Saturday, May 22, 2010

3-Star Redux

Greg Paquin, owner of Kayak Waveology, ran a BCU 3-star training this weekend in Stonington, CT. I've known Greg for a number of years and think he is a great coach, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take the training with him. My only concern was that I'm in piss poor physical condition.
I knew PB was taking the course, so I decided I'd be able to tough it out. I need the time on the water to get ready for the symposium in a few weeks. Getting some coaching was an added bonus.
3-star training takes the basics learned in the 2-star training and begins focusing them on sea kayaking. Paddlers learn to use strokes in typical sea conditions and moderate wind. They also begin learning navigation, how to monitor sea and weather conditions, and basic group management. There is also a focus on more advanced rescue skills like towing and rough water rescues. There is less focus on technical perfection and more focus on managing yourself on the sea.
Greg started us off with a land based review of basic trip planning and navigation. We mapped out our course for the morning, reviewed the prevailing conditions, and learned a good deal about how the currents in and around Stonington work. The navigation work was a welcome refresher. I know the basics, but since I don't use them regularly, it can take me a bit before I dig the skills out of the basement. The current information was fascinating.
Once on the water we headed from Stonington to Napatree Point. On the way we did some basic skill drills, but mostly we just paddled.
At Napatree we spent sometime doing boat control work in the pylons of an old dock. We used all of the strokes to maneuver through the maze. I managed to ram a pylon by mistiming a bow rudder.
Greg also had us try maneuvering through pylons by paddling on one side of the kayak. This is one of those areas were a stick doesn't shine. Everyone had some trouble, but found that if they paddled on the leeward side of their kayak it would work. I just couldn't get enough purchase to make anything work. It could also just be that I simply didn't get the skill.
After the pylons, we headed around the point to find a lunch spot. Greg used the conditions at the point to talk about "silent leadership". The idea is that newer, or weaker, paddlers will always follow a stronger paddler. So in a situation where the group needs to avoid a danger spot, the leader will paddle at the front of the group on a path that will keep the group out of trouble. If it is a long route, the leader would do this in hops-paddle part way and wait, then paddle to another spot on the route and wait.
Before landing for lunch we played beach tag. You catch a wave to surf into the beach, but you do not land on the beach. Instead, just before beaching, you back off of the wave and reverse paddle back to the edge of the surf zone. It is hard work for a number of reasons. Timing the wave properly is tricky and backing through a wave is physically hard. The hardest part is resisting the urge to keep the ride going.
After lunch we worked on rescues. Initially we talked about different towing situations: contact tows, anchor tows, assisted tows, etc. It was a good review of stuff TM makes us practice all the time.
While we were reviewing the towing, we spotted a kayaker out of his kayak in some nearby rocks. I raced in to do the rescue figuring it would be pretty simple. What I discovered was that Greg had arranged this to be a scenario where the swimmer had a head injury. I had RC anchoring the rescue. Once I realized the swimmer was not going to be much help getting himself back into the kayak, I decided to go for the scoop rescue. All was going well until I couldn't get his kayak righted. I was out of position and didn't have the leverage. There was a paddler off to my side and I asked him to assist by having the swimmer rest on his bow to relieve some of the weight and help me right the kayak. I didn't know that the other kayak couldn't help because he was busy pulling off my back hatch. Eventually, I dumped the swimmer back in the water and talked him through climbing over the deck of his and my kayak so I could guide him into his cockpit. With the swimmer in his kayak I got RC to switch the tow so he could get us to shore.
As RC towed us to shore, I kept talking to the swimmer to monitor his condition. Then the swimmer flopped backwards and into the water. At this point I asked Greg, who was the nearest kayaker, to assist getting the swimmer out of the water. I was stuck in a tow trying to handle my waterlogged kayak and the swimmer's kayak. We got the swimmer out of the water and draped across the stern of the three kayaks before Greg called an end to the scenario.
Once freed from the tow, I started making my way, shakily, back to shore. I needed to empty out my hatch. Greg had a different plan. He had me use the stern of his kayak as leverage to essentially flip my kayak over while he lifted the stern out of the water. Once the hatch was mostly empty, we resealed it and started back to Stonington.
Along the way we practiced self-rescues and Eskimo rescues. It was fun and my roll held up well. The only problem was that my dry suit leaks and I got cold quickly.
At the end of the day, I had Greg show me how to do a scoop rescue. It turns out that you need to put most of your weight in front of the swimmer's cockpit and keep the swimmer against their back deck. He also showed me that if you use the deck lines in front of the cockpit as handholds in a regular rescue, you get a lot more leverage.
By the time we landed, the students were exhausted. It was a great day of learning on the water.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great day. If you ever want to spend a little more time on that one-sided paddling, I have a canoe paddle you can borrow.

    Enjoy reading your blog