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Old 07-30-2014   #1
SpeyCatr's Avatar
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 267
Flip Drills & Flip lines

So I was watching that video on youtube a while back, which I have seen previously of a bunch of people doing flip drills on a lake with their catarafts/rafts/kayaks, etc.

I took a 1 day course last year with a whitewater outfit where we did some flip drills with our "Pontoon Boats" (Mini-Catarafts - and I'm scheduled to take another course where we will do them again in September). And while it was definitely a new experience for me to do, it wasn't THAT realistic as it was in more of a still water section of river, and the boats weren't really loaded like they would be if we were out on the river for a day drifting and/or fishing.

Anyways, I DO rig and outfit myself and my boat to swim and flip aka the potential inevitable - everything is tied down and in dry bags with cam straps so I shouldn't have any yard sale issues. I do got the proper Helmet/PFD/Knife/Whistle, and appropriate Hypothermia protection (when required) and my perception of running rapids has changed a bit (I try to think about hazards when picking lines that I could have to deal with if I swim). But I haven't flipped in a real world situation - not looking to obviously, just have a few questions:

1) Is there a more controlled more realistic environment that you or people you know have done flip drills - perhaps a river with some current - do you do it on still water or flat water sections of river to practice? What are the recommended practices along these lines? Is this something you practice somewhat regularly? Do you have a routine if it's fair to say?

2) I watch a reasonable number of cataraft & raft videos - I have purchased a pair of the AIRE flip lines for my boat which have the little bags with I believe something like 15 feet of rope inside. But I haven't done a flip drill with these yet. The flip drills we did just involved climbing on top of the tube from the side of the upside down boat and reaching and grabbing a part of the frame adjacent to the other tube as our boats are a bit narrower than your average cataraft/raft, and pulling on it as we fall in the water and the boat essentially lands over us where we then pop up into our seat by grabbing onto parts of the frame. Does anyone have a recommended procedure or input along these lines? Are the flip lines worth it? I was trying to think in my mind as to how to use them - I would have to suck the rope out manually and then throw it over the boat and then quickly spin the boat so I could use them potentially - does this sound about right? Is this realistically feasible however?

3) I notice some guys have a bunch of what looks like cam style strap lines just floating in the water coming from various points off their boats like on the front/back D-rings, side D-rings or frame, etc. What is the purpose of these lines usually? Is there a rule of thumb as to how long they can be before they might be considered a hazard? Also what type of material are they usually, and what are they usually called from a technical stand point if you know? Are these flip lines?

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Old 07-31-2014   #2
Beersheva, Israel
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 26
Videos are a decent augment, but nothing compares to practice. Get your feet wet by taking a swift water rescue course, and if you have the time/money many commercial rafting companies in busy white water areas will take on private boating-focused people for their rookie guide training courses (vet the reputation of the company you choose of course).

There are a number of flip-line preferences for rafts, but the biggest thing you should be worried about is unnecessary accessory lines for such a situation that are more likely to cause entrapment issues (you flip and a loose flip-line wraps around a body part). Losing a boat/gear is preferable to life-endangerment. Many commercial guides and private raft guides that deal with such situations prefer a piece of 4-8 foot webbing wrapped around their waist or compiled in a secure location on their pfd/person. It is considered potentially dangerous to have such a flip-line on your person affixed with a non-locking caribiner. Many paddle guides prefer the reliance of holding onto a paddle in such a situation and using the paddle to upright a boat, but this is only applicable for a very light/unloaded raft and a great deal of practice.

When you become comfortable/practiced in such environments (following proper swift water techniques) it is helpful to take your own raft and practice flipping within class III rapids as long as you take very careful precautionary steps and have shore safety set/safety boaters. I would recommend finding a section of pool drop rapids that are popularly rated at class III at average flows to do such practice. Always have experienced people with you while doing this, and note that many swift water rescue courses cater to such situations.

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Old 07-31-2014   #3
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
Straps hanging from cats are tag lines and many people use up to 9' one's on the side for reflipping.

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I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 07-31-2014   #4
Rifle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 93
flip drills

I'm in aggrement w/J-Jo-Ber's comments and I would like to add a few more to consider.
I think the point of flip drills with light weight, gearless, boats is to train one in the mechanics of what to do when it happens. Moving water adds much to the drill, both mechanically and risk/safety-wise. I am not a swiftwater instructor, but I am a guide-instructor and teach two levels of river rafting classes at my college outdoor program. We first do a flip drill in a large calm eddy, sometimes with the boat tethered on a long bowline so it does not take-off should it reach current. We always position folks w/throw bags, and at least one safety/chase boat, should anyone or thing reach current. My preference is a totally empty boat, students with helmets, pfds, and paddles. Sometimes someone gets smacked w/a paddle, even after cautionary instruction, thus driving home the need for the helmet. After such practice, we may move to flipping a paddle boat in moving current, sometimes in a clean class II riffle with a clean run-out (again w/safety boats ahead and behind). Once students get the mechanics in calm water, the moving water is not such a shock/transition, and, I believe a good progression, and it's fun.
Flipping a oar boat w/frame and gear is a different animal that I do not practice, as such creates much more potential for injury (entanglement & frames/oars/boxes hitting people, etc), not to mention the weight of flipping in both directions. If you "know the drill", when the real thing happens you know the mechanics, and of course there will be many more variables presented by moving water and obstacles.
Personally, I am not comfortable with a flip line tied around my waste, even with a locking biner. I keep a 9 foot cam strap and locker in a pfd pocket, thinking there is less potential for something to catch on the line on my waist (possibly over risk mgmt, but unusual things happen in moving water). If an oar boat with frame and gear go over, you will likely need more than one line to flip it back anyway.
Finally, some rafters tie a line to the frame, then run it under the boat and tie to the other side of the frame, for aiding climbing onto the flipped boat. Some tie the line lengthwise (to d rings) and others cross-wise to the frame. In shallow rivers I don't do this for the snag potential; however, in some big water runs I do, reasoning that there is minimal snag potential and I would rather try to ride on the flipped boat than take a shit-swim.
Cheers and Happy Boating!
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Old 07-31-2014   #5
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 665
I took a guide class and did some flipping there. If you can do that, you'll learn a lot about rafting in general, not just flipping.

I also took a swiftwater rescue class, and that was also beneficial, but less about flipping than swimming, throw bags, etc.

All that aside, it's worthwhile to practice any time you can. I don't like being in the cold water any more than the next person, so I don't do it as much as I probably should. But when I find myself out on a hot day, maybe a warmer river (Westwater for example) those are good opportunities to try it. I've even done it with my kids a time or two. They hate it when I do it, but they need it as much or more than I do.

If you do practice it, practice things like swimming underneath the boat, finding your way out from under the boat, etc. Not just righting the boat and getting back in.
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Old 07-31-2014   #6
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
I think you're over thinking this. A good swift water course and understanding the techniques for righting a wronged boat is about as far as you should need to go.

As pointed out by DRBigDog, the risk of righting a loaded oar rig is probably not worth the skill you might gain.

If you can right an unloaded cataraft in a pool, you have the technique. The rest of the thing is going to be situational, and you can't possibly practice for all eventualities. Not safely anyway.

Just get out there, have a good time, and be safe.
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Old 07-31-2014   #7
Sembob's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 485
All the above advice seems spot on to me. The best thing you can know is how to act when in the water. So I think swimming rapids is the best practice. If you are fairly comfortable in the water then the rest is pretty easy. That is assuming that you are athletic enough to haul yourself onto a flipped boat. Shutzie is right. Go have fun. And if you have any deep wave trains where you float I suggest you swim them until you are comfortable doing so. It's pretty fun to do so and when you go in unexpected you won't be so off guard.

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Old 07-31-2014   #8
FlyingDutchman's Avatar
Westfield, Massachusetts
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 178
In my opinion flipping a relatively empty cat or paddle raft upright in moving water is a good skill. In 9 years of guiding commercial paddle rafts we have always practiced getting atop the flipped raft, then using a paddle t-grip or piece of webbing worn around our waist to hook the perimeter line, and flip the boat back over.

However a boat loaded with gear is much easier to push or rope ashore first, Calm everything down. Get into calm water with 3 to 6 people, and use a rope to flip it back over. Again in calmer water. It is also good to try and remove the oars before going back upright.

Even with a paddle boat, it is sometimes easier to just get to shore and stop for a few minutes and just push the raft back over. Any flip is just a big mess, and each one will be different and in different parts of a river. There is just no good way to really plan or practice for a flip, unless you purposely intend to flip.
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Old 08-04-2014   #9
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 427
Get yourself some bungy flip lines. I like them a lot. At least one person sells them, but you can build them yourself. Mine keep evolving over the years. 2088504811 if you have questions
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Old 08-07-2014   #10
Calgary, Alberta
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 361
Originally Posted by lhowemt View Post
Straps hanging from cats are tag lines and many people use up to 9' one's on the side for reflipping.

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I just recently attached short and un-knotted lines to my raft. I assumed that if they are not knotted that there is very little entrapment hazard, but I guess it's certainly not zero.

Anyone have any thoughts or first-hand experience on the implication of this?

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