American Pie I
Valparaiso Indiana, 30 July 2003
To Whom It May Concern,
I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from your articles in the NSW Sea Kayaking Club’s online magazine. They are not only entertaining to read, but also convey a fund of reasoned, reliable knowledge based on experience rather than manufacturers’ press releases (which last, alas, are the reason I don’t subscribe to, purchase or read kayaking magazines. I’ve little interest and even less use for article after tiresome article of gushing enthusiasm).
This requisite kuster-kissing now having been seen to, I can move on to the body of my correspondence.
I just finished reading Mr. Pilka’s article about the night paddle (vol 24). My first reaction was “What a bunch of suicidal nincompoops! Don’t these chowder-heads have families or pets or anything to live for?!” Then I remembered that y’all are Australian, which accounts for behavior like that, and considered the matter settled.
Still, one question continued to nag at me; namely, where were their radios?
I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in the States we can purchase any of several small, inexpensive radios, which offer limited range (a mile or so), are reasonably robust and require either no license at all, or the mere formality of filling out a form and paying a nominal license fee. I do know that you require a license to use the 11-meter Citizens Band. We don’t in America, and it’s a shame. It’s not without good reason that American Ham Radio operators refer to 11 meters here as “Children’s Band”.
Speaking of ham radio, I would recommend it (I am a ham myself — call sign KB9WFQ) for several reasons. First, the 2 -meter band which all hams are permitted falls in the same neighborhood as the VHF Marine Band, so it behaves similarly. Further, modern hand-held radios are now very small and very robust (Yaesu of Japan makes one the size of a credit card which they claim is submersible and can be connected to a GPS unit to report your position to others.).
Of course if you want to talk to the Coast Guard, or other ships you need a Marine Band VHF. But for night paddling in a group in crummy weather, gee whiz, you ought to have something. Mr. Pilka’s story could have ended just after Paragraph 10 had each member carried a pocket-sized two-way radio of but a quarter-mile’s range.
One other question I had, especially after reading the “Lessons Learned”, was, “Has no one there ever heard of the ‘rally point’?” It’s something taught to practically every soldier in every army, and most Boy Scout troops use it on their back country hikes. Kayak touring could certainly benefit from it too.
Simply put, it’s where you go when everything goes haywire. It’s the infantryman’s answer to the “panic button”, and I believe that Mr. Pilka and his party would have benefited materially from this procedure.
It works like this. At various logical places along a route of travel, the group leader selects “rally points” where, if the group falls apart or a member gets separated, they (he) are to fall back to, to re-group, re-gain their bearings and resume their travel. Since the route is (usually) known beforehand, choosing easily identifiable places which an isolated, scared, probably disoriented and possibly injured team member can get to without undue difficulty. The soldier selects his rally points with certain additional tactical considerations in mind, but these need not concern us, as safety is our only desideratum.
The group leader points out the rally points twice to his group; once beforehand on the map, and again en route by pointing to the place as they pass it. In most armies this is done by twirling a pointed finger above the head, then pointing to the place. Ach group member repeats the signal, assuring the group leader that all hands know its location.
As many rally points are selected as necessary, and ea each is passed, it supersedes those before it. In this way everyone knows that it’s a short distance to safety, that their comrades will be there to help, ant that the group leader is looking out for their welfare.
If, as was the case in the story, conditions necessitate a change in plan en route, the leader chooses rally points “on the fly”, using his own best judgment.
I hope this brief outline of a simple safety technique informs and influences your thinking on the topic of group travel, and that ultimately you develop a system of accounting for and retrieving separated paddlers that is uniquely suited to kayaking,
One last item. Hiawatha was male. Perhaps Mr. Pilka had in fact wished to make reference to Sacajawea, the young, female Indian guide and translator for the Lewis and Clark expeditions. A somewhat more fitting allusion, all things considered.
Very Truly Yours,
Dear Mr Editor,
What’s with the sudden deluge of images of Ms Schremmer in the last two issues of NSW Sea Kayaker? Never knew of the woman before issue 54 in which there were at least 11 photos (a new Club record?) of her (some of dubious taste, I might add) and only a few less (including a full-page IBC glossy!) in issue 55. What won’t the woman do to be photographed? Is she the WOWSERS secret weapon or the Paris Hilton of Australia? Has money changed hands (I hear rumours of you sporting a brand new kevlar-hulled Mirage 580SPX with KB Mainsail v.7.03)?. Maybe there has there been a shift in editorial policy (out with old (Mr Snoad) and in with the new) or perhaps you have introduced a new game “Finding Claudia” (as the inclusion of Ms Fizzy Thomson’s article in issue 55 might suggest)? One senses that the rapid fire publication of issues 54 and 55 were a deliberate strategy to gain maximum impact for Ms Schremmer’s launch. To cap it off, she was the Photo of the Month for February on the Club’s website (goodness knows what she did for this). The issue begs many answers and hopefully the Flotsam team are on the case. I look forward to your response in the June (CF) edition.
Now that you mention it, I am quite enjoying my brand-new kevlar Mirage 580SPX! – Ed.
American Pie II
I have only recently started to sea kayak here in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, USA. The village is located on the Mississippi Sound adjacent to Louisiana and we are protected from the Gulf of Mexico by barrier islands that lie about 10 miles off shore. I am 63 years old, retired and just enjoying life. I have a Perception Shadow 16.5 in which I paddle once or twice a week.
Your excellent magazine articles on your web site have been most helpful. I came back recently from a very hard paddle in 15 to 20 knot winds. I had a pain in my left thumb that felt like a broken bone. Thanks to David Winkworth’s article on “Common Arm Injuries in Sea Kayaking” I was able to understand the problem. David described the cause as though he was with me that very day.
Thanks for the help and the best to you and your fellow Aussies.
More on “A Knock on the Noggin”
My experience on an unexpected knock certainly taught me a lesson. It happened some time ago at Wimby Beach in the Batemans Bay area. Wimby Beach is a small beach just south of Surf Beach. I did not regard it as providing a surf as the waves when they occurred were rarely over half a metre in height.
On the day of my incident the waves were very small. I had just landed after paddle and was relaxing for a few seconds, when the kayak and me were lifted up turned over and dumped down on my right shoulder. Following this unwanted experience my shoulder took a couple of weeks to recover.
Lesson: Don’t relax after a paddle until I am safely out of my boat!