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Thread: Scary moments on the water? How did you handle it? (flips, rapids, equip failures)

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Question Scary moments on the water? How did you handle it? (flips, rapids, equip failures)

    I am new to rafting and getting ready for my first class III river. The wife and I are floating the Kongakut in ANWR in mid June. Tell me what can go wrong and what to do about it. I would like to draw on your experiences if I may. I heard about highsiding, but don't fully understand what it entails. What if you flip or get thrown out of the raft? What if the wife gets thrown out and I am behind the oars? How do you pick your line through technical sections of whitewater? What do you look for and what are you avoiding at all cost? I am very eager to hear how experienced oarman handle such situations?
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Why not go on a nova raft trip or two this year? They do an excellent job of explaining things to you and I am sure would be invaluable as prep for your trip. Their trip on the Matanuska is a great starter run to get you and your wife comfortable.

    My aunt learned the hard way to hold onto something inside the raft on that trip. She was only holding the rope around the side which made for a perfect fulcrum! We hit a bump and suddenly she went backwards over the side feet straight up in the air head in the drink. We pulled her back up right nearly instantly but the experience sure seemed to quell her excitement some!

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    Why not go on a nova raft trip or two this year?
    Wish we could, but we are working on an island 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. We will fly to North Carolina (home), pack our gear, and fly up for the trip. Not ideal, but it is what it is. What I learn between now and June will be from you guys and a few books I ordered from Amazon
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Some advice on whitewater

    Dan,

    With all due respect I would not recommend tackling Class III until you get some more experience. I have been following your posts and am getting a sense of where you are; this makes me uncomfortable. There is a big difference between Class II and Class III whitewater. You'd be better off going with someone a few times, learning the ropes, and expanding your comfort zone gradually. It's a potentially serious mistake going into this too fast.

    Books and videos are certainly helpful in terms of orientation (and you should do that for sure), but there is no substitute for practical experience.

    There are tons of Class I-II rivers in Alaska that offer great experiences for you.

    No offense intended, just take it slow, friend.

    Best regards,

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Dan, Mike makes a few good points.

    You have seen Alaska and been on Alaskan Waters, trying to prepare for it from books and advice sans hands on the oars experience is a recipe for trouble. I realize it is a double edged sword in that you can't get that kind of experience without experiencing it, but maybe setting aside the time and the resources to take a class (as Lujon suggested) would be advisable.

    You stand to lose so much more than you will gain if you go into this ill prepared. Class III isn't something that you wanna jump into with both feet (pun there) without being fully prepared both in ability and comfort level.

    Please don't take this as a personal affront, that isn't the intent. You are a valued member here and your help to others is notable and noteworthy, I'd hate to see anything happen that would cause you to lose any of the love you have for floating up here.

    It's awfully hard to keep a notebook both dry and accessible whilst trying to dodge haystacks and whirlpools. Nothing short of doing it firsthand will adequately prepare you for the events you mentioned.

    Not to fully hijack the thread I did have a couple of scary moments this past season. One of which involved portaging over a beaver dam with a 14' aire trib. Long story short, I ended up getting drug THRU the dam behind the raft, somewhere on the ride thru I took a beaver sharpened stick in the shin that left a hole that I could fit the first 2 knuckles of my pinky finger into, complete with a severed vein that was pumping blood pretty good. This was on day 2 of an 8 day float. We finished the trip, with a good deal of discomfort for me, along with stopping multiple times a day to repack and dress the wound. Suffice it to say I am eternally grateful for a well thought out and packed first aid kit (as well as a TIGHT wader belt and a PFD).

    Please feel free to shoot me a PM, I would be more than happy to chat with you about options, or to answer any questions.

    Peace,

    Mike
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Mike Strahan,

    Thanks for the advice. It is no doubt sound advice. Safety has always been our number one priority when planning our float trips. Admittingly, I have got myself in a pickle with this Kongakut trip. A bit out of my comfort zone, but that is inevitable at some point. How else would one grow? This will be our fifth float trip and we are excited to see a different part of the state. Sounds like the Kongakut will certainly broaden our horizons. However, it is my intention for it to be a safe and painless learning experience. Thanks to a few very good natured forum members, looks like I will have a day or two on the Nenana and Chena rivers before floating the Kongakut. Sbiinc has offered to take me out on the Nenana to raft a section of class III with similar obstacles that will be found on the Kongakut. And Bluemoose offered some self rescue instruction and rafting on a section of the Chena. Can't emphasize how appreciate the wife and I are of these invitations. I will get to Fairbanks a few days prior to the Kongakut trip to facilitate this. By the time I get to Drain Creek on the Kongakut, I hope to be far more prepared than I currently am.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    You stand to lose so much more than you will gain if you go into this ill prepared. Class III isn't something that you wanna jump into with both feet (pun there) without being fully prepared both in ability and comfort level.
    Mike
    All points made are agreed upon and well taken.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    Thanks to a few very good natured forum members, looks like I will have a day or two on the Nenana and Chena rivers before floating the Kongakut. Sbiinc has offered to take me out on the Nenana to raft a section of class III with similar obstacles that will be found on the Kongakut. And Bluemoose offered some self rescue instruction and rafting on a section of the Chena. Can't emphasize how appreciate the wife and I are of these invitations.
    And these are exactly the type of people that keep me coming back to the AODD!

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    The problem with the usual advice about highsiding is that by the time you realize you're in trouble it's too late. You really have to anticipate it's eminent possibility and prepare your passengers to make the leap before you hit the obstacle that requires the need for highsiding. All highsiding means is that just before a boat flips, one side has to rise, and your job is to jump on that side and use your weight to keep it down. Generally, your natural senses will work against this, and you will feel compelled to get away from the dangerous obstacle that is causing the high side.

    Highsiding might be necessary if you hit a rock, log or other obstacle sideways. What happens is the side of the boat that hits the rock immediately climbs the rock, and the other side gets sucked under by the current. You have to get all weight off that upstream side as fast. Real fast.

    Highsiding can also be needed if your boat falls into a huge hole where the water in the lower exit from the hole is reversing and pouring back into the hole forcing you to surf for a while. The problem will be when the boat gets sideways and is held under the water falling down from the upstream side. Then the upstream side gets busied and the downstream side comes up and over.

    Here's a hint: 99% of the time you highside on the downstream side of the boat -- that's the side that nearly always comes up. Also keep in mind that just because you head into something straight, it does not mean that the boat will stay straight for long, so you may not know which side will end up being the downstream side to jump to. But once you figure it out, hang as far out over that side as reasonably possible without falling out.

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    Make that 3rd paragraph read, "Then the upstream side gets BURIED..."

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    More safety advice:

    If you flip a boat full of gear, you're in trouble. If the water is deep enough to flip in, it's usually deep enough to swim in (but not always). What I have done is climb on top as soon as possible. If you're using pins & clips you can step on an oar stirrup, or even a oar to help you get on, but this may not work with oarlock systems, where usually the oar pops out if you apply enough pressure to the oar. Then you can reach over the side and fetch an oar to use to paddle yourself to shore.

    If the water is shallow enough, you may be able to grab the bow line and pull the boat to the side without getting on it, but this is not going to be easy.

    If one person gets tossed, the other person needs to get the boat to them as soon as possible and then pull them in. If you grab their PFD shoulder straps you can just fall back into the boat and the swimmer will usually slip right in. If their PFD buckles get snagged on the side of the boat, you can turn them around and pull them in backwards, but the swimmer can usually provide a lot of assistance for the pull if they face the boat.

    You should also have a safety rope in a throw bag handy to toss to the swimmer. The throw bag is rarely used, but it can be a lifesaver. Open the bag, grab the end of the rope with your other hand, and throw the bag underhand or side hand directly at the swimmer. Overhand throws will usually end up short, with the thrower getting more splash than the swimmer. You also want to get their attention before throwing. If you're the swimmer grab the rope, not the bag, as it usually have a bunch of rope left in it to release. Then turn over on your back and let the boater pull you in. If you face the boat while they pull you in you won't be able to breath with all the water in your face, but if you roll to your back you will have the wake behind your head to breath in as you are pulled in.

    All of this and more can be found in the safety sections of most rafting books. Also, most paddling clubs have a spring safety meeting where they go over these and other rescue concepts. You should be able to find some sort of paddling club where ever you are in the USA. They might focus more on canoeing, sea kayaking or whitewater kayaking, but a lot of the safety information will be the same.

  12. #12

    Default Here's some:

    Fellow boaters,

    I never post here in this part of the forum. But, with that said I have floated a LOT of rivers. But, not a single one in Alaska. While I have a Riken raft, I will likely never hit anyting over class 3 again.

    Here's what I have floated:

    The Spokane and everything it has to offer through the Bowl and Pitcher and the Toenail.

    The Snake

    The Lochsa multiple times.

    The Salmon

    The Wenatchee dozens of times

    The Tieton dozens of times

    The Deschutes to the falls.

    The North and South Peyette

    The Hoh

    The Green

    The Selway

    And probably a few others I have forgotten about.

    The point is that the water is unbelievably powerful. Like many in here I have gotten away with some stuff that you just shouldn't get away with. I almost died on the Lochsa while hitting a rock because some idiot grounded themselves in a big "pig" boat in the main channel. I tried in vane to get around them and I ended up against the rock trying to high side and fell in. I went behind the rock and stayed there for what seemed like an eternity. It was scary. I swam and swam as hard as I could to get out. On a last ditch effort, I kicked my feet out as hard as I could out into the current and it luckily pulled or spun out of the trap. In 30 seconds or less I would have been dead.

    I agree with all of the preventive measure that everyone has listed. This is paramount in boating rivers. But, be prepared for the unexpected. Be prepared for anything.

    Know how to use your throw bag to save someone, know how to lift someone in your boat (It is harder than you expect), know how to flip your boat over, and use your brain.

    With all this said, happy boating

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Just like Jim says...

    New to rafting myself - appreciating this thread and comments of our rafting mentors. Just last night, I was reading (River Otter, Handbook for Trip Planning by Maria Eschen) a safety section describing the swimmer's role once he grabs the rope-exactly as Jim said above. She reminds the thrower to be prepared once the swimmer does latch on . The safety section is pretty good. There were other notes, perhaps better suited to whitewater rafting, I don't know. Maybe others have comments about the following mostly from the book:

    1. Scouting: If you have any doubt, scout. Esp areas I could scout in advance - using Google Earth or topo maps. Of course, terrain or vegetation might limit stopping or scouting? Other places, terrain features might help too? If you go, no doubt others can point out tight spots to plan for from experience. And if mid-June is early season for the Kongakut, I wonder if late spring ice could be something to watch for?

    2. Self rescue: Several techniques whose appropriateness depends on the situation.
    a. Defensive swimming: on your back with feet downstream for protection from rocks while working your way to shore.
    b. Exceptions:
    --If in deep water and can reach safety (shore or eddy), then crawl stroke.
    --If danger is imminent, then speed more important. Swim using an upstream ferry to carry you around the hazard.
    --If you must enter a strainer, do it head first and face down.
    c. Remember: If you are able to help yourself, then others won't be called upon to endanger themselves.

    3. Assisted rescue: a). Swimmer holding onto boat or b). Swimmer not holding onto boat. The first priority of the rescuer is self preservation.

    The "upstream ferry" technique Eschen describes is a valuable technique to learn anyway. Right up there with learning to read the river.

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    Default Be prepared

    For what it is worth, here's my two cents. Every situation is different and will require you to react instinctively when it comes up on you quickly. The smartest thing to do is avoid the situation all together and be prepared for the worse. Having said that, I've never been able to do it myself and have been known to get myself into trouble a time or two on the river. You can take precautions by doing your research ahead of time. Talking to the pilot a few days and the day before flying. The pilot has probably flown that area hundreds of times and will know most of the new developed hazards. If possible have him fly you over the nasty section(s) and give you some ideas. I am glad you taking the time and being dilligent about learning as much as you can. Safety first!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post

    We finished the trip, with a good deal of discomfort for me, along with stopping multiple times a day to repack and dress the wound. Suffice it to say I am eternally grateful for a well thought out and packed first aid kit (as well as a TIGHT wader belt and a PFD).

    Please feel free to shoot me a PM, I would be more than happy to chat with you about options, or to answer any questions.

    Peace,

    Mike
    I could start a new thread for this, but it sort of follows this discussion anyway. Hippie's post made me think a little more about the "well thought out and packed first aid kit." I have been looking at a first aid kit on sierra trading post (waiting for the extreme deal flyer deal!)http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/0...proof-Kit.html but I am curious what I should add to it for an extended float trip. I have done a considerable amount of backpacking and hunting/ fishing in Alaska, but I have always carried just the basic, lightweight backpacker's first aid kit. I want a little more substantial kit for the new raft, and am wondering what everyone thinks might be an absolute necessity to add to the basics.

    Scott

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default First aid kit thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Scottsum View Post
    I could start a new thread for this, but it sort of follows this discussion anyway. Hippie's post made me think a little more about the "well thought out and packed first aid kit." I have been looking at a first aid kit on sierra trading post (waiting for the extreme deal flyer deal!)http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/0...proof-Kit.html but I am curious what I should add to it for an extended float trip. I have done a considerable amount of backpacking and hunting/ fishing in Alaska, but I have always carried just the basic, lightweight backpacker's first aid kit. I want a little more substantial kit for the new raft, and am wondering what everyone thinks might be an absolute necessity to add to the basics.

    Scott
    Scott,

    Great idea; I'll start a separate thread on this; I think it will help a lot of folks!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scottsum View Post
    I could start a new thread for this, but it sort of follows this discussion anyway. Hippie's post made me think a little more about the "well thought out and packed first aid kit." I have been looking at a first aid kit on sierra trading post (waiting for the extreme deal flyer deal!)http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/0...proof-Kit.html but I am curious what I should add to it for an extended float trip. I have done a considerable amount of backpacking and hunting/ fishing in Alaska, but I have always carried just the basic, lightweight backpacker's first aid kit. I want a little more substantial kit for the new raft, and am wondering what everyone thinks might be an absolute necessity to add to the basics.

    Scott

    That kit looks good for a short trip, what you have to bear in mind is being packed for a situation where long term care and maintenance of an injury may be needed (weathered in, nowhere for an air taxi to get in to get you out, etc.). I certainly would carry a LOT more ibuprofen (a 100 ct bottle, minimum), a good supply of small, med, & large gauze pads with enough tape to redress wounds frequently. A mid sized bottle of betadyne, a couple of flexible "soft" splints, clean and packaged hemostats (I had em in mine, but the blood was pumping so fast that I used the ones on my waders that where meant for releasing fish). One of the most important items I don't see on that list is a couple of suture kits. I had 2, but didn't use 'em as I wanted to keep them in case anything else happened. I've seen a lot of "good" first aid kits that would suffice for one, maybe two days of keeping a large traumatic wound clean and cared for....But when you are remote, you need to think "what if something happens day one of a 10 day float"....

    I bought a mid sized pelican case and built my own first aid kit from trips to the pharmacy and to medical supply stores....

    I'm all about saving space and weight when it comes to camp chairs, dry boxes, and camp luxuries...One place I will never cut a corner is on survival gear, be it a first aid kit, a sat phone, good tent/sleeping bag, or a sealed pack with freeze dried goods "just in case"......


    Sorry for the hijack...
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

  18. #18
    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    Scott,

    Great idea; I'll start a separate thread on this; I think it will help a lot of folks!

    -Mike

    Ooops, sorry Mike...
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

  19. #19

    Default added info

    If there is alot of class lll, wear a dry suit and helmets.Weather can change class lll to class lV or V in a hurry. Treat it as something more difficult than it really is because of remoteness. Please," take an entire swiftwater rescue course, there are several offered in the spring and they are worth every dime spent.
    If you are new take someone who has experience, class lll especially in the upper ends can, will, and has, killed alot of people, its darn fun but it really can be dangerous to an unskilled boater. Remember class lll can mean, there is a decent route present ,and it can get you past some really ugly river features, if your a class lll boater. You should have a grip on the way rivers are rated. For instance a small steep stream may have a waterfall 4 feet tall this could be class lll, or lionshead with its larger volume and 6 foot waves is class lll+ at most levels, or the black rapids. All im am trying to stress is, using river ratings is helpful with trip planning, but are somewhat up to interpretation, concerning the many variables that are calculated together that form an opinion, when making a river rating. With this in mind, your better off and safer to be well within your limits, get all over the roadside class lll and lV if you desire to boat like rivers in the bush.
    There is almost nothing worse, besides a death, than seeing a group of inexperienced boaters swimming rapids. The panic is astronomical when someone thinks they are dying, basically the trip is ruined( been there).Take an experienced boater/ swimmer (lol) and dump them in the same rapid and its the best part of the day. Running whitewater is relevant to each participant and the only way to grasp your place in the mix along with your family and friends is experience( close to home).
    Hope this adds to the rest of the great advice the others offered.
    Be safe have fun, mo

  20. #20

    Default One more note

    I missed mentioning, a huge factor in safety when dealing with whitewater, is the difference of character between pool drop rapids or continuous rapids. And this is major.

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