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Safely tying in gear, and storing lines

No, those were white water boats.

Boat over boat rescues are more difficult with gear but often can be done so long as everything is contained within the hull and the boat and gear are not so heavy that the stem of the boat cannot be lifted up to gunwale height. If one stem of the canoe can be gotten over a gunwale of the rescue boat, the inverted boat and gear have enough buoyancy to act as a very effective outrigger. The inverted boat can the slowly be worked up and over the gunwales of the rescue boat, inverted, and returned to the water. Boat over boat rescues become much more difficult if there is stuff dangling from the boat, tied onto thwarts or anchors at gunwale level.

Boat over boat rescues are obviously much faster and easier if there is no, or only a small amount of gear tied into the boat. And that is one reason that I would not secure buoyant gear in a boat for lake paddling so long as a companion rescue boat is available. A boat over boat rescue of an empty, or near empty boat can be accomplished in seconds, much faster than a swamped boat can be emptied by bailing or with sump pumps, or even multiple electrical sump pumps.
 
Pete, your point about not tying in buoyant gear on lakes if companion boats are available is a reasonable one. In such case, I'd prefer the gear to be on a dragline tether rather than having multiple gear units completely loose. Still, it wouldn't be hard to sufficiently empty and bail a geared canoe in a relatively calm lake so as to tow it to shore. Many paddlers, sadly now probably including me, won't be able to reenter even with companion boat help.

As to boat-over-boat rescues on empty boat whitewater day trips, it's certainly possible we've had different experiences with different rescue technique companions. But I think we may be having a terminological confusion.

What I mean by a boat-over-boat rescue on a whitewater day trip would involve three things, as practiced by classes on lakes. First, the dump happens in river water over the paddler's head. Second, the emptying is done boat-over-boat. Third, the dumped paddler then reenters, still in mid-river water that's still over his head, with a leg hook climb-in or whatever. I've never participated in or seen that complete scenario.

Sure, I've emptied lots of loose boats in mid-river with a simple flip over or a partial lift on a bagged end. There isn't much water left in a fully bagged canoe that's flipped upright. I don't think I've ever had to go full hull-over-hull. But I've never had anyone reenter in mid-whitewater river over their heads. The dumped paddlers are either swimming to shore (perhaps per my instructions), are being dragged to shore by another canoe, or are hanging on the back of mine as I tow the whole shebang to shore. In most non-gigantic rivers the shore is only a few boat lengths away. Sure, I've also dumped and emptied canoes in eddies near the shore, but those are places where paddlers can almost always stand up to reenter. Frequently, as you mentioned, the paddlers and boat don't end up on shore in the same place, so they have to hike the shoreline or be ferried down or across the river.
 
Re: boat over boat rescue on whitewater

When Kathleen and I lived in Vancouver, we were active members of the Beaver Canoe Club, whose primary interest and activity was whitewater day trips. We paddled most weekends, pretty much year-round. People often pushed themselves to improve skills. If you’re not capsizing, you’re not getting better. Capsizes, mid-rapid, were common. Our boat-over-boat rescues virtually always met the three criteria in Glenn’s penultimate paragraph above. People were skilled on both ends. Doing the rescue, and being rescued. It was unusual, if not rare, for swimmers to become separated from their boat. We were taught, and experienced, at getting to the upstream side of our boat, to grab the loop, and begin to initiate self rescue by swimming the boat to shore. This was usually difficult to do in mid-rapid, but rescue canoes usually performed the boat-over-boat rescue very quickly. Often there was a race to see who got there first, as the rescuer was owed a beer by the rescued boat. I have seen this performed literally hundreds of times.
 
I've done one "combat" canoe over canoe rescue. A friend and I were in solo canoes out in Bellingham Bay, Washington on Thanksgiving many years ago. He was headed farther offshore than I liked (a pretty green paddler in a tippy Wenonah C1W), but I followed him for safety. Winds came up and he was over, about 1/4 mile from shore. I performed a canoe-over-canoe and we headed for shore in a tandem fashion, my leg hooked over the gunnel into his boat for security. Winds were later clocked at 75mph--while we were sitting in a hot tub. Although the rescue went without a hitch (and someone had already called the Sheriff's Dept), bigger seas, more wind, or a loaded boat would have been dicey.
 
Our boat-over-boat rescues virtually always met the three criteria in Glenn’s penultimate paragraph above. People were skilled on both ends. Doing the rescue, and being rescued. . . . I have seen this performed literally hundreds of times.

Well, this is getting interesting, if not confusing. I paddled class 3-4 (and less) whitewater in open canoes from Tennessee to West Virginia to northern Maine, as well as in California and Oregon, for 20 years with many clubs and never once have seen a canoe-over-canoe empty with reentry in a rapid.

I've taken and taught river rescue classes, and the technique was not even in the Appalachian Mountain Club (A.M.C.) curriculum. River rescue was by rope baggers on shore, how to throw, belay and hold onto a rescue rope, rolling solo and tandem open canoes (yes we did), swimming to shore (both with and without your boat), towing to shore, the use of tow belts and tow harnesses, nudging a canoe to shore, how to swim with a paddle, climbing into or hanging onto a rescue boat, but never canoe-over-canoe rescue . . . in a rapid . . . or in any high gradient river with frequent rapids.

Now, there are rivers and rivers. If you are on big pool-drop rivers such as those in the Western U.S. and the non-mountainous parts of Canada, then you could be on long stretches of smooth water between rapids. There, an equivalent of a moving lake, a canoe-over-canoe rescue would be possible. But on a continuous gradient rocky mountain stream, such as those in New England, it would be insanely dangerous for the rescue boater to attempt a C-O-C, because he's going to be smashing into rocks at high velocity in the next 5 to 20 feet, a matter of seconds. Some of these mountain creeks are barely 15' wide with strainers in addition to endless rocks. Besides, although it would be suicide to try to stand up in these kinds of rivers, in many places they are not really over an adult's head deep.

To check my ossifying cerebellum, I pulled out my 1985 copy of River Rescue by Les Bechtel and Slim Ray, which was the original bible on the subject. In 227 pages of text, pictures, diagrams, tables of contents and indices, describing scores of simple and complex river rescue techniques, I see no mention of boat-over-boat rescue. Amazon tells me there is now a 2009 edition, so it's probably still the bible.

So I continued to search in my ancient library, but that's a good thing because canoes predominated over kayaks then. There is no mention of canoe-over-canoe rescue in the rescue sections of: The A.M.C Whitewater Handbook by John T. Urban, Wildwater--The Sierra Club Guide to Kayaking and Whitewater Boating by Lito Tejada-Flores, Recreational Whitewater Canoeing by Tom Foster (long time the ACA's top ITE), or The Complete Wilderness Paddler by Davidson and Rugge.

I scoured Bill Mason's Path of the Paddle and he does illustrate the canoe-over-canoe technique, but only in a lake in calm water. There are two references to him trying it in rivers. In one case (p. 139) he chased down an empty canoe and succeeded in emptying it canoe-over-canoe in a pool, but no paddler reentry was involved; they were ashore upstream. In another case (p. 151), he was completely unable lift or to do a canoe-over-canoe empty with an overturned canoe had tripping gear tied in. After chasing it through multiple rapids, he finally succeeded in nudge pushing the canoe to shore.

As Mason says (p. 146), and as is obviously implicit in all the whitewater river rescue books that ignore the technique: "One of the problems of doing the canoe-over-canoe rescue is that nearly everyone learns to do it in calm water. In reality, one seldom needs to empty in such conditions. The canoe-over-canoe procedure is of little use until you've learned to do it in high wind and waves, and in the swirling currents below a rapid." Of course, once you're in a big pool below a rapid, you're likely to be within a few seconds of the shore, and it's easy to nudge or tow the canoe there. For towing, I especially like quick release tow belts or a stern painter rescue rope jam-cleated to the gunwale near the paddler.

Puzzled in the People's Republic of Nutmeg.
 
Well, I was certified as a River Trip Leader by the ACA some years ago and the boat over boat rescue was definitely part of the curriculum and we practiced it along with other techniques. I have also been involved in canoe instruction for the Boy Scouts of America and we taught this technique. Out of curiosity, I pulled a few canoeing books of the shelf and the boat over boat rescue was covered in most of them, including the following: "ACA Canoeing and Kayaking Instruction Manual" by Laurie Gillium (the venerable "red book"), "Solo Canoeing" by John Foshee (nearly as venerable), "Canoeing: A Trailside Guide" by Gordon Grant, "The Canoe Handbook" by Slim Ray, and "Canoeing: The Essential Skills and Safety" by Andrew Westwood.

I have done boat over boat rescues of heavy tandem Royalex whitewater canoes where the naked boat weighed 80 lbs and with the tandem outfitting (end bags, sometimes a center bag, bag cages, pedestals with aluminum adjustable foot pegs, knee pads, thigh straps, painters, multiple D ring anchors for thigh straps, bag cages, and gear attachment) plus sundry additional items contained within the hull (such as spare paddle(s), dry bags/boxes, water bottles, throw bag, sometimes an electric sump pump and battery box) the total weight of the boat and contents easily exceeded 100 lbs. So if that is possible, it is certainly possible to do the same with a lightweight 40 lb boat with 60 lbs of well-secured gear.

There is no question that with most river rescues, getting the boat and swimmer(s) to the nearest shore and then emptying the boat is the best course of action. But there are times where a rescue carried out in a mid-river eddy on a wide, cold river can spare the swimmers a long and potentially exhausting swim or tow to shore. It is also true that the boat over boat rescue is primarily a flat water technique, but it can definitely be done in the slack water of an eddy where it might be too deep to stand or the footing may not be secure enough to allow the swimmer to empty the boat. Or in a bank eddy abutting a bluff or cliff where the water is too deep to stand. I have chased down scores of swamped canoes and kayaks and had to empty them unassisted. It is often much easier and quicker to do so using a boat over boat rescue where possible, as opposed to having to get out of the canoe or kayak to empty the other boat.

It is usually not going to be possible to do a boat over boat rescue in vigorous current. The swamped boat just can't be kept perpendicular to the rescue boat effectively. But it is definitely possible to do a parallel "curl" rescue in current. On some rivers with continuous current and closely spaced rapids, it may not be possible to get the swimmer and boat out of the current before the next rapid. In such cases a parallel rescue might be the best course of action as opposed to committing the swimmer and swamped boat to the hazards of the upcoming rapid. Obviously, this will not always be possible, but sometimes it is, especially if both the rescuer and the swimmer are practiced.

Experienced swimmers can help the rescuer(s) considerably with a boat over boat rescue. The way I was taught, and have taught the technique, was for a single swimmer to go the the end of the canoe opposite the rescue boat. From the position, the swimmer can do three things 1. help keep the swamped boat perpendicular to the rescue boat if wind or current are trying to pivot it, 2. by pushing down with both hands on the far stem of the swamped boat, the rescuer is assisted by breaking the suction and also helps the rescuer lift the opposite end of the canoe to the gunwales of the rescue boat, 3. with a heavy boat, the swimmer can assist the rescuer(s) as it is drawn up and across the rescue boat by pushing the opposite end while kicking with the feel. As soon as the swamped boat is halfway across the rescue boat, the swimmer moves to one stem of the rescue boat and helps stabilize it as the swamped boat is inverted and returned to the water.

If there are two swimmers, one goes to the end of the swamped boat as above, the other goes to one stem of the rescue boat and helps stabilize it.

Any rescue techniques have to be learned, practiced, and periodically repracticed to have any chance of working when it counts.
 
I have practiced a lot of resuces over the years, but every time there has been a swamped boat we have taken it to shore.
Never had a lake capsize but we have been lucky in the big stuff.
 
I don't think we're disagreeing about much in principle, except I'm fascinated by the asserted difference of empirical experience with actual canoe-over-canoe empties and reentries.

I have dozens of canoe books and agree that the ones that cover both lake and river canoeing, such as the ACA manual, Mason's and Foshee's many books, will include C-O-C. I was mainly pointing out that the books from prominent organizations and authors that specialize in river/whitewater paddling don't even mention the C-O-C technique. That makes sense, because I think we generally agree that C-O-C will only work on a whitewater river in ideal circumstances -- such as a long slack section or a big eddy -- and even then, it may not be the best, fastest, smartest, safest, or medically prudent thing to try. Our club's collective wisdom was that people who have just swum rapids should almost always be taken ashore as soon as possible for a variety of reasons.

I also agree that C-O-C is taught in general canoeing courses because most people paddle only flat water. The clubs I was in were specialized whitewater clubs, and we didn't include C-O-C in the curriculum since it was so obviously rarely usable on our continuous gradient whitewater rivers.

That's what fascinates me. Pete says he's seen and done it in combat on rivers -- "it" being both empty and reentry. Pitt says he's seen it hundreds of times. Yet I, with an alleged 66 years of canoeing, cannot remember even one time that a C-O-C empty and entry was ever executed or even tried on any kind of water. I've literally never seen it done except in lake practice classes. Part of the reason for that is that I can't offhand recall any time that I was ever with anyone who dumped in flatwater more than 10 feet from shore. And of the hundreds of dumps I've seen in whitewater, all resulting in successful rescues of the swimmers, but not always of the boats and paddles, which a few times disappeared down the river Styx, never has C-O-C been the rescue method employed.

Curious. Although I've mostly boated with good to expert canoeists as an adult. This century, however, aside from specialized open canoe gatherings or symposia, I usually get to paddle only with kayaks and SOTs everywhere from Connecticut to Florida, when not paddling alone. I doubt there are any open canoeists left in my old clubs.
 
as a former instructor for almost a quarter century, and with close to 60 years paddling everything from the local mill pond to the Niagara and Athabaska, I've only seen the CoC used once, and the rescuers ended up swamped too. I did teach it though, but only as another tool in the toolbox, because even in a pool it can be dicey. One thing I despise about it though is that it focuses on rescuing the canoe, not the swimmers. I can tow or ferry swimmers to shore, or even pull them into my canoe a lot faster than I can get them out of the water if I stop to right the other boat, and in our cold Canadian waters, hypothermia is a real risk!
 
The rivers we paddled in southwestern British Columbia were mostly coming out of the mountains. They were glacial and snow-fed: cold, swift and filled with rocks. They were not drop and pool. Boats and swimmers would all be flushed for a considerable distance before reaching an eddy large enough to stand safely. Moreover, the club’s mantra was to never stand until your butt scraped bottom. The potential for a foot entrapment was very real in just waist deep water.. Most swimmers would be worn out trying to swim to shore, even without their boat.

Carey was the premier paddler in our club. Arguably, at the time, he was among the top three paddlers in B.C. When we first joined the club, only Carey performed CoC rescues. He was the only one skillful enough. This was true for several years. Eventually a few others also developed the necessary skill and confidence. But only a few. Carey could get the swimmers back in the boat in less than a minute, maybe less than 30 seconds. No need to be perpendicular to the swamped boat. No need to bring it all the way up over the gunwales. Speed was the essence. Our boats were all bagged. Just get the swamped boat up enough to drain some water. Turn it over. Slide it back in. Swimmers roll in. Off they go. Just like that. I never saw a single instance when Carey’s boat, or anyone else’s boat went over while doing a CoC. Swimmers often helped stabilize the boat.

The first real dump for Kathleen and me was in the Tulameen Canyon. We were beginners. Before we had wetsuits. The water took our breath away. Kathleen later said she thought she was going to die. She couldn’t breathe, and could see only unending rapids ahead. But no. Suddenly there was Carey. His first focus was on Kathleen, not our boat. Told Kathleen to get to the upstream side of his boat. She had been swimming free. I was holding on to the upstream side of our boat, paddle in hand, feet up, pointing downstream to kick off rocks, just like I had been told. Carey arrived. Told me to hold on to his boat. Then told us that he would CoC our boat just after we cleared the next line of rocks. He did, and we rolled in, one at a time. Said we better get ready fast. Another rapid was coming up. He handed Kathleen a paddle. We paddled through, and hit a small eddy behind some shore-line boulders. I don’t think we would have hit that small eddy as swimmers. By the next day, Kathleen was covered in bruises, after only a few minutes in that rock-filled River.

Eventually, Kathleen and I even did a few CoCs. But we, in fact no one, was ever as good as Carey. Until yesterday, I never knew that CoCs in whitewater was unusual. In our club it was the norm. It was to be expected. But then again, it was really all Carey. Without Carey, CoC rescues would very likely have been much rarer in the Beaver Canoe Club.

It seems that everyone’s experiences are different. All to be respected, and taken at face value.
 
So what would Carey have done if both swimmers were not holding onto the boat but had been separated from it? Or if one was holding onto the boat and the other was separated and swimming? Or if, due to age, physical condition or injury, the swimmers were not able to climb in after his fast CoC empty?
 
On our capsize, Kathleen was separated and swimming. Carey went to her first. Then came to me and the boat. Then made sure I was stabilized before the CoC. Swimmers are the priority. If both people were swimming free of the boat, probably forget about the boat. I have never seen that happen though. In the vast majority of capsizes in our club, people were able to stay with their boat. It was ingrained at the beginning of every day on the river. No matter how many times we had heard it, we heard it again.

What at do you do if you capsize?

Hold on to your paddle. Get to the upstream side of your boat. Reach for the grab loop. Look for your partner. Initiate self rescue.

I don’t know precisely how many times I’ve capsized, but I’ve never become separated from my boat. If nothing else, it provides great support when being flushed down river.

If the swimmer was injured, I can only assume that Carey would forget about the boat. I once did a CoC for Sally, not too far above the Class III Adams Canyon, near Kamloops. “OK, Sally, Get back in.”

”I can’t. I’ve never been able to do it.”

I didn’t know that about Sally. She was a strong, young paddler, and I had never seen her capsize. I towed her to shore, which was a fair distance. Don’t remember what happened to her boat.

In terms of being too old or infirm, they probably would not have been invited to the Tulameen Canyon. Every year the club went on Rivers Week, to paddle the Similkameen Tulameen, Coldwater and Nicola Rivers in southern B.C. In the early days, beginners weren’t directly excluded, but they were not encouraged to do something too far beyond their skill set. Kathleen and I just happened to show up at the first camp. We learned later that the members there were surprised, and didn’t know what to do with us. We were not allowed to come with them on the Nicola Canyon run. But they decided why not let us try the Tulameen Canyon. As we sat on the beach, Jean said that the first bend is a very sharp left. You gotta hug tight. If you don’t, you’ll go up on a very large outcrop nearly all the way across the River. I’ll go first. Follow me.

So off Jean went, and we followed. We made the sharp left, only to see Jean standing on shore. She had gone too far left, thinking about us, and had gravelled out. We hesitated very briefly, and rolled up on the outcrop. You know the rest. Carey was generally the lead boat, and was there for us.

Carey usually planned lunch stops near good surfing waves. At that time, Kathleen and I didn’t surf. Carey came over and said, “Come on, Kathleen. We’re going to surf.” Moments later, there was Kathleen surfing with Carey. Then Carey said, OK Kathleen, stand up.”

And she did. She and Carey, standing up, surfing the wave. Carey certainly knew that Kathleen was shaken by her capsize. Wanted to make sure that she “got right back on the horse.”

Carey brought a lot of people along in the Beaver Canoe Club. People commonly said that the felt safer when Carey was on the river. There. That’s enough accolades for today.
 
I have been part of three (four, five) canoe-over “rescues”, all in places where bull-dozing the capsized hull ashore would have presented additional, unwarranted difficulties or consequences.

On two of them I was the haul over canoe, directing other boaters to align the hull –I, and help break the inverted suction bubble before sliding the bow over/atop my gunwales.

Both those instances were on backwater rivers at high water levels. Not especially fast water, but most of the “shoreline” was well up into dense trees, and offered no nearby untimbered stretch to land a canoe without potentially making things worse.

The third episode involved a friend standing and poling his way along a shallow marsh shoreline. His plunged pole discovered an abrupt 20’ deep drop-off in a tidal channel, resulting in a sudden whole body “step out”.

The banks were Spartina alterniflora, growing out of the water atop a 3 foot deep layer of waist deep pluff mud. He was treading deep water out of boat, nicely invigorated by the sudden swim, and we held his canoe alongside for an over-gunwales heave in and get situated.

Would those day paddling boat-over recoveries have worked as quickly and easily with gear weight tied into the canoe? Probably not.

Would that boat-over recovery have been attempted in continuous WW and rapids. Oh heck no, the first rule is not to make things worse or add additional swimmers. But for the time and place it was a good choice.
 
Tulameen Canyon . . . . Beaver Canoe Club. . . .

Before launching into a final CoC harangue that's been building up in me, I want to call a timeout to watch a movie.

Here's the famous Beaver Canoe Club paddling the infamous Tulameen Canyon in 2017. I bet it all looks about the same as it did years ago for Pitt and the mysterious Kathleen. It looks to me just like Northeast USA whitewater boating in 1983. Open canoes! TANDEM open canoes!!! Royalex canoes! Mowhawk and Harmony paddles!

Having done this intermission movie research, it's incumbent upon Pitt to identify the YouTube spacetime coordinates where he and Kathleen dumped and where Kathleen lost her surfing virginity.

 
Thanks, Glenn!! That brings back a lot of memories. I don’t think Kathleen and I could do this anymore. Too rusty, and probably too old. Unfortunately, I don’t recognize any specific spots on the river. The club does put in higher up these days. We haven’t paddled with them since 2002.

I forgot to mention in my previous post that when we were sitting on the beach with Jean, she was obviously worried about our very near future. I asked her, “What do you think our chances are of making this?”

”What if I told you zero?”

“We’d go anyway.”

”Right answer. Let’s go.”

After that initial capsize, we made the rest of the run fine. Seeing the video, I wonder how. We were beginners. Maybe the footage has been speeded up for effect?

Kathleen and I still have our Mohawk paddles, but haven’t used them for many, many years. Probably never will again. Are you interested?
 
Just to eliminate the mystery, Glenn, here is Kathleen in her Royalex Mohawk XL13 whitewater play boat, on the lower Seymour River near our home in North Vancouver, probably around 1989. Note the Harmony Perception paddle! We still use them!

Kathleen on Seymour.jpg
 
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Thursday evening double feature.

The Beaver CC attacks the Seymour River in Edgar Alan Poe-ish weather on April 7, 2018, the day my blessed mother would have been 98. Some nice midstream eddies at this level for upstream and cross-stream technical play.

 
Here’s a link to a 1989 video of the now famous Beaver Canoe Club on the upper Seymour River. Carey produced the video. Kathleen and I are in the Royalex, green Mad River Explorer. We are also the couple on the bridge planning our route during the lunch break. I hope this link to drive.google works. We have been having some trouble. Let me know.


https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BoXBxRv-MgnVrKHqVoUgpNqKuLoDdD0q
 
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