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(10/10/98 -- Keith Attenborough) Reports on BCU 2-3 Star training with MIKCO

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Thought some might be interested in hearing about this training session.

Quick summary -- rain, good folks, rain, good training, rain, would recommend it, rain.

Called Friday evening to check to make sure course was going to be held despite the forcasted rain. Got a cheery "of course" sort of response, so drove up to Portland, to the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal, Saturday morning through the rain. There is a parking garage there, cheap by Boston standards ($1 an hour, $14 max) plus a couple of others a block or so away that are even less expensive. Pulled in (7 foot clearance until you get to the top level were it drops down to 6 foot 7 inches) took the boat off, loaded it with all the gear in the world, put on the wheels I borrowed from Joel at NE Small Craft (shameless plug -- great guy) and headed off.

NOTE: There is apparently an actual spot at the ferry terminal to load and turn in frieght, which is how a kayak is considered -- look for the freight signs. They will then make sure the kayak gets on the ferry.

Took the 7:45 ferry though the rain to Peaks Island. $3 round trip for me, $5.75 round trip for the kayak. You can take your car for about $25, but don't need to. Met at the ferry by a representative from MISK, easily recognizable -- only one there in a dry suit and holding a paddle. Pete helped Jay and I pull our boats through the rain, up the hill about a block, then left and down another block to the boat house. Like I said, no car needed. Took them inside the boat house, out of the rain, so we could unload. Other folks had apparently come over the night before. I think you can camp in Tom's (the owner) yard, plus there is at least one B&B.

Training started about 8:15 with introductions in the boat house (mostly dry, but unheated). We had three instructors for the eight students in 2-3 Star training -- a really good ratio. Sara lead, with Pete and David working with her, all with over four years guiding/instructing experience. Students had between two and seven years experience, from local to New Jersey to Iowa. Never too experienced to study the basics! Began with a quick weather report (rain), intro to the BCU system, layout for the course and food plans for the day. Lot of emphasis on making sure we didn't get chilled, with offers of breaks to get fresh wet suits, etc.

The purpose of the training is to learn the strokes the way the BCU wants to see them, with emphasis on what assessors would be looking for. Pretty obvious, right? The point, though, is that knowing how to do a stroke "picture perfect" provides a strong foundation for whatever variation your boat, body and personality makes best for you. When you are "assessed" (there is a formal assessment for each star level) you need to do the "picture stroke", but all of the instructors emphasized that fitting it to yourself is important. The attitude is that BCU provides a good structure to learn in, well tested, but that the real goal is to learn to enjoy paddling more and be safe.

Back to the tRAINing. Started with, you guessed it, the forward stroke. Apparently, this basic stroke is one of the hardest to really master, probably because it is the one everyone just does. It's certainly true for me. There is a real difference in effectiveness if you can get all the elements (arm movement, trunk rotation, leg cycling) down correctly -- you might even be able to paddle with Leon, or just enjoy moving the boat more. I think I finally "got it" for about five minutes towards the end of the day, and it did feel good.

From there to reverse paddling, then stopping, forward and reverse sweeps, high and low braces (stationary and moving), sculling brace, draw, sculling draw, draw on the move, hanging draws, bow rudders, towing, eskimo rescues (paddle and bow) and deep water rescues ("T"). In the middle, spent lunch discussing hypothermia and the types of theory questions that could be covered during an assessment. As you can imagine, it was a full day. But there were some games involved, breaks that let us stretch out (paddle around the bay and back, etc) and good one-on-one time. We also got a lot of practice station keeping as we tried to hold position to listen to the instruction in the wind and, you guessed it, rain.

Food at lunch (included) was good, hot and plentiful, hot chocolate break in the afternoon after the rescue practice, coffee and tea all day. We were all invited to Tom's house after the session to warm up and join them for dinner (I had to pass). Training wrapped a little after 5pm. Hauled out, dryed off, got dressed and headed for the 6pm ferry (made a fudge break along the way). And, I was getting on, guess what -- there was Jack Fu driving off to head for the BCU 4 star training to be held the next day. Hopefully Jack will provide a report of his session as well.

Learned a bunch of stuff, had a good time, even in the rain, met some good people, found a good resource. It doesn't get much better than that. Highly recommended. Maine Island Kayak, 1-800-796-2373.

By the way, did I mention that it rained? The whole time? Well, let me quote the Boston Globe from this Sunday morning: "Around Portland, Maine, a record 5.21 inches of rain fell between midnight and 4pm yesterday..... The previous 16 hour rainfall record was set in 1971 when 2.76 inches fell...".

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