You are a new administrator for a municipal outdoor recreation program. After assuming the position and reviewing the trip calendar, you decide to accompany a kayak touring trip to a local lake as an observer and assistant trip leader (the scheduled assistant canceled the previous day). While not an advanced paddler, you have led numerous multi-day kayak tours and the trip is marketed for beginning/new paddlers. It's early April and while the previous week has been unseasonably warm, the day of the trip is cool with a storm threatening. On arrival at the put-in you see the lake, long and narrow, stretch out before you. There is a light wind blowing down the lake at your back; you can see white caps on the horizon. The air temperature is 42º F; the water is 38º F. The lake is beautiful with vertical rock walls falling into the water on both sides. The clients arrive dressed—as requested in the pre-course literature—in long underwear, pile jackets, rain gear, wool beanies, and sneakers. After unloading the kayaks, the guide, a young man in his early twenties, pulled a drysuit over a light pile layer and donned neoprene booties. There were three doubles and three singles for nine people, including the guide; no spray skirts were provided. After a brief safety talk that focused on keeping the group together, everyone put on lifejackets, picked up paddles, chose their boat, and in six cases, their partners. The plan was to paddle down the length of the nine-mile lake, eat lunch, and return by 3 pm; it was no 10:30 am.
Watching launch preparations for the trip unfold at the put-in, you are extremely uncomfortable. While you are in overall charge of the tripping program, you are not the guide's immediate supervisor and you are here as an observer only.
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Don't know where to begin or what to do? Take our Effective Outdoor Program Design & Management workshop and one of our wilderness medicine courses. Guides and expedition leaders should consider taking our Wilderness First Responder course.
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