A Way of Thinking and Keeping an Eye on Each Other
There you are! You have run the rapid successfully, and are sitting in an eddy at the bottom, feeling relieved and happy to have had a clean run! You see that the two boaters who ran the rapid before you, are safely in an eddy on the other side of the river. You look upstream in anticipation of your fourth, and final boater coming through the last drop. You think she was right behind you when you entered the rapid, but now it is becoming an uncomfortable amount of time in which you are not seeing her. You start to fidget, and think, “now what?”
There are many, many variables that can affect your exact actions at this point, but there are thoughts that a conscientious and safe paddler will start to have in this situation. Having a couple acronyms at this point to trigger your brain into action can be helpful. Here is one! STOP!
STOP: Stabilize, Think, Observe and Plan.
Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself and others safe; and keep the situation from getting worse.
Are there other boaters on the river?, What are the individual talents of folks in your group? What is the terrain like on the sides of the banks of the rapids? How can you check upstream without missing the boater coming by? Just some of the questions you may ask.
Look at your surroundings. What can you access with the best viewing points, etc.
You must communicate with the other boaters across the river; either with hand signals, or by paddling over to them. One person needs to stay in an eddy to be sure your missing friend does not come paddling or floating by. You may need to send one person up each bank to see if you can locate where she is?
Just as you have come up with a good plan, and are starting to communicate, the missing paddler comes paddling down and into the eddy next to you! Seems she found a surf wave in the middle of the drop, and stopped to play a bit. You take a deep sigh of relief; happy all is well, and knowing that the mental drill you just went through makes you a safer boater, and is good practice for assessing potential incidents on the river.
Stay tuned for next month, and the useful acronym; LAST! Happy Paddling!
By Julie Munger