After this was discussed by the club that I ran this trip through (I missed the meeting, I was at my daughters school band performance) there was discussion as to whether or not trips of this magnitude should be posted and run through the club. Fortunately, the Executive Safety Director (or whatever the title was) agrees with me that we absolutely should.
Many of the clubs stick with tamer trips in tamer conditions. It always raises the questions as to what is safe kayaking? I maintain that safe kayaking is when trips, even high standard trips, are planned properly, participants are properly vetted and exits are considered. Granted, an SK V has few exits available, is remote and has potential for BIG conditions before it even jumps up to SK VI. Was in Dave in danger? Perhaps. Were rescues possible? No, not really, until Dave was ejected from the whirlpool. Was this hazard, as well as others, properly and thoroughly communicated to participants as to the possible and potential risks on this trip? Yes. One of the conditions that I had, for all participants, was the submission of a solid trip plan for this trip.
Some will ask - like Strange Magic - what are the acceptable upper limits of safe kayaking? I don't have an answer to that, but I will say that the dynamic nature of the environment on high standard trips always keeps you guessing. We can make our plans, but the sea (or the river) will always have different plans. Proper planning will help you find that margin of safety. Studying the charts of the area, the Coast pilot and/or Sailing Directions will sometimes lend useful information to the plan.
Note in my trip report, that after the first round of capsizes that everyone had a blast making their way through the pass, even if their heart was about to burst out of their chests from fear/exhilaration. Dave's final comments from the trip was that the training that he's had, both through our club and on the outside, of always holding onto your equipment paid off. Now he wants to tune up those sculling braces. Kim's comments were that she realized, as she was preparing to surf a 5' standing wave, that she didn't know how to do that and the 1/2 mile of other huge standing waves around her pushed her over the edge. After reentering her 'yak she abandoned surfing and rode the salty white water through this huge tide race and was just fine after. She now wants to work on surfing standing waves as it wasn't at all similar to her experience to riding coastal waves.
I'll continue to lead high standard trips, both private and through the club in question (I'm the Leadership Chair of our division)and I'll continue to push for higher standard training and trips and to push against the nay sayers.
Paddle it like you stole it!