As I mentioned in a mid winter post, I had ordered a lower stern cross rib and thigh braces to retrofit my Feathercraft Big Kahuna for easier rolling. Tonight RonO and I headed over to a local lake to see how the newly 'Dubsided' boat rolled. And she rolled just fine. I needed to make a couple adjustments to my inaugural assembly job and my tuliq didn't fit the cockpit coaming but basically the boat rolled really well. After we got done playing in the surprisingly warm (56F, 13C) water we took a paddle up the lake and ran into two guys who were out in their brand new rec boats.
By now everyone has probably read the article in USA Today, Kayakers Keep Rescue Crews Busy. It was linked and discussed in Bonnie's blog and the excellent blog, Paddling Instructor, had an open letter from the president of the National Association of Boating Law Administrators. Finally, Silbs weighed in with a fine post on the topic. I've had two encounters with new kayakers in the past week. One was very close indeed. My next door neighbor strolled over as I was in the garage fondling boats and announced that she had purchased a kayak. She is very athletic but petite so her decision was pretty much based on a boat that she could hoist up to the car roof by herself. She purchased the craft at a 'big box' sporting goods store and had questions for me like, what kind of paddle should I get, do I have my legs straight on those pegs when I paddle, and what do they call that thing that goes around your waist and over the hole you sit in? Its fairly obvious from the questions that they sold her the boat, tied it on her roof, and wished her a hearty bon voyage.
Fast forward to our folding boat rolling session last night. After I made the 'wardrobe adjustment' to the Feathercraft we set out on the lake to paddle and saw two other kayakers along the west shore. We paddled over to say hi and found two enthusiastic brand new rec boat owners. These guys bought their boats at a large local sporting goods store and their questions were very similar to the ones my neighbor had asked. Since Ron had his tuliq on, I was wearing a dry suit, and we were both soaking wet they correctly surmised that we knew how to do 'those eskimo rolls'. Ron did a couple and one guy said that he had watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and figured he had a pretty good idea on how to go about it. As he started to put his paddle into the set up position that he had seen Ron use, I very quickly pointed out that he lacked the thing that goes around your waist and over the hole you sit in. I also pointed out that the lake was a bit brisk yet, the beer holder he had screwed on to the front of the cockpit might need to be removed, and his cigar would certainly go out if any eskimo rolls were attempted. Much to our relief he agreed.
So what the hell do you do? I find it difficult to argue with any point that is brought up in either the USA Today article or with the six factors that John Fetterman cites in his open letter. Both my neighbor and the guys on Long Lake are good people and more than eager to learn. The local sporting goods retailer that sold the two guys their boats offers demo/instruction every Thursday night during May and June and strongly suggested to the guys that it would be a good idea to attend one. Will they go? They weren't sure. The old tried and true matrix of conscious/unconscious and competent/incompetent seems to be in play in all these interactions. The unconscious incompetent has no idea what they are doing or the dangers involved. With any luck they move to the conscious incompetent where they realize the activity is dangerous and that they need some instruction. I think this is the area where effort needs to be focused, moving people to the awareness stage. Then if people realize an activity can be dangerous and choose not to attempt to become proficient, I guess I don't see what can be done other than legislation and/or licensing. I'm generally opposed to more laws, other than one requiring legislators to repeal two laws when they enact a new one, but I'm not sure or confident of any alternative strategies. Any thoughts out there??