Boat and Paddle Rescues
Once the swimmer is safely to shore or being rescued by another paddler. It is time to think about rescuing their kit.
First check and see if it is safe for you to paddle after the remaining kit. If it is not safe or you are unsure. Get out of your boat on the bank and look at using another rescue technique and getting assistance from the rest of your group.
Remember: Do not put yourself into danger! No piece of kit is worth getting in trouble for.
How to perform a Paddle Rescue
Generally the first thing to think about is the paddle.
1. If you can, grab the paddle and throw it onto the bank or into an eddy.
2. If this is not possible you can place their paddle parallel alongside your paddle and using both paddles at the same time paddle it to the bank.
Gripping both paddles together and paddling can be quite tricky so its a skill thats worth practicing on the flat and in easy gentle flowing rapids.
3. Once the paddler and paddle are safe its time to think about the boat.
How to perform a boat rescue
1. Start by checking to see if it is safe for you to paddle after and rescue the boat.
2. If it is safe to perform the rescue, drain the water out of the boat.
3. Then paddle the boat to the shore.
How to drain water from a capsized kayak
A full boat is much harder to rescue than an empty boat. To help with this it is important that floatation is placed in the stern of the kayak (in the bow when applicable) and properly inflated as it helps make the boat float and makes your life as a rescuer much easier.
1. Check downstream and make sure you have a clear section of water ahead and no majors hazards coming up. If it is not clear or you are unsure paddle to safety and look at other rescue techniques. Do not put yourself in danger for a piece of kit!
2. If it is clear paddle up to the submerged boat and roll it over so it is facing cockpit upwards
3. Grab the bow loop and the front of the cockpit rim and slowly roll the boat back over.
If it is a long boat you many not be able to reach the bow loop so instead place both hands on the cockpit rim instead. This technique known as ‘Curling’ will allow the water to start to drain out from the boat. You should feel minimum strain on your body using this technique. If it feels heavy or awkward you are probably trying to lift the boat up. Try and make sure you are just rolling it towards you letting the water do all the work.
4. As you roll the boat back over to upside down begin to pull the boat up towards your torso across your cockpit. It will make an X across your deck. In this position you should be pretty balanced.
This process of raising the bow and tilting the boat towards its stern should allow the majority of the water that is left to drain out. This relies on the boat having air flotation bags in the stern of the boat.
5. If there are not any airbags in the kayak or if there is still a lot of water left in the boat and you have the time you may want to push down the bow end and tilt the boat so the stern end is now raised transferring the water left in it from one end to the other and allowing more water to drain out through the open cockpit. You can also edge your boat to help with the change of tilt and transfer of water.
You do not need to get all the water out. But by using this technique to drain the majority of the water out it will allow the boat to float higher, making it lighter and easier to move about in the next stage of the rescue.
7. Now flip the boat back upright onto the water ready for the rescue to begin.
If it is not possible to empty the water out of the kayak you can perform the boat rescue with a full boat. However it is much easier to paddle an empty boat to shore.
How to paddle the boat to the shore on a river or in a flow
1. Check downstream and make sure you have a clear section of water ahead and no majors hazards coming up. If it is not clear or you are unsure, paddle to safety and look at other rescue techniques. Do not put yourself in danger for a piece of kit!
2. If you are waiting for a boat to come downstream you can position yourself wide on the opposite side of where you plan to plow the boat towards. This can be done by shear luck or actually staging yourself in a downstream eddy to ferry into the plow.
If you have just emptied the boat, paddle so you are on the opposite side of the boat to where you want to end up. In some situations it maybe better to not empty the boat and instead leave it upside down in the flow.
3. Aim your bow towards the centre of the boat and give the boat a nudge / bump with the bow of your boat to start encouraging the momentum in the direction of your end goal.
4. Continue “bumping” into the sidewall or the hull of the kayak, pushing it towards your chosen destination. Use continually bumps as opposed to one long force into the boat will help it move better through the water.
5. Eventually you will be able to get the boat to the river bank or into an eddy.
6. Remember to keep checking downstream as you perform the rescue. If you see any hazardous or are unsure of what is coming up. Stop the rescue and paddle to a safe eddy. You can always go back and get the boat.
Remember: Do not put yourself into danger!
One swimmer is a challenge enough. Don’t make it two! and No Piece of kit is worth getting in trouble for! You are the most important person in a rescue situation. Keep yourself safe and then if you can safely do so, help the other paddlers in your group, the swimmer and last of all their kit.
You can always replace kit and return another day to find a boat.
If you do loose a boat report it to the local river organisation / local authority so they know that the paddlers are all ok.
See the river safety section for more information on paddle and boat rescues and how to stay safe out on whitewater.