how to drain your boat and get it to shore video by chris wing

I’m not sure I agree with everything in that video.

First, I have not found it as difficult to snow plow kayaks to the bank as Chris makes it out to be. I have done so many hundreds of times paddling both kayaks and canoes, and I would try that as a first choice.

Second, although I will often make at least one attempt to flip a capsized boat over, if it doesn’t come easily I will leave it upside down. I have seen rescuers wasting time making multiple attempts to flip a capsized boat, fail to do so, and wind up in the next rapid downstream when the boat could have been pushed to shore inverted. Sometimes a capsized kayak from which a boater has made a wet exit has relatively little water in the hull and turning it over results in scooping in a good deal more water and weight.

Third, although boat-over-boat rescues can be enormously useful on lakes and broad rivers where the shore is a good ways distant, on most whitewater rivers in most situations it is going to make more sense to get the boat to the bank where it can be emptied more effectively and the paddler can reenter much more easily. There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes a paddler will wind up in the safety of a midstream eddy or on a midstream rock on a broad river with a nice eddy behind the rock. In that case, doing a boat-over-boat rescue in the eddy and assisting the paddler to reenter can make a lot of sense. Sometimes, the best rescue eddy turns out to have sheer rock walls and water too deep to stand in. In that case, using a boat-over-boat rescue is the best option.

Note that the demo of the boat-over-boat rescue in the video is being done with a rather old school kayak (Dagger RPM) which might even have bow bags in it. It is also being done in absolutely calm water. Modern whitewater kayak play boats generally have no room for bow bags, and room for only small stern bags. A huge proportion of these boats consists of the bow leg room and the cockpit. When completely soused, these kayaks wallow bow down and are very heavy. Sometimes, very little of the hull remains above the surface to gain a purchase on. This type of kayak would be much more difficult to do a boat-over-boat rescue with.

I do agree with exercising caution clipping onto a boat with a considerable amount of water in it. Although I generally paddle with a Type V PFD and either a cow tail or tow tether, I almost never use it to hook onto a boat in current unless that boat has been righted and emptied. It is often necessary to ferry a boat from one side of the river to the other when the paddler and boat wind up on opposite sides. Sometimes it is best to attain the emptied boat back to an upstream eddy if the paddler is facing a very difficult walk downstream to their rescued boat.

You brought up some good points Peter. What I took away from the video and from practicing in person from Chris, is that it is usually easier to get the errant boat to shore if you find yourself in a stable situation where you can flip and empty it first. Not a hard fast rule for all situations. I think one of the big advantages to his method, that he didn’t mention in person or in the video, is that the boat is partially empty for the swimmer, making it easier for him or her to drain their own boat when they get to shore and reunited with their now partially empty kayak. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with the emptying the boat after a swim.

Personal experience has taught me that canoes can be particularly hard to flip upright and like you I’ve experienced some kayaks that just love being and staying upside down.

One of the things we tried was towing a boat mostly filled with water across the river, a good exercise to see how difficult it is to move a water logged boat compared to an empty boat.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard flip first and then plow. I think that technique has been taught for several years now. I realize sometimes its possible to plow the boat into an eddy in the time it would take to flip and partially drain it The video gives us plenty to think about and another approach for river rescue. If nothing else, I like the idea of partially draining the boat once it is in the eddy. Thus making it easier to deal with on shore.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself chasing errant kayaks down the Crystal River in Colorado in fairly continous class III water. Our first priority was to ourselves, and then the person we could see paddling directly ahead or behind ourselves. We did make sure the swimmers, who self rescued, made it safely to shore. Boats were the lowest priority and in fact it took several hours to get everyone reunited with their boat. Communication becomes much more complicated with bigger groups and continuous ww with few eddies. Nothing wrong with just doing the best that you can given the situation.

On the over hand, if I find myself in a situation where I can safely flip and partially drain a swamped boat I might have just made things a whole lot easier. So if you find yourself in that situation why not give it a try. You can always go back to plowing first if you don’t like the results.