Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The big chill

Off into the snowy night we flew for a weekend of canoeing adventure in Inverness!
I had sent many emails the week before trying to ascertain if our arrangements were feasible - everyone insisted on going ahead despite the earliest snowfall for 17 years.
Northern Kayaker's mantra, 'It'll be fine!' proved to be correct. It was, cold, but fine.

NK and Mags confer.

The venue for the Level 2 coaching support day was Muirtown Basin - sheltered and with good access. The adjacent Sea Scout hut was a welcome retreat from the chill where we could ask Mags questions to clarify technical undestanding and coaching. It was a great opportunity to think skills through on the water in a small group with an expert on hand.

Not the usual scene in the viewfinder.
Opportunities for paddling canoes in Orkney are very limited. Presently we have access to one open boat and virtually no access to sheltered flat water. With minimal daylight hours the options for developing the necessary skills and technical understanding in order to achieve L2 coaching certificate are limited, and its a serious challenge to set up coaching in open canoes. As volunteer coaches with full time jobs outwith the outdoor activity industry, the obstacles to achieving our goals at times seem to be insurmountable.

NK powers into the arctic wind.
On the second day of our weekend visit we had the opportunity to coach a group of brave paddlers who had volunteered to be our students. It was a really useful experience to plan, discuss with Mags and then deliver a session and observe each other and the paddlers. Thanks to Justin we had the warm of the hut to retreat to from time to time, and the benefit of his open canoe experience.

I knew the BCU regulation hats would come in useful one day!
The day started out with blue skies and sunshine and with NK delivering the first session on forward paddling in tandem. Justin went on to coach turning in tandem and after another session from NK on solo forward paddling, I coached a short session on solo turning.

Demo on the pontoon.
As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated. The wind became a bit of a bother and staying warm was a challenge. The boats filled up with snow, but everyone was stoic, and fortified by cups of tea, cake and chocolate we carried on in the spirit of the voyageurs. It was a great learning experience all round - many thanks must go to our hardy volunteer paddlers!

Paddle your own canoe!

 We arrived at the airport in good time, feeling pretty pleased about having achieved what we had set out to do while around us the country was grinding to an icy halt. Little did we realise as we checked in, that though NK had the foresight to buy a can of de-icer for the hire car, Mr Flybe had failed to buy a big truck of de-icer for the planes. Back to Nairn we went for the night, this time at the expense of Mr Flybe.
The next day we waited.....

and waited....
Eventually the discrepancy between the 'information' given by the Flybe and airport staff and the available information we could access on the public access internet became so absurd (truck with de-icer on its way/A9 blocked, plane from Shetland expected/its on the tarmac at Sumburgh) we cut our losses and ran to the train station.
Its nearly 24 hours later - can you tell?

 Armed with a can of de-icer and a wire brush the Scotrail man prepared the train for its epic journey on tracks buried under the snow and off we set.
A brief stop at Lairg.

Weighed down by ice, the trees clattered along the side of the train.

Finally on the Hamnavoe and a few home comforts!
In spite of the 24 hour delay in getting home the trip was great fun and full of valuable learning experiences made possible by Steve, Mags, Eleanor, Justin and our fab coachees. Thanks folks - see you at Easter!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Onwards and forwards

Although this week is the second session it really is the beginning of the journey for our new members. For some folk the beginning of a long journey of continuous development has begun. There is so much to consider and just when you think you might be begining to get the hang of one aspect of forward paddling, another is introduced, and the first falls by the wayside.
On we paddle....

Boats without bulkheads can involve a lot of labour.
 Of course it is our job to help keep everyone progressing and not to overload them with a daunting task which we profess not to be finished with ourselves. At the same time you have to kind of map out the big picture and show folk what lies ahead.

practising good posture
 Often I will use challenges or activities which worked on me, or games which children I have taught found helpful. Learning is fun and its very satisfying to feel yourself improving, so giving folk an opportunity to experience that feeling as adults is very rewarding.

Using the lanes as guidelines for paddling to the deep end and then stopping.

 No one said it was going to be easy! But we did promise it would be good fun.

Girls get a goal!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Alarming the lifeguards...

is all too easy when we are trying to consolidate rolling skills in the pool. This afternoon a few of us went to the pool to consolidate old rolling skills and try to develop new skills. After adjusting the BA to fit with less layers underneath things went a bit better. I managed a few butterfly and narsaq rolls, but the static braces didn't feel as buoyant as on the sea. The paddle got caught under the boat in the butterfly roll. I had to use 2 hands to push it round and then re-position myself under the boat. A couple of times and 'accidentally on purpose' I practised self rescue and re-entry and roll. Aware that the lifeguards are inclined to interpret the ' just getting up far enough for a breath in order to try again' re-entry roll as drowning after a couple of goes, this forced a few self rescues.
Is it my imagination or does the salt make that much of a difference?

Congratulating Cathy on rolling the Aquanaut.

NK sets up.
Later it was back to the pool for the first week of this years beginner pool sessions. After a good deal of planning and cake eating and coffee drinking NK and I were happy with the outline session plans.
Laminated notes prepared, we introduced ourselves to our groups and began with the manual handling, capsize and empty. Before introducing the paddle we encouraged folk to use their hands to paddle, experimenting with forwards, backwards, turning and sideways.

Paddling with hands to develop feel.

Ingrid seems to be enjoying herself!
'Where'd they all go?'
Paddles introduced, we went on to experiment with different paddle positions.

A little bit of boat balancing.
We finished with some boat balancing, sitting behind the cockpit and paddling with hands and then with the paddle, which always makes folk feel so much more stable when they get back in the boat again.

Throughout the evening it was clear to see that everyone had brought a lot of strengths to the session and we have a fantastic group of paddlers in the making.
Looking forward to the next session!

All photos of coached sessions by Malcolm.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The dog ate my homework....

...and other excuses are occasionally offered to me at work as reasons why tasks are not done out of class. So today I have to admit that I squandered an opportunity to get in a canoe and instead got in my own sea boat. My excuses are that the wind had decreased (on a weekend), the sun shone (weakly) and the idea of getting wet seemed like a reasonable idea (at the time). So after making outline plans for indoor coached sessions, NK and I set off, noted the NNE wind, and headed for the shelter of the south facing Scapa pier which catches a few low rays on nice days at this time of year.

Decisions, decisions...
No competition really, so, dressed for immersion, hands already stiff with cold, I got in my own boat. Before NK returned I had donned hood and mask and tried a few static braces, lost feeling in my fingers and developed an ice cream headache.

Elegant or what!

 Too cold for total immersion unless you are a lonely 1*.

 After completing the passage to the north side of the pier we discovered John Rae and traditional paddle practice getting underway.

Not long before we all agreed it was time to get out, but only after NK rolled a green boat with a GP.
Yes the challenge proved  too enticing.
We agreed paddling a canoe and staying dry was a worthwhile winter pursuit.

Bird Lady of Scapa Flow.

OK now back to practising my knots... where is my knot board...oh no! ...the dog ate it!