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Recreational Kayaker Rescued on Lower West Sept 29 2012

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August 23, 2010
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October 10, 2012 - 11:26 am
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I apologize for the delayed post – work got in the way <img src=” class=”spSmiley” />


Posting this here so others may learn from this event as requested.

Sometime after 12 noon I and a fellow well experienced WW kayaker decided we would forgo another lap on the upper section of the West to see how TS Irene had changed the lower section for ourselves. Not far into the run, we came upon a small group of recreational kayakers. None were wearing helmets; they were all wearing PFDs, shorts, t-shirts, and some were even barefooted. One of them had an out of boat experience and was stranded sitting on top of a rock on river left approximately 12 feet from shore. His kayak was pinned on a protruding rock right side up and was submerged just below water. The incident took place across the river from the magnificent log cabins that are located on river right with road access in sight.

Our first order of business was to assist the stranded paddler to shore. Luckily we were able to communicate with him by shouting instructions over to him. After instructing him not to grab the throw bag and to grab just the rope, we tossed a throw rope to him. Once he had the rope, we instructed him to face downstream, put the rope over his right shoulder (to help pendulum him into shore), and asked him to float on his back with his feet pointing downstream and let us do the rest. We had two of us on the throw rope (one set as anchor for the thrower), and two of his buddies set up a few feet downstream. Once the swimmer was near to shore, the downstream onlookers were instructed to grab the rope to help pull the swimmer the rest of the way to shore.

Once everyone was safe, we turned our focus towards unpinning the kayak. My paddling companion was able to ferry over and eddy out behind the pinned boat to closely assess the situation. It looked as though the boat had partially wrapper around the rock and was damaged. Soon a couple more experienced kayakers were spotted making their way down the river, we waved them over to help assist with the situation. We asked them to ram the boat on their way over hoping that would nudge the boat free, no such luck. Since this operation was likely going to take an extended amount of time, we set safety both up and down stream (we did not need any earlier as there was no one in sight and we wanted more assistance downstream to aid the swimmer if need be) and attempted a solo wade over to the pinned craft using only a paddle. We soon realized the water was too powerful and likely too deep for a single wade and we did not have enough properly trained paddlers on hand to attempt a group wade so we started to formulate plan B, which was to assist the swimmer to the river right where the log cabins are located so he could walk out via the nearby road and come back and collect his boat after the water levels were decreased. Our now boat less paddler was coached on how to keep warm while waiting for his buddies to come back and pick him up on his walk towards the take out.

Just after we decided that would be the best plan given the circumstances , another group of strong experienced WW paddlers stopped to assist. We abandoned plan B and formulated plan C which was to attach a carabineer to the loop on the end of the tow rope, ferry that end of the rope over to the pinned boat, and attach the carabineer to the coaming of the kayak. Once the carabineer was in place (this is advanced maneuver that should not be attempted by less experienced kayakers as one can easily be flipped potentially making the situation worse), three of us moved downstream a few feet and pulled on the rope. The pinned boat was starting to move so we instructed the nearby paddlers who were still in their boats to clear the immediate area as we pulled the floatbagless boat to shore.

The stranded paddler was pretty upset by the sequence of events and had apparently had multiple swims prior to this event. He had no desire to continue his river adventure so we devised a plan to surround him with experienced boaters and coached him through a ferry to river right where he could stow his boat and safely walk out and meet up with his buddies as soon as they were able to make it off the river. We again reminded him on how to keep warm and said our goodbyes. Not long after we came across one of his buddies out of his boat further downstream. This one was able to self-rescue and portage around a small rapid and put back on. We accompanied him back to his group just before the RT 100 bridge at the lower take out. We had a brief and friendly conversation with the group and encouraged them to seek some instruction via local paddling groups and or outfitters and to head back up to the put in at the park to pick up some proper gear on the cheap <img src=” class=”spSmiley” /> and then we parted ways.


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July 19, 2004
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October 14, 2012 - 10:32 pm
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Great write up!!


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August 16, 2012
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October 15, 2012 - 1:45 pm
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How reseptive were they of getting the friendly advice? Think they will look for some instruction and make the investment in some proper gear?


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October 15, 2012 - 10:08 pm
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Great write up Lora. Just a couple of thoughts, on clipping into the boat, it might be better to have the lead paddler go out behind the boat with the entire throw bag, clip onto the boat, then toss the bag back to shore. That way you avoid any of the risks associated with paddling one part of a rope from shore to the pinned boat. The other thought (without knowing the nature of the river) is don’t rule out a strong swim to the eddy below the pinned boat if the boat was really only 12 feet from shore and the conditions allowed it. Overall, though, it sounds like you guys did a great job

Western Massachusetts

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October 23, 2012 - 12:48 pm
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Nice job Lora and Jocelyn. Those rescue courses are really paying off. If anyone hears of any inexpensive rescue courses for next season please post them here.

Life begins on the river. :)))))))


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October 23, 2012 - 8:20 pm
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Great job Lora, and excellent write-up!

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