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When did it start to go wrong?


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Definitely food for thought. I guess the lesson is that if you're uncomfortable with a situation .....trust your own judgement and speak up. Don't just follow others who may have doubts but don't want to speak up either. I don't know anything about the author of the article but, from comments and the fact that he was able to stay out there and help even though he was struggling himself, it sounds like he was well respected and capable. No one is infallible and  anyone can make a bad decision.... especially when feeling the pressure of a group.

Stay safe out there.


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Tough scenario and it can happen quickly.

Stampedes towards the water are always dangerous. That said, I am guilty of stampeding towards inviting surf.

Couple of points I take home are:

In certain situations, specifically in the situation described in the article, putting someone back in the boat may just press the repeat button for the same sequence of events that led to that person exiting the boat. If the coach was repeatedly caught, broached and flipped and had to pull himself together to patiently wait for his roll, it is likely that it would have happened to the intermediate paddler immediately after being “ready” again after being put back in her boat.

It sounds like going outside the surf zone to regroup was not an option, as the ebb flow was apparently taking folks West and the risk of getting carried out to sea was too high and beyond the surf zone would have been too far out anyway. I wonder if going South to escape the river’s ebb current would have been an option but by the time this turned into a cluster the instinct was probably just to go towards the closest land.

Then there is the issue of swimmer transport. I can totally see how the swimmer didn’t like the prospect of being surfed down a wave while on the back deck of a boat that she had repeatedly witnessed broaching and flipping. Not sure what I would have done. Maybe asked her to climb on the back deck and scramble off as the next wave approached. In cold water, I guess the climb on the back deck would have been somewhat mandatory to preserve heat.

I was surprised at the way they were making way with the swimmer in tow but good to know, especially as you have the waves pushing everything/one in. Scary forces that propelled the boat while the swimmer was left with the torn off toggle in her hand. I assume the rope was old and brittle to rip without a finger-hand-arm injury.

Thanks for the link, Mike. I had heard “something” happened with a group under Sean Morley but never found out what. Maybe I missed his own summary in the comments section but I’m interested to hear how the guy who rounded Great Britain (I think including Outer Hebrides or even St. Kilda) solo in record time several years ago ended up in the water without his boat!

When did things start going wrong ? From the initial decision making process. Not all the coaches were involved in the initial plan in the first place. A hint of critique at the start of the drive to the put in was not sufficiently discussed or even brushed off. Until the incident happened many opportunities to stop the runaway train were missed by just “assuming”.



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This is a long-lived post and these events still come up in discussion with Bay Area people from time to time. Be sure to look for Sean's discussion of this incident further down in the comments.

Similar mishaps at the mouths of bays and rivers keep on happening because it's so easy to misjudge the dangers of changing ocean conditions colliding with a strong ebb in shallow waters.  Most recent perhaps, just a couple of weeks ago in France: https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2020-01-12---"misunderstanding"-after-the-death-of-three-kayakers-in-the-somme-bay-.rJxH827tgU.html

Also, just a couple of years ago in Maine: https://bangordailynews.com/2016/06/24/news/hancock/kayakers-families-recount-fatal-excursion-off-corea/ (This article neglects to mention that the squall occurred during max ebb at the mouth of Gouldsboro Bay.)

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The Somme bay incident is very sad and tragic and I can't imagine how the families and club deal with this. 

It is distressing to read "at the start there was no risk" when the water was 46 degrees. That is inherent risk for experienced kayakers IMO.

It says experienced kayakers from a club but does not reference an adult that was on the water and says nothing of their cold water protection or boats and gear.

  Closer too home we had two notable incidents in Essex Bay due to currents, tides, shallows and wave actions. October 2004 and one later maybe 2006? I thought at least one of them was in the NSPN archives. 

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I remember reading about the Goldsboro incident shortly after it happened. It's always of particular interest when an account starts with the participants being experienced Kayakers. The incidents involving experienced paddlers I think offer the most lessons. They highlight was was out of their control and what would have possibly changed the outcome if ........

I'm sure you have all read "The Seakayaker's Deep Trouble" and if not you should. It has some great analyses from which to develop a trip checklist. 


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