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Old 04-04-2016   #1
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 1
River rescue plan

Hello all,

I would like to open a discussion of what planning, discussion and ideas you all have prior to multiday trips regarding what your group does when something goes wrong. My crew has a late May Selway trip and the potential for "complications" could be high with that launch date. We have a solid group that has a good breadth of experience running spring time flows on a number of mountain and desert rivers, so the basics don't need to be over emphasized but are welcome. While my focus this year is on cold class IV water I think solid recommendations for class III to class V water could benefit the discussion.
As background, I have take a swift water, but it has been over 13 years so any new info (applicable to the topic) is certainly appreciated. I have worked as a guide, but never on multiday trips so my training doesn't extend to that tricky realm of what the hell you do with a fully loaded oar rig that is upside down or pinned. I'm anxiously anticipating my first unintentional flip (although I have done just about everything else you can do with a boat...)

The three points I have been pondering listed below, but as this is a request for new ideas/thoughts I would happily welcome other suggestions.

1) Utilizing the group in recovering a flipped boat. While I agree that retrieving a person on top of a flipped boat is a priority, I also think they can assist the recovery of that boat if they are capable and no major drops are coming. My main question is what the rest of the group does. Do you have kayaker or other oar rig paddle/row downstream to catch a boat in an eddy? What has been most successful for you, bulldoging/pushing the flipped boat to an eddy or towing it? How much of you group do you want upstream as opposed to downstream of the flipped boat and why?

2) What small things do you do to aid in a rescue. I was thinking of small webbing loops (about 4 inches wide) tied around the floor lacing in the bow and the stern to A)clip into and B)help get onto an upside down boat. I should acknowledge that the guide service I bought my boat from did this (presumably to create handles to move a rolled up boat around in the off season in addition to river rescue). The operations manager is a clever fellow I might add. What about flip lines/tag lines around you waist? Pre-rigged Z-drag? Paddles strapped below your spare oars? How do you spread gear/supplies amongst the boats in the case of a lost or pinned boat?

3) What is your plan for running drops? Do you split the group or run as one group? Who is lead and who is sweep? Why? What is your ideal spacing? What the hell do you have the kayakers do? What is your criteria for running safety from shore vs. a boat?

I have ideas about most of this stuff, but I have also spent enough time on water to know that humility is a virtue. I welcome all ideas and thoughts, but have a simple request as this is my first post on this site, if you are going to troll this, please make sure it is very entertaining.

Don't believe 90% of what I say, I used to be a guide...
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Old 04-04-2016   #2
scooby450's Avatar
Mesa, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 259
I can't wait to be entertained!

Whether U Think U Can, or Think U Can't; U R Right!
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Old 04-04-2016   #3
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
I'll bite. I think all of your questions are spot on, and every situation will have its own answer to most of them. I'll toss a few things out. You need at least two people upstream for stopping downriver traffic. I know in many of the wilderness rivers we run it is doubtful you'll see another group, but the last thing you need is boats running into your rescue scene. Someone needs to be in charge, and that means they are not to touch gear. They have a responsibility to keep an eye on everyone above all else.
Spread the rescue equipment out amongst the boats. Kayaks and inflatable kayaks are awesome rescue assets, their first priority are looking after people that are at risk of a swim. If someone falls in, they have the best chance of an active rescue. I've used my inflatable kayak to transport people, drop in below a pinned boat and gotten a line to it, etc.
I like kayakers towards the front. They can grab swimmers. The people and boats in the group dictate where they go. Put a strong boater in the lead and one at the end. group the people you are most nervous about in the center of the fun stuff. Throw some boaters in some strategic eddies for picking up swimmers. Start with a line on the pinned boat if at all possible and have a plan for where it will go and how it might react. If you have to set up a Z drag that can be your line on it. I don't see much of an advantage pre rigging a Z drag. In most cases the boat can wait, I wouldn't rush a boat unpin unless there is a life at stake. Plus, it doesn't take long to rig one up. Assess the people in your group the best you can.
Wishing I was on the river instead of surfing the web...
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