Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another Rescue in the Gorge

Well, Friday afternoon there was another rescue in the Gorge.
This time it was a couple in a canoe who flipped under Tillicum Bridge. The Times-Colonist newspaper wrote about the incident. The paddlers were caught in an eddy in the current. Apparently several 911 calls came in from people who saw a man and a woman clinging to their overturned canoe. Luckily for the soaked paddlers, the police marine unit was working nearby and rescued them in a few minutes. The reason the police marine unit were nearby was an unlucky one; they had two boats and some divers searching for a missing man.
A boat flip doesn't have to be an emergency from which one needs to be rescued. It's a good thing for small boat users to try to be able to get themselves out of a tricky moment, especially when paddling in sheltered water, with a dock and shoreline for landing. Our paddle group has had a boat flip in the same place the rescued couple did, right under Tillicum Bridge. You can read Bernie's account here, John's post about it here, on January 27 2008, or my post about it here. John's post has photos. Mine has more arch comments (so there), and Bernie's has cool drawings to reconstruct the accident.
Bernie's flip was not an emergency. Unlike the couple just rescued, he was wearing a PFD, farmer john wetsuit, and a paddle jacket. He has done enough wet exits -- even in cold water -- that he didn't panic when his kayak turned upside-down. And he was with friends who escorted his swim to the dock. It was a good chance to practise our "rescue skills" even though he did not need to be rescued.
The big difference between the experience of that couple in the canoe and our paddle group was preparation and practise. Anyone can flip a boat. Some places, like the Tillicum narrows, make it easy to flip. In just the past three years, there have been several people needing rescue there, or after getting themselves to shore the damp boaters have knocked on at the door of a nearby house to ask for help getting warm and dry. It's worth remembering that anyone could end up in an upside-down canoe or kayak on any outing, even in sheltered places.


  1. Just wanted to point out that John wasn't actually there when I flipped. I posted about it a few days later at http://kayakyak.blogspot.com/2008/02/flippity-doo-dah-part-2.html

  2. This pretty much sums up the speech I gave Yves when I found out he can't swim and went paddling in the river here. Yah, it's a river not the ocean. And sure, you checked that the rapids "didn't start for miles." BUT YOU CAN'T SWIM. All a PFD does is remind you which way is up and keep you afloat if you pass out - it doesn't help with swimming (in fact, in my experience it makes it much more difficult) and it doesn't help you figure out how to get out of the water.

    A lot of people feel invincible in a boat, and a lot more people don't seem to understand currents. I remember that flip dad had, it caught him unawares and he actually has some idea what he's doing - I'm not surprised someone else flipped in the same spot. It's ridiculous, to me, that people would jump into even such a sheltered, urban area with absolutely no preparation whatsoever.

    I used to pick up with a moments notice and hike in the Rockies when I lived in Banff... I went out in all sorts of weather, including -35 (a day that almost caught me in a wicked snowstorm). But I had survival training and a minimal survival kit AT ALL TIMES. Going kayaking with no idea what to do if you flip is like walking into the rockies with nothing but your flip flops and aviators, then wondering why you need the rangers to come save your ass.


    Signing Yves up for swim lessons tomorrow!

  3. Swim lessons! Marvelous idea. The swimming instructor will be terrific. I say that with confidence because every friend who has taken swimming lessons as an adult has always commented that the instructor was great, very supportive, had lots of ideas for how to approach the swimming lesson, and LISTENED to the new swimmer's goals.