The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...^

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The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...^

Post by Mark R » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:51 pm

Discuss.
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by David Fairweather » Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:38 pm

... dependent entirely on how the group is organised.

If we're talking people being led, then I'd be wary of going much more than 1 to 4. If it's peers, then in a group of more than 6 or so you are going to need some kind of structure, even if only a vague one.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:03 pm

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About 4, because I get a bit tippy after 4 pints of Guinness...

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I got out 51 times last year and this is the breakdown on group sizes. Usually I would get out a lot more on my own but I was curtailed by a bad knee.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by gasserra » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:02 am

All else being equal, a group of 4 or 5 are about equally strong, and stronger than a group of 3, which is stronger than a group of 2. Above 5, the size is big enough that it's tough for each member to engage with every other member in a more or less continuous manner, and it's easier to lose track of people or spread out beyond a safe distance.

That said, a group of any size can paddle safely together, but for groups of more than 5, the way to do it most safely and enjoyably is to break it down into subgroups of 3 to 5, with the subgroups operating semi-independently.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Ceegee » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:10 am

Douglas Wilcox wrote: About 4, because I get a bit tippy after 4 pints of Guinness...
Whilst the pint on the left looks OK, the middle one looks distinctly sad. I think your barman needs to head over the water to brush up on his skills!

On the subject, 1 because then there is no peer pressure and I'm a cantankerous git with no paddling mates* within 100 miles so that is just the way it is (paddling kids excluded and they don't count as we are not a democracy - yet).
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Mark Gawler » Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:43 am

The ideal group size in my opinion is 3 - 6, I struggle to count beyond eight so I would say that was the maximum. There are of course a lot of other factors, conditions, experience and individual ability / fitness.

I did once get reprimanded by a club for paddling in to the middle of there group. I was amazed that the trip leader who was at the back was able to spot two extra paddlers in amongst there group of twenty, which was spread out over about a mile. He was obviously a very experienced counter.

From the "Portland Coastguard assists 16 kayakers at Portland Bill" thread
Mark Gawler wrote:Large groups do pose there own special issues, the biggest of these is counting the group. I personally witnessed the emergency services counting and recounting and coming up with different numbers each time. the Group leaders were convinced everyone was accounted for but the total head count did not match.

A point to note is the emergency services were not interested in the fact that there were a number of separate small groups and each of the group leader could account for every member of there group. The only thing that mattered was the total number of paddlers matched the number of heads that they could count.
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by PeterG » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:18 am

It all depends on the trip. In a mass participation event, with thought through safety procedures, 100s or 1000s might be a safe number. In a large sea, just myself and my wife can find it hard to keep track of each other once you are one or two crests apart and out of sight much of the time. Too close and you risk collision if a wave sets you surfing. Keeping parallel is ideal, but inevitably one or other of us move ahead, causing a momentary panic as they scan the empty sea for that Tilley hat rising above the waves.

If you know the paddlers, counting is not an issue, because you know them all and spot if someone is missing or someone extra straight away. Like the nomadic cattle herder, he could not tell you how many he has, is it 100 or 200?, but he knows each one and can tell if one is missing just by runnning an eye over the herd. So paddling with people you know in benign conditions, a large group size, which I would define as more than 10, is OK. If there are some less confident paddlers, buddying them up with an experienced paddler means that they won't be nervous of being forgotten or left behind without help to hand.

Keeping track of a group of strangers with identical club boats can be tricky as your brain uses both the person and the boat. If everyone is in identical club cags and spraydecks, I accept it could be tricky to confidently count to more than 6 or so. This is the situation facing the rescue services, so I guess they would find more than 6 problematic.

Night poses special problems, with more than 6, regular counting off, with everyone knowing their number is useful. The buddy system is good here to.

However, this all goes to pieces if the group has to split. Then the greater the number the more difficult it is to account for everyone and which group they might be in. So a pre-arranged splitting system would be sensible. As a club (PDCC) we have decided on this following our neighbour's experience at Portland.

So I suppose 6 is my answer, but sub-groups could coalesce in easy conditions into a larger band, but be ready to disassociate again. Working with the Scouts I have come to a similar conclusion, that 6 is the maximum number who will feel responsible for each other and will stick together. A larger patrol often splits, despite strict injunctions to stay together, into say a 4 and a 3 who get left behind, it doesn't worry the scouts who feel that the 3 are quite happy and capable of following along. It just un-nerves the leader who is trying to keep track of everyone.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by JonC » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:40 am

Size of group depends on the trip being planned and the relative abilities (and attitudes) of the paddlers.

Calm seas, low wind speed and lack of tidal currents allows larger groups to be safe.

If there is any kind of tidal movement, large groups can get strung out very quickly so a good structure is required (point man, back marker, buddies for weaker paddlers).

Too few paddlers and any incident can become dramatically worse.

I would say that when the group as a whole is paddling at the top end of their ability, a group size above 8 becomes an issue.

I would also say that when a group is paddling at the top end of its ability less than 3 would become a issue if anything starts going wrong.

What are your thoughts on this Mark?

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by chykensa » Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:08 am

First and for the record, I'm not accustomed to paddling in big sea conditions, and have never paddled in a group of more than 10 (SWSKM2010).

However I have noticed that regardless of the numbers in our paddling groups off Cornwall's coast, if the group totals more than 4, it seems that pairing off happens without anyone suggesting it. This is perhaps because conversation is difficult in a breeze with more than 3 paddlers, and inevitable differences in speed means you tend to gravitate to someone who travels at your speed. Having said that we always stick close together, unless the conditions are really benign. Even in a group of 6 or seven, pairs or trios quickly emerge and cruise along together.

I would feel uneasy in a group larger than 4 in more lively conditions - that is, unless an experienced leader was on hand to keep an eye on us rather than concentrate on his own safety to the exclusion of all others (like me!)

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by rockhopper » Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:09 am

Just some thoughts that spring to mind:

So, if you end up with 10 paddlers in a group what is the difference between that and having 2 groups of 5 who end up paddling near to each other??

In the event of someone getting into trouble is there not some protection in actually having numbers on your side (more people to raft up, more to recover/tow and injured paddler).
I think the danger with larger numbers is that it is easier (and more likely) for a weak/unskilled paddler to be in the group partially because they will feel safer in larger numbers and also because there is possibly less likelihood that everyone will be aware of each others skills and weaknesses.
In addition I presume that as numbers increase the likelihood of someone getting into trouble or injured increases accordingly..... twice the number of people then twice the chance of an incident...

The larger the group the slower it tends to be in making decisions ( as everyone needs to be consulted) and subsequent actions which clearly can lead to problems in adverse conditions. With a small group a snap decision can be made and actioned very quickly.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by CharlieS » Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:21 pm

It also depends how 'group oriented' the people in the group are.
If everyone is happy to accept decisions to benefit the least experienced/ least able on the day then I'd take more.
If even one person is likely to disagree with a decision to abort, or more likely to cruise on ahead then I'd want a smaller group so as to be able to devote more time to managing them.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by MikeB » Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:40 pm

PeterG wrote:So I suppose 6 is my answer, but sub-groups could coalesce in easy conditions into a larger band, but be ready to disassociate again. Working with the Scouts I have come to a similar conclusion, that 6 is the maximum number who will feel responsible for each other and will stick together. A larger patrol often splits, despite strict injunctions to stay together, into say a 4 and a 3 who get left behind, it doesn't worry the scouts who feel that the 3 are quite happy and capable of following along. It just un-nerves the leader who is trying to keep track of everyone.
BP was way ahead of his time when it came to team / groups size - most of the current management gurus suggest somewhere around 5 to 9/10 as optimum for a team in a business context - which does, after all, have parallels to both a Scout patrol and a paddling pod.

A large group of people with moderate / intermediate experience can be manageable, especially if there are a number of competent people within it, ideally people who have some sense of how the group leader thinks and responds to given situations - but sub groups are better.

Democracy is great - but the practical reality is that its fine to sit and have a discussion and get agreement from everyone, provided it's the right time and place to do so. Then there are times when a more directive approach is rather better and at that point everyone should be prepared to follow that direction.

There are a lot of people who just aren't "group paddlers". Perhaps those people shouldn't paddle in groups unless they are prepared to follow whatever the group ethos is, and (ultimately) what the group's leader decides is the appropriate decision.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:34 pm

Another personal factor for me, in choosing a paddling group is that I really like the people I paddle with and enjoy their company. We all know each other well and know each others' limitations. I think paddling together in challenging conditions, where we are dependent on each other, leads to a special form of friendship. I miss our good paddling friend Jim Broadfoot a great deal. Jim unexpectedly died when he was only 50 last spring. He had spent the a day sea kayaking with his wife. Photos of Jim are still appearing in my OP articles and seeing them reminds me of the great times we were privileged to share.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Enray » Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:53 pm

What immediately came to my mind was trying to define what I consider to be a large group. I am used to working in the outdoors with group sizes of up to 12 people so this seems OK for me - yet reading previous posts this may be considered too large by others.

I guess it boils down to our individual experience and if we are in a leadership role, our ability to effectively hold the safety of the group.

In defining safety my mind immediately conjured up the word risk. For me it is about sound judgement and risk-assessment. The leader(s) will have the experience and the knowledge to work these out and their group members will be trusting them for this. They will also be trusting that they have in place all the required contingencies should the wheels fall off and be able to manage any emerging situation. I liken my experience as an outdoor leader to be one of multidimensional management - being consciously and unconsciously aware of all the pieces of information that are occurring throughout the event.

If all the influencing factors (so many of these have been mentioned already) are in alignment, there is no reason why a sea kayaking group out for the day couldn't be pretty large - and for me this is more than 12. One other factor is the provision of back up support - folks ashore to help sort things out, as a point of contact, collect people who have decided to come ashore, resupply, etc. This important aspect enables many outdoor providers to lead the group sizes that they do.

To end with - my other consideration about large groups is the impact that they have on the environment and others. I think I would be factoring this in alongside the safety issue with almost equal importance. I never did like leading large groups for this reason.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Owen » Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:07 pm

Interesting question, I don't think you can put any arbitary figure on it. I have paddled with some very large groups (25+) which have worked well but the conditions were benign. I have also been out with equally large groups in similar conditions that have ended up with paddlers scattered to the four winds. Most of the longer trips, in more remote places, I have done have been with just one other. Not sure whether that says more about me than ideal numbers. I just find the amount of dissension and general faffing around goes up exponetially with every increase in group size. Ok, if something did go all pete tong then it could be up to the other person to try and sort it out, but with just two of us it's far less likely to happen in the first place. It's much easier to decide what we're doing and get on and do it with just the two of us. With large groups trying to keep everyone happy and all the egos soothed is just too much for anything over a weekend trip.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by tg » Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:44 pm

Seems like a question of leadership really. The real answer is of course 3 or 4 or multiples thereof. Any leader ithat is happy to solely lead a group of 12 I would not be too happy paddling with. It increases the risk of accident pro rata and implies dependance on others in the group to help manage situations. This is all rather subjective anyway as sea conditions, individual ability and a host of other factors will come tho bare(?). Our informal group operates a buddy system. If one of a group of twelve gets into difficulty I see no reason why 8 or 9 can't continue whilst that particular squad 'looks after it's own' .

It's been a while since I paddled in in these kind of scenarios and I do not miss it. Like Douglas I'd rather be having fun with my friends and not be involved in a group where abilities are unknown and reliance on particular individuals is implied.

Club situations vary I think because to some degree some members are there to be led into more challenging situations in order to improve their skills and obviously there is an element of security built into the group.

We all have a slant and I think we may not all be coming from the same angle on this one anyhoo.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by CaptainSensible » Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:27 pm

Whenever I've gone out in a big group, it seems to automatically sub-divide into small groups that consist of at least one of the most experienced/qualified paddlers (regularly paddling with L4 and L5 coaches is probably not the norm for most people) plus others that are less experienced/qualified.

I'm aware that people need to do as much as possible in order to make them less reliant on other paddlers (and this seems be a crusade for Mark, but one that makes perfect sense), but I'm not sure what kind of minimum level of competence people should be aiming for.

I can read water and weather and charts/tidal atlases reasonably well; I can tow or rescue someone if I absolutely have to (but I need to practice more/work on my fitness); I am determined to get a reliable roll this year, and I'm hoping to do some VHF and (wilderness) first aid courses too.

But where should it stop? Is BCU 3* enough?

(my long term aim is 4* & L1 Coach [don't laugh, Kevin :P], but that could either take one year or will never happen - my health is just too variable/unpredictable)

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by rowlandW » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:02 pm

...the maximum number of people you are prepared to run around and put back in their boats when they've all simultaneously capsized, wet exited, and can't self-rescue in the current conditions.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Mark R » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:08 pm

Looking at this from another perspective...

What possible reasons might you have for needing a large (say, over 10) group?
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by tg » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:23 pm

Perhaps if one were planning a group meet, such as a symposium for example, where likely attendants would be of unknown and varying abilities, yet the overriding desire would be to make sure everyone had a good time. :-}

Could that be justified? I don't think so. 'Squadify' your eleven into two fours and a three. So A,B and C watchout for each other as do Tom,Dick, Harry and Mike, and Appollo,Zeus,Hera and Herc. do the same.

Tim

Edit; You need only to group at (relative) hazards, crossings or the onset of illness etc. This doesn't mean that the groups have to paddle seperately. Takes discipline.
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Mr Hoppy » Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:04 pm

There's 2 different considerations here, safe size and sensible/enjoyable size.

I struggle to see the rescue argument for big groups, firstly needing to rescue is often a sign that something has gone wrong in the 1st place (a smaller more easily led group may have avoided it) and secondly there's a limit to how many people can be involved in an rescue and it avoids people floating around whilst the rescue is carried out. The other consideration is that rescues are typically undertaken by the experienced in the group, if you use the assumption that some split takes place this leaves one body potentially weakened. If you intend to sub divide into semi-autonomous groups within a larger group then they all need to be led by competent leaders with appropriate equipment in the sub groups and an understanding of the trip logisitics. In that case why not just split into autonomous groups whilst on the water and if needs be meet up for lunch, one group can start whilst the shuttle is being run or at least starts staggered.

Safe size depends on the nature of the route (availability of landing spots, crux points, etc.), prevailing conditions and forecast. In easy settled conditions on an accessible coastline then a large group is possible, as conditions get more sporting or variable then the number reduces. The more people you have the less easy it is to react to a developing situation and the harder it is to keep track of things. On a really easy section then I could probably live with up to 12. By the time you've got wind, tide and cliffs then I'd rather have a small group of 4 or so.

But, as to what I like to paddle with then a compact organised of 6-8 is the most as beyond that then you spend too much time, leading and not enough paddling. In difficult groups it's difficult to have everyone with the same aims and purposes in the trip and this causes faff, delays and potentially friction. Smaller groups allow you to be more nimble and cut down on the environmental impact, etc. Most of my paddling recently has been done in groups of 2-4 with occasionally as many as 6.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Mark R » Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:12 pm

tg wrote:Perhaps if one were planning a group meet, such as a symposium for example, where likely attendants would be of unknown and varying abilities, yet the overriding desire would be to make sure everyone had a good time. :-}
No. The overiding desire/ priority is absolutely to bring everyone back safe and well. This is easier said than done - you are organising a load of strangers who may or may not have been honest with you (and indeed themselves). With the SWSKM, I have clearly stated each time that this event is not for novice or uncertain paddlers. Both times as it happens, I have then watched someone from the group I was leading myself nearly capsize within ten yards of the beach. I don't know if this was the sort of thing that happened with the Anglesey Symposium rescue, but wouldn't be surprised.

Re. Group size - I have tried where possible to keep group sizes at the SWSKM to 10 or below, including two 'leaders' (experienced paddlers whom I know). I would prefer 8 or below, but have been hamstrung by the number of 'leaders' available and known to me. At the 2009 SWSKM, I stated emphatically in the briefing that no groups could be larger than 10. People then signed up on the lists (which only had ten spaces)...and lo and behold, several groups numbered 12-14. I had to then break these groups down.
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by TechnoEngineer » Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:30 pm

Mark R wrote:Discuss.
I think it's really difficult to make a hard and fast rule on this.

I'd say it depends on the conditions; in normal conditions then as many as you can reasonably be expected to keep track of (3 to 7, depending on how many names you can remember - the usual number of "key points" someone can remember). It also depends on the level of experience of those being led; you could happily lead 7 experienced paddlers, but would not want to lead 7 beginners.

In testing conditions, I guess there's a limit where someone who can't handle those conditions may need to have one person raft up with them, with possibly two towing the pair; all 3 of the supporting paddlers needing to be able to handle those conditions confidently. If the conditions are any harder, everyone would need to be able to look after themselves. Hence I'd say that you can't classify a sea kayak trip as "safe" unless the conditions are benign and expect to remain so.

Whenever I've been in really testing conditions, I've merely picked someone to stay near, and avoid running into them.

The only justification I can see for leading large groups (more than 7 paddlers) would be a shortage of leaders, with a mix of experienced and inexperienced paddlers, the experienced supporting the leaders whilst not being leaders themselves.
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by MikeB » Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:50 pm

As soon as a symposium / organised outing / trip open to all and sundry pops up, it's going to attract people who see it as a "safety net" because they perceive these things as being "led" in some way or another. That might just be the perception that there will be people there who are more experienced than they are. Or they expect there to be fully qualified coaches who will look after them and hold their hands.

I'd put money on that people have come on your SWSK meet with that expectation. I know for sure that people have gone on trips I knew about which were organised via UKSKGB who were looking for that support and introduction.

I'll happily put my own hand up here as that's how I saw similar trips back in the days I wanted to get on the water, but wanted to be with people who knew what they were doing, when I didn't. And there are still plenty of times I still want to go with people who know more than I do, especially when I'm pushing my skills envelope. (Which isn't difficult, beleive me - I've managed to make an ass of myself far too frequently, usually by falling out of the boat when landing!)

But we know this.

One suggestion which may help, albeit one which is timeconsuming and not 100% accurate or foolproof, is to speak with people before accepting them onto a trip. During that chat you can begin to find out more about their paddling experience, and find out who they have paddled with. We use this principle in the context of accepting people onto SCA trips and will occassionally ask people to allow us to talk to someone we may know with whom they have paddled, to get feedback on their ability.

There, of course, we're only dealing with a limited number of people - you're talking about many more on the SWSKM but where people are unknown quantities then the job could be sub-divided? Equally, the big symposiums don't seem to do that sort of sifting. The upcoming one at Tayvallich is specifically aimed at novice to intermediate paddlers, but maybe the paddling conditions in Loch Sween are a bit differnt to Devon / Cornwall.

I make no apology when I say that the participant having some "star" awards helps a bit when trying to assess whether folk are up to it. It's not 100% accurate of course, and not a foolproof measure, but it is a measure.

In terms of numbers, once the trip is full, it's full. End of.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by journeyman » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:32 pm

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Jim » Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:14 pm

Mark R wrote:Looking at this from another perspective...

What possible reasons might you have for needing a large (say, over 10) group?
Because there are more than 10 of you wanting to go on holiday together....

For the record, the one trip where I can recall* a serious breakdown in group control involved a group of 4 people in 3 boats, one was me, another was my dad, and another was a good friend of ours who had another friend of his in the double.
*I expect there have been others where I don't recall it

There are some good points being raised about how the group dynamic changes with the number of people involved, but I'm sure there are other less obvious points that we have missed. To my mind, getting to know the people you are paddling with is more important than the exact number, but clearly where you are going into situations where there are more than a couple of people unknown to everyone else, limiting numbers is an important tool.

I once paddled with a stag party, can't recall how many of us there were. Everyone was a well established WW paddler, a fair few had sea experience, some had lots of sea experience. Obviously the stag knew everyone, amongst the others most people knew most other people, some of us wouldn't have known all of the others, but possibly knew them by reputation (I put a face to a name I had known for 10 years or more). The weather wasn't too kind, we had to invent a plan C or something, but managed a route that had some interest but no real danger. After the big do, the core of the stag party was heading off to more remote places for the rest of the week, whilst the rest of us were heading to a nearer egress point. The previous high winds had left us with a good swell roughly the way we were heading, and whilst I suspect some of the guys had not really considered all the implications of being at sea, looking around I noticed that everyone was busy trying (and succeeding) to catch waves in the big fast boats they had borrowed. At one point I became slightly concerned about trying to land on a lee shore but I had seen a jetty and it made the nice sheltered landing I had hoped for, although the waves were spent in the bay anyway. With that particular collection of people, group size was absolutely not a problem for the trip we did (for the guys heading off for open crossings etc. it probably would have been), all participants had a long history with most of the others and any of us would trust any of the others with our lives (and probably have at some point).

I couldn't even imagine paddling with as large a group of strangers, even if I was the only unknown factor to the rest of them.

To my mind, big groups have to be much more comfortable together than small ones, due to the differences in group dynamic and the stuff PeterG mentioned about how we subconsciously keep track of people etc. Rounding a bunch of beginners or strangers into a large group for 'safety in numbers' is probably the worst thing you could do. In that situation, I am going to go back to suggesting that beginners or strangers need to be made to take an active part in the group by being given little jobs or responsibilities - that is much easier in a smaller group.

Some people may be reading this thinking "crikey, I usually let someone else do all the planning and navigating and just paddle along in company", well maybe the group dynamic is such that you don't need a job to feel part of the group, it's surprising how quickly the group bonds can form when the environment suits everyone.

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by Ceegee » Thu Feb 03, 2011 1:13 am

journeyman wrote:Image
"Stop that. Stop it, will you stop that. Nobody is to rescue anybody until I blow this whistle — even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say Pan Pan!"
Cheers,
Steve C. G.

tg
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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...

Post by tg » Thu Feb 03, 2011 1:29 am

Jim said it (more or less. I haven't quoted so please forgive) and I've said it before. Mariner, mariner, mariner. Apart from the basic controls needed to handle a sea kayak all of this is much more about the experience of being on the sea. Those that are familiar with the sea from other backgrounds really only need minimal exposure. Those whose access to the marine environment originates from sea kayaking can easily confuse the more general topic with the specific. The kayak in distress on the sea is actually very little different from any other vessel. Techniques vary, ultimately bad planning or control can lead to rescue situations but the level of vulnerability equates more or less.

If you're interested in safety, don't go with someone who is not first and foremost a mariner. If you're interested in coaching, which this seems to me to be about, then you're into a whole different ball game. To take a sea kayak as seperate to other marine craft, to me, is to make the first mistake. For sure it has it's advantages and disadvantages as a 'vehicle' (q. Jeff Allen). If you are taking it upon yourself to ultimately be responsible for someones life at sea then one must be aware that it is a mighty beast and ultimately you are on you own.

Personally I take a responsibility to educate and and create a good experience for those with whom I paddle. In fact I derive a great satisfaction from it.

Take a look at Fastnet as an example of vulnerability.

It is patronising to see a fleet of kayaks as a 'group', unless you are coaching, in which case it should be one to one, or very near that ratio, I would say. As a paddler I might say to myself. 'Okay, such and such is coming so we'll do this or that, we'll look after them here and here, provide cover there and there'. That is all to the good but when the elements, equipment failure or sickness overtake. You are in distress on the sea, full stop.

The answer is no. There are no conditions where one leader is wholly responsible for a group of eleven.

This can be broken down. The answer is 4.

Tim

Edit; Apologies for being categorical. I hate it in others.
"I sink therfore I am".

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...^

Post by JonC » Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:30 pm

I was lucky enough to be on the stag trip Jim mentioned. Jim I reckon there were 18 of us?

As Jim says, all time-served white water paddlers, who knew each other (and as part of smaller teams but with lots of overlap had padded together for years on gd 4 and 5 whitewater), hence no worries (even when ferrying a beer-wounded best man to hospital for some stitches).

The group ehtic and high level of core boating skills over-road any negatives of size and inexperience on the sea.

I am therefore not at all convinced that 'mariner, mariner, mariner' is essential for all the paddlers. Excellent core paddling skills combined with a strong team ethic, together with a handful of people able to plan and look ahead can add up to a large group being very successful.

(Interestingly a similairly constituted group on another stag do destroyed the opposing team during a day paintballing; somehow we each seemed to know what everyone else would be doing.)

Its a good question Mark, and as said before in this and other topics beware any late additions that no one knows.

Jon C

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Re: The maximum group size for a safe sea kayak trip is...^

Post by Owen » Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:08 pm

Re-reading this thread, it would seem that most think between 4 and 6 is the Maximum number for a group of sea kayakers. Also, the BCU 4 star leaders award is aimed at leading a group of 4 other paddlers of a similar standard. This begs the question, does a group of 5 adult paddlers who are both competent and confident, who know each other, really need a "leader." This is not a group of beginners but paddlers of equal standard.

If they were a group of five people going hill walking would they feel the need to have a formal leader. Do they need someone to have done a training course and assessment before they can go walking? I think not. The need for mountain leadership certificates only comes in when being paid to lead or when children are involved. I find it hard to understand why the BCU and kayak/canoe clubs in general put so much emphasis on formal leaders and qualifications.

If someone is being paid to take a group of complete strangers, with little or no previous experience, out paddling then I can see they should have had to prove their competents. But, for a group of five consenting adults is it really necessary?

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