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Old 01-27-2010   #1
tj@cu's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 983
Scary Story

So I had one of the scariest moments on the water last friday on henderson creek in tennessee, and I had some questions for people on what they do during situations.
My friend ended up getting pinned on the downstream side of a log in the middle of a class 4 rapid with a class 5 just downstream with his head just out of the water. I climbed out on the log and he told me his lifejacket was caught on the tree, I felt around and couldn't feel it being caught anywhere. I tried just pulling him out of the water but that didn't work, so I felt around again because he kept saying something was pinching his midsection making it hard to breath. I found that his skirt was caught on the tree, I tried just to work it off but couldn't budge it, at this point it had been at least 3 minutes so I was getting pretty worried. I told him that I was going to cut his skirt, I felt around the area that was caught and couldn't feel his body at all so I was pretty sure I wouldn't cut him. I couldn't really see thru the water so I just felt where it was stuck and started hacking away, as soon as I got thru the rand he came free. I was able to get hold on to him before he washed downstream and we got him a rope and to shore. He then had to hike-out and was able to get out just before dark.
I have been thinking about this situation a lot lately and have come up with a few questions, most importantly my hands were going numb by the end. I use poggies and don't have gloves, I'm wondering if gloves would have any effect on this. I think it might help but at the same time I'm not going to take the time to put them on before helping someone and I can't feel the paddle if I wear them all the time.
The other thing I was thinking about was whether I could get out of my skirt, in this case he would have had to get it over his head, do you think it out be possible to do this.
Just kind of thinking about what I could do different/better in preparing for the rescue and during the rescue.

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Old 01-27-2010   #2
West By God, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 289
Cutting the skirt was the right decision. Don't hesitate to use the knife in that situation. Seeing that his head wasn't underwater, making sure you had a rope thrown to him was a good decision as well.

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Old 01-27-2010   #3
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 141
I have no experience performing a rescue like you did...nice job.

However, I did go back and forth for a couple years deciding between gloves and pogies. Finally settled on some rather thin grippy gloves, primarily for the reason you noted: if you're not holding the paddle, pogies do no good. Keep searching for the right gloves. You may find that you like them better in the long run.
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Old 01-27-2010   #4
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Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1999
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Ugh. Nasty story buddy. Sometimes there's just not much to do, but hope you've got good buddies. I'd just hope to have you along in that situation. I agree with you on the gloves. I think the best thing to take away is an awareness for how the cold changes things. It's different firing drops on a warm sunny day than it is on an icy cold one and boaters should consider that difference consciously before difficult drops.

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Old 01-27-2010   #5
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
Nice save Tom. Great you could pull that off. Personally I wear thin gloves when it is cold, but everything is a trade off. My gloves would have kept my hands warmer, but certainly have at least a minor loss of dexterity both on the paddle as well as on the knife. Enough loss to drop the knife? Certainly possible, but gloves are what work best for me.

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Old 01-27-2010   #6
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
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Posts: 1,768
this nearly exact thing happened to us last year. we ended up giving the knife to the guy who was caught cause he could reach his skirt better and we could concentrate on keeping his head out of the water. not sure if your friend would have been able to do that.

good work and quick thinking. I guess a thin pair of gloves under the pogies might make your hands last a little longer.
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Old 01-27-2010   #7
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 700

I have had a very similar experience and also cut the skirt. I wear gloves and probably would have pulled one off in that situation so I could feel around like you were. Feeling through neoprene just isn't the same. Skirts and hikes are cheap compared to the life you saved. Good call and good job.
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Old 01-27-2010   #8
thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 600
Nice job! That is the name of the game, you work with what you have. A crane would of been nice too along with five scuba-divers, but that was not the case.
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Old 01-27-2010   #9
Evergreen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 316
There was a similar post about this a couple of years ago with some interesting recommendations.

- Skirts with Kevlar rands are really difficult to cut so keep this in mind when making a purchase.

- A knife with a hole to slide a finger through is a good design. As your hands get cold it is easier to hold onto the knife.

- a knife with a blunt tip will keep you from puncturing the skin. The rand of a skirt and be dangerously close to the femoral (spelling?) artery.

- Dry decks (dry tops with a skirt built in) are a dangerous option for creeking and river running because you cannot take the skirt off in this situation.

Excellent job saving your friend by the way.
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Old 01-27-2010   #10
Horserump, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 458
I got pinned beteen a couple of rocks in Ca and was able to climbe out through my skirt. It's amazing what you can do if you're motivated.

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