: At all times every member of the group should know where every
: other member is and how they are doing.
A couple thoughts in response to Jon's timely and provocative challenge and Nick's insightful discussion of "leaderless" group behaviors.
First, I am not one who believes this is a waste of time. It is just what we ought to be doing as we head in to the windy cold months of our year, when risks are exponentially greater.
Having said that, I also believe we will never be categorical in our responses to safety measures. We are dimensional creatures in all our behaviors. If a discussion like this moves us to agree to practices which move us, for however long, from an average of 45 on the Safety Scale to 71, that is a good thing. And if we decay in our resolve over the ensuing months, then we ought not admit to futility. We just need a booster shot.
With this in mind, not surprising, I would see the quote from Nick at the top as a categorical ideal that could never be realized in practice. Zooming waves in a tidal race, speeding ahead on a one way run in a westerly blow down FIS, drawing in our personal radius of awareness in tough scary conditions, racing to get back to the launch site for reasons of personal conditioning or informal competition, spontaneously moving off to an eddy to rest or tend to gear, and the natural tendency of rough wind and sea to separate paddlers all conspire to confound this aim of constant vigilance.
Now, there are two types of teams: independent (like the wrestling or debate team where each is out there essentially alone to contend) and interdependent (like volleyball or football teams where roles are very different, complementing strengths and covering weaknesses). A sea kayaking team is largely comprised of solo practitioners out for, in varying measure: exercise, comradeship, adrenaline, the sights, use of cool new gear/boats, rolling practice, love of the sea in all her aspects, and/or sharing lunch on a remote beach. To the extent that we are an interdependent team, on the other hand, we rely on one another to be vigilant of our safety and save us in a swim or other mishap. The crux of the matter is that there is a constant tension between these interdependent team roles and what we ventured out there to do as solo paddlers.
Acknowledging our interdependence out there, we yet have no formally assigned specialty responsibilities as a football team might. But, that does not mean that the members don't unconsciously assume that one or two will be responsible for comprehensive vigilance, counting and recounting, and high risk rescue. And, to some degree, one or two group paddlers will assume these roles as a matter of course - all without deliberate delegation. Some will always be watching more than others. Some will play and tend to their own concerns more than others. Players on one outing may find themselves sheparding with a different mix of folks on the next. Is this fair? Is this wise? No and no. Can we deliberately create and assign roles to promote vigilance and rescue capability on everyone's part? Can we agree to constrain our spread in risk situations so as to promote safely? Yes and yes.
I have seen Jon and Nick, on just routine scanning, each note a swimmer at the furthest extremity of visibility out in the tidal races and effect difficult rescues. However good though, they are not perfect in this regard. And, the next time one of our number might just slip away, unnoted - until some asks, "Hey, have you seen...?" There are measures that can be taken to share this burden of noticing and rescuing and reduce risk on outings. It is not much of a challenge to lay out good suggestions. What is hard is resolving, as a team, to do it and stick to it. Our last revival of safety consciousness came up with the BOMBER acronym. Some aspects of this have fallen by the wayside. But, some of the items we still attend to, many of us anyway. Not a waste of time. Will anyone reading this thread be at least a little more mindful for the safety of their fellows on the water this fall and winter? I think yes. How much better off we'll all be, just taking the next steps: adopting some guidance we can each and all affirm at the launch and largely adhere to on the water.
The Connyak BBS