Jump to content

(10/11/98 -- Jack Fu) BCU 4 Star training with MIKCO


Recommended Posts

On October 11, 1998, I took the BCU 4 course at Maine Island Kayak. I was not ready for it.

I have never felt comfortable in my Pintail. Though I am a pretty good kayaker, both in river whitewater and in sea kayaking, I never got used to the Pintail. I am used to bracing with my knees far apart (from 30 years of river whitewater). In the Pintail, your knees are closer together, even if you refit the boat with minicell blocks to make knee braces that are wider apart than what you would have with the standard Pintail outfitting.

Although I did not feel secure with the bracing, I sort of denied the fact. (Ego getting in the way?) I've paddled fairly challenging seas in the Pintail and always felt pretty good. But the BCU 4 day was a different story. The seas that day were rougher than any sea I've ever paddled in. Here is how Tom Bergh (who is head of Maine Island Kayak and who ran that course) described the conditions that day in an email to me afterwards:

"The conditions were a bit beyond 4 Star, both in wave height, exposure, and wind speed. Lets be very clear here. Those were advanced conditions - conditions that only a few dozen boaters in the Northeast could manage in, conditions that most paddlers would't even consider. I hope we didn't diminish the extent of what you were doing. I do have a tendency to over-stress what the sea can be like because I so frequently run into the opposite situation...where someone was way too much confidence and none of the very solid skills you have put in place. Do you know how few boaters could have actually rolled up in that spot you did?

Wind speed was frequently greater than Force 4, the limit of the 4 Star award. It varied from about 12-20.

Swell height as reported at the Portland LNB (Large Navigational Buoy) was 5 feet every 8 seconds which means the average of the 1/3 larger swells. Generally the swells were around 2-3 feet, a few larger in the 4-6 feet area. Of course, when a swell comes ashore it gets bigger as it stands up before it breaks. The length of them - 8-10 seconds was due to the several days of Easterly winds. Water temp was around 52F."

Well, those conditions were definitely too much for me! Most of the rest of the class did well. I stood a few hundred feet off from a lot of the stuff we were practicing, because I was just not in control enough. It was a terrible feeling, to be so out of the picture. At one point the class went right up to the bottom of a near-vertical cliff, where the water height surged up and down over a range of (I would guess) 4-6 feet, cause by the piling up of the swell (which was not breaking at that part of the shore ). The class (or at least the better members of it) went right up to the foot of the cliff and bobbed up and down, almost touching the cliff. It looked so much fun. I longed to be right in there with them, but I stood well off because I had lost a lot of confidence by then and did not want to get in touble and give other people trouble by having to rescue me. (Once you start losing confidence, you keep losing it.)

I want very much to take the course again with Tom Bergh next summer or fall, in the same rough conditions as we had on that day, but in a boat that I feel secure in. I know I have the skill. I just have to have the right boat, one that I feel strongly braced in. (Yeah, I know, "It's not the boat, it's you, stupid!") Unfortunately, I will be working in Seattle next summer, and I don't see that I can make a trip back east just to take the course with Maine Island Kayak.

I highly recommend Maine Island Kayak to anyone interested in instruction, at any level. Tom Bergh and his crew are a great outfit. They are great instructors and the nicest people. Maine Island Kayak is located on Peaks Island, which is a 20 minute ferry ride from Portland. If you want to paddle out from Portland, park your car at the East End beach park and paddle first to Fort Gorges Island, then to the southern tip of Little Diamond Island, then to Peaks Island. This route keeps you out of the ferry lane. But keep your eye peeled for traffic just the same!)

Keith Attenborough took the BCU 2 with Maine Island Kayak and liked it. I should have taken the BCU 2 instead of the BCU 3-4, but in a way it is good that I took the 3-4 because it opened my eyes. I now realize that I must find a boat with more secure knee bracing (such as in a Romany) before I go out again in the conditions of that day. The reality slap was good for me, though at the time I felt very deflated.

I have decided to sell my Pintail. It breaks my heart, because Tom and his crew worked so hard to outfit it for me. I don't know what boat I'll end up getting, but the knee bracing set up must feel as good as you find in a Romany. I'd appreciate any suggestions. What I really want is a playful Pintail with a Romany cockpit. (There ain't no such critter, I know.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...