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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.

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Duh - i didn't mean to do that .....


How well is "well enough"?


You are dealing with two things here - the BSA requirements for participation and the parent's perception of their son's abilities - apparently THEY want more protections in place for their son?


For BSA - is he First Class? has he passed the BSA Swimmer Test? has he passed the other requirements for attending Canoe Base? What requirements does the Camp /Troop put on this activitiy? What kind of training are they going to give the boys at Base? What is his canoeing skill level compared to the other boys in the group?


for his parents - Either he is qualified and they are overprotective, or he is NOT qualified, and THEY are putting the restriction on the troop to protect their child at the expense of the others. YES, THEY ARE PUTTING SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILD IN JEPARDY FOR THEIR OWN. THEY feel their child does not have the necessary skills, and that someone else's child (possibly mine??) be given the respoinsibility of saving theirs, should something happen.


As a parent - I would object to that responsibility being placed on my son - regardless of his skill. there have been times when the rescuer gets killed or injured trying to rescue someone -


As a scout leader, the very LEAST I can do is follow the rules set up to protect EVERY boy on the trip to the best of my ability. which means don't send a boy out in a canoe with an albatross around his neck!!!!



I can empathise with the boy and his parents. As a child myself I LOVED canoeing and went on many trips with my family to the boundary waters. at age 12 I had more experience on whitewater and in packing a canoe and canoe tripping than most of my leaders and counselors - but at the time, the Girl scout rules were that you had to be a Red Cross Swimmer to canoe at camp and on council trips. To get the card - you had to take the whole class. I could never last through a class, because if I put my head under water repeatedly, I got ear infections and had to quit the class. I could swim like a fish. If GSA had used a 'Swim Test' like BSA does, I would have passed, no problem. But they required that card. so I never got to canoe at camp until I was 16 and a counselor myself. then the rules changed - As a counselor - If i could pass the swimmers test, i could canoe. period. so i did.


For a kid, it was very dissapointing - but I managed to live through it.




i'd rather have a boy dissapointed, but healthy and ALIVE - than to explain to parents that a boy is dead or injured because someone insisted on special treatment!




We recently came up on something similar on a rafting trip we had planned. Upon discovering that it wasn't quite as "tame" as it was made out to be originally - we limited it to Venture patrol, First Class and above, boys who had At least; Swimming or Lifesaving and Canoeing or Whitewater, and First Aide badges. They had to pass their BSA Swimmer test again and have a Class 3 health form on file. We also had to have SEEN them in action on the water to make a personal assesment of their skill. Which meant new transfers and NSP were not eligable.


We took the NSP with us - they did Orienteering / hiking while the Venture patrol was on the water. In camp, the older boys taught the younger boys camp skills and they all played games. The enthusiasm the older boys had for their adventure inspired the younger boys to work toward those skills with a goal of doing the trip themselves sometime.


It worked great!

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I have four long fat canoes that fit three people and gear quite comfortably with space for all to paddle. Do you not have similar around the place?


Do you really require 8 inches of freeboard? I would have that - and will take my ruler next time we load up. But I see competitive C1's that have virtually no freeboard. Is the rule blanket or specifically for flat water touring?


Not questioning your judgement or BSA policy - genuine lack of knowledge of your requirements and personal interest in the subject.

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Typically canoes used for expeditions here in the states are no longer than 17 feet. They are designed for two paddlers. I have put four paddlers, with no gear in such a canoe for the fun of it, but fooling around, or racing, is not the same thing as executing a multi day expedition. Three paddlers makes the canoe almost uncontrollable. It is far better to have two paddlers and one passenger, with everybody taking turns as a paddler.


I don't think the eight inches of freeboard is spelled out anywhere in a rule book but it if even moderate wave action on a lake, or anything approaching white water is anticipated, less than eight becomes unsafe. I don't know the conditions under which the canoes you have seen are operating. Racing under controlled ideal conditions requires very little freeboard. Maybe that is what your talking about.

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I tend to side with the "...this is a no-brainer" crowd who would enforce the swimmer-test rule for all participants. I haven't been to the canoe base specifically, but I grew up in Minnesota and spent a considerable amount of time around Duluth and points north. Regardless of time of year, this isn't the pond at your local council camp. It's really out in the middle of nowhere, a long way from help if there's trouble, and the weather up there can do very unexpected things (as Captain McSorley from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald learned).


Yarrow, I realize this isn't your troop, but I'm curious: why hasn't the lad passed his swimmer test? Has he passed the beginner's test? Without the swimmer's test, he's not a First Class Scout...should he even be going to Ely?


We have a comparable situation here. We plan a "medium adventure" trip for a week every year to an island 60 miles off the coast. We stay at a military-run rec center, but there are no other US support facilities on the island. Because of the distance and lack of US facilities, we require each Scout who goes to be at least a Second Class Scout, and complete the Class 3 physical. It's publicized far enough in advance that there's plenty of time to get everything done, and we provide opportunity for the swim test, too, even though it means a road trip to an Army base with an indoor pool. We explain everything to the parents, and they understand (and appreciate) the minimum requirements we lay on. In that context, I don't understand why a parent would insist his/her child be placed in a dangerous situation without proper preparation.



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This is effectively a no brainier on more than one account.


First is the absurdity of a passenger in the canoe. Were not talking about taking the ageing SM Emeritus on a canoe trip. Were talking about a young boy. Does anyone expect that he will sit in the middle of the canoe with his hands folded during the entire trip?


Hire a personal Lifeguard. Tremendous concept!! Maybe his parents will also hire someone to do his Eagle Project for him.


Next is the issue of contribution. If the boy has not paddled, then he has not contributed to the adventure and he has not participated in the shared experience. So, if he has had a free ride, then he would have to contribute in some other way. Perhaps all the other boys could sit around and take a break while this boy sets up the entire campsite. I think he could also prepare all the meals and do cleanup chores. Enough, Im sure you get my point.


Then, has anyone asked the parent if he (she) could swim? After all, this person would be signing on as the personal protector for the boy. Then there is the issue of the parents REAL swimming ability. Hmmmmm.


BSA may be a little over the top on some safety requirements, but not here. We have enough responsibility, this is not an added burden that I would take on. If the boy cant prove a proficiency in swimming then he doesnt go on the troop trip.


If the parents are so convinced about the boys invincibility, and perhaps their own, I might suggest that they contact a local outfitter and privately do a different trip over the same time period.




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In other threads I have come out strongly in favor of enforcing swimming as an essential scouting skill, period. If my couch-potato, asthmatic son can pass that BSA swimming test, any boy can if he's got both arms. For that matter, I would guess that many boys without both arms can still do it.


All that said, but...


a) If I read the original post correctly, the boy does in fact technically meet the requirements for the trip (has his swimming badge)? The first question is whether or not the risk is real or imagined on the part of the parents. If the parents do see the risk as significant, and are in possession of a realistic preview of the requirements of the trip - well, the answer is clear. He sits this one out or a strong-swimmer parent goes with him to take the responsibility. Odds are neither parent is a strong swimmer (just because water-lovers tend to have water-babies), so he might have to miss this one ). Oh, well, maybe next year. Delayed gratification isn't that bad a thing, despite our Fast Food society. Aspiring to be bigger, stronger, and more skilled is a good thing.


No other boy should be tasked with a life-saver duty on such a trip. That suggestion is not even worth serious discussion. And hiring a lifeguard is pretty absurd to me too. If that's the level of risk of this trip, the boy isn't up to it. Not a disgrace, might be a disappointment, as I said before, Oh Well. Send him to the public pool every day this summer and see how he does next year. Here in San Antonio, the pools are free, so there's not much excuse for a non-swimming teen here.


BUT the other point I wanted to make was this:


b) I'm a good swimmer, and in my younger days was a very good swimmer. But the times I've dumped canoes or kayaks in fast water, the ability to swim was pretty much a non issue - it was more about just keeping my head and posterior up, feet downstream so I could see what was about to happen to me, and letting my lifejacket do its job. The best you can do is sort of paddle to steer and paddle toward the bank if that's where you want to head. Once I was caught in a hydraulic under a low-water dam once, in a location that claimed a victim every couple of years. I'm here to tell you, swimming skills are totally useless with a ton of water a minute falling on top of you. You have to know to go down, not up (work with the water, not against it.) That's a lot easier to learn than the whipkick, thank goodness.


One of the reasons I hate to windsurf in lakes is that you pretty much must wear a lifejacket - and catching up to a windsurfer in a lifejacket is like chasing a two-yearold with your ankles tied together. The award-winning forward crawl I spent five college semesters perfecting is almost useless. The usefull stroke with a lifejacket on is wayyyy different.


So my point is, the essential skills for survival with a lifejacket on are not really the same as sheer "swimming" skills - and are considerably more quickly acquired. Assuming a certain basic level of swimming, perhaps the training could switch to these skills and the boy and his parents might find that he's more ready than everyone thinks.



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I agree with the insight that swimming per se is not much help in a serious situation. That is why we wear PFDs. That said, I think the requirement is still sound, if only for the confidence it instills. Boys will want to get into the water during periods when the camp is set up, and all the work is done, and there is no reason that they shouldn't, given all the rules being followed. I also have found it possible and desirable to have boys work on and usually complete canoeing merit badge on these trips. There are some requirements for that badge that require the boys to go into the water, and BSA swimmer is a minimum pre requisite.


One still wonders why parents would want to put their son into what they perceive as a very dangerous situation. If the boy really can swim or at least has met the BSA swimmer test, he should do fine. If the parents are so afraid of the prospect then they should no allow their son to go.

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What you say is correct, swimming and floating with a life jacket are two totally different things. However, with the swimming skills come confidence and presence of mind, the ability to think straight when necessary. Ill use your example, feet downstream and head up to see where Im going, you were able to do this because you (1) knew how to use your body to make it happen, and (2) you had the presence to remember it.


A non swimmer in a life jacket would not have reacted as you did. Life jackets have become a crutch for many people. They are a necessity for young children, and an added measure of safety for us older folks. But they are no alternative to good swimming skills. I would argue that, for anyone old enough to take a swimming lesson, good swimming skills are a prerequisite for donning a life jacket. Anyone not old enough to take a swiming lesson, well, they have been born yet.


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Let's look back at the origanl post. Yarrow never said the scout could not swim, or that the scouthad not passed the swimming test. In fact Yarrow suggest that the scout has the "swimming badge", which I will presume means the Swimming Merit Badge.


What yarrow says is that the parents do not feel the scout does not swim "well enough". we have no idea what the parents mean by that.


Bob White

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Just a thought concerning PFD's...I've seen a few come off of folks being maytagged, which suggest in such an event, it's to late to learn to swim if you don't know how. Better hope your buddy is ready with the throw bag....



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Actually, what Yarrow said was:

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.


I have Swimming MB, Lifesaving MB, Canoeing MB, Rowing MB, BSA Lifeguard, WSI, and BSA Lifeguard Counsellor. When I go to Camp this July, I will still have to pass the "Swimmer" test, or I don't get to play. That is one inflexible rule that I happen to agree with.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok........here's where they left it. The boy was signed off for his swimming portion of 1st class a long time ago by someone no longer in the troop and recieved his Rank in November finally. He just barely and recently passed his swim test but NOT the swimming MB. The troop committee voted to let him go to Canoe Base 4 to 3 so he is going, but it sounds like a bit of a risk. I am only glad this has not come up in our troop yet.

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Our troop requires scouts to have the Swimming MB for all aquatic activities. This was hard for my son since he only received his Swimming MB last year at summer camp (he's a bean pole-no fat on his body!). It took him 2 years to get it! But him and I both appreciated the need to have this guideline! There are many other valuable lessons (other than swimming) to be learned within the Swimming MB requirements.


As i said above, i'm glad our troop has taken this responsibility a step further to require the Swimming MB for all aquatic activities. JMO




P.S. And if they want to go canoeing, you quessed it, they need the canoeing MB.....it makes perfect sence if you think about it.





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Swimming MB for all Aquatic activities? No canoeing until he has canoeing MB? Boy talk about restricting the boys activities. Why would you have such a draconian rule. How are they supposed to learn to canoe with out canoeing?


This is another case of Adult over kill. You can go to far and spoil it for the boys.

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