Safe paddling techniques and advanced rescue skills are acquired through practice. To learn properly, please consult a certified instructor or certified dealer. A life may depend on it.
Towing a Person - In flat water, you may be able to assist another person to shore by having them grab a loop or handle at the stern and tow them in. Or, you can “bulldoze” them by having them hold to the bow with their legs wrapped around the hull.
Paddle float – This device is an inflatable bag that attaches to one end of a paddle so that when the other end of the paddle is held or affixed to the boat, it provides an effective outrigger making the craft more stable and easier to enter.
Sponsons – Are cylindrical inflatable bags that can be attached to either side of a canoe or kayak to improve buoyancy and stability for re-entry.
Sling – A sling can be fashioned out of rope or webbing and can be a helpful “step” for re-boarding. Make a loop and attach it to a secure point on the boat, or loop the other end around the blade of the paddle that is help firmly in place by another person or by lashing it fast.
Swamped Boats – When a canoe or kayak fills with water, it is extremely heavy and very difficult to maneuver. Swamped boats tend to roll and bailing is often ineffective. For a swamped canoe, it is best to get the boat to shore or shallow water and emptying it. For kayaks, it is possible to drag the kayak over the deck of a fellow boater and allowing it drain. A hand operated bilge pump may assist. Whatever you do, stay with your craft, especially if you are unsure of your ability to make it ashore.
River Running - When attempting to run a river that is moving quickly, be sure you get instruction in river reading and know how to handle the river’s currents. Also, use the American Whitewater River Signal system to communicate with other members in your party when traveling in moving water and stay together as best as possible.
Moving Water Capsizes - When capsized in moving water, first check for your partner and swim to the upstream end of the craft. To avoid being pinned, do not position yourself between the boat and a rock. Leave your craft only when it will improve your personal safety. To lesson your chance of injury in fast water, position yourself on your back and point your feet downstream and at the surface of the water if you become separated from your craft. Be cautious exiting the water - do not attempt to stand in moving water above knee level. The possibility of foot entrapment is great, even in relatively slow moving water.
Throw Rope Bag – is a rescue device that can be thrown quickly to a swimmer or used to unpin a canoe. It can be easily stored and should be ready for quick use and should have at least 50’ of 3/8” brightly colored poly propylene rope (it floats).
To use a throw bag, first make sure your footing is secure. Open the bag to let the rope to freely run out, and then grasp the bag in your throwing hand. Hold the free end in your other hand and shout, “ROPE!” to the swimmer. Then throw the bag either underhand or overhand. Aim to cross the swimmer with the rope. Brace yourself for significant force when the rope becomes taut.
These skills (and more) should be learned in a class setting, taught by knowledgeable, experienced, certified instructors. Paddlers would be well served to seek out such classes and instructors and learn these skills. Your life may depend on it!
Much of the information in this section has been provided the American Canoe Association (ACA), a nationwide, not for profit organization that is in service to the broader paddling public. It is the oldest waterway-based conservation organization in the world and is dedicated to preserving the nation’s waterways, and to grow the sport of paddling by providing education on matters related to paddling, supporting stewardship of the paddling environment, and enabling programs and events to support paddlesport recreation. To learn more and join the ACA, or to take a paddlesports class, visit www.acanet.org or call (800) 929-5162.