In response to the article “Lessons from Beecroft” several points need to be made in order to correct some errors and false impressions which are created by both exaggeration and omissions of facts.
Alan’s account of events at Beecroft Peninsula would seem to indicate that the cause of the “potentially fatal disaster” was a combination of the group paddling at a pace beyond his limitations, not taking regular rest and refreshment stops, and the group splitting with lack of communication.
The first comment that needs to be made is that Alan could and should have communicated to the group the difficulty he was experiencing, that the group was paddling at a pace beyond his limitations. The group could not otherwise be expected to know this until later into the trip as problems occur after fatigue has set in.
Similarly, with regard to not taking regular rest and refreshment stops, Alan could and should have communicated to the group that he needed to do so.
Alan fails to mention that a stop was made at Honeymoon Bay, about one and half hours into the trip, where several paddlers took the opportunity to refuel, and one even took the opportunity to stretch his legs and refuel. He also fails to mention that short drink stops were made regularly during the trip.
The impression Alan creates of the group splitting and lack of communication by statements that “the 3 Mirage paddlers were constantly padding to their own rhythm leaving me out of contact once we passed Honeymoon Bay” and then at Long Nose Point that “the Mirage crowd left me” are inaccurate exaggerations. A true account can be given by saying that up until Point Perpendicular the 3 Mirage paddlers never let a gap greater than 50 metres occur between Alan and the rest of the group and that several short stops were made to ensure this. It is also true to say that until Long Nose Point Alan was paddling at the front or in the middle of the group.
Alan’s account of the situation at Point Perpendicular “where the PC once again laid down the law about staying together” is incorrect. The group discussed and agreed to proceed to the next rest and refreshment destination of Gum -getters Inlet by way of splitting into two groups, the agreed line being 200m from the cliffs, while the PC and Alan choosing to paddle a course closer to the cliffs. The description of the Mirage paddlers “generally failing to communicate their intentions” is again untrue.
Alan has failed to recognise and accept that the cause of the “potentially fatal disaster” was, in fact, his own lack of communication.
He uses comments like “I reminded everyone of my limited yet enthusiastic experience” to paint a picture of himself as a novice paddler who was open and honest with the group about his ability before and during the trip. But he fails to mention the story he told to the group of his experience in rough conditions around Bowen Island. He also fails to mention that he was asked on numerous occasions whether he was confident and happy to continue the trip, to which his reply was always yes.
The description of the situation at Longnose Point where “the rollers became huge and a lot of fun” conflicts with Alan’s next line that “at this time I found myself alone and isolated”, and indicates that he still cannot fully admit to himself how he felt during the trip and highlights the most important issue. Each and every paddler must always accept responsibility to himself and the group which he is part of to be honest about his ability and must have the strength to admit his own limitations.
It is important to realise that in a sport such as sea kayaking circumstances for a “potentially fatal disaster” can occur. However, no one can assess their own limitations better than themselves, whether a novice or experienced paddler. It is sadly very easy to lay blame elsewhere after the events have occurred.