Saturday, June 12, 2010

RWS Day Two

I was pleasantly surprised about how my body felt on Saturday morning. I haven't paddled as hard as I did on Friday in a long time, so I expected to be stiff to the point that even thinking about squeezing into the Q-boat would trigger back spasms. I was a little sore and stiff, but more than ready for a second day on the water.
The big question for the day was what to do on the water. I initially planned on taking a strokes clinic with Jen Kleck and Phil Kleg, but it looked like half of the paddlers at the symposium had the same idea. The Greenland Paddling with Turner and Cherri also looked to be bulging at the seams. TM beckoned me over to the Incident Management class with Peter Jones and Ciro de la Vega. There were only four other paddlers in the group and Pete is a renowned for his incident management coaching. Since all three of the classes I was interested in were going to the Narrow River, I stayed on the fence until the very last minute.
I decided to stick with TM for incident management. We were joined by BH and RB as well.
In the morning we did a lot of towing exercises in the new Narrow River tide race. All of the tows were easiest if you could get into the eddy along the rocks. When you got sucked into the race proper things got tougher. Maneuvering a contact tow is tricky enough in clam water, in a tidal race it is a whole lot tougher. When doing long tows the danger is that the kayak in the tow is more likely to dump in rough water and towing a raft is just that much more demanding.
One thing I learned was that when using a long tow, you really (really) need to plan your route when maneuvering. I was towing RB into the race on my long tow and ran him into the rocks. My plan was to get in tight to the rocks to capitalize on the eddy and cut the turn tight. What I forgot was that the kayak on the end of my tow would end up cutting the corner even tighter and end up on the rock. What I should have done was taken the corner wider and picked a line that would bring me and the tow into the eddy straight on.
The contact tow through the race was interesting because it is a lot more stable than I thought it would be. The two kayaks together are more stable than a solo kayak.
The craziest thing we did was a five paddler tandem tow through the race. It worked surprisingly well except for the other classes trying to work the race as we came through. BH, who was behind me in the chain, got caught up with another couple who were practicing contact tows. When I felt the yank on my tow belt, I immediately pulled my quick release and dropped him from the tow. Once I cleared the race and was clipped out of the tow, I circled around to make sure BH and the coaches, who were the raft at the end of the tow, were OK (and to get my tow belt). Once I saw that they were good (and had my tow belt back) I went off the play in the race. Meanwhile, the rest of the class was hiding behind the rocks in the eddy working very hard to ignore BH as he finished towing the coaches out of the race....
After playing in the race for a bit and eating lunch we headed towards Whale Rock to do some rescue practice. We did a few rescues near rocks which was fun.
We also learned a fun new way to empty a kayak on the water. You have the victim climb behind the rescuer motorcycle style. While the victim sits on the back deck, the rescuer, empties out the swamped kayak. Then the victim climbs back into their nice dry kayak. If the rescuer has a firm grip on the swamped kayak before the victim climbs on the back deck, it is surprisingly stable. The victim is out of the water which is always good.
The afternoon dose of crazy was supplied by having the whole group land on a rock. Getting on the rock was surprisingly easy. One at a time, a kayaker would get out of their kayak, clip their tow line to their kayak, a second kayaker would clip their tow line into the swimmer's kayak, and the swimmer would swim into the rock. Once on the rock, the swimmer would haul into the rock and disconnect the second kayaker's tow line. The second tow line is used to keep the kayak from surfing into the rock and the swimmer.
The only tricky bit is getting the last kayaker on the rock since there is nobody else to keep their kayak from crashing into them. We solved this problem by having the last kayaker, who happened to be BH, surf up onto the rock where we snagged his kayak and stabilized it while he climbed out. I thought that somebody was going to die pulling it off, but it worked surprisingly well.
Getting off the rock didn't go so well. Getting off the rock involves hooking your tow belt to your kayak, tossing the kayak into the water, and jumping in after it. Once in the water, you use the tow line to reign in your kayak and renter it.
Our plan was to have BH go in the water first because his kayak was in the best spot for getting back in the water. Since he cannot re-enter and roll, the second person in the water would do an all-in rescue with him. BH got in the water without a hitch, but the second person in the water forgot to clip his kayak to the tow line and it floated away. Things were still OK because TM was queued up to quickly get in the water, capture the run away kayak, and pop BH back into his kayak. However, the second kayaker decided he would swim for his kayak which is where the whole endeavor went from not pretty to downright ugly. We now had three out of five kayakers in the water and a run away kayak. TM managed to get the run away kayak back and BH did managed to get back into his kayak. I'm not entirely sure how because I was busy getting back into my kayak.
Peter pointed out that the biggest reason things went completely pear shaped was lack of communication and planning. He stressed that planning and communication were the best tools for managing incidents. He reviewed CLAP(Communication, Line of sight, Avoidance, Position) with us as well. The best way to manage an incident is to avoid them. Before taking a group into a situation be sure they can handle it and communicate the plan to the whole group.
One other helpful hint Pete gave us was to take your time. If you blow your first roll, stop and collect your wits before rushing to try the second roll. If you end up in a situation, take the time to figure out a plan before simply acting.

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