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So last Thursday, I took a day off from work to take an ACA coastal kayaking assessment. I won’t say what I rated, but I will say I got what I was going for. I need to work on my roll, and there is always room for improvement, but I was able to maneuver the boat, rescue myself, and rescue others.

This all took place on an otherwise gloomy day. It was mostly overcast, but had patches of sun. Basically a series of showers moved north, so we’d have a few minutes of rain, a few minutes clear, and periodically actual sunshine.

This made dressing for the weather a little challenging. The water is still a bit cool, at 60 F, and when the wind kicked up, a wet paddler could get quite cold. Based on practice earlier in the week, I wore my wetsuit with a light paddling jacket over it.

I forget the exact order, but I know we did rescues earlier on – presumably to get everyone comfortable in the water, and prepared to rescue later, just in case. What was funny was that there was police activity on the water right about that time. An NYPD boat sped past, then slowed down until we indicated we were OK, and a little later, an NYPD helicopter hovered over us while we rescued ourselves. We did bow rescues, X-rescues, scoops, and Hand of God, then lined up for drills.

We ran through propulsion and turning: forward stroke, sweep stroke, bow and stern rudders, as well as stern pry, which was new to me. After that, we took a break for lunch, and talked about navigation and making knots.

After lunch, we did figure-eight, forwards and backwards around some pilings in the old marina yard. That was fun, and something I’d been practicing in the run-up to this assessment.

After that, we set out across the river – two or three times. By this point, we were getting scattered showers, all driven by a manageable but steady wind from the south, with periodic lightning. So, we’d start, paddle a few minutes, then turn back due to lightning. Eventually we made it across, experiencing 1-2 foot swells broadside, and that was a lot of fun.

We paddled up a bit, practicing what was left on the checklist. Due to the shifting conditions, not everyone had done everything. We had some more bow dips, rescues, and  stern draws. I tried my roll a couple of times – and flubbed it. No excuses here – I’m out of practice, and while I have rolled my boat, I have not rolled it or any other boat recently. I need to practice.

Following all of that, we went back across the river. By then, the sky was more permanently gray and cloudy. Our instructor landed, and had everyone do a wet exit, just to be sure we could. We recovered landed, and started putting gear away, and got our assessments.

I had a great time, and everyone else seemed to as well. I learned a lot, and practiced a lot. As I told the instructor, it’s always good to have another set of eyes on what you’re doing, and if I didn’t come away with something to work on, the whole things wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable.

Published in 2013 American Canoe Association Backpaddle


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