6th to 7th of November, 2010 – 4* Sea Kayak Assessment

Finally after a lot of organisation, preparation and a nervous few days worrying about the likely scenarios I was about to be put through, it was time for my four star sea kayak assessment with seven others, in and around the waters of Oban.

Day 1: Easdale Island area with a launch from the first, rocky bay arrived at rather than the harbour further on, first challenge then was a safe launch in to surf under the leadership of one of the others being assessed. Next, I got a journey to lead over to Easdale Quarry passing some skerries to rock hop through at which point I had to deal with a stuck paddler on top. I pulled up beside him, got out my kayak and free’d him though it was a close call really as bigger surf suddenly came upon us, back in boat and off the skerry myself all the time keeping a close watch on all the group members.

Other areas covered during the day included some general leading and paddle skills, buddying or close supervision of one person wishing to have a closer look at inlets with white water all around. Some surf, towing, dealing with cuts whilst afloat. Paddling single bladed some distance with broken paddle. It is already fading from memory but I think most of the scenarios were about leading close to rocks and controlling the groups as this environment was explored.

In the evening we had a session on planning a route and answering various questions about a given day and sourcing data from available materials, the net aim was to decide on the direction of the suggested route round three islands and to devise suitable start and finish times and decide whether a nearby alternative was suitable or not. I really enjoyed this bit … almost as much as the well-earned curry that followed.

Sunday: Straight out of Oban harbour and round the back of Kerrera through the north channel. Continued with some more scenarios, repairs, unconscious paddler, paddler with cramping leg, lost hatch, then finished with rescues, self-rescues and rolls by which time we were all chilled and tired.

Questions were posed along the way about buoyage, indication of tide direction in various narrows, how would you do this and that given certain conditions…

Passes all round in the end which was a big relief and the two assessors were great, it was appreciated that they tried to put us at ease early on by saying, ‘not out to catch you out at all’ etc. They gave us good feedback too to work on too. I am looking forward to a period now of just leading and paddling for fun and improving along the way without the worry about training or assessments for a while.

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