The rescue that should have been...

I lug my throw bag along on almost every trip, but I rarely take it out. Yesterday I should have.

I was paddling the annual fall release on the West River in VT with my usual paddling friends. We were on our third run, and the rest of the crew decided to hike up to the dam to run the first rapid – Initiation. I passed, and found a spot about half way down the rapid to take some pictures instead.

With 2-3 foot standing waves interspersed with rocks, Initiation is the biggest rapid on this section of the river - a solid class III. About a half-mile long, the rapid drops quickly from the dam dumping much of the water into a group of boulders on the right side about half way down. Most people catch an eddy on river right above the boulders, and then ferry to the left the finish the run on the left side.

I found a rock downstream that gave me a good view of the section below the boulders. Dave came down first catching the eddy on the right. He just hit the left side of the boulders before styling the rest of the rapid.

After Dave, I watched as Paul and Pat hit the eddy above the boulders. I then saw Andy’s boat head toward the eddy. Andy was obviously in the water, but I didn’t see him until he bounced over the boulders into the nasty hole below. Fortunately, it flushed him out quickly, but he was now swimming down the middle of a long, fast-moving rapid. Pat was in front of him, and Paul was behind him, but there really wasn’t much they could do.

I watched helplessly as Andy floated not 10-feet from me. It was another quarter-mile to the end of the rapid, and I knew that Andy would be swimming the whole way. If I had my throw bag, it would have been and easy throw, and it would have saved Andy the long swim, but I didn’t. Live and learn.

Few pictures here:

i think it makes sense

– Last Updated: Sep-25-16 8:47 AM EST –

to take the throw rope with you for picture taking. Chances are you are set up near or below some the biggest action to enhance the photo opportunity. It could get dicey if you still have a camera out and you are trying to use the throwrope or the topography may not lend itself to using a rope- you could be filming from a tall rock or in a position where there is no eddy to pendulum a swimmer into but it definitely sounds like you missed a chance to help.

Nice pics by the way!

Tips for videoing- for decent footage get out of the boat to shoot (less shake), you can attach the throw rope to the camera case, that way you have it every time you shoot. Make sure the camera settings are how you like them and then turn the camera off and put back in the case until you are ready to shoot. Plant your feet so your toes are pointed down stream. That way you can pan on the subject without having to move and you're in a more stable position as you finish shooting. Now a days I use a paddle to help me navigate the shoreline. If you shoot close to the waterline river features will look bigger. Mix up your camera angles to keep it interesting.

When your're around a lot of river carnage you can get desensitized to it. That's not a good thing. Glad you want to look out for your buds.

No shot is worth trashin' the camera for. When things get serious put the camera down and provide assistance.
check out the video at 5:59, I put the camera down

Great video
I loved the tandem boat that went through at around 2:48 - that’s above my pay-grade, but they made it look easy.

I actually would have been in a good position to throw a rope. I was on a big flat rock with a nice eddy below it. I was about 3’ higher than the water, so I wasn’t at the best angle to belay him in, but he was only about 10 feet away, and I had lots of time to set up. It was at least a minute from the time I saw him go over the boulders until he reached me.

We’re a pretty self-sufficient bunch, but that was a longer swim than it had to be.

Belt mounted throw bags
There is an advantage to belt mounted throw bags. They are always with you. And if you do remember to take along your normal bag, you have a backup if needed.

Aaron Peeler at H2O Rescue Gear makes a nice one:

I knew an ACA instructor who would flunk any whitewater class member who forgot to take along his or her throw bag when scouting a rapid.

Setting Safety
I remember when I started paddling (way back in 2006) that trip leaders would set safeties at major rapids. You never see that anymore. Today, most everyone is in a kayak, and the expectation is that anyone running class III or better has a roll. We use to practice swims and throw bag rescues – haven’t done that in a long time either.

Belt bag would be good, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far. I should get better about grabbing my throw bag.

that’s old school mentality
and I don’t mean any disrespect when I say that.

People boated what they had (like aluminum canoes or abs tripping boats or what they made, like fiberglass ww racing kayaks. In many cases that involved tandem canoes without saddles- so you weren’t going to be rolling if you flipped even if you were running one of those beasts solo.

Rule was that you didn’t want to run anything you wouldn’t be willing to swim first. Setting safety just made sense in those circumstances. You still see it on the extreme end of ww kayaking typically when something new is tried or particularly dicey.

So in June I went to “tune up” my roll with a professional (week of rivers-Charlotte whitewater course instructor on lake) and by the end of the session my roll disappeared completely. What I learned from that was that old fat men in big creekers and loose boats are destined to be back deck rollers.

So I’ve been boatin’ with an old school mentality in my kayak all year. I don’t boat what I ain’t willing to swim. I dropped down the level of difficulty a bit, upped the play to keep it interesting and I’m still havin’ fun. I’m averaging about a swim a year in the last decade if you subtract the time I open boated the Taureau. I swam a lot with that boat and dialed it down even more. Gave that up when the knees were screamin’ 24/7.

Rolling is a great skill, but if you have other skills you can compensate pretty well. I’ll tell anybody I paddle with that “I don’t roll very good so I just try not to tip over.” They need to know that if I’m over there’s a good chance I’ll be swimmin’ but hey that’s true of lots of folks- particularly open boaters, canoes can be hard to roll.

More than one way to skin a cat.

+1 for Astral for exactly this
That’s why I love my Astral in-vest throw rope. Forget it’s there . . . until you need it.

I’m definitely old school…
I paddle an old school boat, and also live by that old saying"if you can’t swim it, don’t run it". That’s why I was taking pictures and not running that rapid.

I’m not old (56), just old school :wink:

ww years are like dog years,
you age faster! There is direct correlation between the difficulty of ww and the age of the participants. At some point you mellow out, or burn out, or flame out. That leaves the newer younger more gung-ho types on the more difficult water and the older folks on the easier stuff. Are there exceptions? You bet, but the majority of adrenaline junkies pushin’ the gnar are 20 somethings. So Erik, I hate to tell ya’ bud, but in ww years we’re old!

It’s a middle-age sport
Looking in the shuttle line on Saturday I’d say most of the people there were over 40 - that makes me middle age. I’d say 60% men, 40% women. Open boaters definitely tend to be older and male.