell, show, do model. First we have to sell the stroke to the students, why do they need to learn this other then just because. Then we show then what they will be learning. After the show, we teach them how to do the stroke modeling again as needed with pointers to focus on. The goal is to try to keep that all as short as possible so they can be trying it themselves as quickly as possible. This way the people with short attention spans are working on the stroke shortly after learning it.

It is really important to be able to model the strokes accurately even when slowing them down. If you can do the stroke correctly at normally speed but incorrectly when slowing it down, it doesn't do any good to the student. Modeling isn't just a temporary situation. As long as you are in the teaching role, you are constantly modeling perfect strokes. It is very bad to give mixed messages and slumping in the kayak after telling everyone to sit up isn't very good.

The instructor had some very interesting names for the feedback sandwich. Basically you can't simply tell someone they are doing something wrong as it is frustrating and counter-productive. Rather, the best model is to praise something they are doing well, then give them some criticism and how to correct it, then more feedback on how well they are doing. By starting and ending the criticism with good stuff, they fell better about how they are progressing.

Feedback to us
Some things I noticed about the other instructor candidates was one person was very verbose and actually lost me part of the way through his teaching. I hate giving feedback of that nature but it had to be said. One girl was too quick in her feedback and didn't wait to see if I was doing it correctly. In order for us to test the candidates, at one point, one person in the group would model a stroke incorrectly to see if they could pick up on it. I think this was the Instructor Trainers idea of fun and we all got into it trying to come up with good ways to screw up the stroke. Beginners are forever creative in how to do a paddle stroke once taught. Many students will turn the paddle backwards, or even hold the paddle upside down. Some will shift their hand positions making it difficult to teach them correct blade placement. It is hard to tell someone to cock their wrist when the paddle is already lined up correctly.

One way for us to see how we are doing is through the video. We were taped today modeling the strokes we had learned plus a few others we hadn't yet learned but should know how to do, this was mostly for the three of us that where moving on to the L4 training. We also had our roll filmed as well. We watched them back at the shop. I had gone first and one of the first comments was that I not be allowed to go first again. I have been told many times that I model my strokes very nicely and the Instructor Trainer was quick to point this out, many times to everyone dismay. It was a bit embarrassing after a while. My roll was actually quite nice this time. The only comment was that I could bring the paddle in a little tighter in the sculling draw, which I thought I normally did but apparently not in this case.

At the end of the day normally everyone has a private conference with the Instructor Trainer to learn whether they were now certified to teach and at what level. Since most of us where continuing on we didn't have the conference, just the two who were only going for the L2. Tomorrow will be out on the Chesapeake Bay in some conditions.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ACA L4 Certification: Day 1

I ended up missing about half of the day. I was actually unable to get the full day off due to some work but I really didn't miss too much. The first part of the day was similar to the first part of the Whitewater training, basically going over how the ACA works and what they can give me as an instructor. I manage to catch up with the group at lunch time and we paddled around Widewater learning how to teach the various strokes.

Introductory Kayaker (L2)
The 6 day course is designed to take students through the various levels building up a foundation. As I have no certification in sea kayaking I need to go through the whole course. So today we started with the Instructor Development Workshop (IDW). This is where we learn how to teach, how people learn and how to teach the strokes in an effective manner. We also learn how to give effective and useful feedback. We learned how to teach the forward stroke, forward and reverse sweeps, reverse stroke, pivot maneuver and stopping.

We were five in the class. There were two people from out of town going for their L2 certification and three people going as far as we could. We were aiming for an L4 but that isn't guaranteed. We get the award for the level we are capable of comfortably teaching and the conditions we are comfortable in. So it is possible to go through the entire training and come out with nothing, or only an L2 or go all the way and get an L4.

Tomorrow the two going for L2 get assessed for the L2 certification and the rest of us will move on into the L3 development and certification. I was a little bored with the learning today as most of it wasn't new. Tomorrow will be a big day with some video taping as well as immersion.

Monday, September 14, 2009

BCU 3 Star Sea Kayak Assessment

Today was the big day. After all that training and paddling I moved on to the assessment to see if I was able to paddle at a 3 star sea kayak level. Today was actually fairly calm compared to the last two days. We actually had to go out of our way to find conditions that would meet with the minimum requirements. We ended up doing a lot of rock gardens. In Maine, with the high tidal difference, there didn't really seem to be many beaches and more there were rocky outcroppings and cliff faces. With the ocean swells we worked our way in as close to the rocky walls as possible even moving through some of the rocky gaps as the swells would allow. It was quite a bit of fun. I had never had a chance to go rock gardening as there are none down here that I am aware of. With the swells moving in, the boats would get pushed close to the rocks and as the swell receded, we would move away. This turned out to be an excellent time to really work on doing hanging draws. A hanging draw is a static stroke taken to help move the kayak sideways while on the move. It really is a very cool stroke when mastered. I feel I have mastered it both in forward and reverse.

Today I was the only girl moving forward into the assessment. We were a group of 6 people with 3 of us having gone through the training together. It was nice to move into the assessment as a group and know we were in it together. For the most part we all did well. At one point, just to make things more challenging, I was asked to trade boats with someone who also had a Force 4. The catch was we were not allowed to get wet. Since the other guy was a little shaky on his skills, I ended up taking over. I grabbed another kayaker to help and we rafted up creating a nice stable platform allowing me to get out of my boat and him to get in before I crawled over all three boats and hopped into his. It was a pretty cool feat to do on a dynamic surface. His outfitting was a little odd with a higher seat. A few minutes later we traded back in a similar manner on as part of a tow.

Towards the end of the day, we were goofing off and playing in the rock gardens again. I went through a small gap in the rocks with no problems. The next guy through also had no problems. When I turned around to go back, the water lifted me up, turned me then drained out leaving my bow and stern up on the rocks while I was hanging head down in the water. I ended up having to exit the boat and came up laughing. I had just been part of a controlled rescue a few minutes ago and had just warmed up then here I was back in the water trying to push my boat off the rocks for another rescue. Everyone thought it was funny too, I am just sad that no one managed to get a picture.

After all was done, we got back to Bar Harbor safely and exhausted. We opted to get our assessment as a group and 5 of us passed. We later found out that the one guy who didn't pass, had known ahead of time that he likely wouldn't and wanted to come for the training and practice. He realized after seeing us paddle that he really did need more work to get up to that skill level. The rest of us went back to the symposium site and partied a bit to celebrate. My individual comments were that I needed to pay more attention to surroundings when doing rescues (or at least designate a looker), and try to keep myself tucked in more to prevent shoulder injuries. The one piece of praise I received which was the same as yesterday was that my finesse strokes are beautiful and well done, but the strength strokes require a bit more work with timing.

I ended up going out for supper that night with a bunch of the instructors who were still in town one more night. I knew two of the instructors from before, Alison Sigethy and Kevin Black, and had kayaked with Russell Farrow at the Mid-Atlantic Kayak Festival as well as saw his talk both at MAKF and ECCKF in the spring so it was cool to actually talk with him. I hadn't met Any Sparks before but he was pretty cool to kayak with and I feel I learned a lot with him over the two day training. The people who run the Carpe Diem Symposium, Mel and Mark, are great people and I hope I can get out there again next time. They let me shower in the bunkhouse. Nothing like a hot shower to feel human again. I hate campgrounds that have coin-operated showers.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

BCU 3 Star Training, Day 2

After a very intense day one training I think we were all expecting another heavy day of training. Today wasn't nearly as intense but we did still go over a lot of drills. This time we were able to focus a little more on navigation as we ran into some fog that lingered into the late morning. Navigation is an interesting challenge on the water.

First, it is hard to plan a bearing and course on the fly because looking down onto a map is a really great way to wind up sea sick and sometimes even dizzy. There are devices, like the Nav-aid that are supposed to make it easier to get a bearing quickly so as to spend less time looking down. I don't have one. I think some preplanning and rafting of boats together went a long way to getting a bearing quickly and relatively accurately. Having the chart folded out to show the interested areas also helps.

Second, once we managed to plan out our route (straight line across a channel), we found that we hadn't taken the current into account. Our destination was the lower point of a small island. In order to make sure we didn't miss the island altogether, we aimed for the center of the island. This makes it easier to correctly reach our destination. The problem was we didn't account for the current in the channel, which was actually moving quite quickly and we ended up getting pushed quite badly. If the fog had been thicker, we would not have seen the island materializing in front of us. With the current in the channel, it would have been quite possible for us to be pushed right past the other end of the island. As it was, the fog was lifting as we made our way across the channel and I could see how skewed our course had become. We corrected on the fly as we could start to see where we were going.

Lunch was a much more relaxing affair, at first. We landed on a small fishing island and enjoyed a nice lunch. We did have some fun trying to land on the extra high docks. The instructor chose the slightly lower dock and I opted to go that route too. I had some trouble levering myself up off the boat to a standing position. My knees just didn't seem to have enough strength to get me up from a seated position. Once I managed to get my butt up onto my back deck I had an easier time of it. We basically got out, walked the boats to the other side then hopped back in. The lunch spot was a rocky beach and nicely enough a picnic table. We did have to determine our precise coordinates for an "emergency" call. Our coordinates right down to the decimal seconds. Luckily we had a good chart to read off of. And at least one person who knew were to find the decimal second readings.

This day seemed to focus more on paddling as a whole, we did work on some skills and some rescues but I feel like we actually went somewhere today rather then paddling in small circles. The small circles were nice yesterday and I like the fact that each day was entirely different while still covering about the same material. I'm just glad I didn't have to tow as the tows were for long distances not quick little tows. Although that is likely a great way to get in shape.

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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning

In an effort to continue my training and increase my abilities, I registered for a symposium in Maine with the hopes of getting more on the water experience and learn how to better handle myself, my boat and deal with tides, and navigation. When I saw the Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning course listed on the curriculum I thought I had found the perfect class. The class is part of the new BCU 4 Star Sea Kayak Leader Award. Although I was not yet heading towards that award level, I thought it would still come in handy. I was more then a little surprised and slightly disappointed to discover (after showing up) that the class was not an on water class. It was actually a classroom class. But it was still well worth it. I feel that I got a lot out of the class and I just have to remember how to use what I learned. The class was broken down into four major topics.

We learned about tides and the various types. There are spring tides which are the biggest and neap tides which are the smallest. Spring tides occur when the moon and sun line up, so basically at new moon and full moon. Neap tides occur when the moon is halfway through waxing or waning. Spring tides can be affected even more in the spring when the earth is closer to the sun causing an even stronger gravitational pull. Tides are caused by the water sliding across the surface of the earth. Water is not lifted, it is moved. Based on the continental shelf, tides may be only a few feet in height or they may be tens of feet in height. Charts with depths marked show lowest mean depth. As this is a mean average, it is possible to have a negative tidal difference. Recently, the UK switched over to lowest astronomical depth meaning that when everything is in alignment, that is the lowest possible depth. While it is still possible for a negative tide, the tidal difference is almost trivial.

The period of the tide is just over 6 hours from low to high or high to low. The moon travels around the earth in the same direction that the earth is spinning. The moon has a 28 day orbit. Over the 24 hour rotation of the earth, the moon has moved 1/28th of an orbit. So the earth is constantly playing catch up with the moon. This causes the tides to slowly move forward each day.

Wind and Waves
Wind causes waves but where does the wind come from? Wind is caused by changing temperatures in the air. The air near the equator heats up and rises heading towards the cooler air at the poles. The cold air at the poles, moves down towards the equator to head up. This circular motion of air moves both on a grand scale and at smaller scales. As the air moves towards the poles, some of the air loses it heat and sinks back down to the equator causing smaller circular currents. All this is what happens in an ideal world. But once land is involved, air heats up faster over land during the day and cools off faster in the night. Water is a great temperature regulator. The air over land will shift with day and night causing on-shore and off-shore breezes. Add in the rotation of the earth and the wind now twists around.

Waves are formed by off-shore weather patterns. The wind from the weather patterns stirs up the water and the waves travel out from that point until they meet the shore. Waves can be generated miles away from the shore. There tends to be a period or pattern to the waves. While no two waves are the same, there is a period to the wave sets. Watching waves on shore, waves will start small, then build up to larger waves then decrease back down to small waves again. The breaking of waves occurs when the water has no where to go but up, generally caused by the beach shelf, sand bars, reefs and other obstacles on the ocean floor.

Just as air can be heated and moved, so to can water. The ocean is similarly heated at the equator and travels up to the poles in a great heat exchange. The continents provide some resistance as well as more water from rivers. As water flows between islands, stronger currents are formed as water is pinched and forced through narrower gaps. With the tide and movement of the water, there is various types of current. A slack current is when the tide is at its slowest, typically at the high or low portion of the tide, just before it changes direction. The current can ebb or flow, ebb meaning it is going out and flow meaning it is coming in. The fun part about currents is the cool things that are created that make for great play spots. Swells and waves moving along rocky shores are fun to paddle around and through. Swells moving over ledges create waves which can be surfed. Tidal races are standing waves formed when water moves through a constriction.

Weather affects the tides and even affects the tide height. With a high pressure system, the pressure of the air pushing down on the water causes the tide height to diminish. The opposite is true with a low pressure system, less pressure allows the tide to become higher. High pressure systems do not have fronts associated with them while low pressure systems do. The clashing of fronts causes weather changes either in the form of thunderstorms, or rain.

This can be broken down into three sections; bearings, courses, and headings. Bearing are the straight line direction to any object whether you intend to travel there or not. Bearings can be used to triangulate a position in the ocean when several markers or land features can be seen. Headings are the direction of travel, whether that takes current and wind into account or not. Courses are the path actually taken, as in how the wind and current actually affected the path of travel. Bearings, courses, and headings can all be the same or they can all be different. Knowing how strong the current or wind is in a particular area can allow for compensation.

So much more
This is really only the barest amount that I learned from the class. There was so much more. It was a very good class and I found it useful. We actually walked down to the beach and took a few bearings and discussed how to triangulate and plan a trip. We learned how to read charts and obtain locations from a chart. Most charts are in both true north and magnetic north so we learned how to correct between the two. The rule of thumb was when going from the small world (chart or map) to the big world (real world) you add the deviation. When going from the real world to the small world, the deviation is subtracted. The compass rose has all the needed information about deviations and annual change.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lower Yough Trip

The Youghigeny river is located in Pennsylvania, about 3 and a half hours from DC. It was quite the drive and while I wish I had been able to go for the entire weekend, at least I has the time and chance to make it for one day. I arrived the night before for a little car camping and we headed out for an early morning launch of 9:00. Basically we had one hour to get to the launch point after setting up shuttles. We were actually on the river just after 10:00 once all was said and done. It was almost a comedy of errors. First I forgot my prescription sunglasses and I don't have a backup strap for my regular glasses, so I had to go back for them after my trip saturday morning with another group. Once I got to the campgrounds I realized I forgot my tent pegs at home with my hammock. I found out that one of the other people's car had a dead battery so the morning of the run, we had to jump her car which she then got promptly locked out of while it was running. She had to wait for AAA to come and help her while we set up shuttle. She showed up just before 10:00 and we were able to get her set up and on the water. After that we all had a good run.

I have never run any other river but the Potomac. The Lower Yough is rather pushy and I wasn't quite sure what to expect considering all the not so pleasnat things I had heard about it from other people. Entrance was my first experience with the Lower Yough. It wasn't so bad but I did flip my edge and had to roll. I ended up being the first roll of the day. We all had done practice rolls earlier but I was the first in current. The water was quite cold. I wasn't sure what to wear but after talking to everyone and seeing what they were wearing, I decided on the semi-dry top, as that was what I had with me, and a mid-weight wool base layer. Good thing too as I think if I had been wearing less I would have been cold. The day was overcast and a bit on the cool side which was nice. At one point I did start warming up but a quick roll fixed that problem.

So at this point I have had a relatively good beginning. And then I found out that Cucumber was the next set of rapids. I have not heard anything good about this rapid. In fact, most people tell me they have taken nasty swims here. So I was not looking forward to the rapid, but after we passed through I started to wonder two things. First, it was easier then expected so I wonder if they had a higher water level. Second, how on earth do rapids get their names. Cucumber?!? At least Entrance made sense.

This one was going to be a tough one. I didn't remember hearing anything about it, but the large warning sign near it and the serious talk was enough for me. It wasn't that bad but it was big and pushy. I made it through then found out the rock was so badly undercut that people get sucked in and don't come out. It is a really bad place to fall in.

This one I was waiting for. Not only were we going to stop for lunch but this was a nice play and surfing spot. As I was coming down I decided to hit the wave and see if I could catch a surf. I started down backwards and slowly tried to line myself up. I managed to catch the wave but lost the surf and flipped over. I held the position waiting for the water to level out a bit but it never did so I rolled and found out the wave had held me in an upside down surf. I was back on the wave and surfing again until I got flipped again. I rolled back up more quickly this time and found I had been ejected. I managed to get in a couple of good surfs and I also managed to forget my nose plugs once, hit my shoulder on a rock because it was shallow, and lose the grip on my paddle but luckily I managed to keep one hand hold and roll back up. All in all it was lots of fun to surf and watch the surfing. This was were I had to swim when I ran into a friend's boat, wedged my paddle and flipped in shallow water. Oh well. Not too bad of a place to have to swim.

Bottle of Wine
I think this was the easy rapid that we were supposed to eddy hop at. I caught the first eddy then I didn't fight the current enough and it pushed me downstream. I really have to work more on strength and boat control. I really shouldn't let the water push me around so much. I also had trouble boofing, mostly because I wasn't sure what I was doing but I also wasn't lining up the last stroke correctly. I need to have a last stroke on the side further away from the rock and I have to push my butt over so I hand flat. I tried twice but missed each time. There was no harm in missing but I should work on that too as it is another way to control the boat.

Double Hydraulics
I actually missed this one almost completely. The safe line is down on river right, and I was following someone and didn't realize I had taken the easier line. Likely a good thing as I was having boat control issues. I didn't really have a chance to see the hydraulics though, but the map made them out to be bad. Maybe next time I can get into them a little more.

Bruner Run
The last rapid before the take out and almost the only rapid I was able to catch the last eddy perfectly on. I could see a really nice eddy immediately at the bottom of the rapid so I aimed for it and caught it perfectly. Now if only I can do that more often and on demand.

There were more rapids then this, but these were the more memorable ones. The entire run was lots of fun and well worth doing. I really wish I had been able to do the run both days as I think I would have learned more. I do think this helped me learn some, more to do with river reading. I have to pay more attention and get more control over my boat. I was able to lift my head up from my bow but I don't think I looked where I was going enough. So there is still lots of room for improvement.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sea Kayaking

I haven't had many chances to get my sea kayak out onto the water and I feel pretty bad about that. I really need to improve my comfort level and ability in kayaking if I want to do such a huge paddle as I have planned. As such I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the outfitters in the area had a social paddle session that I could join. At the same time, since I wanted to go through the instructor training, I joined the group as an instructor helper. I will eventually be taking my training and certification with the same outfitter so this is a great way to improve my teaching ability as well as get my boat back on the water.

Teaching Flat Water
As I knew the instructor, it was fairly easy to join up and paddle with the group. I wasn't sure what to expect at the first paddle and thought I would be following around another instructor to watch and learn. What actually happened was I was given a few students to work with for rolling practice, then I was put on the spot to teach a small group of students how to do a sculling draw. The instructor who suggested I teach this stroke will also be my instructor for the certification. So it was time to put on the instructor face and paddle at the best level I could. By the end of the two hours, I was exhausted from teaching, and the double portage. But after talking with the instructor, it looks like I am on track to have at least an L3 certification to teach. I would like to see if I can get a higher level. If nothing else, going through the training will help me improve my abilities even if I don't get the certification.

On one of the next paddles I helped with, I was filmed. Mostly for some basic strokes to demonstrate ability. This is supposed to be a good teaching aide as well, but I dislike watching myself. I do manage to see what I am doing wrong though which does help. It seems each time I go out with this group I get put on the spot, which is nice. It challenges me to be on top of my game. It is interesting that the more I work with the instructor the more he tries to convince me to come work for them. He is trying to steal me away from the competition. I have been invited to join then on their saturday Potomac tours to show off the beauty of the Potomac to new paddlers. I wasn't able to go this time, but I should be able to go next time if I am not teaching.

Back on the Ocean
I was out with a small group on the weekend and finally managed to get my boat out on the Chesapeake Bay. While the pace was quite relaxed, it was nice to get back into proper torso rotation and even surfing a few waves. It was a very hot day though and I managed to get a fairly nasty burn on my shoulders. My kayak handled quite nicely and I can't wait to get it out again. I really do miss the feel of the boat, even though whitewater is fun for playing.

Maine Rough Water
In order to improve my abilities, I just registered for a rough water symposium that is set to occur the beginning of September in Maine. The symposium is over 4 days and it will take me two days to travel there and back. I am looking forward to it with a slight level of dread. I registered to go through the BCU 3 star sea training and assessment. This will be in rough water with big winds. I am not sure I am in shape enough for that but I guess I will find out shortly. I am also not sure about my abilities out on the ocean in rough water. I simply have not had any major opportunities to get out in such conditions recently. I have been doing a lot of whitewater kayaking which I hope will help my abilities. They do suggest that cross training in another discipline like whitewater or canoeing is a good idea.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Little Falls to Lower Yough

I have been invited to do a river run of the Lower Youghigeny (known as the Yough to paddlers). I have been very apprehensive about going as I have really only experienced one river in a kayak, the Potomac. I was on the Upper Gauley in a raft and that would have been way to much for me in a kayak. So I was apprehensive of going to the Yough. I have run the Potomac Gorge at least 3-4 times this season and in high water but I have no idea what the Yough is like other then the stories I have been hearing. In order to get an idea of what to expect, it was recommended to run Little Falls. So today I ran Little Falls, and was nervous about that too. I had, again, heard stories that made this out to be a horrible section. Once we got to Little Fall, we beached the kayaks and walked over to scout the falls.

Little Falls
There are two ways to get through Little Falls, the Maryland side or the Virginia side. As we were coming down the Potomac, we were eddy hopping for practice as well as to let our guide know how comfortable we would be as the water became progressively faster and bigger. Once we got to the rapid, the guide suggested that we would be good to take on the more challenging Virginia side which is a far better indicator of what running the Yough would be like.

The line through Little Falls was pretty simple. The water flow would push you where you needed to go and it was a matter of maintaining boat control just to avoid the rock, affectionately known as meat cleaver. The current flows between cleaver and the island creating a drop into a hole followed by another drop then you are through. The first time, I ran through following someone and once I passed the first wave and was heading between the rocks, I lost focus on looking ahead and focused on the hole I was about to fall into. As such I ended up upside down. I rolled back up, forgot to paddle and went over again. Once I was back up I was off to the eddy to wait for the others. I wasn't the only one to flip but we all made it safely.

Once at the bottom, we went around the island and decided to run it again. I wanted to run it again as I wanted to go through without flipping this time. We had to portage our kayaks up over some nasty and very hot rocks to get back to the top of the rapid. I ran again, following someone again and was successful this time. I managed to keep my focus ahead and kept paddling as needed. The water was quite pushy and bit but I just paddled and kept going. The other new guy flipped again and was actually dragged up onto the rock before he managed to get back up.

Lower Yough
So after that, while I can't make it to the Yough for the Saturday run, I will be able to make it for the Sunday run. I am still a little apprehensive but I think I can handle it now. This will be a good way to better my abilities which I sorely need. I can't just be a Potomac whitewater paddler. This is going to be a great trip as we have a mix of the experienced and the inexperienced.

Turns out this will be a great weekend to go to the Lower Yough too as there will be a Falls Festival. I haven't been to it before but whitewater people know how to party. I might have to clean out a keg and bring some of the homebrew. It will be easier to keg it then trying to find time to bottle it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Teaching others to kayak

Since I have received my certification to teach whitewater kayaking, I have taught five classes. It has been pretty good and I feel I am improving in both my delivery and my skill. I do know that I have a weak point in not being able to do a hand of God rescue, but as long as the person can T-rescue themselves, I am okay. We get all levels of kayaking ability in the classes. More so in the second level class then the intro class. But even in the intro class, there is a fairly large dichotomy of paddling ability. Some people seem to get things right away, and others have trouble working out how to best balance the boat. Many people, after taking the first class, then take advantage of the social paddles and really improve their abilities. Some people come out with rolls after a few socials and are ready to tackle more. It is great to see people improving over each class and social paddle. People I taught just a few weeks ago are now rolling and playing in the current. I remember I was there just a year ago.

Teaching is both harder and easier then I thought. It is harder to organize my thoughts in a cohesive flow to best describe a technique or drill. I also have to be careful to not over explain or simply bore people as they are trying to learn something. Some people require less instruction then others so I try to teach to them then give more individual help to those that require more help and explanations.

At the same time, I have fun doing it and seeing people understanding and applying the concepts and drills that it is easy to teach something to someone. Some people actually will self-discover something and I just have to guide them to improvements rather then teach the entire concept.

I have been enjoying helping with the flat water instruction as well and am looking forward to certifying in that soon too. I am not quite sure what I prefer teaching. Each sport has its perks. The whitewater play boats turn so easily and are fun to paddle, yet the sea kayaks require more technical skill and track nicely through the water. In either case, improving my teaching abilities and skills in both sports is well worth the effort.

Friday, June 19, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 5

The last day where we see how we've progressed and what level we are now qualified to teach at.

More Teaching
We were again given out topics to teach today. Many of us received two topics to work on and most of them were group teaching topics. While everything we have learned is possible to teach alone, it is also possible that most classes will have more then one instructor so team teaching is valuable to learn as well. Most people didn't initially fair well with the team teaching but we are all improving. Most team talking is occurring before the "lesson" and everyone seems to be getting smoother in their teaching style. Most of us are still a little rough around the edges.

Getting to the Gorge
As our final test (which I thought was going to be written, hah), we did a gorge run. We started at Angler's Inn and paddled up along the canal to Sandy Beach, our put in. Most of the flat water aspects of the teaching took place along the canal. We then stopped to jump off canal falls, a small spill over along the canal leading to an eight foot drop. I wasn't too sure about going over but figured why not. I watched a few times then I took the plunge, literally. I never had my stomach greet my tonsils before now. Hope they enjoyed the party. It really was fun to do though. The long schlep to get to the put in wasn't fun. We walked about a quarter mile with the boats over the C&O towpath. My boat kept getting heavier. Plus I was really hungry.

Back Channel

I think I have seen the back channel that high before, but I had never kayaked it before. In fact, I don't think I have solo kayaked the Potomac this high up before when the water was over 5.5 feet. We had two of the students acting as instructors for this portion of the river run. They did a great job. We all paired off and worked together as some people were not quite as sure of the level of current then others. I was nervous but did well. We did get out and scout the last larger rapid. Not everyone wanted to get out but I think it was a good drill and we learned from it. The instructor show a picture of us before we ran it, we have the happy faces and scared faces photo. What a group.

I have been to rocky before when the water was higher then this but I was in a tandem kayak. This was definitely bigger in a solo boat. I didn't have to ferry across but the instructor set us a drill and I wanted to see if I could do it, so I ferried across. Then I had to ferry back. I was able to stay upright but I wasn't that comfortable in the boat. I think this was technically only class II current as well, maybe a II+. I need to get more comfortable in bigger water.

Center Chutes
We continued down past Wet Bottom and through the gorge. I rolled just to say I did and could. We goofed off a little as it was moving but flat. Center chutes afforded some surfing opportunities for us. The instructor had someone try to give a surfing talk but he wasn't sure about the concept himself. We did get to go out and play. There were two waves, and they were long enough that someone more experienced could get out into the center of the wave and the lesser experienced people could surf the side of the wave and still get back out to the safety of the eddy.

The talk
After scarfing a quick lunch I wasn't sure what to expect next. We were back at the camp and the instructor was talking to all of us one on one. I figured this was the test part. I was still waiting for some really big paper based test, but to no avail. This was just a talk after everything was over telling us how we did and what level we achieved. I found out that I was almost an L4. Had I been more comfortable on the gorge run in the big water, and if I had tightened up my strokes I would have been up there. As it was, I have a few bad habits. But having the sea kayaking experience really helped me to hammer down some of the strokes and concepts as I had previously learned them in sea kayaking. This means if I certify for sea kayaking in the fall I should do quite well. In the end I got an L3.

Let the teaching begin
Before I went in to talk to the instructor, I was talking to the guy who got me into the class, looks like I will be teaching two classes this weekend, which is great. I will be able to but my newly developed skills to work. I do know that the place I am teaching through teaches a little differently from the ACA style. I will have to go and watch the Jackson DVD that explains the other teaching style to more conform with the teaching style of the kayak school.

After 5 days of non-stop classroom and on-water instruction, I haven't had enough water as I then went out afterwards to join in with the social paddle. And start teaching what I have just learned how to teach.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 4

I can't believe how exhausted and tired I am. I didn't think yesterday was that difficult of a day but I am sore all across my shoulders and my arms are tired too. I really think I need to invest in a lighter paddle.

Students as Teachers
Day four of the certification training and the learning of strokes has stopped from the instructor, but now we are the teachers. We have to show and teach the various strokes and concepts we have learned to demonstrate we can teach. Today we all received a stroke or concept to talk about and we had to work on "teaching" the whole class that. The instructor mostly sat off to the side and acted as a student. We did this yesterday as well during the creek run. Today we are on the Potomac and the skills are larger. We have to be careful what we say as the instructor has been taking us at our word. One guy said lets all try it, and he took off and tried then purposefully capsized. The next person up was more careful to say lest try one at a time.

Learning to save people
Since this is our first time out in the bigger current, we are working on where to position ourselves such that we can get to an overturned boat in the fastest time possible. We were working in an area that normally has a small current, but due to all the water we have been receiving, the current is actually somewhat sizable. We are working on ferrying, and peeling as well as rescues. I didn't get to my overturned boat fast enough so the buy decided to just swim. I was there but the current just swept us away from each other before he could get a good grip of my boat or me of his.

We finally had a chance to watch the videos today. It was rather late in the day after our river work, and after we tried to dry out the damp camera. Someone else had brought in a spare camera and battery in case and we ended up having to use that. It is strange to watch yourself on TV. I could only tell when I was making a huge mistake though. He kept pointing out that people didn't have their hands in the right position and I hardly ever picked up on that. Something I will definitely have to keep an eye out for in future. My on side roll had a bit of head lifting and my wrist wasn't finishing correctly but my off side roll was near perfect, oddly enough. Guess that what happens when I don't use it.

I can't believe how much I look forward to going to bed each night now. I don't seem to be getting any more sleep but I am pretty tired at the end of the day. Each day has been feeling like two days. We go river stuff in the morning followed by classroom stuff in the afternoon. Long days packed into 8 hours.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 3

Day three of the course and I am exhausted. I still have two more days and they are only going to get harder after this. Today we did a small little river run. This was barely class I current but the ferry across and back was long. The ferry back was actually very wide and rocky making it a bit more technical.

Pool Rolling
We started off with the pool today as the building where we had been doing the classroom stuff was being used for other purposes. We have been fighting the weather most of the week now with thunderstorms rolling through the area. We were supposed to watch videos this morning but because of the threat of bad weather we moved the water stuff to the morning. We did rolling drills and learned how to teach rolling in the pool.

We were filmed doing all the rolls we knew how to do. I really only know how to do one roll, a sweep roll. I did my sweep then he asked if I had an off side sweep. I decided to give it a try and was really surprised when I popped right back up. I tried to do a c-to-c roll to no avail, I hadn't learned it so could only guess. I did have a hand roll at one point but I hadn't done one in so long that I was really rusty and didn't come back up. I think my head let me down. Most of the kids had at least two rolls both on and off side while some also had a back deck roll as well. Looks cool but I don't know how to do one or when it would be used.

Hanging Draws
We eventually made our way down to the little pond to learn hanging draws and a few other strokes to round out the set. Learning to roll is difficult. Learning to teach rolling was interesting but seemed to be just as difficult.

GW Loop
I had heard of the GW loop but had never had a chance to take a trip there. Today this was the little river run that we did. It was a good beginner level run and was mostly for run and river reading. There were some downed trees and lots of rocks to avoid. As we were just following a small creek down stream we mostly just had to avoid obstacles. We ran it mostly eddy to eddy which was fun. There was one place with a wave barely big enough to surf. I tried to get in but I just couldn't get up high enough to slide into the right position.

This was actually a really fun run and I hope I can go again with a group of people. I saw a heron posed and waiting as we were paddling back. With the silence of kayaks, I was able to get close enough for some good pictures without disturbing it, I actually managed to back off. Someone from the group behind me scared it off. I want to run it on the meetup but I'd like to go once more so I know the place better before bringing people who don't know the area.

More Classroom
After all the river running, we were back and bounced around as the rain had everything wet and most of the places under cover were being used by the camp staff as they were learning about the camp and how to deal with the kids that were arriving next week. We managed to find a place with pads to sit and lay on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 2

The instruction continues today not only with us learning how to do the strokes properly ourselves, but also with learning how to teach the strokes and what we need to point out to students in order for them to do all this properly the first time.

Bracing, Sculling, Dufeks and C-Strokes, Oh May!
Bracing has never really been my strong point and while I think I can teach it, I find I still really don't use it nearly enough to stay upright. The class learned how to do both low braces and high braces as well as low brace sculling and high brace sculling. I already knew how to do high brace sculling, apparently incorrectly but I never even thought there was such a thing as low brace sculling. It is basically the same as a low brace only with a sculling movement. The dufek and c-stroke are dynamic strokes and used while on the move. The dufek uses an open faced bow draw and some momentum is lost. The c-stroke uses a closed faced bow draw and it is possible to actually gain momentum using the c-stroke. I had learned the c-stroke before but had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I tended to keep turning in the wrong direction. I think this time I have the stroke down.

One of the learning tools that the instructor uses is to video us doing the strokes we had just learned so we could evaluate ourselves later and see how we look. Today video was shot of all the strokes from yesterday and today. The plan is to watch them tomorrow morning before we head out onto the water again.

Long Days
So far after only two days of instruction, I feel like I have been through a four day class. This is a very intense teaching style and while it may see like there is time to goof off on the water, there really isn't much time to relax. While we are waiting for our turn in front of the camera, we are practicing the strokes we were just taught. Once everyone has been filmed we move onto learning more strokes and concepts. I can keep up and do this but it is very exhausting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 1

I decided I wanted to help teach kayaking as it goes with what I am doing with my meetup group plus it is fun to help get people interested and excited about kayaking. Although I am likely a better sea kayaker at the moment, I have been doing so much white water kayaking that I thought I would start with white water and look into whether I can transition into sea kayaking by the end of summer. I was accepted into the training class even though space was a bit tight. This required about a week off of work. This particular class was for ACA certification for levels 1 through 4.

The training begins
I wasn't really sure what to expect with the class. When the instructor trainer asked what I hoped to get out of the class, my response was to better my skills and learn how best to teach them. The class was mostly classroom lecture the first day with a little on the water work later in the afternoon. Since the training was taking place at a summer day camp, we had access to pools, and the 'lake'. Turned out the lake was a glorified pond with a tiny feeder stream, but it was water. The girls pool had just been filled and they were still repairing the boy's pool. I did have some trouble finding my way around as I wasn't familiar with the camp even though I have been to the boat shop before.

The students
I didn't realize I was going to be the only student in the class over the age of 25. In fact all the other students were working as counselors at the summer camp and were between 15 and 18 with one being 24. They were fun to hang out with and had been paddling for years. Some of them were really good with tricks but had a little trouble with some of the more basic strokes. I barely have one year of white water kayaking and while my strokes are mostly dead on from sea kayaking, I had a few things to learn on the first day. More it was about how to teach the strokes rather then me learning the strokes first.

Forward, sweep, and correction strokes
We all learned how to do a proper forward stroke with good torso rotation, vertical paddle shaft and extension to the front of the kayak. The forward and reverse sweeps as well as combination sweeps were next. This one requires a more horizontal paddle shaft with good extension forward and out. The combination sweeps are a forward combined with a reverse to really spin the kayak around. Correction strokes are simply the last quarter of a sweep. Also known as a stern pry and stern draw.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kayak Gear Reviews

I have been wondering for quite some time where one goes to find good impartial reviews on kayaking equipment. Maybe I am spoiled by what is offered for backpacking reviews ( but I really wanted to find a site that offered the same types of reports with good quality writing. I wasn't able to find something that met my standards and as such felt the best way to go was to build my own site to generate that which I was looking for. As I am currently involved in the backpacking site I figured this would be fairly easy. I actually did get permission before going ahead with the site which I feel was a good thing to do even if I was worried I might get shot down.
As such KGR was born and after much work and planning went live on June 1st. The site had been available for a bit before that but the backend was in a lot of flux as I was installing and removing programs to get what I wanted. I feel that I am very close to the final product that I want and am lacking on a few things. The smallest of those things is a mailing list for future use. I foresee a use and I think now is the time to get a mailing list installed and working rather then trying to work out bugs later. The next thing is actually a small piece of programming in order to get the files to sort correctly. I am sure it is a small matter to fix but right now I can't really wrap my head around what needs to be done so I am sitting on it. The biggest thing that is missing other then people and visitors are reviews. The site desperately needs more reviews of gear in order to become the resource I want it to be. I really can only write so many reviews before I run out of equipment to write about. I have roped only one person in so far and hope to rope in more people. I think once I get more people going on this endeavor it will grow without too much help from me.

Summer OR Show
With the birth of this new site comes the need to get not only people on board but if it is possible to get manufacturers interested in the site, then maybe it might be possible to get manufacturers interested in possibly giving gear to the site to have reviews written about the gear. I hope to establish good quality reviews that are impartial and useful. Since I will be going to the Summer Outdoor Retail Show in July, this is a great time to approach manufacturers about the site and get the name out there. Then hopefully get a few manufacturers interested in what we could possibly offer.

KGR isn't just about the reviews either. I really wanted to have a way for people to show off a little and discuss what is going on in the paddling community. As such I set up the site to have a forums and social pages for people to use to form an online paddling community. I am not sure if this will work, but I feel that if manufacturers start giving the site gear, then maybe people will be interested in working on the site and will form groups and interact with each other.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

MAKF Day 3

The last day of the festival. I was unsure whether I should get up and pack everything or just leave everything in an unorganized heap. The heap won simply because I wanted to get up and on the water quickly to practice a few strokes. It was drizzling out a little and quite a bit cooler today then the previous two days, making it hard to get up and go. We did eventually get up and out onto the water.

Stroke refinement
It didn't really take me that long to master the strokes I needed to work on. It was more a matter of having to remember proper torso rotation in order to accurately perform the stroke. We practiced for about half an hour and I spent most of the time helping her do her strokes correctly then working on mine. We went back in for breakfast and talked to our assessor. He was willing to evaluate us just before lunch. My hope is that the wind will not kick up again like it did yesterday or that there is a good sheltered area we can use.

Rescues in Conditions/Advanced Strokes
I was again registered for two classes today. Since there were not enough people in either class, they merged the two classes together and we ended up with about four instructors total. I wasn't all that interested in the rescues in conditions but the advances strokes sounded interesting. I did manage to learn a lot from the class and an still really jazzed about getting out on the ocean in some bigger conditions. The wind did end up picking up shortly after we started the class. The wind was actually pushing us out to the ocean and it was a real bear of a paddle to get back. My one saving grace was that I decided to demo a dry suit for the event.

We broke up into two groups once we got out closer to the bay. We had the rescues group and then the strokes group. As part of the strokes group, I learned how to effectively turn my boat with or against the wind. This was very helpful to me as I always feel as though I am fighting my boat. And I found out I was fighting the boat. I still have to think about how to get the turning to become more subconscious. If I think about it, I can figure out which is the most appropriate way to turn the boat in the direction I want using the wind to help. Better then fighting it, but I need it to become more intuitive.

While I wasn't that interested in rescues, when we rejoined the other part of the group the one rescue they had not yet performed was an all-in. So other then the instructors, everyone got in the water all at the same time and our goal was to get out as quickly as possible. The waves were a little rough and the wind strong. My little group of three did very well, I had planned on getting in first as I had done this before, but the boats didn't line up nicely, so I assisted someone else in a rescue I am sure exists but I had never seen or done. I actually threw myself over the keel of my overturned boat and assisted them back into their boat. I had to talk them through it as they wanted to do something different that wasn't possible given the conditions. Once he was in, I got in mine then we got the other guy in his boat. Then we actually paddled to shore to drain the first guys boat. We were the first group in which was excellent.

After paddling against the wind for at least half an hour, I was absolutely exhausted when I got back to the little beach. And it was at that point that the other student asked if I was ready. So back into the water without even getting out of my boat and off we went. With the wind so high I wasn't sure we would find a place but there was a boat dock around the corner that was nicely sheltered. We each performed our strokes and I felt I was hitting the strokes much more accurately even though I was absolutely exhausted. He didn't really say anything at first so I had to wait until we got off the water for the final results. She didn't pass the assessment. I did pass which was a great boost. I was almost too tired to be happy.

The lunch lecture that I ended up going to was about how to prepare for an expedition trip. Given that I want to do a large expedition trip next year, this was an appropriate talk to sit in on. Turned out it was just me and another guy plus the lecturer. I learned quite a bit and was left wondering after the lecture just how much over my head this trip was going to be. There are a lot of logistics involved and I am not sure there is enough time.

Greenland Paddling
I am not a huge fan of Greenland paddling but find that learning a different style sometimes help reinforce other strokes. I was more interested in refining my roll again as I had no idea why it suddenly wasn't working for me. I worked through the lesson that the class was set for , but near the end, we worked on whatever the students wanted. I wanted rolls and that was what I got.

I relearned the basic Greenland roll and I worked through learning the combat roll too. I was able to come up with the basic roll but not really with the combat roll. The first time was because I leaned back when I was supposed to lean forward. That was simply me doing what I always to. The second time I missed was because I was really cold, tired and hungry. Not a good combination for learning new things. I had to give back the dry suit I was demoing at lunch and I was only in my shorts and dry top. I hadn't had to swim but I still was affected by the wind which was really chilling me.

I learned a lot over the course of the day and the festival. I wish it could have gone on longer but alas it is back to the working world for now. I am really happy I passed my ACA L3 assessment. Since I hadn't packed up everything, I had to hurry back to the cabin to shower and change then pack up everything. I then had to get back to pick up my boat and gear plus talk to one of the organizers about the ACA paperwork. I got home rather late and I was unable to warm up in spite of having the heat pumping in the car the last part of the trip. Turns out I had a mild case of hypothermia. Not a very pleasant thing to have but a hot cup of hot chocolate fixed that for me. I would have rather snuggled up in bed but it was just a little too early for that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

MAKF Day 2

Today is Saturday and the festival has really starting to get underway. There were more people here and there was actually live music. I was registered for two classes today, the ACA L3 assessment and Incident management. Since I was the only person registered for Incident management, I was moved into Rolling in Conditions.

ACA L3 Assessment
After registering for two classes for the day, I then learned at the festival that this was supposed to be a full day assessment. But since it was only two people again, it turned out it was possible to condense the assessment down into a half day. I was glad for that as I really wanted to get out and learn more stuff. The same person I had as an instructor for the BCU 3 Star training turned out to be my assessor for the ACA L3. This was both good and bad. It meant he already knew what level I could paddle at, and I was going to have to show improvement in order to pass my assessment. What I had going for me was that I learn very quickly and this was the ACA system, not the BCU system. There were actually a few differences between the two systems and I was learning some strokes as I was trying to demonstrate that I knew them. I did get hung up on my sculling brace and the reverse hanging draw stroke. He told me that if I could demonstrate I could perform those strokes before he left, then he would pass me. So I was still in limbo and still on edge.

Since lunch was two hours long, the festival coordinators had small little lectures on various topics scattered around the room. I chose to go to the navigation talk as I wasn't all that sure about how to do navigation either from the cockpit of the kayak nor how to plan before a trip. I thought this would be a good class to take and I was right. I learned a lot both on how to figure out where I was as well as how to generate a set of bearings to follow while on a trip to stay on course.

Rolling in Conditions
I went out in the afternoon with a larger group. In fact this was the largest group I had been with, anything more then 2 students was larger. This was a nice group size. I wasn't sure about taking the advanced rolling class as I had missed my roll twice the day before. I figured even if I couldn't get my roll down I would at least get a chance to go out in conditions and play around a little bit. We actually worked a little on rescues to make sure no one had to swim so at least I had that covered. A few of us with less then perfect rolls ended up working in a more sheltered area on rolling and I worked a little on the strokes I needed to pass my assessment. The wind had really kicked up in the afternoon and sheltered locations were few. I still felt I got a lot out of the lesson even if I couldn't do what they wanted, I could at least see how it was supposed to be performed and once I get my roll back I can work on learning those new skills.

The evening entertainment was actually given by several people. I listened to a talk about saving sea turtles out in Baja. I heard a short talk about the Arctic Voices paddle as well a short video about commando paddling. All very good and interesting. I was really happy to hit the sack that night. I had plans to get up early with the other girl I was taking the assessment with to practice the few things we needed to pass. Hope all goes well in the morning and I pass.

Friday, May 15, 2009

MAKF Day 1

I was only registered in one class today. Although most of the classes were only half day classes, the BCU 3 Star training class was expected to be a full day in length. I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that not only did we not have the right conditions to play and learn in but there were only 3 people total in the class. Me and the other student did get really good one-on-one instruction in the class and while I felt I knew how to do many of the things he was teaching, it was nice to break a few habits and learn how to do the strokes correctly.

Problem areas
I have discovered that I simply do not do enough torso rotation. While I am flexible enough to rotate to the position I need to be in, I just don't do it. So I have to focus on correct torso rotation both in my forward stroke and in many of the side strokes.

Another area of contention was that I tend to keep a death grip on my paddle. I already knew this but forcing myself to relax both my hands will go a long way. Having someone constantly pointing it out to me also went a long way to. I am a little more relaxed in my grip.

It was a rather big day for learning some new things. I learned quite a few new maneuvers and relearned some others. I am a little nervous about my ability right now as I feel I am learning so much and tomorrow I registered to be tested on all these skills. In fact I am not tested on my ability to just do the skills, I will be tested on my ability to show I can consistently perform at a certain level. I am not sure I can perform at that level if I am just learning the strokes and concepts. Tomorrow will tell.

The festival so far has been very relaxed and low-key. I have been having a lot of fun so far and can't wait for the weekend. There are few people here today and the classes are very small. I am really enjoying the personal attention and feel that this is going a long way to my learning these strokes and concepts correctly the first time that I learn them. The area that the festival is taking place in is a YMCA camp and the bunk houses are nice. They have been providing us all with food and the food has been very good too. I was a little leery of eating food so far off my diet so I opted to stick mostly with the vegetarian fare and I felt that would likely be the safest. So far so good on that front. The evening entertainment was a talk I had seen at the ECCKF about a month ago but it was really cool to see it again. I have been really psyched up for this big expedition trip and I really hope both of us are ready to go when the time comes.

I really wish Kayaker Boy had been able to join in on the festival too. I think he would have had a really good time. But alas he is about to start a new job and sadly couldn't make it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Its all about the planning

While I have spent an entire summer paddling in the area, I still feel that I haven’t done a lot of kayaking in the area. Most of my kayaking has taken place in a really small area, mostly on the Potomac River either upstream for white water or a little bit downstream for flat water. I haven’t really been out on the ocean in the area nor have I been out on the Chesapeake Bay. I was close to the bay once when I was paddling around a point where the Potomac River empties into the Bay but that was quite some time ago in late summer. So it was with some difficulty that I had to figure out what was needed when I started to pack up the required gear for the upcoming festival. I was getting nervous in fact, as I wasn’t sure I was prepared, mentally or physically. I had received an email from the company that is organizing the event informing the participants that we would have to bring our own linens for the beds. So I grabbed a towel, sleeping bag and pillow making it the easiest part of the packing.

I wasn’t sure what temperature the ocean water would be but I did assume it would be cold. I packed wool base layers, a dry top, some neoprene booties, a shorty farmer-Jane style wet suit, and gloves. The wool layers included a wool support layer, a wool brief layer, a micro-weight wool camisole, a light-weight wool long sleeve and a mid-weight wool shirt for warmth at the end of the day. I packed paddling shorts as my only non-wool layer as that was about all I had in the way of bottom clothes. I packed wool socks to go with my neoprene footwear to prevent chafing as it is still early in the season. In order to be prepared on the water I also packed up my sunglasses and sun block, a few power bars, and water bottles. More safety equipment included my helmet and a small first aid kit.

Since I had purchased the whole weekend package I knew that food was going to be included as part of the daily activities. I figured they would have vegetarian options as I knew of a few vegetarians who were going to be there. I am not normally a vegetarian but having just switched over to a raw, vegan diet for various health reasons, I felt that given a choice between cooked meat and cooked vegetables, that the vegetables would be the way to go. I did pack a few power bars just in case.

My boat had been on the car up until a few days before when I had to take it off for a business trip. Normally I don’t drive my car very much but in this case I had to drive an hour to the airport and didn’t want to leave the boat on the car nor at a parking garage. I felt that the boat on the car would have enough clearance but why take the chance. So this meant I had to put the boat back on the car which with an 18-foot boat is not easy to do alone. I didn’t have anyone who I could easily get in touch with for help so I just did it by myself. It would have gone a little more smoothly if it hadn’t been for the pole that I was parked next to. The pole did make it a little more challenging to slide the boat up onto the car as I had to push the boat a little off to one side before I could line up with the kayak saddles. I was a little afraid the boat would slip off and hit the ground but luckily it didn’t.

So after all this packing and planning, am I ready? I really don’t feel ready. I do have my directions to get to the location but I am nervous about what the festival will be like and who will be there. I am also a little nervous about the assessment I signed up for on the Saturday. I have my fingers crossed, and my toes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mid-Atlantic Kayak Festival

I just registered for the MAKF that is coming up in mid-May. I first heard about the festival at ECCKF when one of the organizers was doing some shameless self-promotion. I was talking to him about the ACA (American Canoe Association) and BCU (British Canoe Union) classes I wanted to take and he handed me a card promoting the festival. This looks like a great festival and not only is it in my back yard, but this is the first year it is happening and they managed to get some really big names in the kayaking world to come down and participate as instructors. I am looking into doing the ACA L3 assessment as well as the BCU 3 Star training and the 3 Star assessment. Seems a little boring to just do training classes and assessments but I really want to have my skills as good as possible before going out on an expedition trip. I am really exited that they are offering a class over the lunch hour that discusses expedition trip planning. I can't wait to go to that talk and hear what is really involved with what I want to do.

The festival is happening up near Annapolis in Maryland at the YMCA camp. I have never been there before but it seems like a good location as it will offer housing, food and the bay is only 2 miles away. Having the bay so close means that classes that require rough water conditions can just paddle out to the bay and have the conditions if they are present. This is a big if as when I registered, I was actually told they may not have the conditions so I opted to not go for the 3 Star assessment but I stayed with the training as I think it will be a good class to take.

After registering, my classes will include the BCU 3 Star training on Friday which is the whole day. On Saturday I will be doing the ACA L3 assessment in the morning followed by incident management in the afternoon. Sunday I will have advanced strokes on the bay in the morning and a nature paddle in the afternoon. I opted for the nature paddle at the end as I felt I would likely be exhausted and there didn't really seem to be anything that I was interested in taking. It seems there are few people signed up at this point and chances are I can move classes around if something comes up. As this is the first year this festival is occurring, the small class sizes will mean more personal teaching then would otherwise have occurred has the classes booked up solid.

The reason I wanted to get both an ACA and BCU assessment is that I felt if I were to travel around the world, which is actually on the list of things to do, that a BCU personal achievement award would be worth more then an ACA achievement award. I feel that since the BCU system has been around for longer that more people around the world have heard of this and will know what exactly it means. The ACA L3 is not equivalent to the BCU 3 Star as I found out when I was discussing this with the coordinator during registration. The L3 training and assessment will all take place on calm water and is more an assessment of skill and precision. The 3 Star training and assessment takes place on rough water with 2-3 foot following seas and about 15-20 knot winds. This is an assessment of skills in conditions and not so much precision. The BCU recently changed their system and the old BCU 3 Star was on calm water but now the new 3 Star is closer to the old 4 Star. I will eventually have to get out on rough waters and train up to get a 3 Star. There are other festivals and still tie to work on skills. My fingers are crossed that I will pass my L3 assessment.