Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day four, with towing and surf

Having stayed up late doing night navigation exercises, we inexplicable started early today. The agenda: towing in various conditions.
One of the things we love about teaching is watching the 60-watt light bulbs come on our students. For us, today was full of smaller holiday-light moments. We began with a few contact tow and short-tow exercises designed to reinforce ways to keep the victim’s boat close and secure without compromising the rescuer’s ability to paddle and remain safe. We also worked with our tow belts, in flat conditions and in surf. Lessons learned were mainly tweaks and improvements to what we already knew, but their total wattage added up quickly. They include:
- ensure that the quick-release knot in your short tow doesn’t get bound up with salt and sand (retie your contact-tow set up each time you paddle)
- use a carabiner in your tow bag to divide the full length of the long tow rope in half, then let it slip down to the victim’s boat to extend to full length (we previously used a daisy chain for the half length, and again, the salt and sand could keep it from easily releasing)
- if the person you’re helping through the surf is capable of assisting, you can direct them to back paddle when the waves begin pushing
- when you’re in the surf zone, rescues take on heightened urgency, but taking a moment to help the victim secure his or her spray skirt will aid stability even in a unemptied boat.
- don’t keep your carabiner in your mouth as you approach to start a tow unless you relish a trip to the dentist
- despite the urgency, pick your way in and time your approach so it’s as easy and controlled as possible
As the tide moved in and the waves built a bit, we had opportunities to practice surfing again, as well as read the changing waves and pick our way through rougher areas. But time was quickly running out. We were torn between our desire to stay out and play, and our need to get back and pack our gear. There’s never enough time on the water.

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