Paddle Canada Level 2 Skills Course – Part 2

Paddle Canada Level 2 Skills Course – Part 2

Continued from previous post

Day 4 As the French guy on the radio weather forecast said, “pluie pluie pluie fort”. Oh man did it rain – so much so that it made it hard to remember that we were ever under drought conditions in the summer. As we were driving through the beautiful Sunshine Coast (somewhat false advertising on this occasion) the wind also seemed to get stronger, with debris from the trees on the road – were we crazy or foolhardy to still be heading out? The good folks at Source for Sports in Sechelt certainly thought so – when we stopped for a couple of last minute items from their great store we received some very funny looks when we informed them what we were heading to do. We resolved to make our final decision when we got to Egmont and could look into the eye of the storm, so to speak.

The water at Egmont was surprisingly calm considering the wind we had seen on the drive, and whilst it is pretty protected in the harbour, we had expected more. As a group we decided to head out around the headland to really check out the wind in the more exposed part of the Inlet. It took a while to get ready – packing boats, getting into drysuits and collecting all our gear was made harder in the driving rain, but everyone was in a positive mood and excited about getting out there.

Paddler in drysuit and paddlegear

Amy ready to go!

And once we did – just WOW. The scenery around the Skookumchuck rapids and into Sechelt Inlet is a Pacific Northwest idyll. Fir trees, rocky cliffs, waterfalls and the wildlife – WOW again. We saw so many birds, seals, kelp beds and more it was just incredible. Don’t get me wrong, Deep Cove is stunning, but this had a more remote, rugged draw to it that was just breathtaking.

View of the Sechelt Inlet

Rather damp view of the paddle!

It was a good thing the scenery was so beautiful because it distracted us from how strong the weather was. We had timed it so the current helped us, but for the most part the wind and rain were in our faces and it was relentless. Another distraction as we were going along was the appearance of a sea lion playing in the current. Mike had described them as the grizzly bears of the ocean, and it was easy to see why – compared to seals they are huge!! Amazing to see.

I’m not going to dwell on the hard parts of the paddle [most of it] – suffice to say that we arrived on the right side of the shoreline we intended to camp on in diminishing light, so made the decision to make camp while we could still see. It was still raining hard, so setting up the tarps under which our tents would be set up was the first order of business. Everyone stayed in their drysuits to do so, and we must have made a funny sight if anyone had been there to see us! Once camp was set, the next priority was getting dry and eating as it had been a gruelling day. The necessity for waterproof trousers was brought home to me on this trip and are first on my shopping list before another trip!

Our chosen campsite had an added bonus of a wooden lean-to which we used as shelter to hang out in – once we’d put a tarp over it to stop the leaks anyway! We cooked dinner under it, ate under it and hung out talking about the day. I freaked a couple of people out with the suggestion that our setting was reminiscent of a good horror film – a group of people, out camping in the middle of nowhere in the rain…not sure that went down too well. Nevertheless we stayed until the cold got a bit much, when we headed to our tents and a well deserved bed, where we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of rain hitting the tarps and the promise from Mike that in the morning he was going to show us some “cool knots.”

Day 5 What a difference a day can make – in the morning, the Inlet looked completely different; the rain had dissipated, leaving a flat calm, and it was just stunning. True to his word, after breakfast Mike showed us his ‘cool knots’ which will be incredibly useful for tying up pretty much anything, and we gathered our gear together and headed back out into the Inlet, and I for one was really sad to be leaving such a beautiful spot.

Sechelt Inlet headland

Sechelt Inlet headland

We mostly paddled close to shore on the way back, which gave us plenty of marine life and wildlife to look at, and the paddle back passed quickly. Isn’t that always the way? Mike challenged us with practicing some towing, and it was fun to take a break and enjoy being chauffeured. I took in the sights along with some chocolate – everyone loves Ritter Sport with Cornflakes!

Practicing towing a paddler gives a chance to relax

Taking advantage of being towed!

Our last challenge, and for some people the hardest part of the course, was to go through the Skookumchuck rapids at full ebb. Now the rapids weren’t running at their strongest (16 knots), but the 5.8 knots we encountered sure made themselves felt. Considering everything we’d been through the day before, you’d think that this part would be a breeze, but the difference between paddling against a headwind and direct waves to paddling in current is huge. I found it pretty unnerving to paddle in the current – to feel your boat just get pulled one way and then another was hard. Luckily Mike and Mike were on hand and their clear direction meant that once you’d got over the first yank of the current and learned how to deal with it, trying out crossing the eddy lines was pretty fun.

After about half an hour of playing in the current (definitely not long enough for Spencer), we set off for the final part of the journey, and headed back to Egmont. I got pretty quiet on this part, partly due to being pretty tired, but I was also thinking on everything we had accomplished on the trip. Like Frazer had said the night before when we were going over our hard paddle – it’s not like I feel like I have to challenge myself with conditions like these on every paddle, but it’s good to know that you can deal with them when they do arise. Having completed the course I now feel I am so much more prepared to paddle in conditions, and to actively enjoy them! I can’t wait to get out again and explore more of this beautiful coastline that I am so privileged to live on.

Finally – thanks so much to Mike and Mike for being such fantastic instructors. You guys taught us the skills we needed, but not only that, you were excited to be teaching us which goes a long way in encouraging us to push ourselves, and it gave us the confidence that we could do it. Thanks also to the other guys on the course – everyone got on great and it was a super fun group to paddle with. I can’t wait to get out on the water again soon, no matter what the conditions.

UPDATE: We will be running another course in April time – stay tuned to the course page here for details!

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