A high of 8°C with rain on Saturday, and a high of 2°C with flurries on Sunday wasn’t what I was hoping for when I signed my husband and I up to get our Ontario Recreational Canoeing and Kayaking Association (ORCKA) Moving Water Canoeing Level 1 certification. But with the proper clothing and preparations we were able to withstand being outside all weekend in the cold and wet weather.
We signed up to take the course through PaddleFoot in Baysville, and the course took place on the Gull River north of Minden at the Minden Wild Water Preserve. This preserve is considered one of the best whitewater runs in the world, and was a designated site for the Pan Am Games in 2015.
Here is a video from one of the participants, Steph, of the otterslide rapids we played in, around and below during the course of the weekend.
Our instructor, Mark Orzel, was amazing. Super enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whitewater canoeing. He was an amazing teacher who wasn’t afraid to get right on the ground or in the water while it was cold out to show us a few things rather than just verbally describe it. He was awesome, and I can’t say enough about his teaching ability and passion. I’d take another course instructed by him any day. He’s also a guide for Black Feather Wilderness Adventure Company so if an adventure is on your bucket list with either Paddlefoot or Black Feather, I recommend a trip with Mark.
We spent the first part of day one going over gear and canoe outfitting (and the absolute importance of wearing a properly fitted PFD, and helmet), moving water principals, basic river first aid and what signs to look for if someone is experiencing hypothermia, how to throw a throw bag and pack the ropes properly. We also talked about planning a trip, getting the appropriate information (maps), and always letting someone know where you are going. We had lunch and then headed down to the river to our playground.
In the afternoon on day one, we went down to the Gull River and went over entering and exiting a canoe in moving water, landing, river rescue, communications, day trip planning, and were then instructed to launch our canoes and head downstream for some skills practicing.
Down the river we worked on bow drawing, cross draws, rutters and the general strategy for the bow person. The stern person worked on drawing, prying and similar strokes of the bow person to make the canoe move in tandem.
We moved closer to the rapids and worked on front ferrying back and forth across the river, and landing in the eddy.
The next day it was cold! It flurried most of the day, but with the proper clothing and moving around we were fine. In the morning we learned about reading a river, retrieving a swamped canoe, canoe over canoe rescue, and S turns in the moving water and eddy turns.
After lunch we practiced our front ferry, S turn, eddy turn, C turn, eddy peel out and back ferry.
B and I managed to keep the canoe afloat taking in some water, while others went over a couple of times. It was great to observe a canoe being retrieved and the skill of swimming a rapid.
In order to get our Level 1, we had to show our instructor all of the moving water skills we had learned. If we did everything to his satisfaction, we’d get our certificate at the end of day two.
At the end of day two, participants were allowed to run the Class 1-2 rapid down the otterslide using the skills we had learned over the weekend. Our new friend Steph went first with our instructor Mark. They went down the first rapid and landed in an eddy, and then did an eddy peel out and down the second rapid to the final eddy. They then front ferried across the moving water. I had to use the technical terms I learned to complete the run, and I’m surprised I was able to describe it! Hey, I did learn something!
I didn’t end up going down the rapid because I was taking photos instead (which I think the participants will be really pleased about), so Steph went down with B. They did the run incredibly! Like textbook. So proud!!
There were two younger participants who were taking the course as part of a pre-requisite for going on a canoe trip to Nahanni in June. They went down the rapid, but ended up going over. It was interesting to see the look on their faces. At first the terror, and then the laughter as they retold the story. It was all in good fun and we got to witness a canoe over canoe retrieval.
Taking this course was a huge deal for me. I had mentioned in a previous post about my anxiety of being in a canoe during my first canoe trip, and I feel very comfortable on flat water now so I decided to take it to the next level. Day one was good and I was nervous for sure, but by the morning of day two I was doubting myself and my ability to complete the final day. My husband was able to talk me out of my apprehensions. My day turned around when we saw two moose on our way to the preserve.
There is no doubt that with more practice my confidence will increase (like it has in a canoe) and I anticipate more moving water paddling adventures in the future. And I can honestly say that I’m not afraid of a little moving water anymore. This year is all about building my confidence.
So, did I pass and get my Moving Water Canoeing Level 1 certificate and complete all the skills taught? You bet!
Day two ended with another bonus! Another moose!