As part of my Outdoor Leadership degree program at UAA we are required to take six, one credit outdoor classes during our program. This spring I enrolled in the Beginning Sea Kayaking class.
All the outdoor classes are set up in the same way; a couple sessions in the classroom to go over trip planning, introduction to gear, and signing countless forms and waivers. A couple days of practice. In this course we spent two nights in the pool practicing paddling skills and self/team rescues, and then a field trip.
We were supposed to go down to Seward to paddle to Caines Head but the weather was bad and we changed our plans at the last minute and went to Kenai Lake for the weekend.
While I had a great time, it was a learning experience. Here is an assignment that I had to submit for the class called ‘self appraisal journal’. It is a college class, for a grade, so I did have to some homework!
Here are some photos of our trip:
This past weekend was an eye opening experience for me. Going into the class I thought I was very comfortable on the water, with spending many trips on the white water in Colorado kayaking. But what I soon realized is it has been more than 12 years since I have been in a kayak and it took some getting used to again.
During the pool sessions it was obvious that age is catching up to me and I was not the spry young man that I used to be. That is disheartening. Spending hours and days out on the trail mushing dogs, I am totally comfortable in that environment. When I entered the pool I suddenly felt like the proverbial fish out of the water. I was comfortable with my swimming skills, both with the PFD and without and felt no discomfort in the deep water and even playing the polo game. I felt comfortable with the paddle work in the pool in both the single and double boats. Where things started to go badly was when I attempted a self-rescue. I just could not get up in the boat. This became extremely frustrating to me and I started to push myself too hard trying to get into the boat and knocked a front tooth loose on the boat. I vowed at that point that I would do everything in my power not to flip the boat on the trip. I did however feel comfortable on the assisted rescues and felt confident I could both rescue myself and come to aid of my fellow travelers if needed.
The first day on the water at the lake was extremely frustrating. Less than half way in the foot peg straps came loose and I did not have a good way to steer the long double boat heading into the wind with Gabby up front. In hindsight, we did not work well together as a team and I was unsure what to do in the back of the boat with my teammate up front. When we decided to pull onto shore and adjust the foot pegs it was much better steering the boat and I became much more confident in our abilities.
The hike was a great experience. Again this is my element. I feel totally comfortable walking any distance and can keep up with the pack of travel partners with no problem. The only issue I had was wearing the wrong footwear. Only having soggy Bogg boots, rather than hiking boots.
The second day on the water was a much better experience and I really enjoyed the time out. Sam and I worked well together with the only issue being mis-strokes of the two paddlers. It took a bit of getting used to in keep the cadence of my paddle partner and also controlling the rudder. I mentioned to Sam it was a bit like learning how to drive a stick shift again. I told myself at the end of day one of paddling that I was going to “master” the double boat before attempting a single. I think I am comfortable in saying that I did that, at least in the conditions that we were faced.
I thought the second day on the water was a cool experience. I loved seeing the bald eagles on the cliffs and paddling in the rain and wind. I thought it was cool to see the snow slide. I had never seen one of those before.
What I felt most uncomfortable with was staying in camp itself. Driving back, admittedly I began to second-guess my degree path. I felt extremely out of place with a group of campers that were my kids age. I am not sure how to best move forward as I know that I will be spending a lot of time outdoors with people much younger than I. My natural inclination is to become more of a teacher to these young students versus a student myself.
Overall the experience was a decent one. At the end of the weekend I feel learned a few things and I am at least capable of handling myself in a sea kayak. I am not sure if I am ready for a solo expedition but I am comfortable enough to do it again.
I will rate myself on a scale of one to five on some of the skills that we learned on the water in the pool and on the lake.
- Lest Proficient 3. Average Proficient 5. Proficient
- Safety: 5
- Risk management and hazards: 4
- Equipment and selection: 4
- Trip planning: 4
- Transporting kayak: 4
- Preparing to paddle: 3
- Boat handling: Day 1—2, Day 2—4
- Basic strokes: Day 1—2, Day 2—4
- Safety skills: Pool—2, Lake—3
- Environmental impact: 5
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