There was a low pressure system in the area causing poor weather for the few days leading up to our departure. But with a little bit of diligent weather watching and logging from Tuesday to Friday last week, and from understanding the indicators to watch for (wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and clouds), I began to see that indicators were indeed pointing to good weather on the way. By checking the professional forecast I could see my assumption based on observations were confirmed that things were looking up in regards to the weather.
Day 4 - Friday evening (Sept 27)
We met at our predetermined meeting place Friday afternoon. The students (except for Grant) were there on time but Richard, our instructor, was running late. No matter, we just deducted a few points for tardiness... We headed down the highway in the lessening wind and rain. Grant was driving in from Gander and we would met him at the put-in.
We arrived at Bellevue Beach and set to work unloading the kayaks and gear, and getting them packed up. We did not have far to go, and actually could have walked to our camp-site along the beach from the put-in location.
|Richard, Nigel, and Jeff|
Once we had all the gear loaded we got on the water, Grant lead our small group to our campsite. With the late start to the day, the drive to our put-in, and the time it took to pack, we were still on the water at sunset. We spotted a small pile of driftwood and decided to check it out for a campsite. Grant got out and had a quick look, and decided it would do.
We had only paddled less than a nautical mile, but the object was not to cover distance this evening. The main objective was for a group of people who really knew very little of each other to start the process of learning to come together to act as a group with a common objective, that of kayak camping. Another objective was for it to be a learning process for those that have not packed a kayak for camping.
So we all pulled up on the beach near the little pile of wood and Richard helped with providing some direction as to what needed to be done.... keep in mind that there were people on this trip will little or no kayak camping experience... Tents needed to be put up, the community tarp had to be erected, fire wood collected, and food prepared and cooked. Richard had said before we started out that he wanted to be eating by 9 pm. I think it was about 8:40 when I checked my watch while we were eating.
|Jeff tending the frying pan|
|Greg and Grant letting supper settle a little|
|Greg busy washing up dishes|
With the evening meal eaten, and dishes cleaned up, we had a few drinks under the big tarp, except for Jeff (whose real name is actually Sarik; his nickname is Jeff) who is not of legal age to partake of alcoholic beverages.
We turned into our tents a couple hours later. I heard some snoring from somewhere and moved this way and that, trying to get comfortable. I always have a hard time getting to sleep when camping. I was still trying to get to sleep around 2:00 am when there were light flashing off and onto my tent. Then I heard a voice calling out "Richard Alexander... I'm looking for Richard Alexander..."
That's all I am going to say of this middle-of-the-night-intrusion on the first night of our camping weekend. It's one of those stories to tell around a campfire on future kayak camping trips... and once the story goes around among our small kayaking community (and I am sure it will) just a few of us will be able to say 'I was there'... I'll just add that the occurrence was a very first for Richard, who has ran many of these types of courses. Just goes to show that even the instructor can encounter new experiences on a course....
We awoke to a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun was shining and the wind was low. Morning activities ensued - breakfast, clean up, break down camp, and pack up the kayaks.
|Greg and Nigel|
|That's me (picture taken by Jeff)|
|Grant and Greg|
During the course of the lecture we turned around to find a morning visitor...
Once we were on the water we began practicing navigational skills that were taught the weekend before.
It wasn't long before it was time to have a little stretch and some lunch, and so we took out on the sandy beach...
|Me again (picture by Greg)|
Back on the water we continued on our way...
|Richard and Greg|
|Sarik (a.k.a. Jeff)|
... until we found a spot to practice surf landing and launching...
|Nigel getting some help from Jeff and Greg|
As we continued along the shoreline we performed some towing exercises, but I neglected to take a picture or two. Further along, we found a good campsite. There was a nice surf dumping on the beach and so we had an opportunity to try out some more surf landing.
This time Richard went in first and then provided paddle signals for us as we each took turns landing. I wish I would have taken some pictures but the surf was intense enough that I decided it best to be at the ready in case someone took an inadvertent spill while coming in. I did find there were a couple exhilarating moments watching some of the other guys come in to the beach, but all hands made it with bodies and gear intact.
Tents were pitched, the big tarp went up, and firewood was collected. Time for the supper meal...
|Greg and Richard|
|Grant getting steaks ready|
|Now this is really roughing it!!|
With our meal finished and the dishes cleaned up, we kept the fire burning into the night and had a few drinks...
|Richard, Grant, and Greg|
|Greg in full relaxed mode|
This second night I had the sense that as a group we were more relaxed with each other. We had a few good laughs. Richard suggested we call in to work the next day and tell them we wouldn't be in... we could just continue up the shore to Bonavista... I think the instructor was enjoying our little trip as much as the students...
Day 6 - Sunday (Sept 29)
I awoke early. I checked my watch and it read exactly 5:00 am. That was far too early to get up so I tried to go back to sleep. During the night I had dreamed that I was a very old man and all my kayaking buddies and I were at the food court in the Avalon Mall. Everybody else was very old too. Since we were all too old to paddle we were sitting around drinking coffee and reminiscing about paddles we had done...
Today would be the last day of the course. I wondered what Richard had in store for us. Then I wondered what we were having for breakfast. My mind was too active and I tried to sleep. I kept checking my watch and eventually my 6:00 am alarm went off. Still too early and I tried to get comfortable. I checked my watch again and it was 6:10 am. Shag it! I decided to get up. It was a nice morning and I had it all too myself. I walked around a little to stretch out and took a couple pictures...
Then I took down my tent and packed up my sleeping gear and stowed it all in my kayak. I started to gather up some wood for the breakfast meal. Then Richard strolled over and then before long Grant and Greg showed up. Grant got the fire going and Greg sliced up bread... we were going to have grilled cheese sandwiches...
|Grant and Greg|
|Greg and Richard|
With breakfast done and dishes washed, the big tarp came down, and tents and gear were packed into kayaks. Richard gathered all hands together and had a little discussion on the beach before we left...
It was just a short paddle back to Bellevue Beach where the cars were waiting. There was a little bit of surf so we got to practice another surf landing....
|Grant and Greg giving Nigel a helping hand|
|Jeff getting ready to come in to the beach|
We proceeded to unpack the gear and carry things back to the cars. The kayaks were loaded and we drove off, but we were not done yet.
Part of the Level Two course curriculum is to expose the students to current. There wasn't enough current at Bellevue so Richard decided we would drive to Placentia. When we arrived there wasn't much current there either. Richard gave a lecture on crossing eddy lines and ferrying and then we got on the water to try it out.
After a while the current began to pick up more and we practiced some rescues and towing. Then it was time to call it 'done' and we set up a tow scenario that had all five students participate in some manner.
Back on shore we had another group discussion....
... and then it was time to pack up one last time...
Richard did a one-on-one debriefing with each of us and we said our good-byes and then headed back down the highway for home.
Was it worth my time and a few bucks to do this course. Most certainly. My buddy Hazen was right, I definitely got something out of taking this course. Many things taught during the course I already knew, and some things I kind of knew, but there were some things that were new to me.
I have been busy over the last few years trying to learn to be a better paddler and it was good to have my current skills assessed and get feedback from the instructor on my progress as a paddler.
The camping portion was most interesting. Richard employs a community type style whereby all hands are expected to partake in firewood collection, preparation of food, and cooking meals over an open fire. He has a large tarp that is set up that serves as a gathering place to help foster a more social aspect to kayak camping; people can gather under it rather than wander off to their individual tents...
I have to say that I enjoyed doing the course; but it is a paddling course so what is there not to enjoy. And I would highly recommend to anyone that might be thinking about doing the Safe Kayaking Level Two course to just go ahead and do it. I do not think you will be disappointed.
Thanks to Richard for a couple fun-filled weekends of skills training and kayak camping. And thanks to Johnnie for the help and feedback on the first weekend... it was really too bad you could not have joined us for the second weekend. And thanks to Greg, Grant, Sarik (a.k.a. Jeff), and Nigel for sharing the experience with me.