Larger boating trips have several key personnel:
- Lead - Also known as the Scout or Probe (William Neeley). A strong boater with good river reading skills. It is imperative that no one passes the lead.
- Sweep - Another strong boater. This is often the most risky position in a paddling party since everyone is downstream of this boater if he becomes pinned. The sweep's job is to ensure no paddlers fall behind him.
- Trip Leader or Coordinator - Plans the trip. Once on the river, time management is one of their most important tasks. This person also gets to decide who can join their party.
- First Aid Person - One person typically has the most comprehensive first aid kit. Place this person towards the rear of the group so they are always available if needed.
- Rescue Person - Hauling lines and pin kits definitely have some weight associated with them. Serious rescues require specialized training like you are recieving in this class. It is a good idea to find out whom has decent rescue training and equipment in a large party. Place this person towards the rear of the group so they (and the gear) are always available if needed.
- Mentors - Strong confident boaters that can shepherd weaker boaters if necessary. Keep weaker boaters near the front of the pack if possible.
It pays to know your fellow paddlers (but not always possible). It is helpful to know if everyone is skilled enough for this trip, who is trained in First Aid, who has decent rescue skills, who has group gear like a pin kit, etc. A good trip leader will try to find out as much as possible about each participant before and during a trip.
It is a really good idea to research the run as well via the internet (AW site for instance), guide books, or fellow paddlers. Are strainers common? Any specific drops we need to watch out for like Initiation on the Upper Gauley? How much time does it take to make this run (don't run out of day light)? It is also a good idea to check out the weather forecast and river gauge forecast. the Savage at 300 CFS is quite different from the same run at 900 CFS. Make certain you check both the air temperature and the water temperature. 40° water is unbelievably cold, even in the summer.
Both the trip leader and participants should research the run ahead of time. The trip leader should provide a meeting location and shuttle start time. It pays to provide your cell phone number if you have one. As a general rule, don't wait for stragglers. This places the group at risk and frankly encourages them to continue this poor behavior. You should have a good idea on how long the trip will take and you need to monitor progress, especially if you have a shuttle bunny at the end. Running out of day light can be downright dangerous and should be avoided. This is much more of a risk on Winter runs, plan accordingly. Communicating plans via private email is an excellent practice. Often this is better than posting details on the club board since it can prevent unexpected participants that might not be prepared.