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New Experiences

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

The last few weeks have held many new experiences for me — fortunately most of them have been good experiences. Allow me to expand.

Canoe Leader Training

Mid-way through April I had been booked onto my canoe leader training course. It is a three-day course that used to be known as 4* canoe, with the aim of training participants so that after assessment they will be able to lead groups of people in canoes in more moderate environments.

What is a moderate environment? I hear you ask.

It is windy lochs and rivers with rapids up to grade 2 white water.

The course was run by Tom Sibbald, with Pete White (from Ardgour) shadowing Tom, whilst the participants were myself, Matt and Emily (both from Nethybridge).

Over the three days we learnt about how to manage and lead groups in different environments, sail in canoes, line boats down rapids, adjust the trim of our boats subtly and so many other things. Basically maximising our capabilities so that we could position ourselves, wherever we like, to effectively look after a group.

The Loch on Monday morning. I hoped it might stay like this for the duration of the course.

On day one, we journeyed from Kenmore to Aberfeldy on the river Tay, a section of river that I am now fairly familiar with. However when Tom wants to draw out learning points you get to see the river in a whole new light.

I challenged myself and found myself in new places on the river and was really happy with my paddling, even if it needed some polishing and an injection of courage

Tom demonstrating efficient steering.

Day two was on Loch Tay, paddling from Kenmore to Ardeonaig, a trip that I had done only a couple of weeks previously on my tod.

We started off looking at some acceleration, turning and ruddering strokes. Even though I have now been paddling canoes for nearly a decade, I still have a long way to go to true mastery and have certainly become sloppy in some of my techniques.

I need to go out more on my own and with peers to challenge myself with some more advanced conditions so that I have to get better! It’s quite humbling to do an honest evaluation of yourself and your skills. It’s even more humbling when someone more advanced than you out-performs you, with ease, in pretty much every way when in a canoe!

For those of you who know me, this is not a blow to my confidence but more a challenge to do and be better. I have now seen and become aware of a higher standard, something to aim towards. The only thing that will knock me now will be the frustration of the amount of time it takes to improve!

Being able to paddle in a straight line seems like a simple task, but add some posts to crash in to and you realise just how wonky your “straight line” paddling really is! It wasn’t even that windy. We all managed with a pretty good success rate but room for improvement before carrying on with our journey towards Ardeonaig.

It wasn’t long before Tom told us we were done with paddling for the day. Why would you paddle down wind when you could sail? So we stopped to look at and discuss various different setups, before trying them out for ourselves.

With our three boat mega-raft, we launched onto the windy Loch and took it in turns at steering, adjusting the sail and manning the remaining solo canoe with its own personal sailing rig. As you can see from the photos, it is a very leisurely means of travelling large distances and well worth taking some time to set up.

We only stopped to try a new technique along the shoreline – tracking. Imagine taking a canoe for a walk and you are imagining tracking, only. It stays in the water, whilst you stay on the shore.

Day three was on the river Lyon, a tributary to the Tay. It is narrower, has less water in it and more rocks! It was great to paddle on a new river and come into it with the confidence from the previous two days canoeing.

We had a superb day playing with what we had learnt already but also continually watching and listening to Tom and Pete to glean as much information and wisdom from them as we possibly could.

At the end of the course, I was well and truly pooped. We had all been paddling for the last three days, so there was a level of physical exhaustion, but with all the learning, discussions, analysing and experimenting going on, my brain was now full!

In my debrief with Tom, he gave me some great encouragement of my current skills and abilities and explained to me some of the steps I would need to take to prepare myself for assessment.

A highly valuable three days and made all the better that I got to share the experience with two awesome people (that always makes everything 100% better and more fun)!

Thank you to Tom and Pete for all your inputs and patience and to Matt and Emily for the banter, laughs and all-round enjoyable three days.

How can you have anything other than fun with these two around?

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