Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Safety Course - Portsmouth Kayak Adventures




So my rock climbing girl buddies and I are set to go rock climbing and kayaking in Acadia, ME in September. Only problem is I don't have a kayak. So I figured I'd rent one. But there's gotta be more to just renting a kayak. I mean, just how the heck do your use one? So I looked around for some basic lessons and found Portsmouth Kayak Adventures. Their website has loads of photos and well, they're a close drive for me. I was looking forward to learning basic paddle strokes but more importantly, I needed to learn Wet Exits, and Self-Rescue as well as Assisted Rescue techniques. So I signed up for the $75 course and it fit the bill to a 'T'!

The morning of my lesson was pouring but I eagerly headed up north as I didn't want to miss my lesson. When I got to PKA the rain had stopped but it was still cloudy. I met with Kendall, paid my fee and signed some paperwork. Kendall had me use a 14 feet Perception kayak and showed me how to carry it into water and how to enter and exit. She showed me how to fit the paddle to my armlength/stride and how to grip it. And she fit me for a PFD - Personal Flotation Device.

We got into water and I found it very easy to paddle my kayak. Kendall commented that I had a good stroke. The kayak can tip and roll, but more so if you really lean over, as Kendall pointed out. I found that it was wobbly as I hadn't gotten my centerpoint of balance. So I used the skeg and that helped a great deal. We paddled across the harbor and I learned and practiced paddle strokes for turning, backing up and stopping. I also learned about blade placement.

We then paddled east to under the Sagamore Avenue bridge and to a spot to practice wet exits and rescue techniques. Kendall demonstrated a roll, wet exit and self rescue a couple of times, then it was my turn. I admitted to Kendall that I was nervous about being upside down under water. But she assured me that I would be alright and that she was right there for me. She also assured me that my PFD would make me "pop up" out of the water! The water was a bit chilly so I kept my (hiking) winter base layer top on over my swimsuit.

I rolled into the water, exited my kayak and sure enough, my PFD made me pop right out of the water! I righted my kayak, got back onto it and used the portable pump like Kendall had demonstrated. I tell ya, pulling yourself out of the water and onto your kayak isn't easy! Also, I had forgotten to tap the sides of the kayak a couple of times before my wet exit. So in the water I went again! This time I wasn't nervous rolling or being upside down under water. Btw, tapping the sides of your kayak when you roll under is a way to let others know that you have capsized and are alright. To right your kayak push the end of the kayak up from under water. As the tip of the kayak is out of water, quickly turn it over so that the kayak is right side up.

After practicing self rescue technique a couple more times Kendall demonstrated an assisted rescue technique called the "X Rescue".  When it was my turn to play rescuer, Kendall capsized her kayak. I paddled up to her and grabbed one end of her kayak and she grabbed the other end. As she pushed down onto her end, I lifted my end up onto my kayak. I slid her kayak so that the cockpit was right over mine (hence the "X")  and let the water drain out into my cockpit. Then I turned it over and slid it back into the water right up against to my kayak. I made sure the stern of her kayak was up against the bow of mine, so that I could make certain that she got back onto her kayak safely.  To hold her kayak steady while she pulled herself up I grabbed both sides of the cockpit while leaning most of my weight onto her kayak. Kendall is my size so I didn't have to put all my weight over her kayak to steady it. I'd probably have to use all my weight for someone who is much heavier than me. The X Rescue technique is useful to know in case you ever need to assist another kayaker who has capsized.

As we paddled back to shore the sun came out. The 1.5 hour lesson went by quickly and Kendall was happy that I had fun during my lesson. She explained about the different types of kayaks and recommended a kayak length and brand for me. After changing out of my wet clothing, Kendall gave me her business card with two brands of women's PFD style she recommended. I'd like to get my own PFD, one with pockets to keep my keys and iPhone. I'm also hoping they come in a bright pink or purple color! :P Kendall recommended Stoloquist and Lotus brands.

I would highly recommend this Safety Course. The folks at PKA were friendly and professional and I plan to take more classes from them. And I especially feel confident about renting a kayak for my trip to Acadia! :)


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