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  • Still can't swim

    Boy things are getting ugly in another local troop. A young boy, going to canoe base, still can not swim well enough. The parents are insisting on having other stronger swimmers be in the canoe with him. Or they have also suggested hiring a lifeguard to go in his canoe. How much teeth do the troops have to prevent a safety disaster like this one looks. He has been working with camp personal and doing private lessons for months. I believe he has the swimming badge although I don't know how.

  • #2
    BSA Safety Afloat requires everyone in a canoe on running water to pass the BSA "Swimmer" test. If he cannot pass the Swimmer test, he may ride as a "passenger" with an adult who is also a certified lifeguard. IF there is an adult available who is a certified lifeguard AND who is willing to do all the paddling on the trip, then GO for it. As a "passenger", the scout has to just sit there and enjoy the ride. If this is a long-term trip, having more than two people in the canoe, plus their gear, is not safe. I did three 50-milers as a Scout and with only two people plus gear, we were pretty low in the water, and did our share of swamping...especially in the rapids.

    Anyone disagree?


    • #3
      I wish to express mild disagreement with the previous post. Ideally you should have no more than two people in a canoe. If an odd number of people go on a canoe outing, then one person rides as a passenger and people take turns paddling. While non swimmers are allowed on float trips with a properly certified lifeguard in the canoe with them, this does not mean they are not allowed to paddle, particularly if there is an even number of people in the total expedition. It is unfair, ridiculous, and unnecessary to say that a non swimmer in this circumstance is not allowed to paddle. They should be required to paddle.

      The basic rule for loading canoes is that there has to be eight inches of freeboard for safe canoeing. If there is an odd number of participants on an expedition, loads just have to be distributed properly so that each canoe is loaded safely. This includes consideration of the weight of the people themselves, not just the gear. Ideally each person should be in the canoe where their personal gear is stowed. The canoe with three people just won't carry as much crew gear, if any. I have been there and done that.

      le Voyageur has made the point in other posts that conventional lifeguard training does not encompass moving water rescue. So, if anything resembling whitewater is to be encountered on a float trip, I would not be inclined to accept even the compromise contemplated by Safety Afloat. I have never paddled the boundary waters, but from my understanding it is almost all flat water. If this is where the expedition is going there may not be an issue.

      The idea that the troop is obligated to hire a lifeguard for the expedition is also over the top. If the parents want to pay for the lifeguard, fine, but even then it might not be a deal. The adults in charge of the event should have the final say in these matters. They are the ones who will be responsible should bad things happen.


      • #4
        Yours is a "common sense" approach, Eisely, however as has been pointed out by the "Rule Police" here, "the rules is the rules" and I don't know how else to interpret the word "passenger". In my simple mind, if you are in a canoe, you are either a paddler or a passenger...can't be both. And I agree that if the parents want a personal lifeguard, they need to foot the bill for his expenses.

        Safety is something I will not compromise. The idea of having "Swimmers" is so the scout can handle himself if he gets dunked, so "having other stronger swimmers" in the canoe with him is a non-starter. If the canoe swamps, they are busy taking care of their own butts (and gear) and should not be expected to be responsible for the non-swimmer. If it were MY unit, every Scout going on the trip would be a Swimmer, period. With proper instruction, there's no reason short of physical disability that would prevent that. Sounds like the parents are too quick to jump in and save the day...


        • #5
          If that was a condition to go on the trip, then the troop can and should enforce it. The Scout had ample time to prepare himself. The parents knew of the requirement.

          If he can't pass the swim test, he is not a swimmer. The Swim test is about Scout's current swimming ability at that time. My units conduct swim test at least once a year, if not twice.

          The parents are making a big thing out of this. The quickest way to quiet'em up is to tell them, "If your son has to go, then you have to go too, and he'll be in your canoe".

          It's amazing how quiet they become after I make a similar statement to them.



          • #6
            Why are the parents so insistant he go? If it's that big of a trio all the boys probably should have their canoeing merit badge also. And if the parents "hire" a lifeguard to go with their son does he have to register as something?

            Matua has the best response make sure one of his parents goes on the trip.


            • #7
              For any canoeing activity I've always cosidered the GTSC as the absolute minimum. I've never had a problem of cranking up the requirements to keep a person, or a crew safe.

              For me, even on flat water everyone must be a swimmer dispite what the guide says.

              Here's why....

              If there is one constant about flat water it is this, that it isn't alway flat. Flat water is always a mix of weather, winds and currents. Even on large bodies of water an unexpected storm can quickly change a placid lake into a nightmare of rolling waves, and deep swells that can swamp or flip a canoe with little effort.

              In this case the parents are being unreasonable thus putting the overall safety of this crew at risk...


              • #8
                Ditto with Matua and Lv.



                • #9
                  If they are going to the National Base in Boundry Waters he must pass the swim test. There is a form that must be filled out and signed by Aquatics Director or other qualified person, before they go. If they are going to a private base then I would follow the advise given above. I would not take anyone who could not pass the swimmers test, but this would be know to all in advance so there would be no questions.
                  By the way the National Base sets it up for three in every canoe when possible. One to portage canoe, one to portage personal gear and one to portage crew gear.


                  • #10
                    This is a good example of what separates the different quality levels you find in unit scouting. Good scouting, and more importantly good leadership is a balance of several elements, all of which are controlled for the most part by the scoutmaster.

                    The problem as presented can not be dealt with effectively through any one path. If you decide strictly by the rules then you could be endangering the scout or those in his canoe. If you go strictly by the parents you put undue tensions on an individual or individuals and spoil the event. Go by your opinion without the other people involved buying into the decision and you create bad blood with the family and possibly lose the scout.

                    The thought processes so far in this string have focused on single element solutions. How about a mix?

                    The SM needs some friendly communications with all the parents of the participant explaining the safety policies that the BSA and the camp require for the safety of all involved.

                    The parents need to realize that the ultimate decision regarding their sons participation is theirs. If, after being told what the boys will be expected to do, they feel their son is not ready then it is the parents responsibility to not send the scout. On the other hand the parents need to know and appreciate the training that the scout has gone through to prepare for the activity and what skills he has been required to learn and be tested on.

                    It is the Scoutmasters responsibility to understand the needs and characteristics of each scout. If a scout technically meets the requirements but the SM has concerns he should know that already and be making adjustments to assist the scout. These adjustments could be additional instruction, modifying the event, inviting additional expertise on the trip, manipulating the canoe pairings etc.

                    Keep in mind the goal of the trip is not the trip itself, it is the lessons we teach during and through trip. If you end up leaving this scout behind what lesson has he learned compared to what he could have learned on the trip.

                    Be situational managers. Be flexible enough to adjust to each scout in each situation. Deliver the aims of scouting on a personal basis to each scout, using all the leadership tools in our tool box not just the ones we have grown the most comfortable with.

                    Bob White

                    I have to admit to some personal discomfort with the derogatory tone used with rules police. As a child when someone didnt follow the rules they were called cheats, the ones that did follow the rules were called good sports. As an adult when people dont follow the rules of the community we call them criminals, and the ones who do follow the rules we called good neighbors. But for some reason in scouting if a scouter follows the rules we deride them. The few rules we have in scouting are there to protect scouts from adults and protect adults from themselves. If we operated this program based on common sense we would have a lot of injured scouts.

                    The problem with common sense is its not common.


                    • #11
                      I stand corrected on one point. G2SS Safety Afloat does state that a non swimmer can ride as a passenger. This would seem to exclude participating in paddling, although that would seem unnecessarily restrictive.

                      Just for the record, every float trip or canoe outing in which I have been involved has always required that all participants at a minimum pass the BSA swimmer test.

                      BW's point about further conversations with the parents is well taken.


                      • #12

                        Maybe National should amend this non swimmer passenger rule allowing it only at a camp's well protected waterfront.....(that, or they should reconsider B.P.'s mandate of "every Scout a swimmer")


                        • #13
                          Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the aquatics director have the final say in this?

                          Ed Mori
                          Troop 1
                          1 Peter 4:10


                          • #14
                            Bob White, makes a lot of good points in his posting.
                            In my own Council, I'm very lucky to have a great friend, who at times will give me a kick in the pants, when I get caught up in the activity and lose sight of the "Why"
                            The Way We Do That,
                            Is the reason behind everything that we do.
                            But how often we seem to be willing to put that to one side, and put all our effort into the "That"
                            As for this "Police" Thing. I think that most of the people that I know who are "Up On" the rules are the people who make the program work.
                            The really sad people in Scouting are the ones, who use the rules and add to them, in order to do what - I have no idea.
                            Scouting and our programs is not over burdened with a great number of rules. We do have a set of methods, which are worth reading at least once a month.
                            When all is said and done we are in the "Devlopment Business". Bob makes a really good point about working with the boy, and understanding his needs, and making the program work for him. After all the program is for him. Ok this at times is not easy and is often a pain in the you know where, but it is what we do or what we ought to be doing.
                            If you have time take another look at what Bob is really saying, not just about this canoe trip, but about our program and the youth we are to serve. If we could provide the program along these lines, we would have less youth leaving the program, and the youth, all of them would have such a super time. Go ahead take another look at what he said.


                            • #15
                              This is simple. The boy swims, or he does not attend aquatic activities. Rules are rules

                              asm 514