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River Rescue on the Blackwater

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Published Friday, February 15, 2008

A concern for paddlers is the ability to rescue, whether it is self-rescue, or helping someone else in a group.  On a recent Blackwater paddle our group had a chance to assist a fellow paddler.  The river was up and running swiftly, and a kayaker became impaled on a branch. In the process of trying to free himself, he tipped over into the icy water. Even though the water wasn't over his head, the current was swift and the paddler  couldn't get his feet on the ground The group could see that he was in trouble, and the strongest paddler pulled over to a sandbar and waded out and pulled him in. It was a very precarious situation. These are the life lessons I learned:

A.  Always WEAR the PFD.  This fellow had his on until the first rest break, and took it off because he was too hot.  It would have been better to shed his sweats, rather than the life jacket.

B. Stay in shape so you have enough strength to handle an emergency. Practice self-rescue. A fellow club member practices a canoe rescue every year in his swimming pool, and says it leaves him sore every time, but he knows with effort he can still do it. 

C. Wear appropriate clothing. Nylon, polypropolene are light weight, but will keep a person warm and prevent windchill.  Jeans, sweat suits, and normal jackets will fill with water and weigh a person down.

D. Keep your change of clothing in a dry sack. Practice dunking the dry sack and see if your clothing is still dry because you know how to secured it in the proper fashion. Jane says to test "dry" plastic containers by filling them with water, and seeing if they leak.  Water coming out means water can get in.

E. Kayak hatches aren't water tight, and garbage bags aren't waterproof!

F. Throw ropes should be carried, but may not be useful in all situations.

This story had a happy ending, but also opened my eyes to the dangers that come with the sport of paddling. Accidents are unexpected events and happen without warning. I have had several upsets in the past two years, two where I was rescued with assistance, and one when I was alone and did a self-rescue. Being prepared for such a situation is important, and choosing to paddle in areas that allow rescue and with paddlers who can and are willing to help should be considered for people who have limited strength and agility. 



Last update Thursday, February 28, 2008

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Cmt River Rescue on the BlackwaterLogin to Post   
You are in the public comment zone. What follows is not from Green Wave Forum; it comes from other people and we don't vouch for it.
paddlesolo on 2/28/2008 1:55pm
You are so funny yakdave, I had my laugh of the day. But up here we would rassle those gators!
Unknown on 2/19/2008 8:27pm
Fine advice, as usual. I find it interesting that the most inexperienced paddlers are often the least likely to wear a PFD. We at Green Wave can set an example, by always wearing ours. Outfitters and rental locations need to encourage the wearing of life jackets. Too often I hear, "The law requires each person have a lifejacket, but you don't have to wear it." I will then say, "I always wear mine, gives me two free hands to wrestle alligators."