CSCC Reports 2009: 3* (Sea Kayak) training and assessment  - October 2009

We had reason for celebration after five members of the club (Bridget, Fiona, Mark, Stephen and I) succeeded in passing the BCU 3 star in sea kayaking on the weekend of 17th and 18th October.  The assessment was overseen by Alastair Randall who had kindly stepped in at the last minute.

The first day of the assessment involved a crossing of the Solent.  After treating Al to a characteristic bit of CSCC faffing (thorough preparation?), we launched from one of the pay and display car parks at Milford and paddled east towards Hurst Castle, intending to ferry glide towards the Isle of Wight.  The conditions were benign with light winds, a calm sea and excellent visibility.  In the water off the castle we encountered a small tidal race, but we paddled easily though it.  

This looked like a routine crossing, but we were taken aback when we were intercepted by a motor safety boat whose occupants informed us that a power boat race was taking place that morning in the Solent and that we would be "mowed down" by boats travelling at up to 80mph if we attempted to cross.  We had no option but to wait for the racing boats to pass by.  This we did patiently, but in hanging around we were pushed west some distance by the tide which made the crossing significantly longer than originally planned.  We used our VHF radio to make contact with the race safety controller who was very helpful.  

We landed between the chair lift and the Needles and ate our packed lunch on the beach before beginning the return crossing.  This went much more smoothly more than the outward journey and we all arrived back at Milford without incident.  The total distance travelled was 12 miles.

On day two of the assessment we drove to Lulworth in Dorset so that Al could focus on our skills.  While in the Cove we were asked to execute turning manoevres including edging, low brace turns etc.  We also bumped into fellow CSCC member, Gordon, and his pal, Nigel, who were out for a day's paddling.  After a brief chat with them we paddled out towards Durdle Door and did some rock hopping.  This went smoothly.  I spotted choughs up on the cliffs.  

After lunch on one of the beaches Al showed us the contents of his repair kit.  His most innovative suggestion was to carry a packet of cheap childrens' inflatable balls as makeshift airbags.

On the return journey to Lulworth, we were asked to demonstrate towing, rolling and assisted rescues.  We did the last of these by pulling the boat onto the deck to empty it, but Al showed us that we could speed things up significantly by simply flipping the upturned boat and grabbing the swimmer by the bouyancy aid stuffing him/her back in the boat.  Al argued that this technique was less likely to damage equipment on the rescuer's boat.  

After getting off the water at Lulworth we discussed navigation and Al recommended various books including the BCU Handbooks, Franco's bible on navigation and the Welsh sea kayaking guidebook we had used on our recent Pembrokeshire trip.  Al was content that we had all passed.  

A few other details.

We stayed at the Rufus House B & B in Lyndhurst.  This is a rather posh area and so the B & B was pricier than usual.  The showers and loo in the room I shared did not work.  However, I found my bed very comfy and enjoyed my breakfasts, so I would stay there again.

We went for drinks at the Waterloo Arms in Lyndhurst on the Friday night.  This is a lovely old pub with a real log fire.  It was a fairly long walk from our B & B though, so on the Saturday night, when we returned there for dinner, Mark kindly drove us all.  Most of us greatly enjoyed our meals, but unfortunately Fi drew the short straw and found her bland curry completely inedible.  She and Mark also had to rearrange the furniture to avoid being dazzled by the illuminated cake stand!

Our thanks go to Bridget for organising a very enjoyable and productive weekend.

Dan's photos