Z-Drag Safety Topic - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 09-03-2015   #1
 
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Z-Drag Safety Topic

Recently a friend was talking about his Z-Drag set up, and bragging that he can set a Z-Drag up in less than a min. I currently have my SWR cert, and I carry a pin kit. I can set one up, but I doubt I could do it much faster than 2 mins. This got me to thinking. We get real proficient at rolling, bracing, boofing, getting out of holes, but how proficient are we at setting up a Z-Drag or stabilization line. I have thought about taking the friends that I boat with on a regular basis, and spending 20 mins every two weeks running through Z-Drag drills. Trying to get faster, and faster. Anyone have thoughts on this.

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Old 09-03-2015   #2
 
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Altho I have not kept up the ACA paperwork, I certified with ACA as a Swiftwater Rescue instructor a long time ago.

I was lucky to get certified by Wayne Sundmacher who along with Charles Walbridge wrote the book on SWR info. One of if not the best rescue book ever written. Still refer to their book for each boating season.

Wayne spent a lot of time on rope and mechanical aid setups. Which Wayne admitted he rarely used as a guide back east. Wayne was more of using proper directional force and hands on simple moves if at all possible. As a kayaker I used a throw rope quite a bit, do not remember using the z drag more than a couple times.

Then I started rafting. Have used the Z drag several times since then when the armstrong method just did not work. Gear rafts in particular need Z drag help most of the time.

I agree that it is very good practice to do some dry land no rush Z drag setups and knot review. Highly recommend it.

While it is good to not waste time setting up a Z drag or other aid system, personally I would take setting up a z drag's quality anchor with proper direction of pull just as important as speed of setup.

Direction of pull to apply force and what happens to the craft when it does go free is a couple critical items that I stress from personal experience.

One thing to watch out for is using a typical kayak throw bag line for a Z drag. I have seen two of those ropes break with several guys pulling both times at either the knot or the prussic loop. Just beware of this happening.
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Old 09-03-2015   #3
 
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Hi

Z drags are dangerous but very useful rope system,

Due to the danger IMHO a slow thoughtful setup should be employed.

Trying to set one up in only 1 or 2 minute's seems like a bad idea....to easy to make an error that could cause a serious injury.....

scott
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Old 09-03-2015   #4
 
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Yeah, I think it's important to be competent in the setup, but shooting for speed doesn't seem like that great of a goal. As scott mentioned, they can be dangerous if used incorrectly. But maybe more importantly, if you're in a situation where speed is the primary concern (e.g. someone underwater or close to it), it's pretty unlikely that a z-drag is the idea way to execute your rescue. I don't know any particular statistics, but I'd guess that z-drags are nearly always (90+%) used for gear recovery, where time is not of the essence.
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Old 09-03-2015   #5
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Keeping things simple and using time efficiently can be important. Maybe your boat is pinned in a gorge, without much daylight left, and many miles left to go.


A quick system I like to try on a pinned kayak is a 2:1. Find an anchor for your rope, put a biner with a pulley on the grab loop of the kayak, and haul that thing off the pin.
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Old 09-03-2015   #6
 
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What is this urgency of time about? Presumably a z drag is for a pinned gear boat. What's the rush? If you've got a pinned swimmer or other body issue, don't be dicking around with rope systems, get a live bait swimmer or other engagement immediately.

I suppose a z-drag to get air to a swimmer might be needed some times but that seems like a small percentage of cases to me.

I've seen pretty significant anchor rocks move, and I've seen systems fail. I don't think you can afford to shortcut any of those steps...

practice, practice, practice.
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Old 09-03-2015   #7
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Was all ways taught in swift water classes to use simpler methods for rescues/ recovery's if possible. The more gear you put into the system, the greater chance for equipment to fail.
If your setting up a z-drag, you have some time to think about it, is it the best tool in this situation?
A z-drag is allso something you should be proficient at, maybe it's getting late, it's a small trip and it would be good to get at things you need on the flipped/ wrapped boat.

Take time to stop and think, but don't be all day about it.
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Old 09-03-2015   #8
 
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All bringing up good points. Lets say your first try of simpler systems fail. You try something else that fails. Now lets say all these failed attempts are adding time to a head under situation. I think you can become super fast at doing technical things, and still be safe. Look at how fast some military guys can field strip, and assemble an M-4 in the dark. I was there the day Dane pinned on the green. I am the one with the white sweet full face. Of all the pro boaters there I was the only one with a pin kit. What if Dane was trapped in that boat. That was a 3:1 system, and it took tons of effort from several boaters. Z drags can be a life saving device. In this case it was gear, but in others a few mins could mean life or death.
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Old 09-04-2015   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slickhorn View Post
What is this urgency of time about? Presumably a z drag is for a pinned gear boat. What's the rush? If you've got a pinned swimmer or other body issue, don't be dicking around with rope systems, get a live bait swimmer or other engagement immediately.

Sometimes people go kayaking in gorges where the only way out is in your boat. Or in places where there might be a long, challenging wilderness egress to safety.

If daylight is running short, efficient use of time is important. Not rushing, but taking the right simple steps to remedy a tricky situation.

Fwiw I keep my pin kit on my person, not in my boat. Sometimes I paddle solo, so this seems like the right thing to do. And in groups, I like to hop out of my boat and help without digging around for the right gear.


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Old 09-04-2015   #10
 
Denver, Colorado
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Never hurts to practice rescue techniques.

The need for a quick z-drag would be a very rare event in my book. So rare, that I personally would not practice for speed.

Only time I have every heard of a z drag being used in an active rescue where the kayaker was in peril was Chuck Kern's accident where they broke z drags but were unable to get him out and he died. American Whitewater - -SecurityGadget-explain

I personally have only used z drags for gear and log removal. For active rescues quick and simple is usually the best option.
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