Monday, 2 February 2009

[TR] Rescue, Scoops and Pulleys

Canoe Rescue Course

I could barely see the end of the lake through the thick mist that had descended. Our rafted up canoes had capsized in the storm leaving all four crew members swimming in the icy waters. It was critical that we got our boats upright again and quickly as the cold was setting in and I had already lost most of the feeling in my hands. Two of us managed to climb up onto the upturned boats as the other two swam underneath in the hope of finding some rope. We were in luck and soon had a long sling tied to the submerged thwart of one of the boats. We stood on top of the upturned canoes and made our way steadily to the opposite edge and leant back pulling hard with all our weight onto the sling. Slowly the boats started to lift, we lay back as far as we could then WHOOSH we fell backwards into the icy waters but managed to flip the boats upright at the same time.
Later that afternoon, whilst battling our way through some rapids, we were thrown out of our boats for a second time and tossed down river like socks in a spin cycle. We eventually reached an eddy and scrambled up the river bank and made our way through some trees to see if we could find our boat. We did, but it was pinned firmly against a huge rock, right in the middle of the fast flowing river. It was way too dangerous to swim out too as the force of the water against boat would be tremendous. After weighing up the situation we decided to make a pulley system using the throw lines and slings from the other boats which had now joined us on the river bank.
Sounds bad but these were just a couple of the scenarios we dealt with during the 2 day Canoe Rescue course held at Plas Y Brenin.

I was eating my butties on the riverbank watching some of my friends paddling my canoe, when it suddenly dawned on me that if they got into trouble now, I wouldn’t have a clue what to do to help. I’ve been paddling for years and can honestly say I’ve never got myself into a situation where a rescue, even a self rescue had been needed. I guess I’ve been really lucky but oddly I now felt so ill-equipped and unprepared, I knew immediately that I needed to do something about it. So when I arrived home, I was straight on the phone and booked myself onto a Canoe Rescue Course.
Two weeks later and I was at P.Y.B feeling quite nervous about what I had signed up for. The thought of voluntarily throwing myself into cold rivers and thrashing around in white water wasn’t my idea of a enjoyable weekend. However, I was pleasantly surprised how much fun it all was. We were all given dry-suits to start off with which was wonderful. Considering it was the end of April and I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the cold once during the two days.
Day one started with the basics. How to set up your boat, the importance of buoyancy and ways to avoid falling in, in the first place. Next, came the self rescues. It looked simple, all I had to do was grab hold of the thwarts on my boat and pull myself in. The men did it without a problem but a couple us women found it a bit tricky to start off with as our boobs kept getting in the way! We then went on to the part I really wanted learn, how to rescue other people. It was great, some the techniques they used were pure genius. Being only 5’4 I found dragging people out of the water onto my boat was virtually impossible but I was shown some amazing methods, where size and strength weren’t and issue at all. I managed to rescue Big Al who’s 6’2 and pretending to be semi conscious, out of the water all by myself. Using a technique called the ‘Scoop’ it was incredible easy. It’s hard to describe but whilst they are in the water their arm goes through their thwart and you simple lean over and scoop them up in their own boat. The course was worth every penny just for learning this technique alone.
The second day we went over to Llangollen to do some white water rescues. I have to admit to being a white water wimp but I used my nose clip and even had my goggles in my pfd (which I didn’t need) and I had no problems at all. The final part of course was based on how to retrieve boats from numerous challenging situations. From basic unmanned boat retrieval on moving water, to boats being pinned firmly against rocks. Again all the systems shown were amazingly effective and simple once you new how.

The course was so enjoyable and left me feeling confident and prepared. I still hope I never do get myself into any of the predicaments we covered but it feels great to know that if I did I’d know exactly what to do.

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