There is no time for larking about on five star training, as you can see.
Gordon Brown and Ken Nicol drove us so hard, these two chaps almost wasted away. Poor dears.
Every five-star training with Skyak Adventures is different, tailored to the conditions. Mark Tozer has a good description of a Five Star assessemnt here.
But this is what we did.
Day One. Arrive 20:00 hrs. So that will just be a meet and greet? Oh no.
A five-page paper, taken from a five-star assessment, tackled verbally by our group of four.
No-where to hide. Everyone has to contribute.
Mentally tired, I fall into bed after midnight. And this is only the start.
Day Two. Calm and sunny, lovely paddling weather. So we are indoors.
You might like vectors but they melt my brain. An excellent little paper, devised by George Reid, teaches and tests us in equal measure.
Finally, I think I'm getting the idea.
On the water by early afternoon. So a short day perhaps? Oh no.
Practical navigation. How many strokes to cover 100m? How much time does it take? OK, find that wee skerry on the map.
Lunch. Now find the skerry again. Er, it's vanished under the tide and the landscape is utterly different. What's more, the skerry on the chart is completely different to the skerry on the map.
So let's do some towing.
Contact tows around the Skye Bridge pillars. Improved contact tows (one version with just a short loop of bungee cord - superb!)
Longer tows. Then longer rafted tows with a quick-release system for one, then all three of the paddlers.
Now after 8pm, it's getting dark. So find the skerry again. Is it above or below water now? Because it's way too dark to see it.
How to control a group in such darkness? What if it was fog? Ten pm we're back in the van heading to the curry house. 1am I fall into bed, with the words ringing in my ears, "tomorrow will be a tougher day".
Day Three. It is. Kyle Rhea on a 5.5m tide, zipping at 8kn with an opposing wind. Breaking in and breaking out. Fail to break out and you're on your way to Mallaig. (Bye Simon!)
Absolutely no photos - hands in death grip.
Breaking in to rescue a casualty - slightly different. Clipping the casualty and towing out of the flow into an eddy.
Leadership - position in group, up or downstream?
Out into the bigger stuff, jacked up by wind over tide, for rescues. Leg-hooks. Then getting a casualty with a dislocated shoulder back in their boat. Then an unconscious casualty. All in rough stuff with a buddy.
Much needed lunch.
Then balance. Sit on back deck, spin around, both legs one side, then face backwards, then legs over the other side then back to where you started.
Then stand up. Then sit down - in the boat not the water. Why? Helpful for rocky landing.
Since you've spun yourself around the boat, spin the boat under you!
Sit on the hull. Then spin yourself around again. Then spin the boat back the right way up.
Only Gordon succeeds. That photo shows him half-way through. After starting in the cockpit as normal, he's on the hull facing the stern.
Off the water utterly, utterly knackered. So what now?
Back to the school for the second session on vectors.
Two hours plotting a voyage through the Pentland Firth, very close to a ship-eating tidal race. Early finish at 6pm.
That's because tomorrow is the rough-water day.
As you can see, Gordon has an unusual way of demonstrating the use of a body as a boat.
Armadale. Off the skerries where we filmed the rough stuff for the DVD. Controlling the boat in such conditions. Working with a buddy. Reaching a casualty. Towing in rougher water - into, across and down the waves.
Leadership - position with a group. Then difficult, rocky landings. Find a place you think you might be able get out. OK, do it.
Out into bigger rollers for self rescue. Roll. Re-enter and roll. Then much, much more.
Now my water-logged brain fails to retain anything that happens, except I'm riding the rollers with a huge smile on my face.
In the van, heads drop, eyes close. It's 2pm and we're pooped. Food perks us up. Individual, private debrief, 2 on 1. Action plans.
A marvellous four days. Knackering, but bloody marvellous. And some great ideas for DVD-2.
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