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Trip Reports

August 1 Flat Water Rescue Clinic

Lindy Barnes  | Published on 8/1/2017

Trip report by Lindy

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Barbara Winckler, certified ACA Instructor  (American Canoe Association) and Board Member of TAPC, offered a Flat Water Rescue clinic to members of TAPC as well as the Traverse City Senior Center.  Twelve folks participated in the clinic - five TAPC members: Jackie Anderson, Tracie Lord, Danny Pinegar, and Doug and Lindy Barnes plus seven Senior Center members.  The clinic took place at the Senior Center beach on West Grand Traverse Bay.  Barbara included information such as: what to wear, essential gear and how to attach it to your kayak, planning and preparations, safety, and paddler responsibility.  

The day was beautiful; warm sunshine with a southwesterly wind blowing offshore at about 8 mph.  The water was clear and calm.  We were all both excited and a bit anxious regarding what we were about to do and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.  After handling the usual attendance and introductions Barbara launched into a detailed description of what we were going to do, gear we should have, and what we might expect to happen. Gear and proper clothing was thoroughly discussed with the extreme importance of a properly fitted PFD at the top of the list. The US Coast Guard requires only that there be a PFD for every person on a boat. However, a PFD will do no good if you aren’t wearing it as it is very difficult to put one on after you’re in the water.

The action began at water’s edge by learning techniques for safely getting into and out of our boats while still on shore - in shallow water. Only one student fell into the water trying to enter their boat. Soon we all were in our boats and had paddled about a hundred feet from shore when we were told to fall out of our boats.  The slightly dreaded moment had arrived. There was a pregnant pause as no one moved. The water was cold, could we do this? We had been instructed as to how to right our boats immediately upon surfacing, having been assured we would surface and not drown. Upon surfacing we were to get our boats to shore as quickly as possible. The first three capsized and after they got close enough to shore, the next group, my group was to perform the same exercise. Gulp!  My first thought was what a good boat I have and how hard it would be to force it to go over. Wrong! I leaned, and over it went. I learned that once over, we really do just fall out of our boat providing we are not wearing a spray skirt.  Those with sprayskirts practiced releasing their spray skirts. Everyone realized that going over was not such a big deal.  I got to the surface, took a breath and grabbed my boat and my paddle and swam to shore with boat in tow, never thinking how hard and exhausting it could be to try to swim with a PFD on.  When we were all on shore, we were told to do it again, but this time we were to push the boat and then swim to it (versus tow it or swim it to shore - which uses too much energy - especially with an 8 mph wind blowing you away from shore).  This time, shore was pretty close, but what if we were in open water and fell out of our boats?  

Next we learned how to perform an assisted rescue, the "t-rescue" with "heel hook", where a paddling partner helps you to re-enter your boat.  This wasn’t too terribly difficult and once we got the hang of it, we were all able to do it.  But . . . what if my partner is not close enough and I need to get in my boat by myself? That’s when we learned what I called the BBF - Belly, Butt, & Feet rescue, or its real name, “The Cowboy Scramble”. The idea is to launch yourself onto your back deck, throw a leg over (cowboy style), keep your body low, shimmy up past the seat and drop yourself into the cockpit.  About half the group were able to do this on the first try, the rest of us will have to keep practicing.

We all would have liked more time to practice, but we were running out of time and energy.  All of the participants from TAPC agreed how important it is to have this knowledge and to practice.  

This was a very informative clinic, and I'm glad I was lucky enough to be able to register before it filled up.  So, for those of you who think you will never need this training because you plan only to paddle on local rivers and not open water, please reconsider.  As someone who has capsized in a swiftly running river in water over my head, I can personally attest to the value of this training.