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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Taste of the Sea - 19/4/2008

The National Kayak School and Tiso's put on a variety of paddlesports courses during the fairer (and I use the "er" loosely) months. Brian and I signed up for a one day sea kayaking taster. The course was set up as a full day on the water preceded by a lot of blah blah blah the night before. I hope they didn't expect us to remember all (or even most) of it.

One of our instructors was Brian's kayak instructor from the month before, John. He had a co-instructor, Carol, since our group was so big (8 paddlers) and a fleet of boats for us to choose from. Because of the wind, we went to a place just along from Rosyth called Limekilns. It was their best guess for the most shelter from easterly and northeasterly force 4 winds, with occasional gusts to force 5.

We tried the boats on the beach first. Brian liked the cheap one, a Dagger Charleston. I had more expensive taste, preferring the smaller of the two glass Nigel Dennis boats.

We paddled around a bit in the harbour and got a good sense for the wind. Aggressive, even in the sheltered parts. Eventually, we parked the boats on a quickly shrinking island and enjoyed a quick stretch and boat swap. I picked one of the mid range plastic boats. It had a rudder which was fun to play with but made steering not much of a challenge. They gave us skills to try, especially lots of wide turns. I don't remember any of the other students names from the course, but the first to go over was the guy who tried the other glass boat. It had plenty of secondary stability, but that doesn't mean a lot to a beginner. The wind got him sideways and he kept going. Another beginner ended up in the water soon after. Similar sequence of events. Without the wind, the swims would have been much less likely.

Lunch stop was followed by boat swap #3. I tried Brian's favourite boat. It was short, fat and stable. For the reasons he liked it, I didn't. It felt sluggish and barge-like. I appreciated sluggish and barge-like as we tried some wide turns into the open channel. The wind helped finish the turns and surprisingly everyone stayed in their boats.

We tried a few turns like that before we paddled with the wind back to our starting beach. I never really found my comfort zone in the open current. The waves would surf me forward and I got used to that. The little and sometimes not so little pulls back were another matter. Didn't like those, didn't get used to them. Fat and barge-like was much appreciated. The woman who was in my favourite boat ended up in the water and was the only deep water rescue demonstration of the day. Not that any of us were close enough to really see what happened. We landed at the starting beach and they pretty much turned us loose to try whatever boats we liked.

Brian never liked the big version of my favourite boat, and I could see why. It felt tippier than the other one, mostly because it just felt too big. I didn't stay in it very long. I tried the other cheap boat, a Perception something or other, and found that one ok to paddle but extremely uncomfortable to sit in. It felt like it was made for the 6' tall 200lb club.

At the end of the course, the instructors demonstrated rescues on land and we were given the opportunity to try them in the water. The response was uniform: thanks but no thanks. Maybe when summer rolls around. I want a warm rock or a warm beach to crawl onto if it all goes wrong.

So, sea kayaking doesn't feel normal just yet, but after a full day in a proper boat, I'm farther along to enjoying it. More practice should do it.

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