Friday, June 08, 2012

Safety on the water

During the planning stage of the Aleutians 2012 Expedition, Keirron and George set out and discussed their personal goals and expectations, the main challenges they envisaged meeting and how the journey could be completed successfully. These discussions then became the themes of the trip itself. Safety was a hot topic and arguable the overall theme, the direction we would approach each interlocking segment from...

As intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be largely guided by goals, and this expedition would likely require the full extent of physical and mental endurance from its athletes, setting an achievable overall goal which reflects the hard nature of the environment, the dynamic nature of expedition paddling, and
a sense of accomplishment through sound judgement was key to our personal safety.

In short the 'right' agreed goal would motivate, challenge and keep real risk to an acceptable level.

"…explore as far as necessary to reach the conclusions we require…"

Having set this as our blueprint, it also communicated a clear message to our sponsors, supporters  and fellow paddlers. The expedition was to explore the Aleutians by sea kayak, up to but not beyond our limits. We had discussed a policy of not requiring emergency assistance, as this would certainly show a lack of judgement and as 'expedition leader', I would deem myself to have failed in my role. This is the same approach we take at Adventurous Experiences. Providing individuals take some responsibility for their own actions, a serious medical condition is possible the only thing we could not anticipate or prevent.

Given the remote location, any immediate issues would have to resolved by ourselves anyway, and the 'snowball stopped and reversed', as emergency aid would take some time to arrive. We prefer to rely on the 'prevention is better than cure' approach. This included;

  • Gathering and tracking down every available bit of information and advice from previous expeditions and related experience in the Bering Sea, particularly the Aleutian Islands. 
  • Reading as many accounts and perspectives of major expeditions as possible, particularly in the colder regions, noting leadership decisions which has effected and impacted upon the expedition. 
  • Ensuring the planner included mental preparation and physical fitness training.
  • Refresh navigation skills and complete the RYA Day Skipper Theory course (through the winter) for external input and to understand the movements of any vessels we might encounter.
  • Swimming regularly in the indoor pool, and when practical in the sea (in wetsuits).
  • Studying regional weather 'patterns' and learning to use a barometer practically.

'Safety' Kit 
Contact Towline
Waist Mounted Sea Towline
ICOM M92D VHF with built in DSC and GPS 
Iridium Satelite Phone
Stand alone GPS and EPIRB units.
(all communications kept watertight in Aquapac and Peli cases)

Most of the above could also be described as emergency kit, depending on how it is used.
The kit which ensured our safety was actually our clothing, cooking and shelter equipment. The process which most decisions were made on was observation and informed weather forecasting. Previous posts have touched on these, the next post will go into these in more detail : )

Given the extensive nature of this, and other post topics, there is enough material to produce a publication (with some pretty pictures) illustrating the whole journey...

1 comment:

karel said...

Thanks for the advises