Last weekend saw Chris, Ruth, Claire, Mark, Bill and Nigel from Shrewsbury Canoe Club return to Anglesey for the second part of their BCU 4 star sea training programme with yours truly.
The plan was to use a coastal journey to consolidate everyone's leadership and group management skills, as well as allow for further practice of boat handling skills in close quarter environments. The break between the training days had given the team a chance to reflect on what they might want to work on the most this time.
As such we decided to launch from Borthwen with the intention of heading up the coast towards Trearddur Bay and then returning from where we came from. Force 4-5 Easterly winds created great conditions and gave the group plenty to discuss with regards to leadership techniques and styles. It was nice also to enjoy some autumn sunshine, unlike our very wet day previously.
Each paddler took turns to lead the group, sometimes individually and sometimes in pairs to look at how each approach can help or hinder the journey and the group. A key issue emerged that leading peers with whom you are very familiar with can present very different challenges to when guiding a group of relative strangers. A essential conclusion being that good communication is always essential, and the leader(s) must adopt the most fluid position within the paddling formation.
By now, we had paddled in and around Rhoscolyn Head as well as having explored but wisely avoided going through the White (Bwa Gwtn) and Black (Bwa Du) Arches due to considerable swell. So on reaching Porth Y Garan, the decision was made to take a lunch break and use the time to discuss matters of planning and navigation that are important to sea kayakers on the water.
The return journey, via Rhoscolyn Beacon, now saw the various leaders experience problems amongst the paddling group. The intention being that they would be faced with the kind of things that can and do occur most often rather than incidents of epic proportion. For instance, sea sickness, blisters, leaking spray decks, a missing day hatch as well a leaking boat due to hull damage. All requiring simple solutions that prevent matters from worsening and may well involve everyone in the group to lend a hand in some way.
With everyone patched up, repaired and towed to safety, the team retired to the ambient surrounding of the White Eagle to review the course. Overall, this was seen as a successful day which highlighted a number of matters in relation to leading others on the sea. With a sound paddling plan and clear briefings, so many issues can be avoided before they occur. Good communication and observation between participants on the water can overcome many others. I wish everyone the best of luck as they work towards assessment.