Archive for October, 2012

The night before the temperature dropped and I woke up to a very cold morning.  Ice had formed in the garden and over the car windscreen.  I was glad that we had done the capsize drills in the previous assessment session! I also made a flask of hot coffee to take along and packed a pair of neoprene fishing gloves that I use for SCUBA diving. As I left, the sun came out, but it still felt very cold.

I arrived a bit late, but soon changed and collected my helmet and PFD from the stores and got on the bus.

We arrived at Resolven Lock and unloaded the trailer. We then had to “portage” the kayaks over the road to put in on the North side.

We then had a brief on signals for communicating which were very similar to those used by infantry soldiers. We were also told to stay away from overhanging trees.

The first section of canal was very narrow and we tried to pass it quickly in case a barge came and we would have to back up.

Several sections were thick with weeds and decaying leaves and plant matter.  These took a bit of effort to find a route through and stank if disturbed too much.

It took about half an hour to reach our turnaround point at Glynneath.

Back at our starting point, we took the boats out and carried them back to the trailer. Then if was back in the bus and home via McDonald’s.

I was sorry that the course ended.  The staff were great and I learned a lot. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to do the 2 Star course in the near future.


This was assessment week.  First we did some last minute practice before taking tge tests. One of my fellow students had opted to take the test in an open canoe, one in a “sit on top”, while the rest of us used kayaks. The canoe test requires the skills to be performed by a pair working in tandem.  I offered to help out during the last minute practice, and another student helped out during the exam.

We demonstrated individual skills like forwards and backwards paddling, draw and sweep strokes.  We did a figure of eight course where we used sweeps and stern rudder to turn without losing momentum then paddle backwards to a fixed point on the bank. We then had an oral theory test before capsize drills.

We all passed the theory and skills test. But was also had to do a journey to complete the qualification. Although I have done some full day journeys before, I opted to join the course for a Half day trip on the Neath Canal the following week.

Back on the reservoir,  this time in kayaks. We practised all the elements required for the test next weekend. This was done by doing a circuit course:
1. Paddle forward the width of the reservoir
2. Draw stroke to the right about 10 meters
3. Paddle backwards the width of the reservoir
4. Draw stroke left 10 meters to the point of origin.

I ended up drifting in circles during the backwards paddle. After some coaching from the instructors, I discovered the faults were:  not holding the paddle in the centre,  uneven stroke depths and uneven power.  I was also told I was edging (or leaning the kayak ) to one side.  After this I began to improve. It’s a good job we only have to do 5 meters for the test!

Just before taking a break, one of our part capsized. He recovered his boat and swam to the shore.  While emptying his boat, he discovered a small frog had stowed away in the cockpit.

After the break we continued to practice and were introduced to the “bow rudder”. This is not required for our test but it was interesting to see how you can rotate the boat quickly like swing around a lamp post. More practice will be required to perfect tis though!

Another fun and diverting day! Looking forward to the next session and the test.

The second session cocentrated on two seat open canoes. We lookes at the parts of canoe : Thwart,  gunwailes, seat,  boyancy bags,  Hull.

I took up position in the stern and we practiced sweep stroke, draw stroke, forward and backward paddle and stern rudder. 

Following some balance games, we changed places. I was surprised at how stable the boat was with both of us moving about. I took up position in the bow. The buoyancy bag in the now left no room for my legs, so I was actually pleased to perform the capsize drill. We both climbed out onto the bank and recovered the canoe.

Still really enjoying this. Next session it’s back to kayaks.

I am really noticing positive changes due to this type of training. My posture is generally better, I can run without a jarring sensation in my back, shikko (knee walking) has improved – although still uncomfortable after a couple of mat circuits. Posture in seiza is much better and I have more “inner” strength when doing kokyu-ho in that position.

The recent kayak and canoe adventure has probably benefited too – I could maintain a better forward posture and felt it fairly easy to use core strength during paddling. My hip flexors were aching badly at the end of the session. I think this is from poor back support and gripping the cock-pit of the canoe too much with my thighs.

The core training also helped get me started with the other exercises I have done this week such as press-ups and sit-ups. Thinking about it – if you can’t hold a plank position for a minute, then doing a minute of press-ups is going to be impossible!