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MIKCO 5 Star Training – May 16-17-18

Paul Sylvester

Rick Stoehrer

Jeane Totz

Lamar Huggins

Chris Hauge

Instructor – Steve Maynard

Weather – Clear, cold, water temp 43 or so with winds 10-15 from sw to n. High off of coast preventing conditions.

5 Star is a leadership award within BCU that gauges not only your boat handling skills but your ability to lead a group on the open water. The benchmarks are essentially based on risk management. What is the weather now and how does that compare to your pre-trip check? What is the tide/current doing, likely to do, where are you? What is the status of the group? What do you do in a rescue or emergency situation? These are the demands of the award and the demands that we need to place upon ourselves if we are hoping to responsibly lead a group of paddlers in exposed conditions for any period of time.

Friday we were off to Popham – the likeliest place to find conditions given the high that was stalled south of Maine.

Due to an Astronomical occasion, the tides and current were particularly great and fast – On the Max Ebb, the mouth of the Kennebec was running at almost 4 knots, creating a challenging tidal race. We passed a dozen harbor seals frolicking at the put-in at Fort Popham and could only hope that what we were about to do should be so effortless.

Alas, it was not. Trying to catch the swell back in on the outgoing flow was very hard work that demanded timing your stroke to catch up with the oncoming swell against the race…proving that you need several gears in your arsenal of paddle stroke to be effective at this rarefied level. The returning eddy line along the side of the island was a great relief when the effort became too great. Popham was additionally the site of the first “incident” that would later require some gel coat…nice duct tape, Mr. Stoehrer.

That evening we were back at peaks tired and happy to have got through the first day of what turned out to be a long weekend of paddling. Over pasta and other typically fantastic MICKO chow, we discussed the day’s events, some critique of the performance and the upcoming day.

Saturday morning came, we spent an extensive amount of time reviewing tides, currents and the Casco bay chart in an attempt to familiarize ourselves with the task at hand – a voyage to outer green, Jewell island and then a leisurely paddle about the rest of Casco up to eagle island in the inky dark of night – how delightful.

Setting out and crossing Hussey sound to Overset Island, we fulfilled another of the 5 star requirements – landing and launching in a no landing zone. Something that you would only do as a last resort with a group. LAST and in the bottom of the bag of tricks. We all managed to land without too much incident, gather our thoughts on what it is that we accomplished and then the launch. The launch categorically did not go so smoothly as the landing. Chris was bashed against the rocks, rather hard but through some impressive combat skills managed to make it off the rock and awaited the remainder of the group. We learned from his initial launch and chose a rather more protected launch site and all made it off the granite with far less circumstance.

We broke for dinner off the S side of Jewell and awaited the night in anticipation of something few of us had really done – paddling and navigating at night on the sea.

We launched at full dark and headed out the East Side of Jewell, found the bit of a finger island off the side and then up to the punchbowl. From here to West Brown Cow and then up, through the reef to G 1, Gong off of the SE tip of Eagle. Well, that was the plan anyways, but it proved to all of us that we needed MUCH more practice at this skill before we could even dream of an attempt on the award. Fortunately, Mr. Maynard managed to coach, cajole and help us along the way. Interestingly, there was another “incident” along that reef – Yeah, don’t night surf in close quarters. Bad idea. There was a collision and the ultimate sin committed, kayak and kayaker were not as one. The rescue though happened in less than a minute and at night so that was rather good experience to have had. Yup, that’s how it’s justified; we needed the night rescue experience.

We eventually made our way to Surprise beach and found apropos of the name that the protecting reef was well underwater due to the high tide and the waves were crashing along the beach and the exposed side of the island. This made for another eventful landing (nothing you would even give more than a moments thought to in the light of day, but the night made it far more exciting) . We bivouced for the night and were grateful for the sleep.

Sunday morning we roused, discussed the fragile ecology of the islands along the Maine shore and the importance of conservation. We then had the privilege of paddling back to Peaks in the light of day and identified the various shortcomings of the previous evenings navigation exercise, thus further humbling our band of kayaking acolytes.

Finally making our way to the boathouse, we were all tired, wet and pretty well of the opinion that this award was still some time away for all of us but with an excellent understanding of the water we needed to cover before considering the award.

As ever, the training at MIKCO was outstanding. The level of knowledge and competence of the instruction provided is remarkable. And competence at all things and situations on the water is the grail we are all trying to achieve.

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Great report, Rick! Thanks to both you and Paul for challenging yourselves. Your skill and expertise adds so much to any paddle experience that we get to share with you. See you on the water...


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challenged is the right word. i felt like jerry lewis in a kayak. "ooh, stop with the rocks and the pain, ohhh....you're scaring me." that sort of thing. wasn't very dignified.

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This was a great weekend on the water, Mikco as usual ran a good program. Only one hole in a boat and it was not Rick or I. The night navigation was the high point of the trip. I learned alot about night paddles in three hours and was I happy to hit the Sleeping bag at 12:25am Sunday morning. The early morning view from Cocktail cove around Casco Bay was the best I have seen in a while.

We were quized on navigation each day, constantly be asked to define our spot on the water.

I also learned that:

I carry a little to much gear.

Need Nav practice.

Must read waves better.

Must not speak so quickly when I think I have the answer.

The forword stroke can improve.

Night surfs are not relaxing.

etc. etc. etc.

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