Throw Bags, Accessories and WorkShops "Gear For Life"

Improvising Rescue Gear

Improvising Paddling and Rescue Gear if Short Handed
                                                                                                                               - Jim Simmons

These suggestions are 'a work-in-progress' as new ones are developed in the future.  At certain times paddlers and rescuers will have used all their resources and be without something needed. This list is a collection of ideas from paddlers, instructors and through experimentation and practice. A couple are not so much 'improvisations' as they are useful skills that boaters and rescuers often forget to employ. Give them a try so you'll be ready to improvise when your short of items.

Our Evolving List:
1) In a pinch, take off the canoe end lines (painter) and use them as anchors for a haul system (hopefully, they will be of sufficient strength such as maxgrip, spectra, dyneema rope, etc).
2) Duct tape spare canoe paddles together to form an emergency kayak paddle.
3) Configure three paddles into a tripod as an infrastructure for an improvised shelter.
4) Carry a 9 mm sheer dropcloth, or similar lightweight space blanket, to form the shelter in #3, or use it to make a 'heat dome' for rewarming a hypothermia patient on the river.
5) If there are canoes in your group, remove the air bags and use as ground instulation for an injured person who needs to be stabilized until evacuation. Leave bags slightly inflated for padding and warmth.
6) For an arm injury, or dislocated shoulder, improvise a sling (sling and swathe) with a kayak sprayskirt and bind with tubular webbing. A paddling garment can also be used to improvise a sling.
7) In cold weather boating carry more than one method for emergency fire building. Keep some on both your person and in the boat (may be separated from boat).
8) Form a webbing loop (ends joined with water or figure '8' knot) to improvise a seat harness if rescuer must rappel a short distance down to an injured person. Use a 'pearabiner and a muenter hitch along with your strongest rope.
9) If you've had swiftwater rescue training but don't wear a rescue vest and self-tether, ferry a line across a stream using a large webbing loop slung over the shoulder, carabinered to the rope *(obviously, there is risk to this maneuver).
10) If a paddler is stuck in the river (say, some type of vertical pin with the paddler's head above the surface) but she just can't exit her boat, yet can be reached by walking along the rock ledge, stabilize the paddler with the 'pull-through' method of a girth hitch around her wrist with a loop of tubular webbing. Take the webbing loop, put both hands inside it (palms facing out), wrap each hand once and pull into a girth hitch (looks like a 'gob' girth hitch). When placed on the paddler's wrist it won't cinch down and constrict blood flow while supporting the paddler.
11) Duct/Gorilla tape an opened carabiner gate to a paddle blade to configure a hook device to snag something (entrapped boater, paddle, piece of equipment, etc). A carabiner with a large opening is required to snag a paddle shaft stuck in the river.
12) When outfitting your boat, use extra carabiners for securing water bottles, throw bags and other valuable items that are usually carried. These extra 'biners can be used for a variety of functions, especially if more are needed than paddlers normally carry on their person.
13) Of course, duct tape, gorilla tape can be used for fixing and repairing lots of things. Also, a small pack of tire repair beads can fix holes and tears in boat hulls to get you to the takeout.
14) A large size dental floss roll can be used to fix a variety of things, and it is small and light.
15) Use the Jones Single Bank Cinch/Stabilization technique with one throw bag for encircling a person or piece of gear--both rescuers are on the same shoreline. See the link on Articles for how this method is done.
16) When setting a rope system, if pulleys are not available use two carabiners at each 'turn' in the system to reduce friction (friction is a drag).
17) If no more prusick loops are available, configure a 'gob' twist in a haul line (not really a knot but a wad of line), and connect the loops with carabiners to get your haul system going anyway. Can also use inline figure '8' knots.
18) Sling the ends of an unconventional hull (sit-on-top, inflatable kayak, even a small whitewater kayak), with webbing girth hitched into a loop at both ends of the boat. Connect both end loops with a connecting center section to accomplish a 'boat wrap' just the same as when wrapping canoe hulls.
19) If necessary, shorten a long loop of webbing into a shorter length with a 'daisy chain' method. To form it, stack strands of the webbing and about 6-8 inches from one end, tie a slipped overhand loop. Thread the body of the webbing (the main length) through that loop and continue until the desired length is achieved. On the last feed, pull the main part all the way through to lock it.
20) With open canoes that have the appropriate length painters on each end (I make them about 2/3 the length of the boat or longer) when setting backup safety for others, be prepared to hold onto one of the painters and extend the boat (and the other painter) out to an oncoming swimmer. It works beautifully and gives up to about 25 feet of reach, or more. Hopefully, the end lines are strong ones.
(21) A figure '9' knot can be tied in the end of a canoe painter so that a belayer on shore can capture the painter with either the 'Reach' System rope retriever or a Wildwater snag plate. This allows the belayer to recover the canoe while the paddler swims in. If the paddler in the water extends the painter, the thrower on shore will have a target for capturing the line and both boat and swimmer can be pulled in.
22) Often forgotten, but when working in the water where there is no shore or rock on which to exit your boat and stand, use your rescue lifevest with its self-tether to connect to your boat so you'll have both hands free (such as setting an anchor for a rope system).
JS--4/2010; revised 5/'13
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