What To Do If You Fall Out of The Raft!
Oh Geez, I'm Not in the Boat!
You are about to embark on a beautiful trip down a scenic river . The sun is shining, the birds are singing, your friends are all there. But wait, something is not right - your heart is racing, your palms are sweating and you are praying for a rain delay. Why? You are scared to death of falling out of the raft.
Fear no more. By educating yourself on the basics of swimming in whitewater, you can relax knowing that you are prepared for an unexpected, refreshing swim.
Evaluate where you are. It all happened so fast. One second you were sitting in the raft, the next you weren’t. Look to the raft, you might be surprised how close you are to your previous, warm home. Hopefully your team is on the ball and can pull you right back in, or maybe they will extend a paddle your direction to pull you close enough to then pull you into the boat. If you are a strong swimmer and able to make it to the boat, make your move and give it your all.
I’m on my own! Once you have made the realization that your raft is too far away to immediately reach, accept that you are on your own for the time being and your rescue is in your hands. Don’t panic. Be alert and responsible. Self-rescue is the best rescue.
To swim or not to swim. If you are a strong swimmer, be aggressive and swim to the nearest shore or safe haven. When possible, swim at a 45 degree angle to the downstream current. If going downstream is your best choice, assume the whitewater swim position. Float on your back with your feet downstream, toes out of the water and your arms out. This allows you to push-off obstacles and allows you to see what is coming your way. Unless the water is very shallow, don’t stand up! Standing up can cause your foot to become trapped under a rock on the bottom of the river. The rushing water can push you face down, under the water. Not a good combination. Use your forearm as a measuring stick, if the water is deeper than the length of your forearm, don’t attempt to stand.
Is this paddle my friend? If you exited the boat with your paddle, try to hold on to it. Reaching the paddle to the raft can help your team pull you to the raft. Hold the paddle in a controlled manner to protect your self and those pearly whites. If the paddle is hindering your ability to swim, ditch it. Your guide will have extras, or maybe you will catch up to the paddle later.
Look to your guide. Your guide is still your guide and will be best able to tell you which direction to go. Your guide will always point in the direction of safety.
Strainers are bad, bad news. A strainer is anything that water can flow through but you can’t. The most common example on a river is a down tree. Strainers are VERY dangerous, avoid them. If you do find your self headed towards a strainer, turn on your stomach and swim as hard as you can to get on top of the obstacle.
Yay! – there’s the raft. Although you might be thrilled at the possibility of being reunited with your friends, don’t position yourself downstream of the boat. Holding on to the back of the boat is fine, but any position downstream means you are between the raft and objects in the water. Not good.
Why is my guide throwing things at me? If your guide decides to throw you a rope it will be in the form of a “throw bag”. Place the rope under armpit and hold on. Do not wrap the rope around your hand or any other part of your body, no matter how tempting.
“Reunited and it feels so good.” In what seems like a flash, you have reached the shore, shallow water or the raft. Ahhhh. If you ended up on shore, stay put. Your guide saw you and will come get you. Tramping around the river bank will only increase the possibility of you and your guide missing each other. Once back in the boat, talk with your guide and tell them of any injuries or concerns. They will be able to assess the situation and give you any care your may need, including some extra layers!
**These instructions are not intended to replace proper training or instruction.**