dumb rescue story

I took my neighbor (novice paddler) out on what I thought would be a very mellow Sunday afternoon trip down the Red Deer, our home river.

All went well for the first 22 km, by which time we were within city limits and close to home. I led the way down a tight but very navigable channel; Dirk tangled with some overhanging willows and spilled out of his kayak into waist deep water. He managed to haul the submerged boat onto shore and I rescued his paddle and water-bottle. We quickly drained the boat and set out again, none the worse for wear (except his digital camera). In all, he was in the water for 30 seconds tops and we were underway within five minutes.

Just a few hundred meters on, we floated under a bridge while watching emergency vehicles cross it. We then saw the same vehicles (including a rescue boat trailer) pull into the next municipal boat launch. The rescue boat quickly launched and then passed us within minutes, less than a kilometer from where Dirk had capsized. (And, at our probable speed of 6 km/hr, less than 10 minutes after we self-rescued.)

We met rescue personnel at the boat launch on our street who said they had received a cell phone call about one person in a yellow dinghy (I was in an orange Necky kayak) and one person in the water. That sounded sort of like us, but I didn’t think the rescue could have started so quickly after had our little spill. But a chat with my brother, who is a fire captain and was directing the rescue, confirmed that they had probably been searching for us, even though neither we nor the rescuers realized it at the time, and we certainly did not require a rescue.

A colleague of mine with a penchant for humor once owned a kayak with “CALL 911” painted in huge letters on the hull. But he might not need it nowadays. According to my brother, the proliferation of cell phones has made it too easy for panic happy folk to speed dial 911 at the slightest sign of misfortune (rather than giving folks a few minutes to see if there really is an emergency at hand or not). So, to avoid embarrassment, I’m trying to figure out how to plan my mishaps so they only occur in less public places.

Anyone else with similar experiences?

Non-paddlers have very little ability to
judge whether paddlers are “in over their heads,” whether an upset is serious or not, and whether something needs to be done about it.

A few years ago, sometime world champion slalom c-1 paddler Davey Hearn set out onto his backyard river, the Potomac, to do some surfing and playing while the river was at high water. A National Park Service ranger waved him in, and Davey complied, thinking he was just going to discuss his qualifications. Instead, the ranger literally tackled Davey in his boat, and arrested him.

In court, the charges were thrown out, because the USPS didn’t have the authority to make such arrests. The ranger still insisted that Davey was in mortal danger, whether he knew it or not.

not yet
No simialr experiences yet.

But I always wanted to write on the underside of my hull something like “if you can read this, please flip me over”

I live near a popular beach
Everytime I want to roll I feel like I have to make a public announcement. If I don’t, as soon as I go over someone is sure to come bounding into the water to “rescue” me (it’s happened twice already), perplexed when you pop back up.

Reminds me of a story
a couple years ago on the Maury River in Goshen Pass Class III-IV a group of paddlers were making their way downstream and one of the paddlers stopped to play in a hole. The rest of the group, knowing that he was in good hands, continued on down the river. A tourist watching from the overlook got very agitated, screaming, “Look, that guy is stuck in there and the rest of them just went off and left him”. Fortunately there’s no cell service in the Pass, otherwise a call would have been placed. We’re very careful now to practice our rolls and wet exits out of sight of tourists.

cell phone service?
the few spots I paddle that actually get cell reception are very sparsely poplated and signal is horrible.

If someone in my group needs help, we are at the mercy of or wits. Help is a long, long way away… and I wouldnt have it any other way.

getting out in the sticks is the best… get away from all the ‘citiots’ (rhymes w/ idiots if you didnt catch that) and get out where you wont be bothered

something similar
I am a volunteer firefighter and about 15 years ago an alarm came in that someone was caught up in the running river ice and in trouble in a canoe. So, I landed at the station with my 1/2 ton and as I was the first one there another guy and I hooked up the rescue boat to my truck and headed down river, with fire truck following, to where we thought we may be able to intercept. Another station down the river also responded with trucks, men and a rescue board.

We converged on shore at a convenient place and met the guy dragging his boat up the shore to his vehicle.

Well meaning person called it in, but completely unnecessary.

However, who’s to say the next time it won’t be someone in real trouble. I’d far sooner go to a call where I’m not needed than go to one a few minutes too late.

Yup - better safe than sorry
If I’m in real trouble I’d appreciate all the help I can get.

But in this case it was IMO just the callers inability to assess what seems to have been a very clear situation.

I’ve seen similar things happen often. Like in the NYC area. Any call seems to result in all sorts of police, emergency and other rescue equipment and services being dragged to the site. Ok, if one falls down and breaks his ankle on the street - do they need a fire truck and three police cars to help? No, but they get dispatched anyway.

The opposite is when people can help themselves but instead call “officials” do to it for them. A lady was stuck in her SUV just off the road in a ditch. Only one front wheel was in there, but the opposite rear wheel was in the air and the car did not have enough traction to get itself out the ditch.

We were several cars who stopped to see if we can help. I noticed, that if I climbed on the rear corner of the SUV, it almost righted itself - it was basically balancing itself on the two other diagonal wheels and because the front was heavier than the rear, the one unsupported front wheel stayed in the ditch holding the truck in, while all opposite wheel was slightly above the road surface. I needed no more than two more people to just sit on the rear seat and the thing would be out the ditch in a minute. There was no damage to the front, so why not do it was beyond me - she just would not want us to try it and called AAA to get a tow truck and wanted to wait in the night till it came…

May be I presented my suggestion wrong, trying to lift-up the spirits: “I need the two volunteers who weigh the most to sit in the back” -:wink:

Agree with MATMAC
Never actually responded to a paddler related call, but as a Paramedic I have been sent out to numerous cases of overzealous public worry. I think if people think its that bad to require an emergency service, perhaps they should ask, or offer help(where safe) prior to the call being made.

Paddle Safe!

Concerned Lobstermen
The first time I ever put my butt in a kayak was in 1987. I borrowed a friend’s Nordkapp and took it down to Mackeral Cove on Bailey Island, Maine. My friend had talked a little bit about rolling, but said he never learned how; he also said I should try a wet exit in shallow water before I took off.

I put the boat in the water and paddled out to where the water was about four feet deep. I thought as long as I am turning over maybe I could figure out how to roll, so I turned over and tried to figure out how rolling might work. After pondering the problem for about a minute, nothing occured to me and I abandoned ship. When I surfaced I looked around the cove and saw about a dozen lobstermen staring at me with stances that I could be described as poised to act. Ever since that occasion, whenever I am about to do anything that includes intentionally inverting my boat, I try to give people around me fair warning.

"That flippy thing"
Over the time of our renting a cabin in the same enclave on the coast of Maine for 17 years or so now, we have progressed from no boat, to cheapo inflatables that lasted about 10 days, to Swifty’s (the classic!), to 13’ transition boats then finally to true sea kayaks. This enclave has families who have been renting for over 30 years, so the long term folks have seen the full progression.

Somewhere in there we got rolls, and started getting friends who also had rolls to visit or meet us there, and spent one season scaring the hell out of the regulars with people flipping upside down all over the place. The next summer we got sculls and static brace down, and had to explain that staying sideways was good too. Most of this was going on at the end of the day when the old timers would be gathered overlooking the cove doing wine and cheese before dinner.

It has progressed to the point of maybe too much calm - if someone had a real capsize out there now, it’s likely that our neighbors would take at least one glass of wine to figure out that upside down boat and no swimmer is a bad thing.

I’m in the rescue business (USCG). I have been on my share of false alarms, hoax calls, and real rescues. I might of bitched about the false alarms but knowing that it wasn’t intentional it is ok.

Bottom line is that the caller thought they were doing right - and they were. Always better to sound the alarm and retract than not do anything.

As long as I don’t have to pay for a
rescue that was never, in fact, necessary. Don’t know if the USCG ever charges, but some private rescue services certainly do.