It is ok to say no

It’s ok to say no when you feel like a situation is not safe.  This goes for guides, owners, employees, customers, family, parents, children, and on an outing with friends.

There is always the fear of upsetting a person when you say no.  You may see that the environment is not safe, the equipment is not correct for the task, or a gut feeling that makes you take pause.

There are multiple pressures that we all face.  The pressure to please and the pressure to make money.  In the end neither pressure should ever put into question a person’s safety.

I remember when

There was one occasion that comes to mind.  A few years back I was working for a local kayak outfitter as a guide.  The goal for the day was to kayak from Fort De Soto Park to Egmont Key.  This is an advanced paddle due to strong current and boat traffic.  The proper type of kayak for this paddle is a sit-in-side kayak with a bow and stern bulkheads.  And the paddler should be wearing a spray skirt.  A personal flotation device is always worn on a trip like this.  The kayak should also be 16 to 18 feet long.

This is a trip that we would reschedule and have a plan B if the tides, wind, weather were not ideal for the safety of our guests.

Great weather…

On the day of remembrance, the weather was good; however, we had two people show up with inappropriate gear.  They both had ten-foot open cockpit wide recreation kayaks that had no bulkheads.  Also the didn’t have life jackets.  I called the owner and stated that I was going to refund two people money and offer them a free trip next month on the Silver River.

Thank fully the owner fully trusted my expertise and the customer respected my desire to keep them safe.  I also gave them ideas on what they could do in a protected waterway around Fort De Soto Park.

made a customer happy by saying no

It is always better to receive a bad Yelp review than to place the life of a guest into jeopardy.  The people did come on the next trip down the Silver River.  And they had a blast.  They loved the river, the food we provided, and they tipped us well for their free trip.  And they became a recurring patron that later took some kayak safety classes.

In a few past posts I mentioned Traps to Safety, and I think it would be good to repeat them again.

Traps to safety

I give credit to an old issue of Backpacker Magazine (May 2009) on simplifying the traps of safety. If you cannot find an old issue at your public library or online you can follow a link to my old website where I adapted the commonsense skills to a paddling environment. “Paddlers sometimes take avoidable risks: kayak safety”

5 safety traps

  • Trap: Familiarity
    • I visit here all the time and I have never had an issue, so I am not going to inconvenience myself by taking extra stuff
    • Look at every time outside with fresh eyes. If you are tempted to be relaxed with safety, answer this question. “What is the worst thing that could happen?”
  • Trap: Commitment
    • Looks like a storm is coming, but the weather report said it would be a calm day; anyway, I told everyone I would be on the trail, or paddilng until the end of the day. I cannot stop early and make camp.
    • It is good to stick to a float plan, as long as; safety is the foundation of your plan. Your float plan should also have a plan on what you are going to do if weather conditions change. If you donot know what a float plan is… check this link out. A future post will have unique safety plans for on the water and trail.
  • Trap: Expert Halo
    • I am not sure we are going the right way, but they are a better at navigation than I am.  I do not need to check my navigational chart, map, or mobile phone GPS app; they are probably right.
    • Remember that guides and your friends can make mistakes.  Polity discuss your concerns and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.  Always commit to making decisions together.  When you are unsure about your partner’s reasoning respectfully ask for a clear explanation.  And never be afraid to suggest an alternate plan.
  • Trap: Conformity
    • Everyone else is excited to paddle down this rapid, scramble up that ravine, et cetera… so I should be fine.
    • “If you feel uncomfortable, there is probably a valid reason.”  Speak up – there probably is someone else in the group that feels as you do.  When safety issues arise, seek everyone’s opinion, choose the safe path, and always trust your gut.
  • Trap: Scarcity
    • The forecast calls for a hurricane, but this is my only time for a trip this year because I have taken time off from work.  I cannot reschedule.  The weather will be fine.
    • Prepare an alternate trip location that has less of a chance to be influenced by severe weather.  There is always a better choice than paddling into a predicted severe weather or being stuck on a trail with no evacuation option.

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