Thursday, October 27, 2005

More sad thoughts & my Cold Springs gallery

Still thinking about the accident - I think that the thing that makes this all particularly strange is that owing to the fact that there's been a renaissance in recreational use of the river over the last ten or fifteen years, we've been operating in this strange grace period in which, as far as I'm aware at least, we've had no deaths among the paddling & rowing set. A few rescue situations that had all the more seasoned folks shaking their collective heads with disbelief, but never any fatalities.

This is going to sound absolutely, positively horrible but the fact is that it was pretty much statistically impossible for that grace period to last forever. I don't think I've ever actually said that flat-out but every time I have ever written or said or done anything about safety, the importance of skills, or the inherent risks of boating, it was always, at least in part, because I was genuinely afraid that there were people coming into the sport without really understanding that, and I believe that a person genuinely needs to have acknowledged that to be a responsible boater. Signing the outfitter waiver that says you do unfortunately doesn't really mean that a person has genuinely looked that risk in the face, looked at the quality-of-life benefits that recreational paddling has to offer, and said "Yes, I accept that risk and I want to learn to do this anyhow".

I do think the fact that our grace period lasted as long as it did says that the paddle (and oar) sports community is doing something right. There are gaps, there have been a couple people who had a tendency to downplay the risks in their well-intentioned zeal for getting people out on the water (one thing I've been really glad to see this year though is that the it's-perfectly-safe-all-you-need-is-an-idiot-proof-boat message just seems to have lost traction - idiot-proof boat and the related foolproof boat are oxymorons & potentially dangerous ones - sorry, that's been a pet peeve of mine), but on the whole, the approach to paddling, and teaching paddling, in the area has been done with a lot of attention to safety.

None of this made the accident any easier to take. I didn't know him but the local paddling & rowing community, while growing, is still small; it feels living in a small town and finding out that a neighbor down the block died in a car crash. Maybe you didn't know him personally - but you generally have a liking for the people in your community, and you're just very sad for him & the people around him.

Anyways, sorry for another very gloomy and not-well-thought-out post. I actually signed in with the intent of saying that I have finished a gallery of Cold Spring - pretty close to another virtual tour - but then the other stuff just came out. What a marvelous day it was. As Mr. SeaLevel pointed out, that just made Monday's sad news seem even sadder.

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