Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three Star Training in Bar Harbor

Two huge cruise ships are anchored in the harbor, but only a handful of lobster boats. The town landing and beach resemble an amphitheater, ringed by busloads of tourists. As soon as we begin to unload kayaks, cameras and camcorders are pointed our way. When I leave my boat on the beach to go back and get my gear from the car, a pair of Asian guys take turns getting their photo taken beside the boat. Where else could we be, but Bar Harbor? Todd and I are here for a two-day class with Mark Schoon of Carpe Diem Sea Kayaking, training for the BCU three-star level.

I had never paddled from Bar Harbor before, but as soon as we left the harbor, I was pleasantly surprised. We arrived at islands with tall, chunky cliffs, perforated with chasms and slots that invited careful exploration. As we moved along, Mark constantly worked with us on our boat handling skills. The rocks and chasms provided us with obstacle courses to try out newly-honed strokes.

From Bar Harbor, one can get to some fairly big water in a hurry. When the swell comes in, you can get tossed about pretty dramatically. Above, notice Todd's position compared to the rocks behind him. Below, in the next frame, we're quite a bit higher.

And Mark was never too far away, just in case.

We even did a little surfing toward the end of the day. I had one dramatic capsize when I broached on a large wave. One half of my spare paddle is still there, somewhere. We got home late, exhausted. The saltwater didn't drain from my sinuses until sometime in the middle of the night, when I woke up snoring.

On the second day we went up the coast, and I was amazed at the wild cliffs and rocks we came across very close to town. Admittedly, we're so content paddling at home, that the thought of fighting crowds in Bar Harbor didn't seem worth it. That may be true in July and August, but I'm sold; I'm looking forward to more paddling there. It is a bit weird, being the object of so much attention. The four-masted Margaret Todd sailed past us, with scores of people lining the rails, taking pictures of us having our lesson among the rocks. Shortly after, a motorized tour boat went past, and we overheard the guide talking about sea kayakers on the loudspeaker. On shore, there aren't too many people walking around in drysuits, so you tend to get some attention.

We continued with our drills, practiced capsizing and rescues, towing, navigating. We paddled out to Egg Rock, over to Ironbound Island and worked our way back to town, pausing before a channel to let the Cat, a high speed ferry, motor past. We arrived back at the beach in the dark. I carried my boat up to the car, exausted, and did my best to answer questions from the older guys strolling with hands in pockets ("how long is that?" "what kind of outfit are you wearing there?" etc.).

As usual, my days off from work were totally exhausting. Last night, after work, we went out for a review, trying the drills we'd learned, zig-zagging home in the dark.

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