Chart Work

Chart Work

It’s easy to become complacent and fall out of practice with skills. I have become so familiar with certain areas of the Solent now, that I can simply check the tide times and weather forecast to know which route to paddle, the rough time it will take and the best time to set out. However this means I’m not regularly practicing my navigation/tidal planning skills and when I paddle a new route or in an unfamiliar area I can end up fumbling my way through my chart work.

This weekend, I took up a last minute place on the BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning Course, run by Owen Burson of Isle of Wight Sea Kayaking. The course was based at the 25th Southampton (Northam) Sea Scout Group base, in the shadow of Northam Bridge.

Group Tasks

Group Tasks

The day was completely shore based with a mix of lectures, discussions and practical tasks. Owen kicked off the day by delivering a session on weather based on the principal that planning a paddle always starts with checking Weather conditions. This dovetailed into tides, then waves to give an understanding of the various conditions you may encounter, utilise or aim to avoid during a paddle.

From here, the course became more ‘hands on’, playing with maps and charts and beginning to look at the various techniques for planning and plotting a route using the various tidal, weather and map/chart based data available to us. This was primarily based around planning one day routes within the remit allowed for BCU 4* leaders award using a nicely organised trip planning sheet that Owen provided. We would study a new skill/technique and then practice in small groups using a range of maps and charts with plenty of opportunity for Q&A built in.

Route Planning

Route Planning

The day culminated with each group being set a 4* assessment task which required all the skills we had been taught to be used and provided an excellent opportunity for those paddlers considering the 4* award a chance to gauge their current level of ability and what would be needed to bring them up to scratch.

The day was crammed full of content, as Owen himself highlighted it would really be more suited to a 2 day course, and seemed to shoot past. For those paddlers who are not interested in pursuing BCU awards, the course is still an extremely worthwhile undertaking as the skills delivered are so vital, and although we utilised 4* assessment materials and discussed this 4* assessments the CNTP course is designed and run as a stand alone course with a certificate of attendance issued on completion.

Having recently attended his REC First Aid Course, I was once again hugely impressed with Owen’s delivery – and the sheer volume of equipment he provides to deliver the course! He has a great, relaxed style of delivery based on an obvious wealth of experience and worked hard to make sure all the candidates were happy and had their needs met.

I left the course feeling pleased that my existing knowledge base was better than I maybe gave myself credit for but also with a wealth of new skills/ideas and a desire to develop them further. I think the way forward is practice, practice, practice until the skills become ‘second nature’ – even if I am paddling a route I know like the back of my hand I think planning it fully will help cement the new skills I’ve picked up.

Highly recommended.

Further Information:
BCU: Course Information
IOW Sea kayaking: Navigation Courses