Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Coxswains Course - Days 1 and 2

Hi everyone,

Sorry it's taken me forever to get around to writing this.  I came down with a bug during the first two days of the course that gave me a savage cough and left me utterly exhausted by the end of the day when I'd usually try and write.  Anyway, I'm finally grabbing time to tell you about the first part of the course the weekend before last.

As I think I said in the prologue, on the Friday evening Madison, Justin and I drove up to Swan Hill where the course is being held.  Swan Hill is in the North West region, so this course is a combined effort of the NW and North East regions.

The day kicked off with cooked breakfast and a classroom session with Rob, who is teaching the coxswains' part of the course.  Daylight also meant a chance to get a better look at the camp, which very much had a "school camp site" look about it.

Right down to what it was built of!

By 10am we were heading out to the Lake where the weekend's activities were to occur: Lake Boga, a roughly circular freshwater lake administered by my employer.  The area was fairly indicative of where we are in the year.  The lake is at about 45% capacity at time of writing, and the town beside it looked more than a little dusty.

I found myself in a crew with a trainer from the Echuca unit and a coxswain candidate from the Swan Hill unit.  We got along well and it certainly helped me get plenty out of the day.  The Saturday was largely spent on boat-handling skills.  I was pretty pleased to find how much I'd taken in from training on the Goulburn with Anthony:  I was able to get the boat up to planing speed reasonably efficiently, and even able to hold it in place by an object against the wind and the waves quite well.
There was a night exercise on Saturday night, picking up and dropping off drums in the dark.  The task for us was to plan a route beforehand using our navigation training, travel that route in the dark, get the boat inshore with as much guidance as a spotlight could give, and then return to the starting point.  This time I was with two people from the Marong unit, one as assessor and the other as a candidate for crewperson.  I think I did pretty well: the course I'd plotted worked out and was navigable, the handling of the boat was adequate, and nobody was exposed to excessive danger.  There's something good about finding you can do OK at something you'd never have attempted a year ago!

Sunday saw us back out on the lake, this time with some more technical skills to acquire.  A particular focus was handling the boat while approaching a casualty in the water, including while recovering them in a stokes litter.  Naturally, each of us took a turn in the water as the casualty.  The boat looks big from water level!

Encouragingly, a pelican flew across the lake in the course of the day.  Regular readers will remember that I have particular reasons for viewing pelicans as a good omen, especially when connected with boats.

Image from here

It was a great weeekend on any measure (and probably well timed: Lake Boga is now under a blue-green algae warning!).  I'm certainly looking forward to this coming weekend when we complete the balance of the course on the Murray River.

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