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Uninformed Rec boaters
mikeynj

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September 16, 2011 - 8:59 pm
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<RANT>
There were 2 Rec boaters out on the Lehigh Lower Gorge at 4000cfs today! A normal release is 650 cfs, the Lehigh is a whole different river at this level,eddies are few and far betwee, in places there are trees standing in several feet of water. A FUN FUN level for an experienced boater, but a disaster in the making if trifled with. Today was was a planned release to lower the lake, it was on the Schedule, not a random dump due to excess water so they shoudl have been prepared in time
The hapless Rec boaters put in at Rockport, one flipped leaving the launch, the other made it about 200 yards. They ended up swimming right down the center of the Lehigh, hanging onto all their gear, not swimming to shore or trying to do anything, just floating down the river hoping something good would happen.
At least they had helmets and PFDs on, that would have been a real potential disaster if they had not had them. The Tshirts and pants could have been improved on though.

They did have good timing, they started this calamity about 300 feet in front of my group of 6 paddlers. We caught up with them, explained what to do, how to hang onto a boat, and with quite a bit of difficulty got them and their heavy, water filled boats ( Float Bags? what are those?) over to what passes for an eddy in the trees on the side of the river. I wonder how far they would have floated if we hadn’t come along? They weren’t even trying to self rescue..scary!

Yeah, they got a good lecture on just what they had gotten themselves into, and how they had only gotten through the easy water, the REAL RAPIDS still were coming, and what would happen to them if they tried to continue. They said the river did look a bit bigger than usual, they apparently had done this before but at very low water, I’m thinking no release at all/summer flows. They had NO clue about what the level was or what it meant or what they needed in terms of equipment or skills to paddle that level. After I was done lecturing them we sent them up the embankment, told them to walk back to Rockport and be glad we saved their sorry butts. How come the rangers that had to know about this release level (they were patrolling the trail, they even stopped and watched us running Sea of Rocks till we signalled that we were OK) didn’t stop them from putting on or put up a warning sign or something? This could have gotten VERY ugly very quickly, with the river that high and fast and way into the trees. This is the kind of thing that could have turned fatal very easily and given kayakers another black eye.

</RANT>

BobN

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September 16, 2011 - 9:25 pm
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One suggestion, don’t take an attitude of lecturing, but one of educating and informing. Very, very few people, except those that are on rivers alot really think of different levels (except flood) at all. Good job on the rescue.

whitewater girl

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September 16, 2011 - 10:51 pm
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!thmbup !thmbup !thmbup on the rescue!

…alot of "rec" kayaks claim to be rated for up to class III rivers – and I’ve heard salesmen tell people that the recreational kayak they’re selling them can handle the Lehigh gorge just fine…the problem isn’t only lack of information, it’s often actual mis-information. We can call people foolish/stupid, but virtually none of us knew any better starting out…

…somehow, we need better education for the general public…

Yeah, better signage &/or communication by the Park Service would help (if you can get folks to read it &/or pay attention)

scagrotto

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September 20, 2011 - 3:23 pm
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[quote author=mikeynj]
it was on the Schedule, not a random dump due to excess water so they shoudl have been prepared in time

I see that you’ve met, but weren’t properly introduced. Mike, meet the mostly clueless people who own rec boats (which is different than paddlers in rec boats), have never heard of AW, and don’t know that there’s a way to find out how much water is flowing downstream. Clueless people with rec boats, meet somebody who knows what they’re doing.

[quote author=mikeynj]
How come the rangers that had to know about this release level didn’t stop them from putting on or put up a warning sign or something?
If the rangers see people with gear that is obviously not suitable, or the people are very obviously unprepared they may say something, but it’s not their job to evaluate everybody who shows up. Suppose these guys were turned away but other clueless people showed up with better boats and then died? The park may get sued anyway, but when you start telling some people that it will be dangerous for them to paddle the river you’re implicitly telling other people that it won’t be dangerous for them to paddle. The same goes for signs. If the sign offers any opinions on difficulty there are stupid jurors who will believe the park is responsible when people have mishaps at "safe" levels. If the sign only says how much water there is it won’t be much use to the clueless people.

[quote author=whitewater girl]
…somehow, we need better education for the general public…

There’s an enormous amount of information available online, and it’s a virtual certainty that these guys had access to it if they had thought to look for it. Some people are smart enough to educate themselves, and others don’t have the sense to know that what they don’t know might hurt them. Considering the number of people who walk past warning signs to climb over railings so that they can be swept over 300′ waterfalls that are less than 100′ downstream, I doubt that many of the people who get into this sort of trouble will be helped by additional signs.

mikeynj

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October 26, 2011 - 10:46 pm
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<sequel>
Are there more clueless boaters out on the rivers this year or am I just attracting them somehow?

This time we ran into two guys on the Nescopeck on Sunday, one was in a rec boat,wearing a cheap pfd, cheap paddle, and NO helmet, his buddy was swimming along besides some old playboat he bought on craiglist, pfd, cheap rec paddle, and NO helmet. This guy couldnt even paddle that boat straight, or even stay upright for long in the eddy once our group found his loose gear and he got back in it. They said they saw the river in some book ( Gertler maybe?) and thought it would be a good place to try out his new boat, this was the first time he was in it, or any whitewater boat.

It took a little persuasion, ( they wanted to run with our group..NOT HAPPENING), but eventually they walked out, with strong advice to get some training and BUY SOME HELMETS!

Where are these folks coming from?
How do we stop this before we have a local tragedy and it makes us all look bad..sure, WE know the difference, but to the media, we all is just Krazy thrill seeking kayakers and this is the way we all end up looking bad.
</sequel>

mikeynj

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October 26, 2011 - 10:49 pm
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Your right, and we did actually take quite a bit of time explaining the issue and how to learn to safely boat, but this was after the stern talking to that I felt was needed to scare them enough to make sure they stayed off the river that day. Getting them involved in a club would be a big plus… I think I want to start carrying some kind of waterproof sticker with contact info to give out in situations like this, so maybe they can find our local clubs later on.
[quote author=BobN]
One suggestion, don’t take an attitude of lecturing, but one of educating and informing. Very, very few people, except those that are on rivers alot really think of different levels (except flood) at all. Good job on the rescue.

whitewater girl

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October 27, 2011 - 6:29 am
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I had some plastic business cards made up here: http://www.morningprint.com/product/order_detail.php?gid=40 for just that purpose – my name & email on the front (not my main email, just in case) and the web addresses of all the clubs in a 200 mile radius (OK, maybe not all, but most – they can find the rest from there)

for all the information that’s out there, the clueless, well, really are without a clue…they have no idea the information’s out there, don’t understand why they need it, wouldn’t know how to find it if they did know/understand, can’t tell good info from bad & don’t know what to do with the info once they have it. A club (or at least a group of paddlers who can mentor them) really is the best thing for getting them started…

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October 27, 2011 - 8:53 am
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yeah i wouldnt lecture them or give them to much guff in most cases but if i had to rescue them and there was those moments when you knew they were scared and needed help (tho yelling doesnt help and im sure they were scared $%#@less a stern speaking to wouldnt have hurt)

its one thing if they were yahoos laughing at the whole thing the stern talking to prob would have gone in one ear and out the other but the people who were a bit shaken up (tho they have prob learned just about as much as they might have need to think things through) will prob take what you say to heart and relize the folly in there ways thus making a deeper impact with what your saying

they also will mostly likely think you are there saving grace adn are the word when it comes to boating since in most of these cases we sweep right in take action get everything safely to shore and then stroll on out throught the same waters that just shook them silly

i have had this convo with people b4 tuber, rec folks, new to whitewater so on and it seems to hit home with the folks who really needed your help then those who needed it but were to dumb to relize it

good save man good rant too

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jcoraor

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October 27, 2011 - 10:13 am
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[quote author=kakaboat]
yeah i wouldnt lecture them or give them to much guff in most cases but if i had to rescue them and there was those moments when you knew they were scared and needed help (tho yelling doesnt help and im sure they were scared $%#@less a stern speaking to wouldnt have hurt)

Good advice, although it is amazing to me how even clueless people who have been thoroughly scared by an experience can still be resentful of receiving post-incident safety information.

It isn’t a boating example, but once when caving in upstate NY with the Cornell Grotto we came upon two fathers and their two young sons stranded in the back of a small cave with all their hand-held flashlights essentially dead. This cave has two entrances, a dry one at one end of the cave and a wet entrance that requires immersion in a near-sump (where the water level comes to within just a few inches of the ceiling of the passage) to get out at the other end. Like most cavers, they had entered the dry entrance, explored the cave, and were attempting to exit from the wet entrance. However, it didn’t look to them like the passage was passable, so they were huddled wet and shivering in the dark just short of the near-sump about 40-50 feet from the wet entrance. We interspersed them in-between members of our group and assisted them in exiting through the near-sump and into the daylight beyond.

When we got out of the cave, we suggested to the fathers that they always have at least three sources of light per person whenever they enter a cave (at least one of which should be waterproof) and that they consider wearing wool clothes (polyester fleece wasn’t common yet) instead of cotton flannel shirts and blue jeans to keep warm even when wet. Perhaps the advice took, but you wouldn’t know it from the surly and ungrateful manner in which it was received.

Some people just can’t get over the embarrassment of getting into trouble and are resentful of their rescuers and any advice, no matter how well meaning, that they may receive. Of course, you’ve still got to give the advice anyway in hopes that some of it sinks in.

mikeynj

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October 28, 2011 - 4:43 am
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Ohh I like the plastic business cards even better than my sticker Idea, and they aren’t that expensive. I think I will get some made up the same way..and maybe I can get the local clubs to make up a bunch and give them away to all our members to have with them.

Thanks!

[quote author=whitewater girl]
I had some plastic business cards made up here: http://www.morningprint.com/product/order_detail.php?gid=40 for just that purpose – my name & email on the front (not my main email, just in case) and the web addresses of all the clubs in a 200 mile radius (OK, maybe not all, but most – they can find the rest from there)

scagrotto

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October 29, 2011 - 4:20 pm
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[quote author=mikeynj]
Are there more clueless boaters out on the rivers this year

Could be. Cheap rec boats are readily available at Dicks, Gander Mountain, and plenty of other places. It used to require a bit of effort to find a kayak, but now it’s as easy as going to the local mall.

[quote author=mikeynj]
we did actually take quite a bit of time explaining the issue and how to learn to safely boat, but this was after the stern talking to that I felt was needed to scare them enough to make sure they stayed off the river that day.

I often find it far easier to see what people are doing wrong than what they’re doing right, and I can seriously relate to the idea of a stern warning, or even telling them what dumbasses they are, but as cathartic as that may be for us it rarely does anything to solve the real problem. Most people don’t (or won’t) learn from being told what they’re doing wrong. They need to be told what they’re doing right and get some positive reinforcement. Besides that, they wouldn’t be out there in the first place if they weren’t looking for something they expected to be exciting or challenging. I’m fairly sure that a lot of them figure that if they make it directly home at the end of the day without having to stop at the ER they had a fun and successful day.

The guys you ran into obviously didn’t belong there, but they were doing some things right, and that puts them well ahead of many of the clueless people that are out there. These guys were wearing life jackets, had apparently read something about whitewater rivers, and one of them had even bought a real whitewater boat instead of a rec boat. Leading with that before telling them that they’re also doing a bunch of things wrong probably helps a lot in convincing them that they’ve chosen the wrong river and should be starting elsewhere. I’m fairly sure that the typical rec boater on a whitewater river thinks they’re immortal, especially if they’re younger than 30 to 35, so I think it may be more effective to tell them that they’ll have more fun by starting out with easier stuff than telling them they’ll be safer.

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