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Old 06-29-2009   #11
Bend, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 141
[quote=UserName;149303] I told him to just use the plastic toggle. Point here is he had an idea what this thing was for, but no idea how to use it. [quote]

The better advice would be to not use it until he has trained to do so. Like ropes, these tethers can be more a liability than a help if you are not dialed in on how to use them. I'm not in a position to make a blanket statement about how to use the toggle (refer to manufacturer specs) but they can definitely jam up under tension if the plastic buckle is used exclusively. might want to revisit that.

Vaya Con Rios!

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Old 06-29-2009   #12
Ft Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 160
A few more lessons

I thought it would be good to elaborate on a few more lessons...

Despite the fact that we paddle together a bunch (or maybe because of it), there is a lot of familiarity, which leads to little communication... everybody does their thing. When the shit hit the fan, we stll went about doing our thing, rescue wise, without really communicating our intentions. Now clearly there's no time for a pow-wow, but at the very least we could have been better at telling the person right next to us what we are about to do next. This would have saved some confusion, and perhaps the first swimmer might not have been left on the bank for 20min before someone got back to him. Coordination became rapidly difficult as very quickly we were spear over several miles of river.

In a river that is flowing high, should you be boat based or shore based with your rescue. For our first swimmer, there were three of us (me included) that could have exited and maybe prevented the swimmer from going under the long as he was grappling rocks on the bank 40 yards above the log, but couldn't quite get a grip.

I might be wrong on this, but I don't think a whistle was used to get the second swimmers attention as he floated by ( never heard a whistle during the entire incident). The opportunity to grab a bag in swift water is fleeting, far better if the person is ready for it. Even if he had grabbed it, could have he held on? When was the last time we all grabbed a throw bag in order to pendulum to the side in fast current? There's also the issue that failing to get him all the way to the side might have exposed the swimmer to the greater hazards near the right hand bank as opposed to the center of the rapid.

On tethers:

Originally Posted by Dave Frank View Post
I have been removing my tether if I am paddling class 5, and I would probably want 3 minus to warrant clipping in. I usually just float along side the boat and wait for it to pin, unless it is super mellow, or I REALLY like you.
I do think they are useful for unconscious swimmer rescues and backup lines, even on class 5 runs (but in manageable water/situations).

Originally Posted by UserName View Post
I am curious about how the rescue harness was worn. A friend of mine with little experience came to me a few weeks ago with his Stolquist rescue harness and wanted to know how to work it. It had the plastic toggle release buckle AND a metal clasp similar to a climbing harness. His intuition was to thread it through the metal piece, then back again through the metal piece, Then through the plastic release topple. I saw that and thought 'Oh my god, that thing will never release!" Looked it up on Stolquist web site and this full fold 'option' releases at over 1000lbs. So full on Chest harness. I told him to just use the plastic toggle. Point here is he had an idea what this thing was for, but no idea how to use it.
From training with tethers, during their design evolution in the 90's, it was found that the plastic buckle was not strong enough, or popped open, under the kinds of pressure experienced in normal rescue use. The metal buckle was introduced to add friction to the system and reduce pressure on the buckle. This system should release under pressure, but is more difficult to undo otherwise. Feeding the webbing back through the buckle would lock it off making it unreleasable. Of course practice with your gear in contrived situations is imperative.


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Old 06-29-2009   #13
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
Very interesting read.

A couple of comments (hopefully I'm being obvious and redundant)

  1. I would strongly urge everyone to take at least a basic swift water rescue class especially if you are putting on a rescue vest.
  2. Your rescue gear is useless if you do not know how to properly use it. (see #1) The gear will not rescue someone, the person who is using it does (gear don't rescue people, people rescue people).
  3. A rescue vest is designed to be used not only for tethering to a boat, but also for tethering for a strong swimmer situation (see #1). While just using the plastic buckle is fine if you are just going to tether to a boat, the plastic buckle alone is not sufficient for a tethered swimmer (see #2).
  4. Practice Practice Practice
    1. How many times this season have you tossed your throw bag for practice? -or- Has the rope inside your throw bag ever seen the light of day?
    2. Have you practiced using the safety release buckle on your tether belt? With tension on the tether? With no tension on the tether? At different angles of tension? The first time that you try to release the buckle should not be when things are heading downstream fast and you are connected to it.
    3. Can you set up a z-drag system?
    4. A tag line?
  5. Know beforehand how your group communicates (hand signals, whistle blows, etc.)
As stated repeatedly above, screw the gear, get the person, but don't compound the situation by turning one rescue into two (or more). Know your limitations and the limitations of your group.

Glad everyone was okay... sounded like an epic adventure.
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Old 06-29-2009   #14
latenightjoneser's Avatar
steamboat, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 418
When do you throw your throwbag?

I feel that the thrower should use wise judgment and only throw when safe and practical.

Another school of thought is to only throw when you have eye contact and the swimmer requests it.

Problem: swimmer doesn't know, isn't oriented in his panic, as to where the thrower is.

If I am swimming by you, and don't see you, please hit me in the head with your rope. If I am swimming, it's probably at least class IV and I probably want your rope.

I could only imagine waving off a rope in flat water, when a wise thrower probably wouldn't throw anyway.

throw or wait?
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Old 06-29-2009   #15
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Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,507
Well what if you throw it cause you deem the swimmer needs immediate rescue. he can't get to shore grabs the bag and gets tangled? would the swimmer have energy to grab his knife hold his knife and cut the rope saving his life possibly? what to do? ive always practiced if they don't know its coming don't throw cause it takes two people to play catch. im not just trying to snag the swimmer. eye contact is key. if they don't know of it they can't grab it.
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Old 06-29-2009   #16
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 831
Maybe one thing to think about beyond the obvious issue of the use of a tether in whitewater is being careful to keep some extra energy in the bank when lapping rapids.

My odds of swimming increase exponentially when I am tired and I get really paranoid about that when I am lapping stuff. I usually call it quits when I feel like I have about 1 more full lap left in me.
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Old 06-29-2009   #17
Mad Scientist/Creeker
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 803
re: when to throw your bag and how/

Yell the swimmers name or swimmer! before making the throw. Make eye contact and then make the toss directly at them. Over them is better than throwing it too short.

In a best case scenario you should throw the bag when the swimmer is well upstream of you, but still at the swimmer and pull them in downstream towards you. Wherever you get them on the line brace yourself and get strong. The pendulum put's a ton of pressure on both the swimmer and the bagger, especially when crossing the eddy line so be ready for it.

Where to position yourself is a much more in depth topic and is very situation dependent. In general you should be further downstream of the swimmer or hazard than you think.

If you want to get this rescue stuff dialed take one of our Downstream Edge 2 day kayak rescue courses with Wigston, Hilleke, myself and host of other great instructors. They are cheap and you will get to practice all of the things mentioned in this post including using your rescue vest, throwing your bag, how to deal with a rescue situation and much more. We do entirely scenario and on river based classes where you will get comfortable doing these things.

Sorry to turn this into a promotional for our course but I truly feel that if more of the members in our group had taken this course recently this situation would have turned out much differently.
Evan Stafford
Cub boater: "What do the spiders mean?" Old fart boater: "Trust your intuition." CRCII
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Old 06-29-2009   #18
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
Wow. Really glad everyone's ok. Thanks for sharing so we can all learn.
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Old 06-29-2009   #19
possumturd's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 451

Mike Tyson said it best:

Evabody gotta plan...till they get hit.

Glad everyone is ok....whew.
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Old 06-29-2009   #20
Kayak/SUP Instructor
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The High Ground, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,325
Pretty wild. I have to remind myself in my little mental checklist before I push off that I have a knife on my chest and what it's there for.

Thanks for sharing this.

"Let us cross the river to the other side and rest beneath the shade of the trees." ~ Last words of Thomas Jonathan ''Stonewall' Jackson
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