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Sea Kayaking 102

I'm back from Sea Kayaking 102. Here's a review of my experience at it. I took a few pictures, too. Fellow campers have posted their photos as well: Manuel's, Ed's, John's, Gina's, Mike's. Susan, one of the instructors, wrote an account of her SK102 experience.

I drove down to Lake Anna on Friday afternoon, encountering the expected traffic jam heading south on Interstate 95 after the beltway. That's an area I haven't visited much, and I noticed the interstate there (south of the beltway, in Virginia) is narrower and in noticeably worse condition than it is north of the beltway, in Maryland between DC and Baltimore, where I drive often. It was about a three-hour drive for me. I hadn't realized Lake Anna was so large—it's bigger than Deep Creek Lake, though with many of the same inland-lake fixtures: prominent realty businesses, anglers, jet skis, a state park, and the occasional ridiculously overpowered (and presumably compensatory) quasi cigarette boat. Some SK102 participants went for a night paddle on Friday evening, but I just unpacked and chilled out.

On Saturday morning I attended the Kayak Design, Wet Exit, and Basic Strokes class. The first on-the-water activity in this most elementary of classes was the wet exit. I'd thought that my practice at the pool would prepare me to do a wet exit here, but I lost the nerve to capsize myself. I'm disappointed in myself for that, and I'm still trying to understand why I couldn't do it. That put a dark cloud over my whole weekend.

The boat I borrowed was an Epic 16, a red fiberglass number. It isn't quite an ideal boat for beginners, I think, because of the rounded hull and the way it's too easy to push the rudder pedals by mistake. I should have asked how to lock the rudder pedals, because that rudder gave me plenty of directional problems in the morning class.

After a short break for lunch, we had afternoon classes; I went to Stroke Improvement, Intermediate Strokes, and Bracing. The instructor was adamant about all the students having completed a wet exit that day. I understood that any instructor had the right to insist on the wet exit as a prerequisite for his class, but I'd been told they'd all been briefed as to the state of my wet exit skills, so I didn't expect it suddenly to come up as we were on the water and about to paddle away, as it did. I was sent off with an assistant, nominally to quickly perform a wet exit and return to class. I explained the situation and offered to sit out the class, but after some dawdling while the assistant paddled back out to confer with the instructor, it was decided that I could join class without a spray skirt, and for good measure the assistant and I swapped boats, so I paddled her yellow Montauk (IIRC). The class was out on the water, something like half a mile away by the time I returned to them, so I missed much of the class, but I did get some help with my strokes and practiced bracing with the shallow leans I could manage skirtless. The wind tried to blow us ashore toward some grazing cows, and I don't know if this disturbed them or what, but one of them started mooing incessantly, to our amusement.

I'd estimate there were about five or six accidental capsizes in the classes I attended, at least a couple of them happening when the class was practicing leans, which is understandable. I don't know how the others happened, though, since I was nowhere near capsizing at any point outside the bracing/leaning practice. I wonder what portion of the explanation is my having good balance and a feel for the water and what portion is my aversion to risk.

After classes I sprawled out in the sunshine for a nap, read for a little while, and watched champion Greenland paddler Alison Sigethy demonstrate many Greenland-style rolls. It was quite impressive. Those native Greenlanders had figured out a way to roll for any position the paddle might be in at any given moment, including some improbable but artistic-looking ones, and ones including no paddle at all. Googling her name when I got home, I see that Alison happens to have some work in Artomatic, which means my worlds are colliding I have another reason to (re-)visit Artomatic since last week's Dorkbot DC meeting there.

A big cookout came next, and for that I cracked open the quarter-liter bottle of J.P. Chenet cabernet–syrah I picked up at the Brussels airport last year. Having expended a great deal more energy than I do in a typical day sitting in front of a computer, I was hungry, and the food was good. I watched the strobe and flare demonstrations after dinner, learning that the expiration date on a flare doesn't seem to be much of a predictor of whether it'll work or not—actually, I'm pretty sure a much higher ratio of the expired flares worked than did the not-yet-expired flares. I'm told the key is to keep flares in a watertight bag, and keep at least the tidal-waters-legal minimum of three (soon to be four) on hand. I sat by the campfire only briefly before hitting the sack.

Today, Sunday, were more informal classes, most of them on land. First I attended one on packing a kayak for camping; second, I checked out the navigation class. I was disappointed to have missed the demonstration of Greenland rope gymnastics (a.k.a. Qajaasaarneq, which I have no idea how to pronounce), which apparently took place ahead of schedule. The purpose of this sport is to develop and practice skills similar to those used in kayaking, but I can't help thinking of it as a horizontal version of aerial silks.

Camping-wise, I overpacked on food and heat packs, and I underpacked on padding for under my sleeping bag. If I were planning to go camping in the future, I'd definitely get a Therm-a-rest.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
Therm-a-rests are definately a must for camping! (I only started in grad school with a big backpacking trip but have since gotten hooked :) )
Apr. 30th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
glad you had a good time
Apr. 30th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I was afraid you'd be disappointed at my trepidation.

I brought along a little radio to see whether I could listen to the United match on Saturday evening, but it turned out I couldn't tune in to WMET 1160 out there in the sticks. Just as well, I guess.
Apr. 30th, 2007 08:55 pm (UTC)
WMET has horrible reception, so I'm not surprised you didn't get it out there. From what I understand (as I missed the gam - they showed a tape delay after the Wizards playoff game), but I decided to go off in search of dinner.

On an unrelated note, a certain United player may be using the services of my office in the near future

and lastly, skurtchasor says Moooooooooo!
Apr. 30th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
Ah, so now you know how things are down here in Spotsylvania County (or as we locals say, "Spotsy").

Did you get to see the North Anna nuclear power plant?
Apr. 30th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
No, I didn't see the nuclear power plant, but we certainly enjoyed the heated lakewater it provided us.
Apr. 30th, 2007 01:07 pm (UTC)
Boo rudders. I hate rudders. A necessary evil in rough water, I guess, but I prefer to do all my steering with the paddle, so I pull the rudder out of the water when I can...

Dammit, now I want to go kayaking. Thanks a lot. :)
May. 1st, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'd rather do without a rudder, too—more trouble than it's worth.
Apr. 30th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you had a good time :) Both Brian and I have a (pretty thick) Therm-a-rest if you ever want to borrow one. They're not suitable for hiking, but if you're carrying stuff from a car to your campsite, they're not bad.
May. 1st, 2007 04:12 am (UTC)
Definitely better to overpack food than underpack. :)

I originally got a thermarest for the insulation, but I appreciate it because of the cushioning. I've gone out a dozen or so miles with it. They're not very heavy, but you can always get thinner and short ones to cut weight. I think they even have mummy-shaped ones.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )