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"Basic Handling Test" for Safety Afloat

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Can anyone tell me what is meant by a "basic handling test" in Section 6 of Safety Afloat? I don't think it's defined anywhere. How might our Crew carry out training in basic handling skills in anticipation of a float trip by canoe?


The alternative is 3 hours of "training and supervised practice" which I don't think is achievable before this event occurs, unless each scout has already completed the canoing merit badge.

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While we're at it, let's make sure of "qualified supervision":


1. Qualified Supervision


All activity afloat must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children in his or her care,

who is experienced and qualified in the particular watercraft skills and equipment involved in the activity,

(emphasis ADDED)

and who is committed to compliance with the nine points of BSA Safety Afloat. One such supervisor is required for each 10 people, with a minimum of two adults for any one group. At least one supervisor must be age 21 or older, and the remaining supervisors must be age 18 or older. All supervisors must complete BSA Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training and rescue training for the type of watercraft to be used in the activity, and at least one must be trained in CPR. It is strongly recommended that all units have at least one adult or older youth member currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard to assist in the planning and conducting of all activity afloat.


Here's what you asked about:


6. Skill Proficiency


All participants in activity afloat must be trained and experienced in watercraft handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures.


(a) For unit activity on white water, all participants must complete special training by a BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater specialist.


(b) Powerboat operators must be able to meet requirements for the Motorboating merit badge or equivalent.


© Except for whitewater and powerboat operation as noted above, either a minimum of three hours' training and supervised practice or meeting requirements for "basic handling tests" is required for all float trips or open-water excursions using unpowered craft.





May I suggest American Red Cross aquatics training for canoe, or taking your Crew through the BSA Canoeing Merit Badge curriculum as part of training to your activity???


Does this help?

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Yah, I love J-KC's response. If yeh aren't sure what skills are necessary for the kind of trip you're contemplatin', find someone who does to help you out, eh?


I'd recommend American Canoe Association courses over da Red Cross stuff; they've got a much stricter instructor qualification program.



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You are confirming what I was thinking. Perhaps going through the skills outlined in the MB and then creating some kind of test of knowledge. I don't know how successful it will be to demonstrate the skills on land, but I don't anticipate we'll have access to water before the trip.


I discovered there is an online tutorial for Safety Afloat and Safe Swim. That will be helpful too.

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We require that all Scouts complete a basic handling session one time before they are allowed to go canoing. Our experiences shows that this develops the very basic skills and the confidence that the Scouts needs. Since we use older Scouts as trainers, they in turn sharpen their skills. We also do the swim test so that we can ensure they meet those requirements.


It is difficult to do this once you are actually on the river and everyone splits up. Ensuring everyone has the proper training helps make for a trip that is more fun and enjoyable all around.


We also do this for bike trips. All bikes must pass an inspection and everyone must pass a basic handling test.



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Perhaps going through the skills outlined in the MB and then creating some kind of test of knowledge. I don't know how successful it will be to demonstrate the skills on land, but I don't anticipate we'll have access to water before the trip.


Yah, I don't think it's at all adequate to have a land-based course on "canoe theory", eh? The reason for the G2SS passage is that you need to get the boys individually to the point where they're going to be OK on the water. Water's a funny thing, it's not always possible for you to "get there" in time to save a boy from a bad experience.


It might help us if you told us a bit about the trip you were thinking of. Then we could give yeh some feedback on what kind of handling skills (and more general group skills) are needed.


If you can't do some kind of pre-trip practice on water, then consider whether on the first day of your "real" trip you need to set aside the morning, in a carefully controlled environment, to learn and practice. It'll make your trip shorter, true. But it'll also make it better, and safer.


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We are a Missouri based troop/crew. If the event is open to the whole troop, we will have kids of ages 11 and up. If we restrict it to crew members, we'll have only high schoolers.


The trip will be in early May. There are several beginner's level floating rivers in the region. But, the whole idea is starting to concern me, the more I learn. I am now seriously thinking that instead of a true "float" on a river, I should suggest we camp at a summer camp property that has a lake and practice skills that way. All these kids have qualified as swimmers at summer camp last year. So, at least we have that covered. However, we also have to get adults qualified as swimmers, safety afloat, and address the paddling skills. The whole 9 yards! A lot to accomplish for the boy and adult adviser in charge in 2.5 months.

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Yah, I don't know your area, eh? But Missouri is not known for its whitewater, 'cept for a short bit of the St. Francis.


Self-test questions: Do yeh know what a river gauge is? Can you identify the major hazard(s) on the river you're thinkin' about, and how to avoid them?


If not, I'd encourage you to take a couple of adults and older boys to do an ACA canoe course. You'll learn a lot. Otherwise, find somebody who can answer such questions to help you out the first time.


Summer camps have a really bad habit of signing off on the swim test for anybody who "drowns in a forward direction" the appropriate distance. Yeh have to re-do swim checks each year anyways. I'd take the time to do 'em right before your trip.


Second step I think you've got - take a day or a half day at the camp lake, and learn stuff in a controlled environment. Swamping a canoe, emptying a canoe (learn which kids aren't strong enough to empty a canoe...). Forward strokes, sweeps, J-stroke or at least a good stern pry/rudder. A bit of solo paddling to be ready for when your buddy exits the boat. Some fun games of toxic tag, etc. Use that day also to set your expectations on the proper conduct of water fights, and limits to horseplay. Don't neglect the adults! They tend to flip easier than the kids, eh?


Before yeh go on the river, be sure you've got a means to keep together. It's really easy for fast guys to get too far ahead, and slow guys too far behind. Proper clothing - May can be cool, wet, and windy as easily as sunny, and your small lads will chill faster than you'd think. Snacks and lots of water.


On a good weather day, at normal river levels, I imagine a Missouri river trip would be no problem at all for your whole troop. Just a bit of planning and prep, and you'll have a blast.



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The parents committee meets tomorrow. Based on what I'm learning, I'll suggest we do the camping and canoeing at a lake in May and get everyone trained. Then perhaps we can put the float together for June as a summer activity. Maybe that would even allow us to float on a weekday when the rivers are less crowded and the rentals are cheaper.




This is is so true. I took a group of boys on a bike rally and the older boys got way ahead and got off the course at some point. Luckily we had radios! The safety afloat training really stresses supervision. If we postpone the float until we have enough parents trained and available to supervise the trip, I think we'll be better off.




The rivers under consideration for the float are the Huzzah, Gasconade, and Niangua. Although if we are talking about a summer float, we could choose a river that is a greater distance from home, such as the "Ozark National Scenic Riverways" which inclues the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.


I think it will be a lot of fun too, but it's better to do it right!! Thanks Beav, John, for your guidance.

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Lots to do and if you don't have access to "on the water time" before your trip...one word...DON'T (period).


Water skills must be mastered on the water. I second the motion on the American Canoe Association material( they're located on Alban Road in Springfield, Virginia)...they have several reasonably priced books on fundamental skills as well as TEACHING canoeing and they offer classes on the same topics held at various locations across the country.


You do not want to be on the river with a young boy who scares the "juice" out of the leaders and himself and then refuses to get back in the canoe...in the middle of nowhere! nor do you want a young scout not pulling his on weight because he "just can't do it!" it not fair to the other scout in the boat. Get 'em trained...First all are to be "BSA" swimmers, then get your leaders lined up with Safety afloat and Safe Swim Defence and CPR certification (a must). Then show a few training tapes in your meetings (path of the paddle series is very good)and then get to a lake as soon as the water is warm enough for some flat water training and as often as you can. Then find a novice rated river to start on and if you do not have well trained canoe "leaders" engage an outfitter to supply you with a guide or trip leader for your first event...


Know your rivers...if you do not have first hand knowledge try to get it...talk to folks who know the river, read river guide books, take a private trip with folks who know the river...Most States have canoe clubs that will greet you with open arms and most of these clubs have monthly trips on local rivers that you and others can float along (the fees are usually really small). Then figure out how much water flows in each of your "target" rivers during the usual warm weather months...(more research) some rivers dry up fast and a canoe trip planned for the wrong month can be more of a wet hike...a bad wet hike...than a float trip.


Our troop trip leaders requires scouts to be flat water trained (two weekends- about 8-12 hours on the water-summer camp is nice but we do our own) plus an easy novice river before hitting class one rapids and two days (8-12 hours of paddling)on novice class one rivers before hitting class two water. Even when we are on these trips we usually do some training during the first couple of hours on the water.


Training and safety can never guaranty an accident free trip but it sure cuts your odds of having to face a bad outcome and some boy's greiving parents.


Once had a parent challenge me as to "who was I to make up such rules about what he or his boy needed to do before going on a river trip with the scout troop?" (I'm not the SM BTW)...my answer was simply I was the guy who would leave him and his son there in front of the church without a canoe if he didn't get with the program. It seemed to work...they got trained...Our annual 100 mile canoe trip is an awsome incentive.


Do the hard work and the fun is more rewarding and sweeter!


course then there are the canoe liveries that rent boats to the public on easy rivers and you can just "take your chances"...But, we hope not!


good luck


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What both Beavah and Anarchist said.


A long time ago, in a Council far far away, I was a member of Explorer Post 7. We were young men from Troop 110, and we decided to go down the Colorado River from Needles CA to Lake Havasu. We planned a 3 day weekend, but before we got to that weekend, it was non-negotiable: We all took ARC Canoeing. Every one of us had over 12 hours in the water, fore and aft paddling positions, getting in and out, handling swampings, the whole shooting match.


Now, as Beavah said, ACA Canoeing is probably better than ARC Canoeing, but the point remains: Getting on OUR MISSOURI RIVERS (that KC doesn't mean anything but Kansas City) DEMANDS HANDS-ON TRAINING.


If you do not have the time and energy for hands-on training for all participants, you don't have the time to take this trip!!!


We're coming up on high discharge season, as the spring rains will fill the tributaries, the Mighty Mo herself, and the old gal the Mississippi. While it's not whitewater, it's active water, with LOTS of flotsam, and there are more than a few interesting currents on our Missouri rivers.


ADULTS AND YOUTH NEED HANDS-ON TRAINING. I cannot say this enough.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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