Carl, with respect to your excellent and well-written letter to the editor and Matt Brose's response, I agree that he got off on a little bit of a tear and completely ignored the very valid and important point that you raised about the advisability of us all taking the concept of seamanship more seriously and becoming the very best mariners that we can be. You've been saying that for a very long time, and I've always been glad every time you raised the issue, because when you get right down to the nuts and bolts of our sport, nothing trumps being a competent mariner, or as Eric Soares puts it, a competent waterman.
I agree with Matt that the boom in recreational and fishing kayaks will result in more fatalities - in fact, it already has. Lots of folks out there today who aren't even vaguely competent paddlers, let alone competent mariners. Whether or not all these incidents, accidents, and fatalities will generate a regulatory backlash is a legitimately debatable point; what shouldn't be a part of any debate is the obvious fact that bad publicity is not good for out sport.
I also agree with Matt to the extent that I view sea kayaking as a potentially dangerous sport. It all depends on the circumstances. I've said on more than one occasion that I would rather be leading a group of climbers on top of Rainier in a raging blizzard than be out on open water leading a group of sea kayakers when things went really sour. In my view, it's no contest.
As to the supposed dearth of fatalities that Matt mentions and attributes to the paucity of paddlers under the age of thirty, I would argue that age has little or nothing to do with it. I was a competent and very safety conscious paddler, climber, and wilderness traveler in my 20's, as were most of the people I knew who ventured into the maw of the great outdoors. Ignorance, reckless behavior, and a wanton disregard for safety are not confined to people under the age of thirty.
I also don't agree that we're necessarily "only a moment of capsize and inattention away from an emergency situation" when paddling on cold water. It's certainly true that any cold water paddler who dresses for a day hike by following the exceptionally bad advice that one only needs to dress for the water temperature if one "anticipates encountering "challenging conditions", puts his or her life at grave risk in the event of a capsize. The same cannot be said of the thousands of cold water paddlers who today dress for the water temperature in wetsuits or drysuits. For the paddler prepared for immersion, capsizing in cold water is, with very few exceptions, not even a noteworthy event. If you want an excellent reason as to why we don't have one hell of a lot more sea kayaking fatalities, you don't have to look beyond the promotion of cold water safety and the thousands of cold water paddlers who now embrace a "no exceptions" rule when it comes to dressing for the water temperature. We've made a lot of progress over the past twenty years.
Keep hammering away at it for the next twenty, Carl.
Edited by ShiverMeTimbers (09/06/11 09:13 AM)
Edit Reason: moved some words around