Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rough Water Rescue Practice

Greg Paquin and Paula did a free rough water rescues session for RICKA today. It was a chance for club members to get some experience doing rescues in close to rocks and in moderately rough water.
We started the class by swimming our kayaks out to deep water and doing a self-rescue. Greg demonstrated how to do a float assisted re-enter and roll hoping that people would try it. Few did. Those paddlers who had an unassisted re-enter and roll, did them. Those who didn't did either a cowboy or a paddle float outrigger. It was too bad because I think the paddle float assisted re-enter and roll is one of the most reliable self rescues out there. It works in most conditions and leaves the paddler with an outrigger for stability.
As we paddled towards the Bonnet Shores bluffs, Paula tested how the group responded to an unplanned rescue. The group had spread out a little and Paula was toward the back of the group. The paddlers around her responded quickly and organized a good rescue. The rest of the group immediately swarmed the rescue. I was up front and decided to just hold my position. There were plenty of people near Paula to do the rescue and the current and wind were going to push the rescue toward my position. I figured that an additional body swarming would just make things worse. A few other paddlers hung back with me.
Too many paddlers in the vicinity of a rescue can make the situation more dangerous. It makes it harder for the rescuers to maneuver. Rescues are typically done in areas that can unsettle paddlers and result in extra swimmers. More people swarming means more people to manage for the rescuers. It is best for paddlers not directly involved in the rescue to stay a good distance away from the rescue in a safe location.
After doing some rescues along the bluffs, Greg decided to have us cross the Bay and lunch on Jamestown. He surprised me by telling me to lead the group across the channel. I quickly picked a visual target on the Jamestown shore and figured out a compass bearing. I communicated both to the group and admonished them to stay together because we were crossing a major channel. Then I set out in the point position.
It didn't take long for the group to start spreading out. The faster paddlers, me included, quickly started pulling away from the slower paddlers. The spread wasn't too bad, but there was a ship barreling up the channel. The faster paddlers old easily cross its path before it passed us. I wasn't so sure about the slower paddlers. After some internal debate, I stopped the group to let the ship pass us.
Once we started paddling again, I had BH take the point position so I could float around the group more easily. I wanted to be able to better monitor the whole group and particularly the paddlers near the back of the group. It wasn't a bad idea since Greg and Paula were hanging near the back. They decided to do some towing practice. Because I was in the middle of the group, I could see that there was an issue and that it was being handled.
Greg's critique of my performance was positive overall. He didn't agree with my decision to make BH the point paddler halfway into the crossing. He felt that it could confuse a group. His advice was to lead from the front. I agree that changing things up halfway into the crossing was confusing, but I'm not sure I agree that leading from the front is always a good idea. Sometimes a leader needs to be in a position to observe the whole group and the front is not a great place to do that.
After lunch we spent some time paddling in the rocks along the Jamestown shore. The conditions were pretty mild and there were no more rescues. It was fun if not challenging.
The day was fun and everyone learned new things. I think it also helped the group form a tighter bond.

No comments:

Post a Comment