Adventurous training (AT) is key to maintaining the operational effectiveness of the Royal Navy... it pushes individuals out of their comfort zones and develops confidence, courage and motivation. A contingent from DMG(S) in Portsmouth recently undertook an AT activity and in this blog, A/LNN Hyde highlights the Unit's experiences of the sea kayaking expedition...
DMG(S) Ex Kernow Paddle: Kayaks, Capsizing, Concussions and Cake.
By ALNN Hyde DMG(S)
Exercice Kernow Paddle consisted of sea kayaking adventurous training run over two separate weeks. During the first week, DMG(S)’s budding adventurers ventured on Exercise Kernow Paddle down to Falmouth in Cornwall. This was a fantastic opportunity for interprofessional networking, development and teamwork among the three services and ranks within DMG(S).
The week started with meeting and collecting kit at the training wing at HMS Excellent and getting taught how to properly stow and tie down the kayaks to the trailer. This involved our Army and RAF counterparts staring blankly at the mention of a round turn and two half hitches, so after a quick teaching session we moved on to the 5 hour drive. We arrived at Tregedna Farm in Falmouth which was to be our base and home for the week . After our initial brief we then went on to cooking duties and getting familiar with our accommodation.
On Tuesday we were up and out the door travelling to RNAS Culdrose Watersports Activity Centre at Falmouth Marina to get suited and booted for the day ahead. We were given a quick introduction on kayak maintenance and the basics of sea kayaking (with a thrilling lecture on why it is not a canoe and it is a paddle not an oar)! We got onto the water at Falmouth Marina, getting our balance and getting used to basic paddling. After about 3 minutes on the stillest water in the world, Cpl Carter (Army) capsized and our first sea kayak rescue of the day commenced. After this impromptu teaching point we began our first leg of the journey from Falmouth Marina to Swanpool beach about two and a half miles away.
Moored in Falmouth Dockyard was HMS Echo, not the infamous RFA Argus, which we paddled around and ventured onward. After coming out of the calm, still water at the harbour we had to battle with the wind and tide to reach our destination, which was inevitably, a café with tea and cake. After refuelling, giving our arms a quick stretch and a teaching session on how we could better paddle, we were back on the water to make the journey back with the wind on our backs, which you think would be helpful. It wasn’t. The waves were quite choppy. CPONN Connett was the first to capsize followed shortly by Cpl Samuels and lastly Cpl Carter…again. As I was the closest person to Cpl Carter, and the instructors were busy fishing out our other oppos, I paddled over to assist him, battling the waves and the tide and naturally, as all good sea rescuers should, smacked him in the head with the front of my kayak. After a quick rescue and the administration of a plaster we resumed our kayaking, paddling past CPONN Robinson who was administering some anti-emetics to Cpl Elliot who was suffering the curse of “le mal de mer”, seasickness. After returning to the harbour it was training time and our turn to capsize and help other people out of the water.
Wednesday the weather took a turn and was too rough for us beginners so we hopped into the power boats and had a tour of the Falmouth coast line and experienced a Sea Safari. We saw some seals and I lost my hat. We conducted a hat overboard rescue and carried on along the coast. On our return we got a chance to walk around the stunning Falmouth town and inevitably grab a pasty.
On the Thursday we were back out on the water as the weather had slightly improved, this time setting off from Loe Beach. We paddled up the River Fal, making our way to the half-way point, inevitably being a café with tea and cake. As we were paddling Cpl Samuels capsized…again. So having been trained and being the closest person to him I paddled over, ready to help my oppo out of the cold and back into his kayak. Once again, being the good sea rescuer that I am, I accidentally smacked him in the head with the front of my kayak. Once he was back in and we got to the half-way point we learnt how to tow people and then practiced towing each other. Again on the return, as we paddled out of the river the waves and tide were no longer in our favour and we battle on back to the coast. After the exhaustive paddling we were ready to head back to Falmouth and have our final celebratory meal before the drive home the following morning.
DMG(S) now has a small elite task force of sea kayakers that can rescue capsized people and tow them back to safety. This trip was physically tiring and emotionally demanding when you had been paddling against the waves and seemed to not be making progress. We have grown as a unit and furthered our team working and communication. This adventurous training was highly enjoyable and was run again the following week with plans are for further sea kayaking AT next year. Lastly the most important lesson I have learnt is that I probably should not be the first on scene as I will undoubtedly accidentally smack people in the head with the front of my kayak.
With grateful thanks to A/LNN Hyde for this article submission. You can see more photos from the expedition here.