We have a guest blogger today. Tim Dyer, owner of White Squall Paddling Centre in Parry Sound, Ontario has contributed in the past so I’m excited to post this today.
For some reason this winter sea kayak rescue technique seems to be a real hot topic in magazines, blogs or internet forums so Tim asked if he could chime in with several random thoughts on the issue.
Give it a go. There is so much here that it will probably require 2-3 reads to get all the meat out of it.
What do you think? Post your thoughts below.
Staying Alive on the Water – A Critical Look at Rescues
By: Tim Dyer – White Squall Paddling Centre
I’ve been thinking a lot about rescues. Maybe it’s because every time I open a paddling magazine or view the list of topics for symposia, sea kayak rescue in all its guts and glory is dissected ad nauseum. To add to the nausea, I thought I would weigh in so here are some thoughts about that most humbling piece of paddling – saving a life.
Lemons Can Get You
If you haven’t heard of Jim Raffan’s model of lemons – it’s the simplest trick in the book, yet most people don’t use it near enough. Really briefly – every time you head out and forget to think about a possible risk and more importantly how you might lessen or get rid of it entirely – consider yourself in possession of a lemon. A common example is not knowing your paddling partner’s skills – that’s a lemon! Now imagine you’ve got yourself a couple, and you’re trying to juggle them. Two aren’t so bad, but hey – a couple more have just popped up. The juggling isn’t going so well, and you’re now in the land of accidents. Maybe you won’t have one, but the likelihood is strong – all because you didn’t destroy your lemons before they got out of hand. If all you ever think of when paddling is getting rid of these dastardly little fruits, your paddling life will likely last longer, which I imagine is a good thing.
Do No Harm
Don’t go in to rescue somebody with a heroic extrication if you’re not reasonably sure of staying on top yourself. This means hanging your ego on that clothesline in the sky. You’re likely not god’s gift to kayaking so don’t pretend. And you are no good to anyone if you’re upside down in the drink.
A Bird in the Hand
Get whoever else is still on top in a position where they’ll stay on top. It’s a pretty dumb rescue if you haul somebody back in, but while your back is turned, two others go in the drink. How do you stabilize? With a skilled group, have them maintain sea position with each other into the wind. We call it a “hover” and it can also work fine with stern to wind, depending on the situation. Last thing you want is a group trying to round up going broadside to waves and current. If they can stern hover quickly, that’s great – all depends on the wind and their skills. If you have an inexperienced group, it may be all you can do to simply get them to raft up. It won’t be pretty, but they’ll stand a better chance of staying right side up. The raft becomes a big sail, so you may have some chasing to do. If you’ve played your cards well, there’s someone else capable of managing the group while you work the rescue. If not, consider yourself in lemon city.
Make Contact and Don’t Let Go
Once you decide to go in, there are no half measures. Sometimes swimmer and boat are separated, and you’ll have to make hard and fast decisions. Most often, you need to get the swimmer first – but if you can just as quickly get the boat to the swimmer, then consider it. It’s not a lot of fun to deal with someone in rough water conditions if you don’t have a boat to put them back into. Conversely, imagine proudly tagging the boat and then looking around for the swimmer who has just slipped beneath the waves. Whatever you decide, go fast – and once you’ve got them – don’t ever let go.
Talk Loudly and be Tough
Think about it – as a rescuer you’re in wild wind, crashing waves and this sorry dude is thrashing about getting colder by the second. He is not going to listen unless you’re really loud, really clear and really direct. I’ve been on both sides of this and it’s simply no time for your kinder, gentler side.