Anyone from Oregon will agree that April is the perfect time of year for a cool, refreshing dip in Mt. Hood’s glacial runoff, or perhaps not! On the other hand, with the summer boating season around the corner it was the perfect time of year to brush up on our swiftwater rescue skills. At this year’s River Safety Training on the Sandy River, a group of 35 members met at Dodge Park to learn and practice those skills as taught by instructors with real world experience in whitewater safety and rescue techniques. Even though most of us do everything in our power to avoid swimming on a boating trip, it’s nice to know what you’re doing when someone does end up in the drink. Day One began by splitting into three instruction groups led by San Drevo from eNRG Kayaking, Travis Reid from Riverstone Adventures, and Trent Volz from Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue. The first portion of the day consisted of knot tying, the basics of mechanical advantage, and the right organizational structure for a successful rescue effort. After lunch the groups moved through hands-on enactments of various scenarios like freeing a foot entrapped swimmer, paddling a flipped raft while rescuing your crew, cataraft flipping practice, and throw bag deployment. Teamwork drills were conducted to illustrate shallow water crossing techniques and the proper way to haul your boat upstream when eddies are out of service. The teams were eager to band together using the organizational techniques we just learned because every successful rescue operation needs unity of command. That means if no one steps up to lead your operation, you’re it!
Day Two expanded on our new knowledge and quickly put it into action. The first challenge was setting up and breaking down Z-drag pulley systems. Important real-world specifics were highlighted including the correct way to rig the system to your boat using a self-equalizing anchor. The take home message: If you prefer boating with air in your tubes, tie off to more than one D-ring. After intense practicing, a team Z-drag powered kayak race was organized culminating in victory for the Rescue Rangers team by way of a questionable interpretation of the contest rules (the results are still under review). Shortly thereafter, river crossing fun broke out using zip-lines tensioned with expertly constructed Z-drags. The entire operation looked flawlessly superb. After all, the most important safety rule during a river rescue is to always look good! The secondary priorities are as follows in order of importance: 1. Your own safety 2. Your group’s safety 3. The safety of bystanders 4. The safety of the victim(s) 5. Gear With a great turn out and fun curriculum, River Safety Training weekend was a huge success again this year. Always remember to stay safe and keep looking good.