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Thread: First (unintentional) swim

  1. #1
    Member BrowningLeverAction's Avatar
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    Exclamation First (unintentional) swim

    I am curious to hear some of the stories out there of your first flip or ejection into our beautiful Alaska waters. What did you do wrong? What did you do right? Tips, tricks or lessons learned?

    Mine was this last weekend on the Tazlina, a couple miles downstream of House Rock. I've been rafting for 5 years but never in class III+. The biggest I had done previously is Eagle River campground at high water, which is technical but short. I thought I was doing pretty well and got a little full of myself. Went over a deceptively small looking pourover in a Super Puma and didn't power my way over the top, my rearend got sucked in and just like that I was in the drink. Fortunately, the gear was tied in for going over Niagara Falls, so the only losses were my hat and a little youthful exuberance.

  2. #2
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Default flips...

    ...there are those that have flipped, and those that will flip. Win some, learn some...

    dennis

  3. #3

    Default Flip

    My thoughts are--- its best to get that first one behind you- but never forget they are all different!!
    safe boating

  4. #4
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    Thumbs up Rafts Flipped --- Folks Immersed

    Two things about AIRE Puma Series:

    1.) They handle very well as far as maneuverability

    2.) They are not nearly as stable or forgiving in possible flip scenarios as the wider beam, more standard width to length raft

    I had a large 'rental party' (emphasis on party... read as gung-ho with few experts in the crowd) go out with my custom SOTAR 14' SP and commercial AIRE 156E boats to the Upper Gulkana River. Both of these boats punched through all the biggest waves/holes no problem... no mater the captains, party time strategies, entries, or orientation into the hazards. A Puma (not one of our rental fleet) attempting the same shots flipped quickly & easily like a flap-jack over a greased griddle despite entering out of pure luck on a slightly better line.

    No big deal tho' --- the Gulkana rapid is an undemanding section... my rental packages had all the safety gear, the Puma raft had no gear aboard, and the lead boats recovered everybody with the boat... plus it was a nice day to get wet.

    Those that have ... those that will ---

    I'll ad to this that it's not an if... it's being prepared for a when.

    Just about every immersion situation is different... & should be!!! This is due to hedging on safer-odds and making better judgment calls when running stretches of water... that 9 out of 10 times you run through just fine & not finding yourself in this Alaska baptism pickle.

    Class III and IV are very subjective classifications in my opinion. It is very important to recognize the character, gain a more complete definition, and know more about the specific descriptions (sub-categorization) of the flow.

    Could you have read the river better? Probably in retrospect of events... Yes

    Did you get a little over your head? Well, Maybe --- who's to say?... or like you said got a too confident or into the fun.

    Yet, look at it this way... you tied everything in really well (prepared for such a possible incident).

    You stayed w/ the boat in a wilderness setting (good thinking).

    You were also self-reliant in solving the immediate problems (way to go!).

    This was not a comfortable setting where you were feeling in complete control!!!

    That's more or less ok - you hopefully learn to return from every experience.

    You are now asking questions to yourself as well as answers from others to debrief or evaluate so that if/when this happens in the future your rescue plans, natural reactions, and reasons behind making potential pilot errors will be on more familiar terms to you.

  5. #5
    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    Default

    Never flipped (yet), but on one trip I got thrown out of my boat (twice) on Six Mile. Both times I was able to quickly recover, climb back in, and set up for the next set of rapids.

  6. #6
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default A good dunk this time...in current!

    An experience and topic worth exploring. Although I've been in cold water, not yet from a raft. As a new raft owner, I'm interested in the topic. I've been reading Whitewater Rescue Manual, by Charles Walbridge & Wayne Sundmacher--the page on surviving an inevitable strainer got my attention in the store. The whitewater stories and points are excellent teaching points.

    When it comes to whitewater, there's much more involved; hydrodynamics, rocks, pinning, strainers...but one cold water immersion element in common is about avoiding panic, keeping your head as Brian alluded - controlling the impulse in order to avoid, Gordon Giesbrecht, a cold-water researcher says, making bad decisions leading to poor outcomes.

    Knik Canoers & Kayakers makes a point of planning for dunking. In dry suits, they dedicate time to getting into the water and getting out - practicing the team approach, using a throw bag, etc.

    On The Late Show with David Letterman, several years ago, Gordon Giesbrecht demonstrated some of his cold water immersion findings by getting into a tank of ice water; to illustrate the importance of knowing what to expect and preparing to deal with it. His principles are condensed into a 1-10-1 rule, explained on www.coldwaterbootcamp.com, a program done first in Canada, then the US. Just click the 1-10-1 tab.

    More info on cold water immersion:
    http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/boating/index.htm
    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ead.php?t=6162
    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ad.php?t=56205

    Much about cold water immersion apparently takes people unaware and is potentially lethal. A friend who took a kayak safety class years ago told me that experienced kayakers are sometimes found dead, inverted, with no evident attempt to remove their spray skirts. Maybe understanding 1-10-1 would have helped. Giesbrecht recommends holding your breath/ control your breathing in that first minute. With training, maybe that one tip could have made the difference. We don't know.

    After the initial cold water shock, we may underestimate the amount of useful time we have to prepare for survival. Useful experience you (and others) had. Interesting thread. Useful lessons in the topic. Thanks.

  7. #7

    Default bad scenerio

    I was ejected once, and everyone left in the boat did not know how to row a boat.
    INTERESTING LESSON!!! YEP.
    MO

  8. #8
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    Default

    Only rafted once w/ nova. My aunts were up visiting and we were having a great time on the river. One of them was extremely talkative the whole first 1/2 of the trip. We were cruising down the Matanuska and there was a drop ahead, nothing crazy but definately a drop. As the boat flexed my chatty kathy aunt tipped over backwards. She was only holding on to the rope around the outside of the raft and nothing in side the boat so her hands acted like a pivot point and suddenly she was head under water feet straight up in the air, which was a hilarios scene that is etched into my memory. The people sitting next to her managed to yank her back in the boat before she lost her grip and instructer her to make sure she held onto something inside the boat not just the rope on the outside. She didn't speak another work till we were back on the Glen driving home.

  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    An experience and topic worth exploring. Although I've been in cold water, not yet from a raft. As a new raft owner, I'm interested in the topic. I've been reading Whitewater Rescue Manual, by Charles Walbridge & Wayne Sundmacher--the page on surviving an inevitable strainer got my attention in the store. The whitewater stories and points are excellent teaching points.

    When it comes to whitewater, there's much more involved; hydrodynamics, rocks, pinning, strainers...but one cold water immersion element in common is about avoiding panic, keeping your head as Brian alluded - controlling the impulse in order to avoid, Gordon Giesbrecht, a cold-water researcher says, making bad decisions leading to poor outcomes.

    Knik Canoers & Kayakers makes a point of planning for dunking. In dry suits, they dedicate time to getting into the water and getting out - practicing the team approach, using a throw bag, etc.

    On The Late Show with David Letterman, several years ago, Gordon Giesbrecht demonstrated some of his cold water immersion findings by getting into a tank of ice water; to illustrate the importance of knowing what to expect and preparing to deal with it. His principles are condensed into a 1-10-1 rule, explained on www.coldwaterbootcamp.com, a program done first in Canada, then the US. Just click the 1-10-1 tab.

    More info on cold water immersion:
    http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/boating/index.htm
    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ead.php?t=6162
    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ad.php?t=56205

    Much about cold water immersion apparently takes people unaware and is potentially lethal. A friend who took a kayak safety class years ago told me that experienced kayakers are sometimes found dead, inverted, with no evident attempt to remove their spray skirts. Maybe understanding 1-10-1 would have helped. Giesbrecht recommends holding your breath/ control your breathing in that first minute. With training, maybe that one tip could have made the difference. We don't know.

    After the initial cold water shock, we may underestimate the amount of useful time we have to prepare for survival. Useful experience you (and others) had. Interesting thread. Useful lessons in the topic. Thanks.
    For those interested in such things, we just added the DVD "Cold Water Boating" to our bookstore. It was produced by the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and contains some of Giesbrecht's stuff, if memory serves. It's an excellent resource. They are available from us for just the cost of shipping (in other words, the DVD is free). I would recommend this video for anyone boating in Alaska. The information could save your life.

    -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

  10. #10
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    Default

    The group I was floating with this past week flipped a boat in the Lowe River in Keystone Canyon. It was in the last hole on the river (Little Bear), which is hidden form view when scouting. The fairly experienced pilot made a series of minor errors that each contributed to the result. First, he didn't have enough weight in the bow, he wasn't going quite fast enough when he hot the hole, and he didn't quite get the boat straight before being surprised by the hole. That, and his boat (13') was a foot shorter than the other boats. All this contributed to stalling out on the hole with the bow in the air before the boat went sideways and rolled.

    If any of these conditions were different the boat probably would not have flipped. But what would be the fun in that? As it was, the rest of us got good rescue practice, no gear was lost, they had an interesting experience, and will now have a story to tell.

  11. #11

    Default Lake Creek SNAFU

    Two friends and I floated Lake Creek July '08. 14' Kenai Drifter. I was rowing. While going over (what I believe was) the last good "drop down" in the canyon I was back-somersaulted off the raft. Unbeknownst to me, the middle strap on my vest snagged a protruding tie-down hook (on the aft-starboard-side) as I entered the water headfirst.

    When I resurfaced, the waist strap made a complete twist around the tie-down's hook. Still unaware and trying to re-enter the raft 3 or 4 times, as we continued down the rapids, I found myself totally spent. Then came the realization I was tethered to the raft, though I couldn't determine how...or where i was being held! With my head just above the waterline for what seemed to be an eternity, likely no more than 30-45 seconds, the water began to shallow. Not the best situation as at that point my knees began to take a beating as they dragged across the boulders.

    During the "ordeal" one buddy came to assist and the other grabbed the oars to control the raft. Textbook. He tried lifting me to no avail. Eventually, he determined exactly how I was hooked, yet still couldn't free me...that's when the knife came out of the chest pocket on his waders. I just remember instructing (yelling) not to cut my new $500 dry suit. After a quick, (I might add accurate) slice, I was free and pulled back into the raft.

    It became readily apparent why NRS, and similar raft straps, have looped ends instead of hooks. The mistake of using a couple tie downs, like those on my 4-wheeler, meat trailer, or pick-up, was clearly a bad idea! Additionally, even this "water bug" (who can easily swim a mile) found out how rapidly nearly 100% of your energy can "evaporate" in such a situation.

    I was lucky. Still breathing but with two swollen knees and a hematoma on one leg running from the upper thigh to the ankle. As previously mentioned in this thread, every incident is different. Do your best to mitigate the dangers but always be ready for the "unexpected" or "freak" occurrence...and LEARN FROM IT!

    Cheers and Safe Back Country Outings To All.

  12. #12
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    Wow JetRx,

    Scary stuff but glad to hear you made it OK. Rivers are one powerfull source and it does only take one small mistake and disaster awaits. I have just got into rafting but have spent many years on rivers in boats and know that those currents can't be overcome with a war of our own will. Glad to read that you and your crew kept your wit's about you. Thanks for the insight regarding the hooks. Another thing to cross off the gearlist. Thanks again.

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    First flip was my very first WW rafting trip, first rafting trip period. Murtaugh (sp?) section of the Snake River southwest-ish of Boise ID.

    Just put in, about 16,000cfs, first wave train, MASSIVE waves. Friend who owned boat was a newb too, another friend had the rowing experience but he was letting the owner get a little experience before we hit the hard stuff. Made it through about 4 of the waves before we started to turn and he didn't correct. Went in sideways and rolled right over...

    Raft owners dog was with us too, and he almost learned a deadly lesson. Raft had a rope strung along its perimeter through its D-rings. As the raft flipped, the dogs leg went between the raft and the boat and when the dog (wearing a dog vest) popped up after the raft was flipped, the rope of course twisted around and was cinched tight on the dogs rear leg. Raft owner luckily got back on the raft and soon realized he had to cut the rope to get the dog loose so we could right the raft. First lesson... NO rope LOOPS on a raft...

    Girlfriend of raft owner spent rest of day in another mans raft... lol


    Have since swam.

    Payette River
    Lochsa River
    Sixmile 2nd canyon
    Lions Head

    All pretty standard except the 6-mile flip. By standard I mean I wasn't looking downstream enough (or just couldn't see it), picked a bad path, and lacked enough momentum going into a hole I should of been trying to avoid. Don't punch hole, turn sideways, flipped and maytagged... Self recovered in every instance but the 6-mile flip where Mr. Strutz was kind enough to pull me out..


    Another lesson on ropes, on the San Juan in southern Utah, a mild float, predominatly flat water, with a short rapid run approx Class II, maybe III-. 14ft round boat and 12ft play cat. Play cat has NRS bow line bag on the front.. Somehow the bag actually breaks free, and unlike the rope which would of likely floated, the bag sank, in the rapids, as my friend was going through. Caught on a rock down in the water somewhere... Would of been ok and just a lost rope, but the other end was still attached to the front of the cat. Line spools out and then goes tight.. How the cat didn't do an endo right there is beyond me, but it spins around, and starts planing out... In the middle of the rapid run.. We stop in the raft and work our way up shore to assist. Cat has one guy on it, and he's having to say on the back half of the raft as it planes out... Every time he moves forward to try to get the rope off, this 12 foot cat litterally starts to submarine, shooting itself under a good 6-inches to a foot of water... Almost blowing off my friend... We get a line to shore and try to swing him over like a pendulum, but after a few tries the two of us on shore just cant get him close enough and cant get any slack in the line holding him up stream...

    We encourage him that he HAS to get the line cut, no other way. Friend still on raft makes one final dive for the front of the raft, again the cat starts to submarine but he manages to get his knife on the line and thankfully cuts the line in one swift cut (while being force fed gallon upon gallon of water... Raft is free, friend is spent, shaken and scared but OK...
    Rule #2 on rafts.. NO Loose Ropes... Even in class II, a caught rope is a serious safety threat.

    I've since experienced two other caught rope situations when I've come across people in dire rescue situation with a caught rope in far more nasty rapids. In one case no one in the raft had a knife, and just got lucky that kayaker came along who could ferry in close enough to pass them a knife...

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