From the President’s Deck [58]

By Richard McNeall

Wow! exclaims a member of the group as we round North Head into the Harbour, and I must admit that even after the umpteenth time, there is always something special about paddling in through the heads of your destination port after a day at sea. A Sea Eagle swoops over us, catching a fish in the midst of the group, as we round to Quarantine Beach for a few rolls. This is NSWSKC paddling at its best. On the bus back to Collaroy, we talk about paddling and talk about people. At one point the word “Chat Line” is mentioned, and my mind goes into instant turmoil….

Yes, there is a little turmoil here in the NSWSKC – time to say a sad bye-bye (or toodles!) to some of our beloved heritage, and time to expectantly embrace a fresh start.

Heritage Item I – The “Old” Chat Line

By the time you read this, our new webbased “Forum” style Chat Line will have been up and running for a couple of weeks. And I expect we will all be seeing the very real benefits. However, we are still in the “grieving” period for the old Chat Line, and I think it’s fair to say that many members feel we have overreacted by making an instant change.

However, I can honestly say that we have made the best decision for everybody, and offer you the 5 issues that would just not go away…..

1) Dividing the Club

“Email has a unique potential for escalating misunderstandings.”** Over the last few years we have seen opinions get personalised on the Chat Line, and the outcome is two aggrieved members backed by two equally aggrieved groups of supporters. The reality of email is that ANY criticism, even “constructive” criticism, beamed to 160 inboxes across the state and across the world becomes personal. The problem is the mass email medium.

2) Liability

“Risk management doesn’t stop at the high water mark.”** How many times have people threatened legal action or sought legal advice over Chat Line issues?

The answer is quite a few, and with increasing frequency.

3) Reputation

We like to think that what gets said on the Chat Line is just between ourselves, but it isn’t. Many NSWSKC members are members of other organisations, and word gets around. How many times do we hear the chat that the NSWSKC is full of infighting and politics? It can’t be good for our membership numbers either.

4) Volunteers

Volunteers appreciate appreciation. Having observed many of the Club’s volunteers at close range over the last year, I can assure you that, no matter how tough they look, any criticism takes a cumulative toll on their commitment. And mass email has such an amplifying effect that something intended to be a helpful suggestion can end up being incredibly demoralising. This might be difficult to believe – after all we are hardy sea kayakers. But it is true, and again, the medium is the problem.

5) A Better Way And maybe there are better ways of achieving our objectives anyway, where postings are grouped and always accessible, where your inbox is uncluttered. And so… thanks to our mega-guru Peter Kappelmann – Vive la nouvelle Web-Based Chat Line!

Register now on

** Can you guess the source of these quotes? Answer next issue!

Heritage Item II – The Remarkable Ian Phillips

Richard: “Do you want a hand packing up all this R’n’R stuff ?”

Ian: “Thanks but don’t worry. I’m fine doing it myself. I’m staying till Wednesday so I have time to pack up properly”

That was my first experience of the remarkable Ian Phillips – an incredible powerhouse for the Club – Editor, Rock’n’Roll Coordinator, fill in Secretary/Treasurer, President, and most recently Training Coordinator – many times tackling 3 of these positions at once!

Ian is leaving us as Training Coordinator and we wish him all the best. Toodles, Ian. The highly successful Sea Skills 2 program was his crowning achievement. All you SS2’ers, you now owe it to Ian to get through your assessments!

Rob Mercer has offered to act as interim Training Coordinator until we find a replacement. Thanks Rob.

One thing we will definitely be doing is continuing our highly successful National Training Provider relationship with Australian Canoeing.

On all other fronts we are full steam ahead! In 2004, all 4 mags out on time, lots of trips, RnR on track, Show and Tell at Bundeena, Great Legends’ Night (Paul Caffyn and Andrew McAuley were awesome) and merchandise virtually sold out in one hit.

Membership renewals are coming in on the new “individual expiry date” system. Check your card or mag envelope for date. Etc… Etc…

Anyway enough from me. Hopefully smooth waters from this point. I’m doing my Sea Leader assessment in a week, so I’d better get my log book up to date !

And I’ll see you over the summer…..