Monday, June 29, 2015

Maine Navigation

A fair amount of time was spent on practical navigation and trip planning. Toward these ends we engaged a number of activities.

One was simply landmark navigating the waterways near the camp. Along with the Kennebec, there are several smaller rivers and tributaries streaming through the rocks to the sea, resulting in numerous islands and bay and headlands, and requiring various day markers and buoys. So, with a chart, we ought to have been able to easily find our way around on a simple trip.

With a chart. This cowgirl's problem was that she lost her chart case on a previous training event, and and the "water resistant" charts she had printed may as well have been on newsprint. They were shredded under the bungies within minutes of contact with the water, and completely unusable after the fourth re-folding.

Luckily one of the coaches loaned her a chart - which was promptly washed away in surf.

In any event, on a separate exercise, we learned to use our compasses, taking bearings, putting "red in the shed', determining our position from various bearings, and so on. Having read up on this skills it was exciting to practice them, finally, in an environment that offered up the full range: markers, buoys, landmarks, magnetic variation.

We had an indoor lesson as well. Now, no longer learning how to determine where we were, we'd learn to determine where we wanted to go. Here's a chart, here's a topo map, here's an ordnance survey, oh and here are some photocopies of a pilot book. Now, plot a course around Anglesey, or something. We all managed to, but I have to say course plotting by committee is vexing.

From it all, I obtained a more robust understanding of how to use a compass. Plotting courses I felt familiar with, but the work in the field was something I haven't had to contend with to date.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Maine Camp

There were sixteen of us, three instructors and thirteen students, all of varying levels but generally 3 Star / L4 paddlers. About half the camp was from the midwest, paddling on the Great Lakes, with the rest from several eastern locales: Boston, New Hampshire, New York.

The camp itself was an AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) camp situated on Knubble Bay, near Georgetown, Maine, just a twenty minute drive from Bath. We were near Reid State Park, and also the hamlet of Five Islands, and the Kennebec river. The great thing about this area is that many different coastal features are in easy reach of each other: significant tidal ranges, tideraces, overfalls, strong currents with correspondingly strong eddies, islands, beaches, rock gardens, and navigation markers.

We were all there for sea leadership training. Solid paddling skills were required, but the course was more about planning and leading trips. Towards that end, we took turns every morning reporting on the weather, diagramming Highs and Lows and Fronts, as well as the weather itself. We also spent a good half day on charting a course based on charts and pilot guides, and a few hours of practical navigation using compasses, charts, and markers.

The real fun was in the environment though. There was so much variety! And we took turns with each coach, so we were exposed to different teaching and leading styles.

I developed a reputation as the camp coffee maker. There was a large percolating stovepot, about 16 inches tall, with a metal basket and pipe. I tend to be an early riser and when camping, even earlier, generally awake with the sunrise. So, the first morning, I took a stab at making coffee, eyeballing the amount of water and adding about as much coffee as I could remember from when I used a drip brewer. At home I'm all French Press so I really wasn't sure what the right amount was.

It was a hit. Everyone complimented the brewer, and me once they knew, and that was it. I became the camp coffee maker. This involved taking the giant pot out to the pump well every morning and working the handle a few times, then adding the basket and grind, and then turning on the heat. When I looked up how to make coffee in a percolator (on, it summarized the process as having three requirements: water, heat, and no respect for coffee. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

We spent five days in the camp, arriving Tuesday evening and departing Sunday. What followed was a series of adventures, a blur in retrospect, and hence I'm grouping more by topic than chronology. It was great. It was grand. It was Maine. Kayaking in Maine.