Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby Debbie » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:45 pm

Hi Fellow American. I've lived in Scotland for the past 17 years with my Scottish husband and the paddling here is magical but sometimes difficult. Trip grading in the most widely used guidebooks in the U.K. (including Mark Rainsley's excellent "Southwest Sea Kayaking") use the following grading system:

Grade "A" - Relatively easy landings with escape routes easily available. Offering relative shelter from extreme conditions and ocean swell. Some tidal movement may be found, but easy to predict with no major tidal races or overfalls.
Grade "B" - Some awkward landings and sections of coastline with no escape routes should be expected. Tidal movement, tidal races, overfalls, crossings, ocean swell and surf may be found on these trips. They will also be exposed to the weather and associated conditions.
Grade "C" - These trips will have difficult landings and will have no escape routes for long sections of the trip. Fast tidal movement, tidal races, overfalls, extended crossings, ocean swell and surf will be found on all these trips. They will be very exposed to the weather and conditions, therefore require detailed planning and paddlers to be competent in rough water conditions. With this considered, the journey may require good conditions for the trip to be viable.

The BCU 1 to 5-star personal qualifications relate to paddler competency while the above relates to grading the sea conditions.

Most likely, the rescued paddlers would've known this was a Grade "C" trip, or the very least known it was one of the more difficult trips. Having started paddling with a club myself and eventually organizing club trips with my husband Stew, deciding who should or shouldn't go on a particular club trip is a potential minefield. Some beginners want you to decide for them whether the trip is suitable for them while others want to come along regardless, whether you feel they are ready or not. Some find it reassuring to be told "it's not for you" and others are highly offended even if told nicely. Some organizers don't even want to make that decision and let everyone make their own decision hoping to fall back on the false sense of security of "safety in number". So, in the end, it's a nightmare to organize club trips. Good leaders know the capabilities of their group and plan trips accordingly because your group is only as strong as the weakest paddler. In the end, look up the weather and surf sites yourself, work out the tides yourself and don't ever place your life blindly and completely in someone else's hands.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby MikeB » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:10 pm

There is another commonly used way of designating trips, as used by the SCA and at least one club - as follows, this from the SCA website:

"In order to give you some idea of the type of trip and conditions you might experience Trips are graded from A (lowest) to C (Highest). They can vary from a day paddle on a sheltered inland loch to the exposed headlands, cliffs, crossings and tide races among some of Scotland’s rugged coastline and islands. If you are a newcomer you should start off on a Grade A trip so that you can judge your capabilities against other paddlers and minimise the risk to yourself.

Grade A is in sheltered water. Participants should be capable of paddling 20km (12 miles)per day in Force 2/3 conditions.

Grade B is in more challenging waters and may include tidal streams, exposed headlands, and open crossings between islands. Participants should be capable of paddling 25km (16 miles) per day in up to Force 4 conditions.

Grade C Participants should be capable of paddling in more difficult conditions than Grade B for a longer time."


The problem for an organiser is of course trying to make sure that a participate unknown to him is actually capable of even an A trip. On the day, that A trip may well have become a B trip - and making the decision to scrub a trip half-way through it because conditions have changed is a really hard decision! Certainly harder than deciding to scrub the trip before it starts if conditions are poor.

I've had to do it once or twice - and that's a decision made by trying to put myself in the "shoes" of the person who is either the least experienced, or is having the most trouble with the trip. That may sometimes be me! I hate being out with pals who either don't seem to take any account of how others in the party are faring, or who want to press on regardless in conditions where it's likely to get dubious.

But then, I'm old and cautious. Mike.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby Owen » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:57 pm

Aren't the SCA and pesda guidebook A,B,C, grades the same? I must admit I never take any notice of such grades, how can you grade the sea? I just think "do I want to go paddling there", if I do then I'll go, if someone is running a trip there I'll go along, if not I'll run my own trip.

I think there's far to much reliance put on leaders, e.g. I've read on this forum someone writing that he wouldn't paddle a certain streach of coastline with a group of his mates but would with Nigel Dennis. Why? Nigel Dennis or any other guide for that matter can't paddle the kayak for everyone in the group. This "my hero's leading so I can go anywhere" attitude is what's behind so many coach/guide lead trips getting into difficulty. As Debbie says, work the tides out for yourself, make your own decision, you are after all captian of your own ship.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby MikeB » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:32 pm

Yes Owen - I'm with you on much of that. I do think though there is a difference between going out with a few people I know well, and "running a trip" for a group of people, some of whom I may know, others not.

Certainly if a trip IS being led (in the formal sense) then there's a big distinction. All that said, even in a group of friends, there is a lot to be said for "someone" being the "lead" if and when things are going pear-shaped and there's no time for that nice democratic group decision making!

The problem with each individual makign their own decisions about tides, sea state and such like comes when some of those people don't have the experience (or the knowledge) to do it. That's when they like to be with someone who does, and hopefully someone who'll help them to learn those skills.

I've not got Mark's book, but Scottish Sea Kayking uses a slightly different grading system in that it references distance per trip, probably because of the way the book is structured - The Outer Hebs one is as Debbie outlines.

I do agree you can't grade the sea - my Solway trip is designated an "A" but I've had it become a "B" when conditions changed ! We got a taxi - -

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby Mark R » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:03 am

You CAN grade the sea - but it's a practice fraught with pitfalls.

I have mixed feelings about the Pesda gradings; I will happily admit that I have never personally made a decision whether to make a sea trip based on whether a book designates it as A, B or Z, whatever - I'm sure everyone will agree that you absolutely need to make your own assessment of the factors involved in taking on a trip, also considering the particular conditions faced on the day. However I think that they can be useful in some ways, for some paddlers.

WW paddlers grade rivers for technical difficulty (1-6). As I see it, the Pesda grades are NOT gradings of technical difficulty, i.e. of the paddling skill required to complete a trip. Any sea paddler of any ability can go anywhere on the sea, if they select slack tide, good weather and smooth seas; in a sense, all sea trips arguably have a technical/ skill grade of 1 (i.e. as technically demanding to paddle as a canal)*.

I view the Pesda gradings as an attempt to estimate the level of commitment and risk, purely that. They can indicate the degree of commitment (how far you'll be from landing beaches), how complex the tides can be, how exposed the coast is to groundswell etc. They can't tell you what the weather, tide or swell will be doing on the day - but they can indicate how likely it is that these will be a problem for you, on a particular trip.

Incidentally - I kept the same meaning/ spirit of the previous Pesda guidebook gradings in 'South West Sea Kayaking', although I did subtly reword/ rephrase some bits of them to suit my own interpretation as outlined above. Don't ask me what specifically I changed, as I don't recall; you'd have to look for yourself.



*This is possibly one reason why major sea kayak incidents with allegedly experienced and qualified groups keep occurring in the UK; even the least skilled sea paddler (say for instance, a paddler who can't even do a roll in anger - incidentally the most basic of skills needed to access WW paddling) is able to access the most committing and exposed locations, given mild weather/ tide/ swell conditions. Having done this - maybe repeatedly - it's then easy for that paddler to convince himself that he is 'capable/ experienced enough to paddle this trip'. And of course he is. Until he goes to the same committing/ exposed location one time too many and finds that the variables have changed...
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby MikeB » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:08 am

Yes. It's the variables that cause the problems! And make the whole thing so very interesting. Each trip is different, no matter how many times we go to the same place.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby islanders66 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:04 am

Good points in the past several post. Debbie you really hit the nail on the head about group dynamics. I also had a chance to read Mark's chapter on Portland Bill and that was very informative. I would get that if I paddle there. I still like the way the BCU and ACA breaks down conditions, instructors and group leaders in to L1-L5. I participate in both ACA instructions and recreational paddling groups. Our news papers also seem to run with things. They recently used a stock photo of a 18' red kayak after a kayak was reported as floating so everyone assumed that the kayak was 18 feet but it was just a rec kayak. Someone even assumed it was mine. But I'm digressing.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Dave Costello » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:26 am

Hello everyone,

I’m reporting an article on this incident for a paddling magazine in the U.S. My job is to make sure that what gets printed is accurate, not just the regurgitation of official press releases.

Unfortunately, with a Wednesday deadline looming, and after not receiving any response from those in charge of the UHCC in close to a week in regards to my request for contacting those of you involved, I’ve resorted to registering for this forum.

It’s a little unorthodox, but I take my job seriously.

I don’t want just the Coast Guard’s viewpoint, or even just the UHCC’s official viewpoint. I’m interested in hearing as many sides of the story as possible from those most qualified to give them—namely, the paddlers involved.

Below is a specific list of questions I would be interested in verifying the answers to--on the record. Please email me your responses, as well as any other comments or thoughts on the incident which you may have that you would like us to be aware of, as soon as you can, at: dave@dudesonmedia.com

Thank you for your time.

1: What is your name, age, paddling experience, and affiliation with the UHCC?
2. What safety equipment (radios/weather radios, cellular phones, flares, etc.?) were you and the group as a whole carrying?
3. What was the trip plan the team set out with? Had anyone in the group paddled that run before? What was the back up plan(s), specifically?
4. What were the weather conditions like on the day of the rescue? Did conditions change as the day progressed? If so, how?
5. What events led up to the rescue? Was a Mayday call made? If so, who made it and how many times did the call go out? There have been reports of the first call being made by a “woman who was hysterical.” Can you verify this?
6. What happened during the course of the rescue? (Was the group ever separated? Did anyone capsize? How were you feeling as an individual and how was the group moral?)
7. What do you think could have been done differently, if anything, that might have avoided the need for a rescue?
8. Any other thoughts or comments or thoughts on the incident?
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Richard Uren » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:51 am

Dave, I am sure that those involved would have contacted you if they wanted to. It takes time after an event to digest the implications before sharing, particularly to an unknown source. Back off and give them some space.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby OwenBurson » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:28 am

Dave Costello wrote:
Unfortunately, with a Wednesday deadline looming, and after not receiving any response from those in charge of the UHCC in close to a week in regards to my request for contacting those of you involved, I’ve resorted to registering for this forum.



I wasn't going to be quite as polite Rich!

Dave, your tone suggest that they should be contacting you, and that they have have done something wrong by not doing so! There are always lessons to learnt when things go wrong and those lessons often take time to filter though and be digested by all concerned.

If all you want is to report a good story to your readers then, um, back off! If you want to help those concerned and the wider paddling community learn from the incident then wait until those involved are ready to share.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby adrian j pullin » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:15 pm

Mr. Costello,

Like the previous people, I have some issues with your post:

You have provided no information about who you are nor any means of checking this. It is customary for the "gentlemen" of the press to at least have some credentials to support their claim to be such. You have not even identified the publication involved.

You seem to think that you have some right to this information in order for you to get paid for it. If those involved had wanted you to have any information at this time, I am sure they would have replied to you. No doubt they are still trying to sort out what happened and how they wish to respond to the incident themselves. They may, in their own good time, wish to provide a report. If they do, it is up to them the route by which they do that.

I could say more, but terms like vulture and ambulance chaser may cause offence.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Jim » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:38 pm

It took me seconds to find this:
http://blog.dudesonmedia.com/
based on the email address given, so I don't think Dave's credentials are necessarily the problem.

Insensitivity is, and that is almost certainly driven by the deadline.
I can see no reason why it matters to readers anywhere whether the incident report is in next months edition or the one after?

Data protection law prevents clubs from passing on members contact details (although common decency would also stop them), so having contacted the club you will need to wait for them to circulate your questions to the individuals, and either for the individuals to contact you directly or for the club to pass back responses. This event may have been disturbing to some of them, it may be quite some time before they are prepared to talk about it. Of course everyone has a right not to talk to the press if they prefer, so I would suggest more diplomacy in trying to coax them to.

We all want to learn from incidents to help oursleves avoid them in the future, but time and time again insensitivity and differences of perspective about how incidents should be discussed have torn these forums apart - several users have quit over such matters, lets at least try to learn from those threads how to handle such discussions!
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill

Postby TechnoEngineer » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:16 pm

Mark R wrote:You CAN grade the sea - but it's a practice fraught with pitfalls.

There's a section in John Lull's "Sea Kayaking Safety and Rescue" that I consider to be great for assessing risk in sea trips.

You can preview it in google books here
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Dave Costello » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:27 pm

None of the paddlers who were rescued need to talk to me about the incident, of course. It was not my intention to suggest that. I need to make sure the people involved have the option to comment if they would like, though.

As for my credentials: I am reporting for Canoe and Kayak Magazine.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark Gawler » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:39 pm

Dave Costello wrote:As for my credentials: I am reporting for Canoe and Kayak Magazine.

I assume that is the US publication not the UK one.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby yellowportland » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:59 pm

Hooked and drawn in to the discussion.

Trial by forum, no I’m not going to answer endless questions.

As trip leader I have written a report for the RNLI, for possible inclusion into their magazine.
Currently I’m waiting for all of those involved to read and check the facts.
I will post it on our club blog and put a link on here. When it is correct.

I want the paddling community to learn from the incident.

As for the press, Once they realised the story wouldn’t unfold to their version, they went away to find other stories that would.

And to Dave Costello, From the questions you ask, I feel your main interest in the incident, is in the money you’ll make from the story. Hence why I have not replied.

Those involved in the incident are making a donation to the RNLI.. We can’t afford to pay for the rescue, but want to show our gratitude.

Perhaps Dave, if your prepared to add to our RNLI donation, things may be different.

Although, I’m not interested in deadlines, just the facts and what can be learnt..

Thanks

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby JonC » Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:41 pm

Yellow Portland.

Nice response and I think an excellent approach to reporting of the incident. (i.e. check the facts with all directly involved and also make the report freely available to interested parties i.e. those on this forum as well as the RNLI).

Thank you in anticipation of your openess following what must have been a somewhat busy new year weekend.

On another note, I live in Weymouth and didn't even know about the incident until I read about on the forum at the weekend. I am sure that all the media reports were skewed towards 'Think how this might have turned out if Portland CG was closed' rather than seeking to condemn irresponsible paddlers.

The proposal to close the cetre has caused outrage locally, where just about everyone spends some of their leisure or working time in, on or under the sea.

By the way, good luck with getting 16 different views into one report!!
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby MikeB » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:48 pm

yellowportland wrote:Hooked and drawn in to the discussion.

Trial by forum, no I’m not going to answer endless questions.

As trip leader I have written a report for the RNLI, for possible inclusion into their magazine.
Currently I’m waiting for all of those involved to read and check the facts.
I will post it on our club blog and put a link on here. When it is correct.

I want the paddling community to learn from the incident.


Firstly, it's great to hear it ended well - it's also good that you're considering posting the details as a learning point for all of us and I thank you for that.

As to the insensitive and pushy approach from the States, I can only applaud the stance you took. Mike
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby MikeB » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:57 pm

Dave Costello wrote:None of the paddlers who were rescued need to talk to me about the incident, of course. It was not my intention to suggest that. I need to make sure the people involved have the option to comment if they would like, though.

As for my credentials: I am reporting for Canoe and Kayak Magazine.


They do have the option to comment - where, when and to whom they decide to, should they wish to. They just don't need to do it to you, or indeed need to do it to anyone. And attempting to push them becasue of your own commercial agenda is, frankly, crass in the extreme.

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby OwenBurson » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:02 pm

Dave Costello wrote: I need to make sure the people involved have the option to comment if they would like, though.


Press arrogance of the highest order!!! You are not representing the publication very well here Dave!
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark R » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:14 pm

The request from the US magazine could have been worded better in places, but in essence it seems fine, appropriate, even laudable in intention to me.

Those sixteen paddlers who were rescued are under no compulsion to respond, but now they have the opportunity if so required; and indeed the unique opportunity for a significant number of paddlers in the US to learn from their experience and paddle safer.


Perhaps related and relevant, perhaps not; I was involved in a major paddling incident in recent times, where a paddler lost his life. I think I can say with some certainty that the emotional impact of this tragedy on those involved and their friends/ family was far greater than if we'd been in an incident where everyone came home alive but slightly embarrassed. Nethertheless we still had to tackle considerable media and public interest, and gave some thought to it. The incident gained a lot of media interest, I think because a whitewater story (for the media at least) chimed in with the (actually unrelated) flooding that had happened up in Cumbria in the prior week. The approach agreed upon was to stonewall the national media initially, except to supply some photos to support a piece where the deceased's partner commemorated him. The reason for this stonewalling was predominantly to protect the aforementioned partner. However, once the media story had died down after a few days, we were fully happy to co-operate with the paddlesport media and responded as helpfully as we could to all queries received, supplying photos and info, etc. In the time since, we have answered all questioned asked aboout the incident, we have voluntarily supplied a fair amount of info about what happened and some of the lessons learned, whether through this forum or other means. I myself hope and fully intend to keep on doing this. We have nothing to hide, and everything to gain, if it means someone else doesn't have to go through what we have been through.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark R » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:24 pm

yellowportland wrote:I feel your main interest in the incident, is in the money you’ll make from the story. Hence why I have not replied.


MikeB wrote: your own commercial agenda


The various suggestions that the query is driven by greed are demonstrably complete nonsense. He is already commissioned to write his piece, it will go to print either way, he will get paid either way. It would be the easiest thing in the world to copy and paste the various news reports online (including the Coastguard's criticisms) into an article for US paddlers, take the money and leave it at that.

But instead, the fellow is being a good journalist; he is trying to get a balanced and full picture. Those involved have the opportunity if they so desire, to outline the facts of the event, and perhaps even defend themselves against the generally negative slant that the national media coverage has offered.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby MikeB » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:35 pm

Nobody mentioned greed.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark R » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:44 pm

yellowportland wrote:Trial by forum, no I’m not going to answer endless questions.


Nigel - I fully believe that the level of discussion on this forum about the rescuing of your group's sixteen paddlers has been quite commendable. The vast majority of what has been posted here has stuck to the known facts of the incident and of the area, and to general issues of safety at sea. Contributors have on the whole given balanced and thoughtful responses, avoiding unwarranted speculation or judgement.

In all seriousness; if there is anything here that you find objectionable or inaccurate, I would be very interested to hear about it and would certainly consider tackling it.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby tg » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:10 pm

Whilst it is always useful to have feedback on incidents it really is at the discretion of those involved to proffer it, and possibly rude, insulting or indeed offensive to ask.

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark R » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:17 pm

tg wrote:Whilst it is always useful to have feedback on incidents it really is at the discretion of those involved to proffer it.


Agreed fully - but then of course they forfeit the opportunity to offer correct information and allow the media to present their own interpretation unchallenged.

tg wrote:possibly rude, insulting or indeed offensive to ask.


I disagree strongly. There is such a thing as picking the wrong moment, or asking inappropriately. But there is nothing wrong with asking, per se. See for instance, the very second post in this long thread. Interesting that no one jumped on this anonymous person when he asked right away, but the paddlesport journalist has been panned for asking a week later, despite fully outlining his agenda.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby tg » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:48 pm

tg wrote:possibly rude, insulting or indeed offensive to ask.


MarkR wrote:I disagree strongly. There is such a thing as picking the wrong moment, or asking inappropriately. But there is nothing wrong with asking, per se. See for instance, the very second post in this long thread. Interesting that no one jumped on this anonymous person when he asked right away, but the paddlesport journalist has been panned for asking a week later, despite fully outlining his agenda.


I am not referring to M. Costello but rather trying to emphasise the point that persons may have been traumatised by such an incident, (not exclusively canoe or kayaking either)

I did say possibly ...

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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Grahamd » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:18 pm

It is up to the individuals concerned how they want to respond to an incident.
I would only say that as someone new to the sport, reading Deep Trouble a book compiled from various magazine articles about such incidents, I gained a real understanding that even with the best planned trips things will go wrong. Knowing when to raise the alarm is difficult and I second Jim's view on this.
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Re: Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill^

Postby Mark R » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:19 am

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