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Camp boating programs; a survey.

The first boating experience for many individuals occurs in a camp environment. Camp provides an ideal setting for well-supervised, on-the-water instruction in safe boating principles from properly trained adults. For this reason, in 1992 the American Camping Association applied for and received a grant from the United States Coast Guard to research camp boating programs and develop materials appropriate for use in organized camping. The following is a summary of information gathered from a survey of camps and conference/retreat centers.

To gather information the ACA Camp Boating Survey was sent to the 3,972 camps and conference/retreat centers on the mailing lists of ACA and Christian Camping International. (For additional information see Mailing Methods on page 32.) The effective response rate to the survey was 42 percent, or 1,653 returned surveys. Of those, 1,293, or 78 percent, had boating programs. Unless otherwise noted, the percentages used in this report represent those 1,293 camps with boating programs. It is important to note there is a probable bias with survey respondents. It is likely they represent larger, long-term camps, and those with boating programs were probably more likely to complete and return the survey While this does not detract from the data gathered or the statistics generated, it does make, extrapolation difficult. It should be noted the figures compiled in this study represent a fraction of the overall numbers of camp programs.

Study Objectives

There were eight primary objectives of the ACA Camp Boating Survey. 1. To determine the make-up of

camps that are providing boating

programs in terms of affiliation and

day or resident status. 2. To determine the types of water

sites being utilized by camp boating

programs. 3. To determine the number and ages

of camp boating participants and to

determine if those with disabilities

are taking part in boating activities. 4. To determine the number and

types of boats being used by

camps. 5. To describe camp boating programs

in terms of vessel types

being used, time spent, instructor-to-student

ratios, and awards

offered. 6. To identify the means of instructor

training most frequently used by

camp staff. 7. To determine the number of accidents,

injuries and deaths related to

camp boating programs, and to

determine their most frequent

causes. 8. To offer camps an opportunity to

express their needs in the area of

small craft.

Survey Results

Camp Information

Sponsorship of camps returning the survey was 28 percent agency camps, 28 percent religiously affiliated camps, 23 percent independent not-for-profit camps, 17 percent independent for profit camps, and 2 percent government-sponsored camps. Two percent of respondents did not list an affiliation. Within those categories, 81 percent of the agency camps reported having boating programs, as did 76 percent of the religiously affiliated camps, 71 percent of the independent not-for-profit camps, 88 percent of the independent for-profit camps, and 61 percent of the government camps. Based on the survey, 73 percent of camps with boating programs are resident camps, 17 percent are combination day and resident camps, and 9 percent are day camps.

Water Site Characteristics

Seventy-six percent of camps with boating programs use lakes and reservoirs adjacent to the camp site. An "off site" river or creek is used by 38 percent of camps with boating programs; this is probably attributed to canoe tripping programs. A limited number of camps (7 percent total on and off site) use the ocean. An even smaller number of camps (less than 5 percent) run their boating programs on "other water" such as swimming pools. Many camps use multiple sites.

Forty-eight percent of camps reported their boating programs are conducted exclusively on flat water. Less than 12 percent of camps use Class III or higher water for any activity, including white water rafting. It is interesting to note that when camps that offer white water rafting are removed from the sample, the number using the higher classes of water is reduced drastically with only 4 percent on Class III or Class IV, and no camps on Class V While this does not eliminate the possibility that canoeing and kayaking arc taking place on higher class rivers, it suggests that few programs other than rafting are using the more dangerous water.

Fifty-nine percent of camps with boating programs do not have sole use of their water site(s). They share with another camp, recreational facility, private home owners, or the general public.

Fifteen percent of camps with boating programs operate on waters that are monitored by the United States Coast Guard. Interestingly, 8 percent responded that they do not know if their water site is Coast Guard monitored.

Only 2 percent of camps with boating programs report that there is a Coast Guard licensing requirement for staff who operate motorboats on their site. Seven percent indicate that a safe boating course is required, and 25 percent indicate that there is no education or licensing requirement. Fifty-two percent of camps offering boating indicate that neither campers nor staff utilize motorboats, so their need to know about licensing/education requirements is moot.

Fifty-six percent of camps with sailing programs said that they utilize a motorized safety boat while campers are on the water. A safety boat is used in 29 percent of camps offering canoeing/ kayaking programs and in 25 percent of the camps with rowing programs. Except for licensing and education required by the Coast Guard or the state, it is not known if safe]y boat drivers receive additional training.

Program Descriptions

The 1,293 camps with boating programs offer a total of 4,111 different activities. These figures indicate that if a camp offers boating at all, it is likely to offer a combination of activities.

Of the various boating programs offered in camps, canoeing/kayaking is offered by the greatest number of camps. Other popular boating programs include rowing, sailing, and board sailing. (See Figure 1 for more detail.)

Regardless of the type of boating activity, most campers spend one hour or less per day in boating instruction.

Staff-to-camper ratios during instruction are dependent upon the type of activity taking place. Camps offering water skiing and motorboating maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of 1-to-4 or less. The majority of camps offering canoeing/kayaking maintain ratios between 1-to-5 and 1-to-8, while most sailing and rowing ratios range between 1-to-2 and 1-to-8.

Camps offering instruction in various boating activities tend to present participation or completion awards to program participants. If completion awards are offered, "in-house" awards are used much more frequently than those available through nationally standardized programs such as the American Red Cross, US SAILING, the American Canoe Association, the National Water Ski Association, or the American Water Ski Association. In-house awards include merit badges awarded in scouting programs.

The time required for completion of award requirements varies with each activity, but most awards take one to eight hours to complete. Sailing and motorboating awards generally take longer to achieve than the other activities with at least 9 to 15 hours required.

Camp Boating Participants

The age group of participants in camp boating programs is dependent upon the type of activity offered. Water skiing and motorboating are most frequently taught to campers over the age of 13. Sailing participants are usually age 9 and over, and those in rowing are usually under the age of 13. The age range of canoeing and kayaking participants is evenly spread between younger and older campers.

Of the camps that responded to the survey, the total participation in boating programs was 613,429. It must be noted that this number represents the participation figures of five programs: sailing, canoeing/kayaking, rowing, motorboating, and water skiing. Because these five activities represent only 84 percent of the boating programs offered in only 1,293 camps, actual participation figures are no doubt significantly higher than the total compiled in the survey

Viewing total participation by specialty, canoeing/kayaking had the highest number of participants, with a seasonal average of 271 participants per camp. Rowing had the second highest participation figure, with a seasonal average of 224 participants per camp. Sailing (including board sailing) had a seasonal average of 154 per camp. Water skiing had a seasonal average of 190 campers per camp. Motorboating had the lowest overall figures, with a seasonal average of 77 campers per camp.

Campers with disabilities that do not restrict mobility, such as epilepsy or developmental impairments, are served by 51 percent of camps with boating programs. In addition, 15 percent serve campers who are legally blind; 21 percent serve campers who are deaf; 15 percent serve campers who are confined to wheelchairs; and 21 percent serve campers who have other mobility limitations. Overall, 56 percent of camps that offer boating indicated that one or more campers with disabilities are currently participating in their programs.

Boating Vessels

The total number of boats found in 1,293 camps was 34,975, with an average of 27 boats per camp.

For camps that possess the types of vessels listed below, on average, a camp uses the following:

Dinghies (small sailboats): 6

Keelboats (large sailboats with

fixed keels): 3

Sailboards: 5

Small canoes (16' or less): 10

Medium canoes (16'1 to 20'): 14

Large canoes (greater than 20'): 3


Sea kayaks: 12

Rowboats: 6

Motorboats: 3

Other (personal watercraft, paddle

boats, etc.): 6.

An additional 1,621 motorboats arc being driven by camp staff, with an average 3 per camp.

Instructor Training

Of camps that list certification as a method of instructor training, American Red Cross programs are the most commonly used. A total of 1,015 camps listed the Red Cross as the organization having certified their instructors. On the other hand, US SAILING was listed only 51 times, the American Canoe Association 101 times, and the American Water Ski Association 91 times. Other training organizations used include the United States Power Squadrons and Windsurfer International.

More camps use documented experience as a criterion for boating instructors than either in-house training or certification. (See Figure 2 for more detail.)

Boating Accidents

Injuries. Between 1990 and 1992, camps reported 412 injuries requiring medical attention beyond basic first aid. The annual figure rose slightly over those years, from 122 injuries in 1990 to 145 injuries each in 1991 and 1992. These figures include both camper, staff, and non-camp personnel injuries sustained during camp boating activities. The cause of the increase between 1990 and 1991 cannot be determined without further study

Some of the injuries listed included cutting a foot on a lake bottom rock and sunburn. One camp noted their policy is to have any camper who is struck by a sailboat boom checked by a doctor. In order to determined the actual seventy of the injuries, further study would have to be done. in general, lack of skill of participants is the most frequently cited cause of injuries requiring medical attention. (See Figure 3 for more detail.)

Deaths. According to the survey, the number of fatalities occurring during camp boating activities between 1988 and 1992 was 5.

In at least two of the deaths, the victims were struck by either the boat or the propeller. Of the five who died, at least two were not wearing personal flotation devices, and alcohol played a part in at least one staff death.

Property Damage. Between 1990 and 1992, camps reported a total of 136 boating accidents resulting in property damage in excess of $250. The totals went up each year, with 37 accidents occurring in 1990, 46 in 1991, and 53 in 1992.

These figures represent a very low frequency of significant property damage occurring during camp boating activities. The cause of the increase in incidence each year cannot be determined without further study It may be reflective of a trend, or it may be attributed to availability of records or even memory

Collisions with fixed objects and capsizes were the most common scenarios for accidents, occurring 39 and 38 times respectively. Groundings were also quite common, occurring in 29 incidents. Staff driven/skippered accidents usually involved a collision with a fixed object, and camper driven/ skippered accidents usually involved a capsize.

Sixty-five camps cited lack of skill of participants, both staff and campers, as the cause of accidents resulting in property damage. The figure for staff-driven boats was 26, and for campers, 39. Other frequently cited causes include weather conditions (29 times), and horseplay by the participants (17 times). The cause of a number of accidents was listed as "other." In at least one of these cases, the property damage was attributed to a severe storm.


The overwhelming majority of camps with boating programs responded that they would like for the American Camping Association to develop materials in the area of boating. Instructor materials are the greatest area of need. (See Figure 4 for more detail.)

Many of these needs arc currently being addressed with the Coast Guard grant ACA received in 1992. Curriculum materials appropriate for camps will be distributed to all camps that participated in the boating survey A boating law summary and a listing of available training programs and other resources arc being prepared for inclusion in the camper curriculum materials.

Relationships have been established with a number of national certifying bodies in order to make their instructor training programs more accessible and more appropriate for camp staff. In addition, ACA has received additional funding for 1993/94 in order to pursue the development of additional instructor training materials.

The ACA Boating Survey has provided valuable information to both ACA and the United States Coast Guard. A database now exists that identifies the numbers and types of boats in camps and describes the use of those boats. The programming information collected will aid national boating organizations as they examine their certification and training programs.

Recognizing the void created by the down-sizing of Red Cross boating programs, different certifying bodies are stepping in to pick up the slack. The American Camping Association will use the information gathered in this study as it encourages training agencies to focus some of their efforts on the camp market.

Laurie J. Porter is boating safety grant coordinator for ACA. She has worked in camps for 12 summers and taught sailing for eight.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:American Camping Association survey
Author:Porter, Laurie J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Success counseling.
Next Article:The great flood of 1993; one camp's story.

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