Monday, November 19, 2007

Whew - At Last Saturday is Here!

Thom here…

This morning we were all business and out the door at 8AM, hooked up the trailer, and off to Orich to meet up with all the Assessors, Assessees, and Long Term Students (that’s Brian and myself among many others). The parking lot was chock full of cars covered with canoes, white water kayaks and then just a few sea kayaks. We were in a minority.

After the usual disorientation, trying to establishing where we were meeting, sitting down, then being told we needed to split up - students were on the other end of the complex, being grilled whether we knew, had paddled or been coached by the Assessee whom we were being paired with (that would be Steve whatever his name is!), then back to the original meeting place, and paired up with our Assessor and Assessee (finally).

I cannot speak for Jen’s day (at least not directly) as she went off with Steve2 and Sue not to be seen again till the end of the day.

Brian in the bivy shelter

Steve, however, did a great job. In his usual thorough manner he oriented us, explored our experience and strengths as well as our goals for the day and then offered a plan. Since we had an interest in his personal and group kits (that’s British for gear), leadership, coaching and paddling skills as well as navigation, he suggested we return to our chateau and spend a few hours there.

Steve discussing forward paddling with a demonstration video on the computer.

Time flew by as we discussed the contents of pfd pockets, different flare types, emergency shelters, vhf radios, deck mounted tow lines, contact tow lines, watched video of the British Olympic champion paddler and so much more. Indeed, as we broke for tea (I slipped in a sandwich) we realized that we had not yet covered navigation and needed to get down the road to Ballachulish to fit in a few hours paddling before dark. So we threw on our dry suits and gear and off we went into the rain and wind.

Our launch spot at Ballachulish (the launch ramp is behind me). Brian jumped in the picture and looked like a road worker in his dry suit.

We launched off a boat ramp in front of the Ballachulish Hotel and played in the narrows underneath the bridge. The natural topography protected from the full blast of the wind and the narrows had an ebb current that was surprisingly lively for a neap tide. If we let ourselves be swept down into the open parts of the loch there were significant wind waves built up by the fetch from over miles of open water in which to play.

The underlying theme of my work was leadership skills while Brian’s interest was in developing his coaching skills. While on the water we worked on paddling technique and boat handling, but it was good to have each exercise in context. Steve has an engaging teaching methodology that I find challenging, effective and beneficial. Generally he supports your process of coming up with answers with his guidance.

Once off the water we dropped Andy, our Assessor, of at Assessor Headquarters (he had to get back for a dinner) and returned to our chateau to pick up on navigation. Though exhausted, Steve had us plan a theoretical trip around the south end of Islay taking into account the tides, high water, and currents to navigate the tidal races. I found the exercise intellectually challenging; for Bryan it was a ‘piece of cake’ and he was soon bored and thinking of dinner.

Looking south towards Port Appin Left coast behind the castle. The islands on the right are where Jen and crew paddled to (and back).
Jen, with Steve2 and Sue returned to our chateau during our navigation exercise and informed us that they had gone south towards Oban and launched at Port Appin. There the winds were blowing at force 5 gusting to 6 so they worked for the first few hours with paddling exercises tucked in behind the ferry launch ramp, popping out in the wind and waves for skill building then returning to the protected area for instruction. They then set out across the channel to the island of Lismore, rounding the north end to play in the rocks on the west side. From their description I wished I had been along.

Talking about our day with each other in the kitchen

As you might imagine we had a raucous dinner this evening with endless stories about the day and, of course, the usual British / US English language barrier humor. Soon though, we were back at planning tomorrow, where to go, what are the expected tide times, current flows, what about the weather (gale force winds at 6AM are predicted on BBC radio), what we students wanted to experience and learn and what would be the best venue that would integrate all that and show off the Assessees skills best? Soon we were all slipping off to bed, hopefully sleeping better than last night, and ready for another exciting day.

Steve2 and Sue returning from their day with Jen

Sorry – no photos on the water today as it seemed as though it might be inappropriate during an assessment. I might ask tomorrow to see if it would be OK.

Regards - Thom

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