Last month when I took my level 1 Sea Kayaking Course, I had no intention of taking my level 2.  If you read my Level 1 post, you would’ve seen that I had an amazing time at that course!  The instructors were full of knowledge and tonnes of fun and I learned so much!  I gained confidence in my skills, refreshed some of them and learned quite a few more. And, I met some extraordinary people!


During level one, this gorgeous lady walked into the pavilion, dressed to impress with her pretty pink lipstick on.  No one knew at that time, but this lady named Maryann, would accomplish some pretty awesome feats and show us all, if you want to do something, you just do it! And of course, never judge a book by its cover, no matter how pretty it is! 😉

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At the end of our Level 1 training, Maryann was so full of enthusiasm about learning everything she possibly could for her upcoming trip, she suggested a special custom Level 2 course, over Canada Day Weekend.  She had a few people who would do it with her and wanted a few more so there would be enough for a full course.  That’s when the seed was planted in my brain… but it took a while to grow!

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Clearly, it eventually did come to fruition.  James and Dympna, the owners of Ontario Sea Kayak Centre had agreed to take us on, if there were enough interested.  I honestly didn’t think I could get the time off work, but if there was ever a chance, this would be the one I’d have to take, because with the holiday, I would only need to take one day off of work additionally.  Usually the course is 5 days, although not a requirement, OSKC seems to go above and beyond in everything I’ve seen them do so far!  In the end, I couldn’t say no, and somehow I talked my boss into letting me take the day off.  This was exciting!!!! Level 2, here we come!!!!


Dympna Hayes, is an incredible human.  She has followed her dreams to get to where she is today,  and it was truly inspiring having her coach me.  There is nothing I love more than seeing a woman with true passion for what she does, living every day knowing she is exactly where she wants to be, where she put herself, based on her goals, desires and beliefs.  I learned so much from this woman over the four days I spent being mentored by her and I will most likely forever hear her in my head…. “clean the shelf!” ….”coach yourself!”… “engage that core!!” ” use those feet!”  Not too many people can say they were coached by the only Level 4 Certified Female in Ontario… just sayin!!!  😉


James Roberts is paired perfectly with Dympna.  They work with each other to accomplish mutual goals, but in their own ways,  and more than succeed, if that’s possible.  I enjoyed being coached by James, just as much as Dympna, and also learned a tonne of skills from him that I will be using in the backcountry.  James’ coaching style is different, but none less effective, and it was a great honour to be able to learn from him over the four days of this trip as well.

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I left my place in Port Carling at 7am and arrived in Killarney around 9:15.  Along the way I hit a bunny (still heartbroken over that), saw 2 deer, bought my yearly Ontario Parks pass, met up with our group, packed our boats, carried them to the put in at Chikanishing Creek and by 11:30 we were on the water and on our way to our site!  I was elated! It was a gorgeous day, I was with a group of amazing people and I was ready to learn as much as I could!  Our crew consisted of Maryanne and Randy, the most awesome couple ever, Dee Dee their niece, Sophie, one of our favorite classmates from Level 1 and our two amazing coaches, James and Dympna.

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We had a great paddle to our site, paddling through calm waters, windy waters, swells and swamps.  I was already having way too much fun!  When we arrived we had a sit down and a chat about the course. Usually this is done before launching but due to the amount of people that were putting in because of the holiday, we hit the water and they saved the chatter once we ensured we had our site.


We had a fantastic lunch, turkey pepperoni, pepperoni, ham and turkey lunchmeat, bagels, tomatoes, pickles, cheeses and carrots.  Quite delicious indeed!  After lunch we walked out to the shoreline and set up our tents on the rocks.

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This is my brand new Marmot Limelight 2 tent I purchased through Outdoors Oriented. I had set it up at home to check it out but this was my first time using it in the backcountry and I really have to say I love it so far. The setup alone, is so much easier than my previous tent, as I set up most of my tents solo and doing so is really easy with this tent.

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After setting up our personal spaces, we headed back to meet up with the group. We went over the dish washing station and drying stations which were both very cool and then we all sat together and went over the requirements of the Level 2 Paddle Canada program and what we would be covering this weekend.


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James brought out his beautiful tarp and showed us a very cool knot I will most likely use for the rest of my life!  Then we put what we saw to work and put up the tarp together using the knots we learned.

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Once we were all setup we went over some gear info and then James showed us the stoves they use and we got started with dinner.

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Dinner was amazing.  We had a stir fry with veggies and cashews on top.  I think I’m going to gain a few pounds on this adventure! LOL

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The sunset was gorgeous and I went off to walk the rocks and get a few photos.  It had been a long day and I was ready to sleep in my new tent and check it out.   As soon as the sun went down, the bugs came out in full force and you couldn’t even stand to be outside. It was very difficult just getting into your tent without letting in a swarm in, in the process. So after I sat killing all the bugs that came in with me, I went to sleep to rest up for day #2 of level #2.


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I woke up to a very wet Canada Day.  I was sad because so many peoples plans would be ruined today because of the weather. Ours, fortunately, would most likely still remain the same.  We were already going to be wet regardless, so as long as we didn’t have lightening, we’d be okay.  James got some coffee made with his special magic filter and made up some egg wraps for the group.  As I can’t eat too many veggies, I just had bacon, egg and a bit of cheese on mine and it was sooo good!

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Here is a shot of the clouds, which looked really amazing with the rain.


We were told to put on our warm clothes and cover them with waterproof stuff. Most of the group had wet suits but they didn’t during level 1 and as no one had told me they were all getting them, I didn’t get one. It turned out I was the only one without a wet or dry suit but I improvised pretty good.  I wore some dry wicking clothes, tank, short sleeve, long sleeve, then put my rain jacket over top and added my rain pants.  I was warm and with my hat on didn’t feel the rain too much.  James looked a bit like a mounty in his Kokatat dry suit and new Tilley hat! LOL.  He sat on the rocks and showed us the proper way to do a forward stroke, then we hit the water and perfected it!

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We played around in the water for quite some time.  I apologize for any pictures that are a bit water logged looking. I was using my Fuji waterproof camera and it seemed to get a bit waterlogged.  We did some paddling and then did a few rescues so James and Dympna could see how much we’d learned in Level 1.  After we were all very wet (well most of us!) we headed back to camp to change into some dry clothes and do some lessons on land.

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We started with navigation and by the time we’d all changed, the rain had finally stopped. It came back here and there in sprinkles, but the most of it was done now, so we were all grateful for that.

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James explained how a chart map works and what all the necessary icons mean.  He went over tools to use to navigate and showed us how to get from point A to point B.  We were given a sheet of questions to work on and as James and Dympna started our dinner, we worked on the questions as a group and put what we learned to the test.


While we were off practicing navigation, Dympna was making us delicious cheese bread in the dutch oven. She called us over to show us how it was made and how the dutch oven worked.  More toys to buy!! HAHAHA


When dinner was ready we went over to chow down!  The food was so good, once again!  They had made a veggie mix with some type of sauce and then pasta, but due to my colitus issues, Dympna made me a bowl of just pasta with garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese on it. I was deeply touched by this and felt incredible special.  I did try the other pasta, but only ate a tiny bit to avoid issues.


After dinner I took a few more pictures and video of the site.

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Well… more than a few! LOL. It was a gorgeous sky after all the rain and it was truly beautiful!

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At dusk, we all headed into our tents to avoid the bug attacks and get a good nights rest. It had been a long draining day and although I didn’t get many pictures on the water, due to me doing rescues etc and couldn’t, we did do quite a bit out there and I was pretty pooped!

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Saturday morning we were blessed with an incredible sunrise and of course, I was awake to record it all on my iphone.


After I got myself dressed and ready for the day, I headed to our camp kitchen were James was busy making coffee once again, and super duper yummy pancakes!!! Some with blueberries and some with chocolate chips!!! WOOHOO!


We enjoyed our breakfast thoroughly and after we cleaned up we got ready for a day on the water. We had a towing demo on shore before heading out, then we did a paddle to an island across from us and then back to our side of the bay for our timed paddle. To pass level 2 you have to paddle a certain amount of km’s in a set amount of time. We managed to meet the requirements! WOOHOO!  En route, we discovered a site that had a HUGE Canada flag hung high in the trees. I have no idea how they get it up there and I didn’t get a great photo of it, but somehow it inspired James to start singing Oh Canada. Before we knew it, we were all belting out our national anthem, rafted together in our kayaks in the middle of the bay for all to enjoy!! (I’m sure they thought we were crazy, but it was very fun).


After our timed paddle we navigated ourselves into a channel and found a nice spot to stop and have some snacks, use the restroom (lol) and chat about our day.


When we were sufficiently rested we got back on the water and did our towing portion of the course. It was pretty neat to see all our little duckies in a row paddling together.


Once we unattached ourselves from each other we paddled back towards our site.  When we got to a good area close to where we were camped, we stopped to do our wet exits and self rescues.  I was a bit nervous about mine as I didn’t have a wet suit on and the water here is very very cold.  I had practiced my self rescue a few times while I was at the Massasauga   a few weeks ago and it truly helped me.   We were all told to flip over at the same time, so with hesitation, I flipped and I felt my brain freeze in the freezing cold water. I wet exited and performed my steps to get myself back in the boat as quickly as possible.  I must’ve done a good job because when I was back in my boat, I took a quick look around and I was the only one. Then Dympna hollered “that was boss!!!!!” and that was probably one of the highlights of my entire weekend!!!!  I was so proud. I was shaking with cold, and wet, but I was very very proud.  I completed my self rescue and then was told to head back to the site to change into dry clothes with a few others when they were done their rescues. YAY!!!! I am boss! 🙂

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We made it back to shore and got ourselves changed into dry clothes and warmed up again.  Once we were set, we headed over to our sitting area to go over the first aid kit and what we should have in it for a backcountry trip.  It was very interesting and I added a few things to my list I had been missing previously.

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Then funnily enough, James performed a bit of first aid on Sophie!


We took a small break and then headed over to the kitchen area to see what was cooking when we were done.  Dympna had decided to make brownies. OH YES PLEASE!  We all got together and mixed up the ingredients and then put them all into the dutch oven for them to cook while dinner was being made. They smelled amazing and I couldn’t wait to eat them!

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As you can see, they didn’t last very long!! Dinner tonight (which we did eat before the brownies) was white wine mushroom risotto! WHAT? Yes, you read that right and it was totally fabulous!  I have no idea if I would have the patience that James did to sit and stir the pot for what seemed like an hour, but he did it and it was apparent in the taste of the food.  I had never eaten risotto and I was very impressed with it and would definitely be eating it again! Sadly, I was so hungry and wanted to try to risotto so badly, I missed out on a picture of it, so you will just have to imagine what it looked like and how it tasted!


Soon the sun went down and it was the end to another tiring day.  I still didn’t beat the bugs into my tent and spend a half hour eliminating them from my sleeping space before actually sleeping, but better than having them bite me in my sleep all night long, right?

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I woke to another delightful sunrise and took a few pictures.  I went over to the clothes line to see if some of my stuff had dried and found shadflies everywhere. YUCK!

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I went back to my tent after doing my morning exploring and got ready for the day.  Today we would be leaving as soon as we could get packed, eat and hit the water.  The plan was to do rolling today and as the water here is sooo cold, we decided to pack up and head out from our site and drive to Ontario Sea Kayak Centre in Parry Sound to continue with that part of our course.  The water was nice and warm there and we all had to drive that direction regardless so it would make for a much better experience.


I took one more tent picture and then took it down and packed up all my gear. Once I was done I took it to my boat and headed up to the kitchen area to help with breakfast. Today we were having oatmeal with an assortment of toppings we could choose from.  It was so very very good.


Once we were all packed up, I had to grab some of the garbage I’d spotted from some previous tenants. Another task for #CleanUpOurParks !  I took a timed group photo of everyone and then we got in our kayaks and navigated ourselves back to the put in. The improvement in everyone’s strokes and skills were very apparent and we all seemed to sit up a little straighter with our added confidence earned from this weekend.


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I was lucky enough to spot a mink on the way back to the put in. He dove under the water and came back up with a small fish in his mouth. He almost ran into my boat when he resurfaced, so I took a very quick pic and then had to put my camera down to avoid a collision with the cute little animal.


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When we arrived at the put in, it was incredibly busy so James decided he was going to use a side entrance to get us all to shore.  It was alot of fun and a bit scary but they got up on the grass and pulled up their own boats (James and Randy) and then pulled us all up one by one!

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Maryann was last and as usual, the most fun!!!! We unpacked all the boats, cleaned the out and wiped them down.  We put all the gear into piles and then James and Dympna wisked them into rubbermaid bins and put them into their truck. Soon after, we were all packed up and ready to go. Dympna presented us with an option, grilled cheese at their place, or, Herberts Fisheries Fish and Chips. It was a no brainer and soon we were sitting by the water eating delicious fish and chips and chatting about the weekend and what was still to come… ROLLING!!!!!


After our little lunch break, we all got back into our vehicles and headed to Ontario Sea Kayak Centre.  I was greeted by a welcome sign when I pulled into the parking lot. I really love the way they do things here, the right way for sure and I always feel so welcome when I am here! Thank you guys for that!


Once everyone arrived we hit the beach and got ready to learn about rolling. James did a demonstration first and showed us the steps we needed to take in order to get the the final outcome.  I was nervous but really excited and sooo happy to be here in this warm water. It was like bath water after Georgian Bay!

We were given avatars to hold us up until we were comfortable in the water performing the positions we needed to do.


I practiced and practiced and then I was finally allowed to attempt the roll. I didn’t get it totally perfect, but I feel like I did a pretty good job, considering I probably attempted it about 30 times and I was exhausted and water logged.

Our time was up and I had nothing left to give, so we made our way out of the water and towards the showers to dry off and get our debriefing.  Maryann, Randy and Dee Dee had to head out to get back to Toronto, so I stayed until they had their chat with Dympna and James and then went to talk to them next.  To my utter surprise, I was given a conditional pass for my Level 2.  I was told I had to work on 2 things and once I completed those I could show them to James and Dymna and if it was to their satisfaction, I would receive my certificate.  OH MY!!! I was sooo happy I almost started to cry. I thanked my instructors and gave them both huge hugs and made my way to the shower, skipping along happily.  I was one proud paddler!!!!

In our lives, we do things that we love to do. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that there are right or better ways to do those things until we take a class or a course or watch a video that gives us more insight.  For 15 plus years, I have been paddling and had been doing things incorrectly and inefficiently that whole time and had no clue I was doing them that way.  The best advice I can pass along that I received from this course is, if you truly love something, take the time to research it fully and learn everything you can about that passion. There are courses nowadays for almost everything and I am beyond pleased that I decided to take this course with these amazing people.

The course was incredible and it was due to those people that I sought knowledge with who made it that way.  The instructors we had are top notch and the very best at what they do and I can not thank them and my classmates enough for every single thing I learned this weekend, both on and off the water, about kayaking, camping, backcountry, killing bugs, knots and so many other things that I can’t even begin to list them all.  If you have ever thought about taking your Level 2 or even Level 1, I strongly suggest you go for it and take it with these amazing people who know their stuff, inside and out! It is an experience you will have with you forever and you will not regret taking that step to obtain the most knowledge you can get about something you love to do.  The memories you make will last a lifetime and the skills you learn will be something you can pass on to others and encourage them to learn as well, not to mention the confidence you will feel going forward. It’s a win win all the way!

I hope you enjoyed my post and you return to check out what’s coming up next here at Camper Christina!!! Stay tuned for my next post where I take you shopping for kayaks with me and reveal my new baby!  If you have any questions, comments, advice, etc, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Happy Paddling!