An intrepid team of Lori, Antje, Colin, Misha, Graham and Tony met early on the Saturday after the club ceilidh the night before, ready for a weekend’s paddling and learning with Calum McKerral, the coach for the weekend.  The four star course was partly subsidised by the West Dumbartonshire Sports Council grant we had received to help develop the clubs trip leading skills and a £25 contribution from the attendees was the contribution cost of the 2 days coaching.

First things first – an equipment check…maps? – only 3 of us had brought some, compasses – only 2 of us;   – fortunately Calum had brought spares.  Next a planning check – who knew the high and low water times… just Lori, Antje (who had copied Lori’s answers) and Tony. Finally a dry suit check – everyone but graham who had 90% of a dry suit – one foot missing but craftily sealed with electrical tape.

During the Saturday we practiced / learnt ….

  • towing (short tows, long tows and chain tows),
  • navigation and timings (1 km every 10 minutes is a good ready reckoner)
  • leadership on the sea (CLAP – communication, Line of sight, Avoidance/Anticipation, Position of Maximum Usefulness is the mnemoic to use!)
  • repairing a leaking kayak on open water (e.g. crawling about on a raft to let someone access the hull of the kayak to do the repair).

Day 2 loomed with a threat of some time in the water. Before lunch we played with…

  • turning the kayak and the effects of wind… with Graham not able to turn his boat when going in reverse
  • the importance of edging when turning a sea kayak
  • an exercise in trust with one person guiding another who was blindfolded as they went amongst rocks and waves – as scary as it sounds.
  • when to use a skeg (up for upwind, down for downwind is a good starting point).

After lunch it was time to get in the water and practice…

  • reentry and roll with only Misha successful  (top tip was to find a way to keep the paddle handy)
  • solo self rescue with and without a paddle float.
  • rescues (including how to be quick and avoiding straining your body)

A final recap session and everyone left with more knowledge, some things to buy (short tow rope, flashband and sex-wax) and some things to practice. To find out what we have remembered then ask one of the attendees on your next trip. Fortunately we have been successful in a lottery application and have some funding to help run another 4 star sea training course. If you are beginning to help out on trips and may be thinking about becoming a trip leader (or assistant) for some of the club’s A or B trips and then this is likely to be the ideal course for you. Contact Graham for more info and register your interest.

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