Forum [41]

Readers’ Say

Crocodiles and EPIRBS

Defamation hijinks and larrikinism in the magazine

Dear Editor

thanks for the copy of your magazine (Issue 40) recently sent to me. It would appear that this magazine has been out for some time now, so I’m not sure why I am a very late inclusion on the mailing list? Perhaps someone would like a reaction to the snide remark of Dave Winkworth’s about what the Maatsuyker Canoe Club would do in the situation they got themselves into — through sheer stupidity I might add.

In actual fact I probably would have fed him antibiotics, as they did, left him with a companion, and paddled for 24 hours to Cape York — with every likelihood of spotting a fishing boat or other vessel on the way.

As Larry Gray so aptly put it, Dave is a man with little experience yet.

Maybe you should quote the words of a great man, in the mould of Sir Edmund Hilary, and Scott, and other well know explorer/heroes.

“No one, in my opinion, should embark on the open ocean, the Antarctic, or any wilderness for that matter, not prepared to get out of trouble by his own efforts. By voluntarily challenging the elements he automatically assumes the responsibility for his own safety. He should not expect anyone to risk life and property on his behalf. The very idea of possible rescue is debilitating to the will; it should be replaced by self reliance” — from “Voyage to the Ice (The Antarctic Expedition of ‘Solo’)” by David Lewis, 1977-1978 (in the southern summers of 1972-73 and 1973-74 Dr Lewis made the first single-handed voyage to the Antarctic. His 32 foot sloop Ice Bird was three times capsized and twice dismasted but he reached the Antarctic Peninsula and later South Africa without help).

Repeat: DEBILITATING TO THE WILL!!!

Laurie Ford
Maatsuyker Canoe Club


Dear Editor

I don’t quite understand Mr Ford’s point here — his plan still requires a third party to rescue the victim. What it does achieve is to put the victim in more danger by delaying the rescue and decent medical attention.

No wonder Tasmania is de-populating.

Mark Pearson


Dear Editor

So Laurie Ford thinks I got into trouble “through sheer stupidity”. It’s a point I would be prepared to debate with someone who actually has some expertise and experience with crocodiles but not with the likes of Mr Ford who obviously knows all there is to know about the habits of crocodiles in his native Tasmania.

On the point of using an EPIRB to summons help, Mark Pearson is absolutely correct — all Ford would accomplish with his approach is to delay the arrival of help. In my case had we not had an EPIRB it would pretty much have been the approach we would have taken but given that when I got to hospital they put me on 3 different extremely strong antibiotics, intravenously, every four hours, it is unlikely that the oral antibiotics I had with me would have been successful in staving off infection. The consequences of that would have been at least a much longer stay in hospital and possibly much worse.
It’s fine to express ideals like “The very idea of possible rescue is debilitating to the will; it should be replaced by self reliance”, but when you are the one lying there bleeding you tend to be grateful for all and any assistance.

Arunas Pilka


Dear Editor

I would like to offer the following on Crocodylus porosus and EPIRB’s.

Just when you elevate someone to super hero status they come out and say something really stupid that throws your admiration for them into complete question.

Laurie Ford (Maatsuyker Canoe Club) recently commented on the deployment of an EPIRB to obtain help in a significant medical emergency whilst paddling in a remote wilderness environment.

There seemed to me to be a very obvious contradiction in Laurie’s comments. On one hand he quoted David Lewis and suggested that Winkworth & Co should have got out of trouble by their own efforts; that the idea of summonsing assistance was ‘debilitating to the will’. Yet on the other admits that he would have paddled towards the mainland with a view to meeting a vessel along the way, and raising help.

I can only conclude therefore that Laurie’s real problem is with the use of the EPIRB. So whether Laurie embraces some philosophical belief that shuns technology or he just thinks this was an inappropriate use of such technology, one can only speculate.

Laurie’s reference to Hilary and Scott seems to me questionable. What makes their endeavours so outstanding in our eyes, is that in 1953 when Hilary climbed that big ice capped pile of granite, he did it in the style of the day with what was then the best equipment available. All of which seems primitive in today’s terms and consequently makes the endeavour appear so bold and daring.

I would suggest that if Hilary was to attempt the first ascent of Everest today, he would not do it in leather boots and woollen jumper, but in the style of the day (light alpine) using the best equipment available. Nor do I believe that Scott would have shunned GPS and satellite communications.

As to the question of the appropriateness of deploying and EPIRB verses paddling to the mainland for twenty four hours with a ‘likelihood’ of passing a vessel … might I suggest the following:

  • a member of the group had suffered a major trauma and was in need of immediate first aid/medical treatment. By volunteering to assist their colleague, and assumingly he gave consent (either expressly or implied) the other members of the group now had a ‘Duty Of Care’. Having established a ‘duty of care’, those assisting could be held liable for negligence if there was a ‘breech of standard’ and ‘resultant harm’.

Let’s examine ‘breech of standard’ for a moment. What this means is that those assisting must perform at their level of training and experience, neither below nor above. They would take the first aid steps appropriate to their training. They would not administer antibiotics which are a prescription drug, they could assist the victim to self administer HIS OWN medication. They would comfort and provide shelter (basic shock management) and ensure the safety of themselves and the victim.

To put this into some context now lets look at the nature of the victims wounds, which I think it would be safe to assume were puncture wounds, although depending on how cleanly the croc let go there may also have been some deep laceration and possible avulsion. Focusing just on the puncture wounds, these are wounds which penetrate deep through the dermal layers into the subcutaneous tissue below and often mask severe underlying damage to blood vessels, nerves, tendons etc. By nature they present a grave risk of infection compounded by the hot, humid tropical environment. Punctures are associated with devitalised tissue, commonly deep in the wound, conducive to the proliferation of anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria being responsible for such infections as tetanus and gas gangrene. In short they had a patient with serious needs and first aid protocol dictates that you evacuate this person for urgent medical attention.

Given therefore ‘duty of care’ and the nature of the victims injuries, faced with the option of deploying an EPIRB which would alert authorities within two hours (Introduction To The COSPAS-SARSAT System, C/S G.003, Issue 5, Oct 1998) or paddle 24 hours with the likelihood (no guarantee) of passing another vessel, I think the correct decision was made. To have done otherwise would have exposed the victim to almost certain infection and prolonged his discomfort. It would amount to a ‘breach of standard’ by acting outside what good sense and logic dictated and the resultant harm would have been grounds for the patient to prosecute for negligence.

So finally David Lewis may choose to embark on an adventure solely reliant on his own resources, that’s his ‘challenge by choice’. Hilary used bottled oxygen on Everest to maximise his chances. Laurie may practice ‘minimalist kayaking’ and not just preach it as some do.

For David, Arunas and Mike the adventure was in the journey, they set the parameters and equipment themselves for eventualities beyond. They do not deserve criticism for good sense and a favourable outcome. How they got themselves in the situation in the first place however…?

Chris Hille


Dear Editor

I am relatively new to the Club and have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many sea kayakers and participate in various club activities. I have the highest regard for those who have dedicated so much of their time to promote the sport and organise Club activity and appreciate the benefits of information sharing and the camaraderie that the Club has the potential to provide.
I have concerns however about the direction the Club is taking when I read articles in its magazine that obviously have caused concerns and have the potential to create dispute as to the reputation of any person or any manufacturing business.

I also have concern when I hear unflattering remarks, directed at Club members who choose to paddle particular makes of kayak, stemming from personal prejudice and conveyed by the executive of the Club.

In the interest of a fair go and one who has a vested interest (I own a number of Mirage kayaks), I have taken it upon myself to have a yarn with two founding members of the NSW Sea Kayak Club — Paul Hewitson and Larry Gray. Two members who both relate the reputation of their respective businesses as being the subject of articles printed in Issue 38 and Issue 40 of NSW Sea Kayaker.

Both are dedicated professionals who have invested thousands of hours and large sums of money to develop their products and company reputations.

Both are offended by unfounded defamatory comment emanating from within the NSW Sea Kayak Club.

The Club holds a privileged position of trust as it has direct access to all of both parties existing clients and many of their prospective future clients. The Club network has the enormous power to cause irreparable damage to either of these businesses if unsolicited comment is approved for publication in magazines or on the internet.

I am led to ask members to indicate their approval or disapproval of the following statements:

  • should the Club promote or associate itself with statements about any manufacturers product that could be interpreted as defamatory and have the potential to cause harm to that manufacturers business?
  • should the Club allow to be printed in magazines or to be posted on the Club’s internet site any such defamatory statement… and not allow the right of reply to any person or company who is the subject of such material?
  • should it not be the responsibility of the Editor of the Club magazines to identify any self-interest and clearly state the origin of material presented for publication and should it not be their responsibility to identify the position and occupation of the person submitting the material for publication.
  • should the Club condone any member casting aspersions about any other member so as to discredit or discriminate against a member so as to cause him/her to feel uncomfortable when attending Club functions, because he/she chooses not to paddle a particular make of kayak through personal choice.

Overwhelming enthusiasm, fuelled by passionate self-interest, is serving to turn long-term members against each other and away from the Club, preferring not to engage in confrontation and withdrawing from Club participation.

Is this the preferred outcome for the Club?

I personally find it self-defeating, as the Club loses when experience and expertise walk away.

Perhaps the Club should have an honest long, hard look at its responsibilities to members, manufacturers and the general public and realise the potential of the internet.

Indiscriminate misrepresentation may seem innocent enough at Barlings Beach, Currarong or wherever, but when in print or represented as a true and factual account on the Clubs internet site it is a different matter.

Is it not the responsibility of the executive to:

  • protect the integrity of the association
  • identify self-interest and associate accountability to persons who wish to use the Club magazine for personal gain
  • prevent the use of the Club magazine from becoming a destructive mechanism spreading unscrupulous misrepresentation?

I would welcome further comment on this matter by way of response from the executive.

Randall Jones


Dear Editor

I’m glad to see that the Club magazine is performing its function of acting as a forum for the views and opinions of members.
Many years ago, when ‘Fishkiller’ was Editor, he had to write the letters himself, under assumed names. Now, they are actually contributed by real people.

EVERYONE in the Club is entitled to their opinion about the relative merits of kayaks, equipment, or the running of the Club itself, and EVERYONE is invited to submit their opinion to the magazine. Hopefully, manufacturers themselves will take advantage of this opportunity which has been offered in the past, and which still exists.

I welcome this present robust discussion as an indication that the Club and the magazine are serving the members well.

Norm Sanders
President NSWSKC


Dear Editor

this is a bit over the top; if you can’t slag, defame, or otherwise revile people, techniques, activities and equipment, what is the point of life?

Club scruples? Are we talking major oxymoron here? Where is the irreverence, the healthy contempt of the establishment, the larrikin rouge element that makes sea kayakers the charismatic and attractive mob that they perceive themselves to be? Are a bunch of nonconformist paddlers with their aging rust buckets about to become a bunch of suits with Volvos and Mercs, preoccupied with liability, insurance, writs, and image?

The only reason ‘Fishkiller’ was allowed to settle on this planet was to receive verbal and written abuse from friends and colleagues.

And what sort of world is it where we can’t can a copy of a home-made origami kayak that is neither ‘Inuit’ made, nor ‘Inuit’ inspired, nor a ‘Classic’?

I was doing up my boat to get back on the ocean next month (provided ‘Fishkiller’ and his uncontrollable boat is not going to be anywhere near the South coast), but it looks like migration to Tasmania to hang out with the ‘real sea kayakers’ is going to be the safe way to go.

As for Pittaraks, everyone knows that their lack of rocker allows then to track well, especially upwind, with the result that any trip with a Pittarak can be guaranteed lots of stout head wind. Just asks anyone who has paddled with Doug ‘Headwind’ Fraser.

And Mirages? These boats are widely acknowledged as being very well made, and they look nice and do well in a number of long-distances races. It is just that they tend to be paddled by Clint Robinson wannabes with carbon-fibre propeller paddles and vanish over the horizon just as the rest of the group are pulling away from the beach.

Every activity needs enthusiasts to receive the derision for their chosen product. Where would the motor industry be if the general public could not can Volvos and their drivers? And the computer industry without the Macintosh? And sea kayaking without …

Jim Croft


Dear Editor

Randal Jones implies that the Club denies to manufactures the right of reply. To my knowledge no letter, article or advertisement from Paul Hewitson, Larry Gray or any other manufacturer has ever been refused publication in NSW Sea Kayaker. ‘Casting aspersions’ to the contrary could be viewed as being ‘unfounded defamatory comment’, ‘indiscriminate misrepresentation’ or ‘unscrupulous misrepresentation’ and perhaps might be seen as ‘stemming from personal prejudice’.

Arunas Pilka
Former NSWSKC executive member


Dear Editor

I most emphatically support Randall’s comments.

My earliest experiences of the NSWSKC was being told by some self proclaimed experts that, ‘the Pittarak (my chosen boat) rates high on the Pig-o-Meter’ and that it ‘surfs better backwards’. Then there were the comments relating to seams, pump and whatever else. A fine introduction for a new member, nothing like making new people feel welcome.

Since then I’ve found this to be typical of comments originating from what is euphemistically referred to as ‘The South Coast Mafia’. This little collective is seemingly presided over by a number of committee members strongly motivated by personal commercial interests, who seize every opportunity to denigrate other manufacturers products so as to imply praise on there own.

The reputations and achievements of people like Larry Gray and Paul Hewitson far outweigh those of some obscure individual who’s only claim to fame is his venomous tongue.

Personally I don’t believe that persons with direct commercial interest should be permitted to hold office in the NSWSKC nor should the magazine be the means for people to further commercial interests… let them pay for advertising, that way the Club benefits.

It is about time that the committee did something to stem the tide of derision and put kayaking back on the agenda. They could do a heap more to make people welcome and a lot less to alienate members.

Good on you Randall for taking the initiative to speak out.

Chris Hille


Dear Editor

I have only been in the club for two years, and have been on one Club trip and two AGMs and I really like the way Club members comment on different boats, it is their personal feeling, not like US ‘Sea Kayaker’ magazine where every boat they test is perfect, If you buy one of Norms Banna boats, a sleek Mirage or any other kayak, hopefully you did so because you like the boat and it suits your need and paddling style, so why should you be offended because someone doesn’t like your kayak, as long as you are happy with it. Do you get offended when your neighbour slags off your new Holden because he is a Ford man, no you tell him that his Ford is a piece of S…

As for the comment “I don’t believe that persons with direct commercial interest should be permitted to hold office in the NSWSKC nor should the magazine be the means for people to further commercial interests…”

Who would run this Club then? At both AGMs I have been to there was positions to be filled, and I didn’t see too many hands in the air to fill them, actually I don’t think that I saw any. I want to thank everybody ‘in office’ for keeping this Club running, providing us with a good magazine, good website and good training sessions for me to improve my skills.

Jan Madsen


Dear Editor

regarding Randall’s fourth point; “Should the club condone any member casting aspersions about any other member so as to discredit or discriminate against a member so as to cause him/her to feel uncomfortable…”

If that gets up, that’s the end of trip reports as I know them.

Mark ‘Fishkiller’ Pearson


Dear Editor

although Randall raises some interesting points, the fundamental question from an Editor’s perspective is censorship. To put the pressure on the Editor to decide what should be published in the magazine and what should not based on the content is an additional burden which is likely to cause more problems then it solves.

I do not believe it should be the “responsibility of the editor of the Club magazine to identify any self-interested groups”; that is a difficult thing to ascertain.

I decided while I was Editor that I would publish anything that was sent to me providing it had something to do with sea kayaking. I saw the magazine as a forum for all members to have their say, whether they are right or wrong, with the onus on them to substantiate any claims they made.

I do not consider what is published in the magazine as representative of the Club but representative of the individual who wrote the article. That’s the difference between a Club magazine and a commercial magazine.

All articles have the writers name at the top and that should be all that is necessary. The exception is Flotsam and Jetsam, and that is so tongue in cheek that no one could take it literally.

If we take away the option for members to criticise a product then we lose a valuable forum and the whole question of what is free speech comes into question.

I am not aware, to my knowledge, than anyone has been refused the right of reply in the magazine. The fact that they often chose not to is their prerogative.

David Whyte
Former NSWSKC Editor


Dear Editor

I have just heard the news that Fishkiller recently stacked his Inuit Classic north of Pebbly Beach ripping a 2 foot section out of it.

Lest vested interests fear their commercial interests and market hegemony be threatened by this incident, the following is tendered:

Let the record show that based on Fishkiller’s reputation for acts of mayhem and bravado, and on injuries he has inflicted on innocent kayak surfers in pursuit of personal glory for his good self and his favoured vessel, that the destruction of said Inuit Classic North of Pebbly Beach in no way reflects on the skill and ancestry of the designers and manufacturers of said Inuit Classic, nor on that of their legitimate heirs or other progeny, nor on the materials used in the construction of said Inuit Classic, nor on manufacturers of said materials, nor on the ancestors and heirs and legitimate or other progeny of the manufacturers of said materials, but on the propensity of the aforementioned Fishkiller to destroy and maim all and everything within striking striking distance in the interest of giving Club members something to talk about around the Trangia beyond the usual topic of thermal underwear.

Jim Croft

PS: I understand that no Mirage or Pittarak owners, innocent or otherwise, contributed to or were harmed in the production of this incident, although no doubt many were colourfully defamed and reviled as rock and gelcoat collided…


All letters and e-mail to NSW Sea Kayaker must carry the sender’s contact details for verification. Letters should ideally be a maximum of 200 words and may be edited for clarity or space. All letters published in this magazine may be reproduced by the NSWSKC on the internet, CD-ROM, by photocopying and by other methods.

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