I usually learn something from each issue's "Safety" column but I occasionally find myself wagging my finger at the author and far too smugly reminding myself that *I* wouldn't paddle offshore without a sprayskirt or *I* wouldn't paddle with my PFD under the deck bungies. The August column struck me differently though--these paddlers were quite experienced. They clearly had thousands of miles more under their keels than most of us. So what really went wrong?
I was struck by the fact that although they made some what now seem obvious equipment and navigational errors, they often noticed these errors as they were happening! Rob felt misgivings about the route change and early on noticed problems with the ferry angle towards the islands. Ian broke a rudder pedal and had to feel misgivings about his ability to keep up. But in the interest of "avoiding conflict", they didn't speak forcefully enough. We aren't told specifically that the conflict they were avoiding was with John, but it seems likely, due to the fact that it was his navigation suggestion they were questioning. Fortunately for all of them, they were smart, skilled and equipped enough to summon help, and the fishing vessel and Coasties performed admirably.
This is a fascinating area for risk-assessment research. Do subtle problems with group dynamics and interpersonal relations cause as many accidents as lack of knowledge, training, or experience? Perhaps. I know I find myself sometimes unwilling to speak forcefully to a group leader I know to be more experienced. I hope this story will stay with each of us next time we are hesitant about speaking up while on a trip.
Bravo to Matt Broze for the fine article. Bravo to "Rob" and "Ian" for being willing to engage in fascinating dialog about trip they might rather forget. And bravo to SK Magazine for a fine long-running "Safety" series.