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Videos of open canoe rescues, re-entries, unpinnings, rope throwing, etc.

Glenn MacGrady

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The purpose of this thread is to collect private or commercial videos demonstrating open canoe rescues, paddler rescues, canoe re-entries, throw rope technique, z-drags and other pinned canoe rescue techniques, and the like.

Here is a short video demonstrating the "parallel rescue" of a loose and unoccupied canoe.

 
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The parallel canoe rescue AKA "the curl" is worth knowing. It is a rescue that can be done in significant current. Usually, whitewater boat rescues are most practically accomplished by plowing or towing the boat to the bank or into and eddy but sometimes at the top of a long rapid or long stretch of closely spaced rapids or in the middle of a wide river, getting the swimmer back into a boat dry enough to paddle and control is the priority.

In current it is very difficult to get the capsized boat into proper alignment for a boat-over-boat T rescue, but it is usually possible for the rescue boat to pull up along side the capsized boat and grab a hold of it. Once it it emptied and righted the rescuer can use it as an outrigger support and tip toward the swimmer and keep it from capsizing as the swimmer clambers back in. But like all rescues, easier said than done.
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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The classic canoe over canoe rescue, which I've also seen called the X rescue or the T rescue.

 
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For the BSA trek leader guide training we teach the "scoop" method recovery as part of the tandem canoe over canoe T-Rescue method. It works really well, especially for a rescuee who for whatever reason may have athletic difficulty getting back into their rescued canoe. First on the list is to check the condition of the people being rescued and to give immediate assistance in case of injury.... "are you ok?" Every student must successfully demonstrate the technique before progressing in the training week. Then I go into a bit of a lecture beginning with the question "as a guide, how did you get into this situation in the first place?" Did you lead your inexperienced team on a broad open water crossing in a strong wind and bad weather? Now imagine doing this rescue in big rolling waves and howling wind. What should you have done instead? Then we have the discussion of should we firmly tie packs and other gear in the boat or not.
 
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Regarding mechanical advantage haul systems the most commonly known and used are the 3:1 "Z-drag" and the 4:1 "Pig (for piggyback) Rig". It is pretty easy to find tons of videos and on-line tutorials for how to set up either, but there are few good videos showing them in use in a real life, unstaged situation.

In 2013 I attended a swiftwater rescue symposium held by the ACA on the Tuckasegee River in North Carolina. The instructors included some of the "superstars" of swiftwater rescue including Charlie Walbridge, Les Bechdel, Slim Ray, Sam Fowlkes, Jim Coffey, and many others. Below are a couple of links to videos that someone took at a couple of the presentations.

Often the most difficult part of using a mechanical advantage drag or any rope system to rescue a pinned boat is what is often called "rigging the boat". When the boat is pinned in swift current it is often very challenging to safely approach it close enough to secure a haul line and a tag (control) line to the boat. Multiple attachment points dynamically rigged to distribute the load is always preferred since grab loops, thwarts, and yokes are often easily torn out, especially when using a drag system that incorporates mechanical advantage. In the first video big Walter Felton from Arkansas shows some techniques for rigging lines to pinned canoes and kayaks, as well as a very simple vector pull technique using only ropes that can be applied in scenarios where prusik loops or cords, carabiners, and pulleys are lacking.
 
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In this second video, Charlie Walbridge and Martin Breu share some tips on how to set up and run a 3:1 Z drag including the importance of using a third change of direction (COD) pulley to avoid the potentially serious consequences of throw back, if a part of the system fails, and the need for a "brake" prusik to maintain the progress that has been acquired on the haul line while resetting the "traveling" prusik and pulley.
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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The idea behind the Capistrano Flip rescue is to get underneath the canoe, break any gunwale suction, and then flip-turn the canoe up into the air so all the water tumbles out. You will have to push upwards with your arms to do this and perhaps scissor kick with your legs. It's easier if you are strong and your canoe is light. Then you have to climb back in the empty canoe.

Capistrano Flip with two paddlers in tandem canoe:


Capistrano Flip with one paddler in a narrow solo canoe:

 
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The idea behind the Capistrano Flip rescue is to get underneath the canoe, break any gunwale suction, and then flip-turn the canoe up into the air so all the water tumbles out. You will have to push upwards with your arms to do this and perhaps scissor kick with your legs. It's easier if you are strong and your canoe is light. Then you have to climb back in the empty canoe.

Capistrano Flip with two paddlers in tandem canoe:


Capistrano Flip with one paddler in a narrow solo canoe:


Very timely. I’ve been on a local lake yesterday afternoon and this afternoon checking off staff to canoe. Best part is the recovery training. Much easier with help of course! We also did canoe-over-canoe recoveries, it’s a very slick technique actually. Though I will say it’s a little tender dumping the water out of a poly Old Town Disco 164 when you’re in a Wenonah Prism! So far everyone’s been able to clamber back into the canoe.
 
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Very timely. I’ve been on a local lake yesterday afternoon and this afternoon checking off staff to canoe. Best part is the recovery training. Much easier with help of course! We also did canoe-over-canoe recoveries, it’s a very slick technique actually. Though I will say it’s a little tender dumping the water out of a poly Old Town Disco 164 when you’re in a Wenonah Prism! So far everyone’s been able to clamber back into the canoe.
The canoe over canoe T or X rescue is surprisingly easy to do in reasonably calm water. It can be difficult to get the swamped boat aligned in significant current. The other thing that makes this rescue difficult is when people attach gear to thwarts or anchor points at the level of the inwales. When the boat is inverted all this crap hangs down and is in the way as you try to lift and pull the swamped canoe over.
 
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The canoe over canoe T or X rescue is surprisingly easy to do in reasonably calm water. It can be difficult to get the swamped boat aligned in significant current. The other thing that makes this rescue difficult is when people attach gear to thwarts or anchor points at the level of the inwales. When the boat is inverted all this crap hangs down and is in the way as you try to lift and pull the swamped canoe over.
Very true. I expect in a real recovery they may have to remove a bunch of stuff and put it in their rescuer’s boat until they’re back in their own boat. The alternative is loose stuff that floats away/down stream.
 
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Very true. I expect in a real recovery they may have to remove a bunch of stuff and put it in their rescuer’s boat until they’re back in their own boat. The alternative is loose stuff that floats away/down stream.
Or install anchor points on the floor of your canoe to secure items to so that they remain confined within the hull even if the boat capsizes. Stuff that is attached high up that trails outside the confines of the hull if the boat capsizes in current also significantly increases the chances that the boat will hang up in some location that is awkward to reach.
 
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Or install anchor points on the floor of your canoe to secure items to so that they remain confined within the hull even if the boat capsizes. Stuff that is attached high up that trails outside the confines of the hull if the boat capsizes in current also significantly increases the chances that the boat will hang up in some location that is awkward to reach.

On top of replacing the missing portage thwart on the work Disco, I’d love to replace the plastic seats with wood frame/webbed seats so the boat can be paddled bow-seat-backwards. I’ve been following McCrae’s outfitting posts so there are many other things to do, to that boat and my personal(s).

Today I dismounted the end of one seat so I could remove and discard the combo lock cable that’s been wrapped around it for several years.
 
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On top of replacing the missing portage thwart on the work Disco, I’d love to replace the plastic seats with wood frame/webbed seats so the boat can be paddled bow-seat-backwards. I’ve been following McCrae’s outfitting posts so there are many other things to do, to that boat and my personal(s).

Today I dismounted the end of one seat so I could remove and discard the combo lock cable that’s been wrapped around it for several years.
If you are not already aware of these retailers, Essex Industries and Ed's Canoe are probably the best on-line source for canoe seats and other canoe components. In addition to the seats you will need two sets of seat hangers and the appropriate stainless steel hardware. You are looking at a total expense of around 115 -175 USD depending on whether you want to go with simple dowel hangers or the stronger and more rigid truss seat hangers.


 
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If you are not already aware of these retailers, Essex Industries and Ed's Canoe are probably the best on-line source for canoe seats and other canoe components. In addition to the seats you will need two sets of seat hangers and the appropriate stainless steel hardware. You are looking at a total expense of around 115 -175 USD depending on whether you want to go with simple dowel hangers or the stronger and more rigid truss seat hangers.



I have Ed’s bookmarked but I didn’t know about Essex, thank you.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Eric Jackson—legendary paddler, boat designer and father (of Dane Jackson)—demonstrates the basics of throw bag rescue in whitewater.


On edit: Per pblanc's correction below, Eric Jackson is not the narrator in the video but he is the producer of that YouTube channel via his company, Jackson Kayak.
 
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Not a bad video. But that is not E. J. demonstrating and narrating, that is Clay Wright.

I have a couple of comments. First, many throw bags these days have mesh sides to drain water that they would otherwise accumulate sitting in the bottom of a canoe. They will not hold water and not allow an empty bag to be weighted with water.

Second, I found it interesting that Clay recommended aiming slightly downstream of the swimmer. This is not universal advice as the video I link at the bottom will confirm. A swimmer will likely be floating on their back and very likely back stroking toward the shore that offers the easiest and safest exit. If the rope lands downstream of the swimmer they will be able to see it more clearly but will likely have to turn onto their stomach and swim toward it to grab a hold of it. If the rope lands upstream of the swimmer they will be able to fairly easily capture it with a few back strokes.

If a second throw is required enough rope can be quite quickly retrieved and butterfly coils can be made within a few seconds of enough rope to reach a swimmer in most situations. Jim Coffey is, in my opinion, the best swiftwater rescue instructor that I have encountered and I have trained with him on water twice. Jim has innovated a number of whitewater rescue techniques that are rather sophisticated but he spends a good bit of his curriculum on basic throw bag and throw rope techniques. Here is a video in which Jim demonstrates and discusses throw bag use and how to form and throw butterfly coils:

If you view the video in youtube you will see a playlist of other similar swiftwater rescue videos by Jim Coffey. All are worth watching, IMO.
 

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There are many videos demonstrating how to rescue a pinned or wrapped canoe. Here are two.

This first short one just summarizes various rescue techniques without going into detail. Lifting the least water-pressured end straight up often worked for me without any rope or pulley work, especially in less forceful currents.


This second video is a spontaneous amateur video shot when a group of paddlers saw a wrapped canoe on the Dumoine River and decided to rescue it. They took the somewhat risky course of sending swimmers downstream into the small eddy behind the wrapping rock. Rescues I've been involved in have usually involved eddying a rescue canoe with two people into the wrapping rock eddy. For really small wrapping rock eddies, it was handy to have a token kayaker along to attach a control line even if he wasn't contortionist enough to get out of his kayak in the eddy.


Others can post additional pinned/wrapped canoe rescue videos or tell us their experiences.
 
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I was happy to see the first video mention the importance of attaching a control line (AKA "tag" line, recovery line) in addition to the haul line whenever possible before endeavoring to free the pinned boat. Most often a pinned boat, or some portion of it needs to be pulled in an upstream direction to free it but then recovered to the bank downstream of the pin spot. Sometimes this will result in the haul line winding up on the opposite side of the obstacle that pinned the boat and pulling the freed boat upstream to shore is either impossible or impractical. In such a case an independent line attached to a different point on the boat allows it to be controlled and pulled in to shore.

I certainly agree that simple methods such as the "armstrong" and "ten boy scout" methods should be tried first before resorting to mechanical advantage drag systems. Setting up an MA haul system is both gear and time intensive and requires a considerable amount of expertise that is usually rarely called for. Haul systems are often limited by lack of suitable anchor points.

Strategies for unpinning a boat are very often limited to where and whether lines can be safely attached to the boat. There is not always an eddy large enough to hold a canoe behind the obstacle and pinned boat. In some instances a "strong swimmer" technique is the best way to rig the boat. In others it might be necessary for a boater or boaters to do a "fly by" to attach a line to a grab loop on the fly from a boat in the adjacent current.

Not mentioned in either video is the desirability of setting upstream and downstream safety whenever there is sufficient equipment and/or personnel. Whenever lines are strung across the current an upstream safety should be set to warn any possible boaters approaching from upstream to eddy out. Likewise, sometimes a person or persons attempting to rig the boat will loose their grasp or footing and wind up swimming downstream in the current. As an example, in the second video the strong swimmer might have failed to break into the small eddy behind the canoe and a downstream safety with a throw rope might have saved him a long swim.
 
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