Thursday, April 15, 2010

BCU Training in Sicily

For sure the first BCU course ever hold in Sicily, maybe the first in Italy. On request of Maremotu Sea Kayak School, Roger Chandler landed in Catania as a British Canoe Union coach. He organizes courses and expedition for Coastal Spirit up in north Wales but this time he worked in Sicily.
A group of five selected Sicilian paddlers was ready to follow for five days the 3 Star Sea Kayak training and assessment, Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning course and the training to have access in the future to the 4 Star Leader Sea Kayak assessment: Andrea, Gianfranco, Giuseppe, Francesco and Vincenzo.

The first two days have been spent along the lava shores of Catania. Day one we start from Santa Maria La Scala, a little fishermen village, and goes to paddle on a calm sea, manoeuvring around the rocky shores and polishing with the help of Roger our paddling strokes. At the end of the day our muscles were a bit aching...

Day two we decided to start from the arbour of Acitrezza and work around the protected area and eventually landing under the castle rock. Towing techniques and an efficient forward paddling was our main objective of the day, with the discovering of the big difference between the Greenland style and the large blade paddles.
Luckily for our spirit a bar was right on the waterfront so we started with good food and drinks and ended in the same way.

Day three, as the program was, we drive  to Capo Peloro, the northeast tip of Sicily, into the Messina Strait. This place is famous for the strongest current into the Mediterranean Sea, changing direction every four hours and running up to four knots in spring tides. 

The wind was locally blowing from south with gusts up to 20 knots, full force 5. On the south side of the cape a dumping surf was smashing the beach and we spent some time to launch and land. The difficult thing of the day was paddling in the wind while towing two rafted kayaks, in an incident scenario that Roger created for our delight. After many hours into the water and a hard work, during the de-briefing, we received the congratulations of our teacher for the 3 Star Sea Kayak award! Yeaaaaah!

Now the problem was to found a more challenging sea and complicated coastline. The weather forecast for Palermo (our initial plan) were not promising very bad conditions, except for a light rain. The only option was the southernmost point of Sicily: Portopalo and the island of Capo Passero.

We arrived in Portopalo (province of Siracuse) late in the morning. An increasing wind from NE was inflating the waves and the channel between mainland and the island of Capo Passero was a chaos beyond our imagination, with clapotis running in furious lines from the crash of NE breakers against a huge swell from SE.

Roger gives us the possibility of an additional coffee and than he gives us three new scenarios. Our leadership in these conditions and self rescue abilities are the work of this apocalyptic day. At the end of the day a huge smile is on our faces, incredulous to have been able to manage the situation...
Last day is mainly theory and, despite the 200 km of distance from Catania, the Lega Navale Arenella of Palermo was the perfect place with all comforts to rule this really interesting Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning course. In the evening, after seven hours of lesson, our brain were well cooked but still enough working to enable us to reach a local restaurant. Ricotta cheese as a starter, Sicilian beer, lovely pasta and fried fishes were the necessary ingredients to recover our energies from the intense five days.

The calm sea of the next morning was perfect for a relaxed paddling.

Thank you Roger for teaching us so many things in a so nice and professional way. While we are thinking to come and learn more in North Wales with Coastal Spirit, you will ever be more than welcome to come in Sicily again, whenever you want.