Three things - and a question
1 - glad they are ok first of all.
2 - Glad to see the SPOT worked as expected, but not really in an iffy coverage area from what I can tell, so not sure if that's much validation or not.
3 - ADN comments are already comparing this scenario to the 'sunburn rescue' recently and saying that this one was a "true emergency".
I guess this goes back to the old rule for me - if it's not in your pocket then you have to assume you won't have it when things go south.
If they had a knife and waterproof fire making tools would this have been a 'true emergency'?
Although we don't know the details I tend to think not. The river was not desolate - sounds like at least two other rafters made contact with them before rescue. And they were less than three miles from the highway. I tend to think that if I was in this situation I could have made a fire, dried out, and been just fine bushwacking back to the road or waiting for a pickup arranged by one of the boaters that passed me by - rather than the 911 type rescue via beacon.
I guess I disagreed with the 'true emergency' view being taken by some. Especially since other boaters in their party did not lose their boats and they still didn't have necessary gear to make a fire or get warm. I just don't perceive this rescue as much different than the sunburn rescue.