5.5 Group communication

Operating as a group is one of the main ways that we enhance our safety on the sea. However, it’s not enough for everyone to launch at the same time - the group needs to work in a cohesive and supportive way.

Clearly, the group can only operate effectively if everyone stays together. There’s a compromise, especially in challenging conditions, between staying close and giving each group member enough space to manoeuvre. This limits the size of effective groups at a more advanced level.

The group must communicate effectively both before and during its time on the water. Given it is easier to communicate on land, it make sense to review plans, roles, potential hazards and options before launching. On the water, the team takes advantage of quiet spots to chat and re-evaluate its options. When possible, the team paddles close enough together to hold a conversation.

A group can only work effectively if group members can see each other. This can become challenging among rock gardens. It helps if group members move so that they can see each other and can be seen by others.

It is easier to avoid trouble than to sort out problems after they occur. The group should be proactive in identifying hazards, decide what challenges it wants to take on, and formulate plans that enable progressive exposure to conditions and an opportunity to retreat. For example, the group might choose to launch in a river mouth and paddle upwind rather than beginning the day by paddling downwind and offshore.