Every year the BASK club offers an intensive six weekend "Novice Clinic" to a small group of lucky beginning kayakers. By the time I joined BASK I felt overqualified to be a novice and felt like I had missed out on a nice social experience. After learning to roll this year I felt that, although I was even less of a novice than before, I might qualify to be an instructor. All the instructors were required to attend this instructors clinic. We would be indoctrinated with similar teaching methods so that the students would not be confused by different techniques.
The clinic was held in the Lifeboat Station in Drakes Bay. This is a beautiful building that used to house a permanent staff of Coast Guard personnel to rescue people at sea. Most of the building is a large garage with steel tracks leading right down into the water outside the large doors. A rescue boat would ride a little cart out into the water and splash-down with a head start on plowing around Point Reyes to save seamen from wrecked ships. The back of the building had a large industrial kitchen downstairs and dormitory style rooms upstairs. Plus a large dining/meeting room. I have long wanted to see the inside of this building, and staying there overnight was a special treat. Even if I wasn't planning on being an instructor I would have been tempted to come along just for the experience.
It was the sort of place that would be wonderful converted into a Youth Hostel. The Federal Parks department was holding onto it but they were willing to loan it out to organizations for educational purposes. Our Novice Clinic fit the bill and the instructors have been meeting here once a year for some time now. The only other requirement for using the facility is you have to have your own insurance. Bask used to be affiliated with Outdoor Unlimited, which is an outfitter affiliated with UCSF. But our ties to them have been getting weaker and the school has decided not to cover this activity with their insurance any more. Fortunately the club found another solution: We became a club associated with the American Canoe Association (ACA). Despite their name this is the main organization giving certification classes for sea kayak instructors. And they have an insurance program for ACA events which we are able to use.
In our two days at the Lifeboat Station we went out every day and practiced the different techniques we would be teaching the novices. The forward stroke. The back stroke. The sweep stroke. The draw stroke. The T-rescue. The paddle-float rescue. Rolling is not part of the curriculum because it typically takes longer to learn than we would have with the novices. I was particularly interested to learn the rescues because I had never been exposed to them in the water. I had watched and been unable to believe my eyes a long time ago when I saw Penny Wells somehow drain all the water out of a boat in a flash. I paid special attention and made sure I was a quick study so I could confidently show someone else how to do this soon! The T-rescue involves sliding the swamped boat upside down over your lap. It is easier to do this than you might think and by the time the swamped boat is halfway over yours the water all drains out. Then you flip it right-side up and hold it against your own boat as the swimmer climbs back in. We would make the Novices practice this over and over again.
I was wearing an insulated dive skin, 6 millimeter farmer john, booties, gloves, a polyester fleece pullover under a paddle jacket, nose plugs, ear plugs and my helmet. When it was my turn to be rescued I felt pretty comfortable in the water. In fact I got so warm that falling in the water was sometimes a relief. But the sleeves and neck of my paddle jacket do not make perfect seals and cold water from Drakes Bay did have a tendency to seep in. So I didn't often jump in the water just for the fun of it.