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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Trying to find some anecdotal evidence about z drags or mechanical advantage in rescue.
I am curious to know if anyone has:

  • Used a Z Drag to actually pull a raft or kayak out of a wrap or pin?
  • Any stories about unsuccessful attempts using a z drag?
  • Any injuries from failed mechanical advantage systems?
  • Other interesting information from using mechanical advantage in rescue.
  • Things learned from your experience.

I would love to hear it first hand but if you know of someone who had experiences I would be interested in those as well. Additionally the more detailed the story the better.


Thanks

KC
 

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Used a Z Drag to actually pull a raft or kayak out of a wrap or pin?
Yes, on numerous occasions.

Any stories about unsuccessful attempts using a z drag?
Yes, once was enough.

Any injuries from failed mechanical advantage systems?
Thankfullly, no.

Other interesting information from using mechanical advantage in rescue.
I try to never exceed 12:1 MA. To me, that means no more than 4 people pulling on a 3:1. If you're pulling too hard you're probably pulling the wrong direction. Keep it simple and safe.

Things learned from your experience.
A good swiftwater rescue course is invaluable. Once you've acquired that basic skillset, practice, practice, practice. Training + Practice + Experience and Good Judgement = Successful Rescues.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you want more details or specifics.
 

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Haven't needed to use it on a raft yet, but have had the chance to uproot a stump (anchor) using a simple Z-rig and to pull a 1000lb horse that was stuck on it's side out of a trailer with a pig rig and 4 people pulling.

Mechanical advantage is an amazing thing!
 

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I have used basic mechanical advantage systems to unpin a kayak. If your buddy is in it, there are some faster techniques you should use; but if those don't work a z-drag or such may be necessary.

If your worried about the potential injury from a system failure you should A) increase the strength of your systems components B) insure that the weakest point is NOT something metal like a ****** or pulley C) figure out a different way to retrieve the gear D) suck it up and pull if your buddy is in a life threatening situation
 

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more info on rope breaking

I have seen two z drag setups where the main section of the pull line broke.

Both times at the point where the prussic knot attached to the main line.

Both times were also where "hey, it's not moving --- add a couple more bodies to the pull"
 

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I have used them a few times on rafts and kayaks. It took 5 hours for us to get a raft off one time and broke a few ropes there but no one got hurt. Last year on big south we were unpinning a boat and I thin it was just a 2:1 system but maybe a z-drag and the rope broke and came a biner flying by my face and hit Evan it the face behind me but he wasn't hurt to bad. I have learned that you should try different angles if you having a huge amount of difficulty.
 

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A rope breaking has not happened to me yet. BUt usually we have a spare jacket oin each boat and I take it and throw it over the line. This may help if the line breaks so everything won't come flying at you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
These are great! keep them coming please. Cooljerk I would love some more details on the times it has worked as well as the time it didn't.

Thanks everyone
 

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I have used z drag rope setups at least five times to unpin rafts and inflatable kayaks and once to pull a lake canoe apart in the middle of a rapid after it had popped a couple of rafts.

We did have a rope failure ( throw bag ) that in spite of a life jacket tether in the middle still hit me hard in the side of the head. I was the lead guy on the rope and I had a helmet on, but it completely rang my bell. Thank God for that little Protec kayak helmet though.
 

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I'v never had to use a Z-drag until this winter. I was guiding two guys down a class 4 creek called Jhonnies in NE Alabama, and as me and another guy were looking at the class 5 the third person is our group managed to get his boat pinned in a sieve.



That sob was in there good.
 

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I was on a commercial trip (upper gauley) where we saw a nasty pin... I mean the only thing you could see of the boat was one tube. We were opposite river watching the show from an eddy and at the time I thought the company who owned the boat taped a knife on a pole and stuck the raft to let it slither off to one side. I was a tourist then and didn't know much but came to this conclusion because the next time I saw the boat it was deflated and sitting on another raft at the take-out. Knowing what I do now, and seeing the extension poles with a little gizmo for attaching biners in swiftwater rescue class, I'm sure the real story was something more along the lines of: 1. Bad angle, I remember the bank being a sheer 10' wall; 2. Probably ripped some D-rings off.

The other experience is a short one: On the ride to the put-in during a guide trainging class we saw a 12' Hyside bucket wrapped and abadoned on the rock at (I think) Sarah's hole on the Poudre. By the time we got to it some kayakers had a boyscout pull going with a throw bag. It broke our hearts to see that thing slither off since we had just gone over z-drag set ups the day before.
 

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I have used z-drags at least half a dozen times in real life but always to unpin a boat and never a person thankfully. One thing that might be counter-intuitive is that often you get best results by pulling downstream even if the obstacle is somewhat in the way. pulling directly at the shore or upstream is almost always useless. if the boat is inflatable you can let some air out of the tube nearest the obstacle to help take some pressure off.
 

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A Salt River AZ Pin

Welcome to your Personal Web Pages!/resized pinned rafts in Reforma.jpg



This was in April 2008 Reforma Rapid Salt River AZ



Photo was taken midway into the rescue process



Yellow raft missed his line and was carried onto the big rock on river left. Pin open side out and the oarsman was able to get on the rock safely.


Blue raft followed the same line and slid onto the yellow raft.


Blue raft did a back flip and locked in between yellow raft and the other rock on the shore.


Oarsman was thrown out of the raft. Went into the water to the bottom and was very lucky to crawl/swim out.


First we tried one z drag on the end of the blue raft.
Could not move it. Attached another z drag on the other end of the blue raft. No luck.



One of the guys went over the side and discovered the blue raft's shore side oar was stuck in a rock crevice. Oar could not be moved. It was wood and after a lot of work he was able to saw it in half.


Got back on the Z drags and the blue raft flipped over and we floated it off the rock.



Yellow raft was then pushed off the rock.


No injuries, nothing packed in the blue raft got wet or lost except for the oar we sawed.


Took about 2 hours to do the entire job.


Lesson learned: Even at low water, the Salt can spank you!






 

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A Salt River AZ Pin










This was in April 2008 Reforma Rapid Salt River AZ



Photo was taken midway into the rescue process



Yellow raft missed his line and was carried onto the big rock on river left. Pin open side out and the oarsman was able to get on the rock safely.


Blue raft followed the same line and slid onto the yellow raft.


Blue raft did a back flip and locked in between yellow raft and the other rock on the shore.


Oarsman was thrown out of the raft. Went into the water to the bottom and was very lucky to crawl/swim out.


First we tried one z drag on the end of the blue raft.
Could not move it. Attached another z drag on the other end of the blue raft. No luck.



One of the guys went over the side and discovered the blue raft's shore side oar was stuck in a rock crevice. Oar could not be moved. It was wood and after a lot of work he was able to saw it in half.


Got back on the Z drags and the blue raft flipped over and we floated it off the rock.



Yellow raft was then pushed off the rock.


No injuries, nothing packed in the blue raft got wet or lost except for the oar we sawed.


Took about 2 hours to do the entire job.


Lesson learned: Even at low water, the Salt can spank you!






 

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I have not had to use this for anything boating related, but we use a mechanical advantage system regularly to practice high angle rescues with the fire department I volunteer with. We have a preset rope/pulley setup in bag and use a 9:1 system. I have used it 2-3 times in a crucial situation with great success. Larger loads (1200 lbs+) can be hoisted up steep walls/cliffs with a relatively small team of pullers (3-5 ppl). I have never witnessed any equipment failures with this setup, but it is very heavy duty. My personal pin kit uses only locking biners, higher end pulleys, and the gear sits in a bag in my boat and is never used for anything else. As for rope usage, most rope manufactures rate their rope to a certain static level, but I am not sure I would consider whitewater rescue/unpinning a static application (ie; pulsing water, rope slippage, bouncing of inflatables in water, etc). Overload of rope or attatchment point would be my biggest suspect point of failure in theory. One trick we use in the fire service for safety, but helps you out, is a prusik set on your rope so it allows you to gain ground, but not lose it (unless you manually release the prusik). Have not seen this in any rescue setups I have witnessed on the river. Happy and safe boating this season!
 

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I have had to use both a Z drag and a pig rig to unpin a raft both work fine I think the pig rig is not much harder to set up and gives you a true 4:1 advantage. So take a look. I have used the MA systems once each and mostly for teaching/learning purposes. I am a commercial guide on the arkansas and I generally dont want to spend three hours fucking with a pinned raft so there are some other things that I find work great and fast. First if you do not have a bucket boat the inflated floor wants to bail so often a strait pull (in the right direction) with some extra hands can get the job done. The second is to take a moment and analyze the pin. A pin occours when the river is exerting pressure on the raft and holding it on an obstacle. If you can unbalance the pressure often the raft comes off in seconds. Two ways to do this. First letting some air out of one of the chambers will lessen the pressure on one side of the pin and presto (others have mentioned this). Make sure you have a spare pump if you do this. Another way is to cut the floor lacing to relieve the pressure on the floor and once again presto. Cutting the lacing is a little scarier because you have a knife near your raft in a chaotic situation.
I spent one day in browns canyon watching a company try and z drag a boat from a rock in widowmaker. It created lots of hazards on a busy day with ropes in the water, they were still unpinning it on my second run of the day. The following day one of our rookie guides pined in the exact same spot. I though oh shit here comes a 3 hour operation. While I was setting up another guide suggested that we we deflate one of the tubes and with very little air out, the raft popped right off. The raft came off so easily that the rookie forgot to grab the bowline and had to jump off of the rock and swim headfirst through widowmaker to get it. Pretty hilarious!
 

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I had a buddy swim on Joe Wright last year and had to chase his boat until it pinned. As it ended up I was the only person on the correct side of the river to access the boat, I attempted to pull it loose by hand (I could wade out to it relatively safely), then with a straight line to the grab loop from shore with no avail, I set up a simple 3:1 and pulled it out with almost no straining at all. So that experience was pretty slick and saved a good bit of time being able to do it solo like that.
As mentioned here, in large groups where there will likely be 3 or more people pulling Z drags seem to break ropes more often than not. I was giving the ol' heave ho on the pinned boat (mine) that Tom mentioned earlier on here along 3 or 4 others dudes. In addition to Evan getting the biner to the face, I assholed myself on a rock when the rope broke and had a nice bruised tailbone to go along with my bruised pride. In this case we were pulling directly against the current (my bright idea) but then simply changing direction of pull two people tugged it loose from the other side with no mechanical advantage. So I would sayone of the most important things to do is look, use a little common sense and try different things.
 

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I took 4 years of swift water rescue courses from Barry Miller the Selway Ranger and then when my company sent a few of our own to certify as instructors I took another 5 years from them. The number one thing I learned was what Barry always said. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) After all this, I ran into Barry on a dolores trip and we both arrived at a pinned boat midstream, the group already had a rope to it, Barry probably knows as much as is humanly possible to know about swiftwater rescue and the first thing we did was boyscout pull it. Got everyone on the rope and pulled it off, then Barry took off as he was trying to run the length of the Dolores in 3 days. Then one of the guys that taught my other swiftwater classes wrapped an 18ft maravia in the bottom half of Crystal in the grand. Ended up using coolers as sea anchors and oars to pry himself off. I have used a Zdrag once to remove a stuck S-rig on Big drop3 in cat. If I remember right we actually used 2 z drags from different angles attached to the frame and she finally came off. Never broken a rope or a MA system, always put lifejackets on the system and for the love of all things holy stay upstream of the system and out of the system so when that bitch goes your free and clear.
 
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