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BCU assessment question...


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Having recently taken a BCU 2/3* training with Peter Casson, I have also looked at the BCU test booklet for the various test levels. My

question is this. How much of the assessment is based on the theory questions in the booklet, such as..

Who are famous users of kayaks for hunting?

Why are weirs dangerous?

What is Leptospirosis and what precautions should you take against it?

What is the main difference between a 'dry cag' and a wetsuit?

These are examples of the "I don't have a clue" section, nor have I found a place where the answers can be found.

Can those of you who have been through this clue me in?

Thanks

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These theory questions are examples of the BCU's British origins. Somewhat confusing for Americans but understandable given the history of the BCU. Though not completely neccessary, it is advantageous to learn to speak the King's English before your assessment.

The questions that you posted are all answered in great detail in the BCU Canoe Handbook. You can get this book many places but certainly from Maine Island Kayak or Atlantic Kayak Tours.

Cheers and happy hunting,

Jed

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While I agree with Brian completely, I became curious about leptospirosis - basically I'm a nerd, so I can't help it.

According to the CDC website:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo...ospirosis_g.htm

it's a disease you can get from animals in contaminated water. Do, don't practice rolling in hog troughs, I guess. The relation to sea kayaking seems a tad marginal.

"Cag" is a Britishism for a kind of dry suit - here are some pics:

http://www.chillcheater.com/products/shop.asp?cid=8

Wouldn't an ACA rating make more sense?

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>...would ANY assessor actually fail someone because they

>couldn't answer such relatively pointless questions? That

>seems completely inconceiveable.

Pointless questions?

Who are famous users of kayaks for hunting?

** The Inuit and the Aluet. The creators of the earliest kayaks and those to whom we owe our thanks for having developed the craft and art.

Why are weirs dangerous?

** A weir is a type of dam. They are dangerous because they can create "keeper holes", aka hydraulics that could hold and eventually drown an inexperienced paddler. Do a search on "low-head dams" to see just how dangerous these little puppies can be.

What is Leptospirosis and what precautions should you take against it?

** "Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs."

What is the main difference between a 'dry cag' and a wetsuit?

** A dry cag (known in the state as a drysuit or drytop, provides a waterproof barrier between the paddler and the water, while not insulation per se, when used in conjunction with insulation it provides significant protection from very cold water. A wet suit functions by holding a thin layer of warmed water next to the skin (a micro-climate). While helpfull in cool water, few people have the courage to use only wetsuits in very cold conditions.

Brian,

I'm surprised to hear you refer to questions like this as pointless. I consider each of these questions (with the posible exception of Leptospirosis) to speak very much to the point of paddling and safety in our local area. Even the issue of leptospirosis is important to those that paddle in the tropics and agricultural settings.

I don't know what as assessor would do if a 3* candidate had no general knowledge of paddling. But I for one certainly would not be impressed by such a candidate.

Cheers,

Jed

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Seriously.......shouldn't we have a well rounded knowledge of the sport? Do we always have to play the isolated Americans?

Are we that far above other western cultures that we don't even care to learn the lingo of the roots of the sport in the UK?

My rant.....but I love history and knowing small facts about the world we live and play in.

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...at least compared to other more important topics.

While I find a paddling "trivia" to be interesting as you and Paul do (I've got ~50 related books and videos), I don't see where these questions have any real bearing on one's ability to paddle skillfully, safely and responsibly, which is the emphasis of BCU training, isn't it? It strikes me that these subjects are even less relevant than the often-lampooned requirement for a "flask of tea", which is at least reasonable in nothern climes. If one is serious enough about paddling to go through 3* training and assessment, one will naturally acquire peripheral knowledge of equipment and conditions that's pertinent to the area one paddles in and the type of paddling one does. In that light, these "standardized" questions, probably written decades ago for the British paddling environment, seem rather silly. If the BCU wants to keep this material in their curriculum as a nod to their roots, I guess it's harmless enough and I find it rather quaint and amusing, sort of like watching a "Leave it to Beaver" rerun. But to include it as part of an assessment???

To address the four specific questions, in question:

- While it's true that there is actually a weir on the Lamprey River in Newmarket, NH (the only active one on the east coast, IIRC), it's pretty obvious when you see it that you shouldn't paddle into it, even if you don't know what it is.

- Does anyone here know of a case of leptospirosis?

- The BCU's wetsuit explanation is incorrect and parrots a common misconception. Neoprene actually insulates due to the bubbles trapped in the material.

- It's spelled "Aleut", not "Aluet", though perhaps that's just a transcription error.

Wouldn't it make more sense to query students about more "universal" and arguably much more inportant topics such as hypothermia, hydration, sun protection, floatation in kayaks, etc. as part of an assessment instead? You could cover these subjects while you relax and sip your tea! ;-)

Seriously, doesn't it seem like a bit of updating is in order?

(Please pardon my ignorance if these subjects are already covered during assessment.)

But back to my original question. Would any assessor actually flunk someone for not knowing these things? I suspect that the answer is no, since that's the sensible approach and I would expect that anyone who's risen to the level of assessor understands what's important and what's "fluff".

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>...would ANY assessor actually fail someone because they

>couldn't answer such relatively pointless questions? That

>seems completely inconceiveable.

It seems to me that if someone wants a nice patch from the BCU as a symbol of whatever, then they need to have the skills and knowledge the BCU expects of someone who is awarded the patch. Seems fair for them to require someone to have a knowledge of many facets of the sport of kayaking. Besides, it is a Britich club after all. While having passed a 3* assessment no doubt is an indication that someone has certain technical paddling skills, I rather suspect it is not necessarily a measure of how good or skilled the person might be as a "real world" ocean paddler. Just because a person might be a comfortable paddling in all kinds of stuff does not mean they warrant a 3* patch nor does it mean, I suspect, that a person with a 3* patch is necessarily a good paddler who is comfortable on the ocean.

Some of us will be timid and fearful when the seas kick up no matter how many lessons we take or what skills we demonstate on relatively flat water. Others might revel in the adventure, but be largely self taught.

Ed Lawson

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Leptospirosis is not necessarily pointless information--somewhat remote but not pointless - as someone who works in the public health field--Leptospirosis happens to people who are in contaminated waters for periods of time--and for those who are following the daily public health warnings for New Orleans--there are now documented cases of people who were in the those waters during and after the storm/flooding--so, the connection for kayaking, I humbly assume--is more of a precautionary note by BCU--if you are not sure of why the waters look so dark, smelly, slimy, oily and, you are wading, swimming and/or just in it --get out-wipe down your exposed skin asap, dry off as much as possible-try to get rid of any dampness or residue on the skin-In New Orleans, there are presently daily public health warnings by CDC for Leptospirosis-and as Jed describes, it is not a pretty sight to have Leptospirosis--Les

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For outsiders to the BCU system, it is important to understand what the 3* is all about - it isn't a sea kayaking award. It is specifically a flat water award for general purpose boats. It is for people prior to "specializing" into a specific area of kayaking, whether it be white water, surf, sea kayaking. It is usually done when a person first enters into kayaking. The BCU system is club based and it is my understanding that this type of training and assessment is done on the club level by local club paddlers.

As a side note, I believe it is important for people who are paddling in lakes and rivers to understand that at times even though the water appears to be clear and fresh, that water may be contaminated. Ask any of the paddlers who get sinus/ear infections from rolling practice at Chebacco or rashes on their legs from local rivers. Quite frequently on the white water message boards there is talk about different skin rashes that people are getting. Fresh water can be contaminated by farm animals, hordes or geese or even moose(poop) in remote areas.

At different times of year, when paddling in the ocean, I get a red rash under my pfd when I have been rolling a lot - a few other people I know get this too. This year it coincided with red tide. I don't really know what it was but I do recognize that it is "something" in the water that doesn't get flushed out and stays there all day once wet in a nice warm environment. I don't get this on my legs and arms, just in areas like under the pfd.

Personally I wonder if the US paddling community has made the 3* into something that it wasn't really intended to be. I think that in some ways because we are taking the test in sea kayaks and have usally been paddling for awhile, the bar has been raised and expectations are increased.

Personally I did find that having a solid understanding of the 3* skills allowed for a much easier time at the 4* assessment.

As to the question about whether or not you would fail if you couldn't answer any of the questions whether written or verbal, I do think that you probably would unless your paddling skills were flawless. I would imagine that more weight is placed on paddling skills rather than written, and of the written questions, more on the safety questions rather than the historical questions.

Of course there are questions on how to properly lift and tie down your boat along with hypothermia. The original poster was picking some of the more unusual questions - and ones which he was unable to answer.

Suzanne

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The BCU material covers ALL paddle sports so the knowledge it tests must cover risks in all paddle sports. In fact, up to 3 Star, the training and the award are non-specific, meaning the same strokes and knowledge base without distinction between sea kayaking, white water or "Canadian canoes" and the conditions where they typically are paddled. In fact, training and testing for 3 Star was traditionally done in general purpose boats which look sort of like old fashioned white water kayaks (12' decked boats). Awards beyond 3 Star start specializing in disciplines such as sea kayaking. Hence the breadth of 3 Star. Whether a generalist paddling knowledge is appropriate for people only interested in sea kayaking is, I'm sure, subject to debate.

The BCU focus on leptospirosis is well grounded since it relates to inland paddling on rivers, lakes and canels in the UK, which are often polluted. It is a real threat to UK paddlers, especially where livestock are present. (There are a lot of sheep in the UK). It is also a threat to American paddlers visiting the UK, but not, I believe, on open ocean where Brian paddled last year. (Whether it is a problem in tidal areas and marshes such as the Loch of Spigge, I don't know).

My experience with American BCU coaches is that they sensibly focus on topics relevant to North America. I've had instruction on Lyme disease but never on leptospirosis. I've been tutored on the rights and public relations aspects of access to New England islands and beaches which are largely not an issue in the UK. Here BCU coaches don't spend any time on rights to navigation in contrast to the UK where restrictions on access to the 90% of inland waterways that are private is a big topic.

Whether an American BCU Assessor would flunk you? Interesting question, which probably varies by assessor. Yes, you'd probably be dinged if you didn't know the difference between a dry suit and a wetsuit. Yes, if you couldn't recognize and describe the dangers of obstacles in current such as low-head dams, snags, strainers and warfs. No, probably not if you couldn't spell Aleut or distinguish east from west Greenland kayaks. Not sure about the leptospirosis question, but I can tell you it was on the test I took; I didn't know what it was and it forced me to look it up in the BCU handbook. (Like most tests, you could get a certain number wrong and still pass). I'm glad I know about it because it created an awareness of water-borne diseases and more generally a realization that I have to ask--something I'd never do based on paddling my home waters, untutored.

And that, to me, is the value of the testing/assessing which complements but goes beyond the training: it's not the badge or the recognition, but the systematic examination of where you are and what you need to work on. In my case, failing my 3 Star the first time focused me on two strokes that I had been faking for several years. I solved the problems, passed 3 Star and it made me a better paddler. We get our houses inspected before we buy; we get an annual check up from our doctors; we take skills test when we are looking for a new career. It's not ego, it's information...and for some motivation.

As for the Britishisms, any specialized field--computers, fly fishing, motorcycles--have their jargon, knowledge and history. The jargon is useful, the knowledge is accumluated experience and the history enriches the disclipline. The interplay of honoring the traditions and rejecting them to advance the field is pretty normal. Some try to relearn from scratch everything others have already figured out--perhaps missing some important lessons or perhaps inventing new techniques. Others stick closely to the traditional methods, perhaps deepening some fundamental skills or perhaps making a religion out of what may be outdated orthodoxy. It seems to me you need to understand and practice a technique before you can evaluate it, experiment and possibly reject it.

The way I see it, BCU is a package deal. Lot of experience embedded in the system, some peculiarities and, yes, some bureaucracy and crankiness. Having met some of the British coaches, I can tell you they, with some exceptions, are constantly experimenting with new approaches to both paddling and teaching. The current BCU Handbook is substantially different from the previous edition, with many hoary techniques from the 1970s replaced with more up to date methods. The elite coaches debate constantly among themselves about technique and risk management. Over three years, I had three Coach 4 and 5 instructors teach me completely differnet theories of the forward stroke, all well-thought out. I got real message: there is no right stroke and I learned a huge amount about my stroke by learning each of their techniques, none of which I would have figured out on my own.

I've never had a BCU coach teach there is only one, correct way to do something. The BCU methodology stresses self-learning: in fact, I've seen a lot of frustration among American students who want to be told the "right way" and get it nailed. A Brit instructor is more likely to show you something and tell you to go figure it out. Or watch you for half a day and then make one small suggestion that opens up a new door.

Scott Camlin

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>At different times of year, when paddling in the ocean, I

>get a red rash under my pfd when I have been rolling a lot -

>a few other people I know get this too. This year it

>coincided with red tide. I don't really know what it was but

>I do recognize that it is "something" in the water that

>doesn't get flushed out and stays there all day once wet in

>a nice warm environment. I don't get this on my legs and

>arms, just in areas like under the pfd.

Awhile back someone (who shall remain anonymous unless they choose otherwise) got a life-threatening allergic reaction to what I believe was small red organisms (jellyfish?) during red tide. To anyone who has a similar reaction, realize that we often become sensitized to repeated contact with allergens and reactions often grow more severe with time. Good to know if you're paddling with someone who carries an "eppy pen"...

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Thank you Suzanne.

Since I am relatively new to the sport, my goal has been to become a competent and safe paddler, so as not to jeopardize myself or other paddlers. I plan to use the BCU system as a means to have a professional, such as Peter, assess my skill set so that I may paddle within my limits.

It is clear that questions concerning hypothermia and other safety and equipment related issues are important enough to be a rigid requirement. As for the more obscure, since there isn't that many, and as long as I know how to prepare, then I will.

I'm not sure what you mean by club based. It appears that this type of training is offered by more than a few outfitters and is open to anyone.? No one has ever asked me about any club affiliation, nor have I found anyone who requires it.

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I suppose I should have written the "BCU system in the UK is club based" rather than the BCU system is club based. If you buy the handbook, you will read a bit about the structure of BCU clubs in the UK. It is my understanding that in return for membership dues, clubs have boats for members to borrow and 1 and 2* assessments, 3* training/assessment. Club's have coaches that are affiliated with them. They also have storage facilities where people can store their own boats. I believe the emphasis on assessment is due to the fact that people are borrowing boats and there needed to be some sort of way to figure out who could and could not use the boats.

Perhaps some of the British coaches in the area will comment more about BCU clubs in the UK.

In the UK, a coach in the system is covered under the BCU's insurance. Here in the US the BCU system doesn't provide for that.

Suz

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>To address the four specific questions, in question:

>- While it's true that there is actually a weir on the

>Lamprey River in Newmarket, NH (the only active one on the

>east coast, IIRC), it's pretty obvious when you see it that

>you shouldn't paddle into it, even if you don't know what it

>is.

People paddling over low-head dams (i.e. a weir) is one of the more common ways to die in a kayak in the US. Low head dams are common, and they are difficult to see from the up stream. You may not realize the risk until it is too late.

While the language used may be a little foreign, and the specific examples a little out-of-place, the general line of questioning strikes me as making sense. I don't really know what a "cag" is but understanding the difference between clothing intended to keep you dry vs one intended to be used wet is important.

Safe paddling has virtually nothing to do with technical skill on the water, and everything to do with knowledge of what is safe and what isn't. A weak fat man in a rec boat without a PFD who has been paddling for 30 years is safer than the fully tricked out dude who just learned 32 different rolls in a pool and is going out into the surf for the first time.

Skills are pointless without the knowledge base and judgment to use them safely. I am not a fan of certification, but if all it tests is the ability to perform a particular maneuver I would be even more against it.

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Thank you Scott.

I completely agree with your comprehensive description of the reasons for this system to exist, training, evaluation, and more training.

There are not many other sports where your skills could save your life and the lives of others.

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Three star is flatwater skills, so no, it doesn't indicate any particular level of comfort or skill in open ocean conditions.

As for the curriculum, yes, the BCU is a British club, but if they're teaching and certifying in the US, they should adapt the program materials used here to the conditions, terminology and so forth present here. That doesn't mean changing the skills taught or the basic procedures of training and certification, just making accomodations for the country they're teaching in.

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