For the last few weeks, much of our paddling was aimed at getting ready for last weekend’s three-day class. You could even say that the last few months of Sunday mornings at the pool at the Ellsworth Y were practice and reinforcement. Most evenings last week Rebecca and I watched our instructional DVDs, pausing every now and then to make sure we understood (and sometimes to wake up). So, in the same way that planning for a trip is part of the fun, so is getting ready for a class. Suddenly it became an emergency to get a new short tow figured-out so we could try it in class.
We met Friday morning at Old Quarry. Nine students, all of us registered Maine Guides were there for the first ever MASKGI-sponsored, ACA L4 Open Water Trip Leader training program. I’ll spare you my diatribe about the exam process for Maine Sea Kayak Guides and how it is entirely possible get your license with little or no on-the-water experience -provided you can talk the talk. It’s great to talk the talk (that’s how you pass the exam) but this program is aimed at getting guides to walk the walk.
It isn’t always easy for experienced guides to be open to learning something new. I’m hardly experienced, but it helps to have some faith in your teachers, to accept that they know their stuff. I’ve had a few classes with Todd Wright and John Carmody, and they are certainly on top of their game. John is one of the few BCU Level 5 Sea Coaches in North America, while Todd holds the highest ACA awards and is fast on his way to being one of the next BCU Level 5 Sea Coaches. This translates to getting spot-on critique and suggestions. If I received just a few such nuggets over the weekend, my efforts would be well-spent.
We chose different locations each day, progressing from a milder excursion to Millet on Friday, to some rocks out around Ram and Hardwood on Saturday. On Sunday we drove over to Bagaduce Falls. It was a good progression. By the time we tried various tows and rescues in the current on Sunday, we’d already practiced in easier conditions, gradually increasing the complicating factors. Of course, we worked constantly on personal boat maneuvering skills.
We’ll have an assessment in the fall- a good goal. In the meantime, we all have points to work-on and improve- both while we’re guiding and on our own. Rebecca and I got out for a mid-day paddle yesterday just as the storm arrived. On one level, it felt good to decompress, to get out and just paddle. But after awhile, we started working on what we’d learned. Once again, I’m tweaking my forward stroke- I don’t expect this will ever end. And when I’d gone into a rocky chasm (trying to avoid that bow rudder until I really needed it) Rebecca came charging-in to contact-tow me out... just for fun.
And in the end, that’s what it amounts to: fun. The first classes I took might not have been as fun- it felt like harder work then, and I learned that I had far to go. I didn’t get it all (still haven’t) in one go- I seem to require layers of instruction that overlap, spaced with plenty of time to try it all out on my own and see how it works. The pay-off is also multi-layered: confidence coupled with a perspective of where my abilities need work. But yesterday I saw a black and white change from just last week: Rebecca maneuvered into that narrow space between the rocks, and I followed her.