Catawissa Creek

Ken's Safety Message - July 2006

As I write this message the Delaware River is dropping below the 20 foot level at Riegelsville. We have once again been impressed with the power of moving water with the third hundred year flood within 2 years.

Humans have been affecting the environment on many levels and in many areas at unprecedented rates and we should take such events as signs that we should be better stewards of this world that is lent to us and use the political processes available to us to cause our legislatures and big business make wise choices for the future.

Fortunately, I have not seen any articles lately that tell of the tragic death of a boater who wanted the thrill of riding down a river or creek at high water. Whenever paddlers are drawn to a swollen river they should not ask if they can paddle down the river, but rather if they can stop, go back upstream against the current, and safely get out of the river.

Soon the rivers will be at safe paddling levels. However what is safe for one paddler may not be safe for another. Please scout your rivers carefully and consult with other more experienced boaters before you go. Storms put many obstacles in the river that were not there before. Take the time to take the hike in and check out potential hazard spots, especially bridges and trestles that may now be filled with trees or other debris and be deadly strainers.

When In Doubt Scout. Especially after a flood. If you can not see around a bend or over a drop, get out and scout it from land.

Summer time with 90 degree days and 80 degree water is the perfect time to practice wet exits, reentry and recovery techniques.

If you feel the need to pass much gear from your boat to your companions before you practice a wet exit you probably need to reevaluate your packing plan.

People who paddle closed boats with deck rigging (sea kayaks and many touring and recreational kayaks ) should carry in a ready-to-use state: a spare paddle (short canoe paddle will do), paddle float, and pump.

Here is a challenge for every pair of paddling buddies. In a controlled environment, with support boaters handy (just in case) two boats should dump in deep water at the same time.

The boats are maneuvered into the classic "T" formation but left in the capsized (upside down) position.

One paddler goes to the stern of his/her boat and pushes it down and over the hull of the perpendicular boat (Boat #2).

Paddler #2 goes to the far side of the perpendicular boat and pulls the bow of kayak #1 up until the cockpit of kayak #1 is directly over the hull of boat #2. Boat #1 is rocked back and forth emptying it of water. It is quickly flipped into the upright position and paddler #2 helps stabilize boat #1 while paddler #1 reenters, fastens his/her skirt and prepares to do the classic boat over boat recovery.

The reentry of paddler #2 is facilitated by paddler #1 positioning boat #1's bow toward boat #2's stern.

The reentry is easier if the paddle float is rigged under the rear deck rigging and the "sea star" technique is used with paddler #1 assisting in stabilizing Boat #2 while paddler #2 places his/her chest on the rear deck and corkscrews into the cockpit.

Being Prepared includes the main elements of:

  1. using the proper boat for the environment,
  2. wearing a properly selected and fitted PFD,
  3. using your spray skirt,
  4. wearing the right helmet whenever in a Class II situation or whenever paddling a closed boat in a river,
  5. proper flotation for your boat,
  6. the right footware,
  7. paddling with a group maintaining good group discipline (keeping all paddlers between the lead and sweep boats),
  8. having a float plan filed with someone who is not on the trip and can report possible problems and probable location if the trip becomes overdue,
  9. having the proper clothing, rescue, first aid, and signaling gear
  10. having practiced the skills necessary to get you out of any trouble you may get into.

Remember that whenever you are on the water you are responsible for your own personal safety and the safety of the boat behind you.

Ken Heaphy

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