We all know that it COULD happen and we had a vague sort of plan about checking for our buddies and blowing a whistle but I don’t think any of us really knew what it would feel like to capsize and how we would react and if we would know what to do!! So on Saturday 29th April a group of dragons loaded a Canadian canoe borrowed from Port Edgar Watersports (Thank you for the loan!!) onto Pauline’s car and set off for Queensferry High School swimming pool.
As the dragons gathered in the foyer of the swimming pool there were some nervous faces – we were very unsure about what was about to happen. However our trainers, Paul (Manager of Low Wood Watersports near Windermere) and Louisa and Rob from Windermere Paddlers for Life were very reassuring and no-one felt under any pressure to do anything that scared them.
So what did we learn?
1) The difference between a buoyancy aid and a life jacket
2) Just how heavy fleeces and hoodies get when they are wet! The advice is to wear light layers of nylon sports performance type clothing topped off with a dry cag for wind proofing.
3) Our buoyancy aids will keep us floating but an unconscious person could float face down - so we need to look after each other in the water!!
4) We can link arms to make a circle to help keep warm and support weaker swimmers or an injured paddler in the middle of the circle. This also makes us more visible to rescuers and helps keep spirits up!!
5) It is safest to stay with the boat unless it is drifting into danger.
6) How to make a line of swimmers using your legs to hold onto the person in front of you and your arms to swim backwards so that everyone stays together and weaker swimmers or anyone who is cold or hurt can be supported by the others.
7) We all tried ducking down and coming up under the capsized canoe – there really is enough space there to breathe comfortably and it’s also much warmer under there!! An enormous well done to Fiona and Pauline- they were both very nervous but had a go and came out from under the boat with big smiles on their faces - that takes real courage and I am so proud of them!!!
8) We tried capsizing from sitting in the canoe and realised just how quickly the boat can go over - especially when it is full of water!!!
9) We learned how to use a rope to pull the boat back up the right way and then bail her out.
10) We all had a go at throwing a throw line - I found this very useful - I had never been sure what to hold and what to throw!!
A really big well done to all the dragons who completed the training!! Even those who were very nervous at the start managed to have a go at everything – showing real courage in overcoming their fears!
It was a day full of friendliness, support and laughter and we all came out with a real sense of achievement.
Last but certainly not least we owe a big thank you to Paddlers for life, who paid for the training session and Paul, Louisa and Rob who gave up their weekend to train us!!!