Thanks John, a perfect explanation of my reservations.john.ruston wrote: ↑Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:03 amSeawolf 856 clearly separates 'on the surface' from a nagging doubt he has.
Alan, I think this entire thread explains why he (and surely many others) are in this bind.
All of us agree about skill, experience and planning and carrying the means to give restitution to any we damage. However the fear of "what if" is a theme running right through this debate. I think that none of us really trust insurance to play a straight bat. So often our discussions end up with a scenario of distressed relatives and their personal injury lawyers creating some unexpected claims - maybe even just trying their luck on off chance of a payout. This is a fear, doesn't even have to be rational to cause us discomfort. So there I offer a tentative explanation of Seawolf's feeling of disinclination. It might also explain why some more experienced paddlers don't want to be bothered with beginners.
I can't be the only one who regards Claims Culture as an insidious cancer undermining the spirit of adventure and willingness to take a calculated risk. etc. etc. Thank heavens for solo paddling.
Despite the feeling of disinclination raised by this thread, I still took a group out on the Conway Estuary on Sunday. It was a mixed ability group of eight paddlers in total but with no beginners and I had a trusted 'wing man' with me. I assessed the conditions and risks during the safety briefing and I decided we were suitably equipped and it was safe to launch. For those who know the Conway Estuary you will know how this paddle plays out as you pass the marina entrance and approach the bridges by Conway Castle, for those who don't know it, this stretch of the estuary is fast flowing and has many obstacles in the form of moored boats, pontoons and semi submerged buoys. When we launched, I calculated the tide would be running at about 4- 5 knots. This is NOT the fastest it can get to, but on Sunday it was flowing against a 15 knot headwind so it was instantly VERY choppy paddling down towards the bridges. I instructed everybody to stay out of the main flow and to follow my line down the slightly calmer water nearer to the shoreline. This was a conscious decision by me to give us time to warm up and so I could assess how people were handling the conditions. My support man was at the back to alert me if there was an incident. My logic for going in front was that I was the most experienced rescuer and by being at the front if we had a capsize in fast flowing water, I would already be downstream and therefore stand a better chance of being able to intercept a swimmer and/or their boat as they were being swept towards me. (I have no doubt that this will start a whole new debate but please read on before you make a judgement).
Anyway, the conditions on the water deteriorated once we passed the lee of the marina and I decided to put into an eddy to reassess how the group was feeling about the conditions. The fact that I did that already indicates I had doubts. Once in the eddy I raised my paddle so the group should know to "come to me", which they all did - proving that they were actually listening to the safety briefing! We were all just about safely in the eddy when one paddler was hit by a breaking wave and capsized. Normally he can roll but on this occasion failed to do so. He popped out and was separated from his boat. I instructed the rest of the group to get in the eddy and stay there. Quickly between us I agreed with my support man that I was best positioned to intercept the boat and he would go for the swimmer. In this stretch of water if you don't act quickly everything can go pear shaped as anything in or on the water gets swept downstream towards the moored boats!! NOT good. In short, we got both swimmer and boat into the safety of the eddy and back in his boat. A deep water rescue in the flow exposes the swimmer and the rescuer to collision with obstacles so under the circumstances we decided it was better to get boat and swimmer to safety first. At this point I could see that some of the group had been spooked by the incident and were looking uneasy. Therefore despite a very quick and successful rescue I decided to abandon the journey and return to the beach. I would just like to add that my decision was NOT based solely on the capsize and failed roll of the individual paddler. He was unlucky and it could just as easily have been me. However following the rescue, I reassessed the group and concluded that if more than one paddler had gone over, it might have turned out differently.
The reason for my story is really just to say that all the training, practice and experience paid off. Nobody was hurt or killed (and therefore I should not get sued) BUT it does show that things can go wrong even when you have taken every precaution and believe you have made the right decisions. It is therefore very important for me to get reassurance from the club (and contributors to this forum) that my position as an unqualified but experienced 'leader' is not at risk from the 'Claims Culture' that John so rightly identifies. By the way, the group were very supportive and understood the decision to abandon the paddle, even though most of us had made a 100 mile round trip. I have since received several emails thanking me for making a safe and sensible decision.