Friday, October 06, 2006

An open letter:

Commodore, South Shore Yacht Club
Commodore, Milwaukee Yacht Club

Dear commodores,

As I am sure you know, there have recently been some concerns expressed about interactions between kayakers and yachtsmen in the local area. With this letter I hope to open a dialogue between our two groups and do so in a spirit of mutual respect.

You will want to know that I am a life-member of SSYC (past fleet surgeon) and have over 35 years of on-water experience in boats (Hans Christian 42 sailboat…Compensatory Pause and power boats to 50’ carrying the name CARTAM). In addition, I happen to be an ACA Certified Sea Kayak Instructor.

With that said, please know that there are kayakers of different
backgrounds and intents out on our lake. Some are so-called recreational kayakers who rent or buy boats and go out on their own, often with no instruction whatsoever. I, on the other hand, speak here about the local sea kayakers, most of whom have had formal training and several of whom are certified instructors with extensive open water experience. We informally communicate on a Yahoo web site and are already addressing this issue. Among things we have discussed recently are the following:

1. Crossing sea lanes only as necessary and then as a group and not in long lines. Staying outside the red/white buoys when entering the south shore entrance since we need only inches of water to float our boats.
2. Avoiding paddling near slips, especially where boats might be backing out (especially now, during haul out, when skippers have extra lines with which to contend).
3. Yielding way to all yachts as they are less maneuverable.
4. Carrying a marine radio and monitoring 16 for movements of large/commercial vessels. Carrying all necessary lights, signaling equipment and self-rescue equipment.
5. Carrying a whistle or similar device to make our presence know in an emergency.

From our point of view, it might be helpful if skippers sounded the ship’s bell/horn before backing out of their slips or when casting off a mooring. Also, a wave from you to tell us you see us would be appreciated.

As to the suggestion that we carry flags, similar to those of bicycles: for us, this is a dangerous idea. If we tip over or roll, that stick would become a dangerous obstacle that could injure us and/or prevent us from performing a self-rescue.

Please know that Lake Michigan is our ocean and that we are part of a proud and 7000 year old tradition.

I and several of the other paddlers/instructors are available to discuss these problems with you or, if you’d like, would welcome the opportunity to attend one of your meetings to make a presentation on sea kayaking and/or answer any questions. We are also eager to hear your suggestions and recommendations.

Please, know for now that we respect you and the lake and want, more than anything else, to continue to be safe and cordial out there.

With regards,

Richard E. Silberman, MD
Life Member SSYC (3945)
ACA certified Sea Kayak instructor

cc: Milwaukee Harbor Safety Commission


leslie said...

Great letter, to the point and if the topic of kayaks is brought up at a meeting no matter what the outcome it will alert and focus yacht club members of our presence.

Silbs said...

Thanks. Having met with one commodore, I am left with the feeling that there is a small minority with a problem. They may be, however, vocal and influential. We shall see. DS