This morning I was reflecting upon the extraordinary luck our community has had in not losing any members due to paddling related incidents. This reflection has prompted me to write something down.
A suggestion / request in advance of our next potential “incident”
Many of us have pushed our own personal limits in past paddling seasons and God-willing we will continue to do so for many seasons to come. We have had close calls over the years and have endlessly dissected them on the bulletin board, in our various face to face meetings and while lying awake late at night. We often debate over the right gear and safety equipment to have. We practice our skills. To varying a degree, we condition ourselves for our sport. We have worked long hours on Pod Paddling Protocols, BOMBER guidelines, etc.
We have spent immense amounts of energy getting ready for our next paddling adventure.
Yet there is one, often neglected and sometimes painful, decision that each of us as a sea paddler must make every time we go out on the water in the company of others. ARE WE PADDLING SOLO OR AS PART OF A POD? Every time we make this decision, it forces us to reconcile two basic truths about sea kayaking that are sometimes at odds.
The first truth is that we are all pilots of our own sea-going vessels. As sea kayakers, we REALLY like our independence. The second truth is that to travel safely across the ocean in conditions as a group requires the commitment of all pod members to keep the group together. I don’t mean "a VHF call away". I mean TOGETHER, such that when a paddler goes down a fellow pod member is literally seconds away… and more importantly, the entire group is immediately notified without any more technology than a raised paddle, a shout or wave of the arms. The pod can then begin to affect competent situation management. If you are “a VHF call away”, you are little more in tune with your fellow paddlers and likely less help than a random fishing boat in the area that happens to be on the same radio frequency.
When you are standing with your friends on the shore about to head out onto the chilly, windswept sea, think about what I have written here. Really, think about it…
Make your decision and turn to your friends and say either:
“I am going to commit to stay within earshot of you today. We will paddle as a team and come home safely”
“I am going to go for a solo paddle today. I will likely paddle to this point and back. I’ll call you when I return to let you know I’m safe and check to see that you made it back too.” -- Your sea kayaker friends will understand. There is a reason they too paddle a boat with only one seat.
The Connyak BBS