BWCA 2010 - Leadership Challenge #8 (Winds and Waves) - UPDATED Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wilderness Challenges
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      2010 - Leadership Challenge #8 (Winds and Waves) - UPDATED     



distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/31/2009 09:37AM  

This is #8 of the Leadership Challenges. The purpose of these is to get feedback on what you would do under these circumstances. I'm not looking for a "Right Answer" I'm looking to see how the many very knowledgeable people here on would react in a time of decision in Canoe Country.

Challenge #8: (Wind & Waves)

Situation: You are traveling in a party of 4 (Combined crew weight of 800 lbs) in two rental Old Town Penobscot 17 foot Royalex Canoes (max load weight of 1100-1150 Lbs). You are carrying 4 large packs, 4 smaller personal packs and misc. fishing gear with a total gear weight of approximately 350 lbs split evenly between the two canoes.

This is Day 4 of a 14 Day Trip through the BWCA, into the Namakan River as you paddle into Ontario Crown Land. You will be flying back to U.S. via a float plane that you must meet at 2:00 PM on May 19, 2010. You have already paid $1000.00 to the outfitter for this non refundable service. It is a very tight schedule to make your pick up point by Day 14.

You have already traveled 3 days through the BWCA after entering the BWCA via Entry Point 16 (Moose/Portage Rivers) and travelling the Moose River into Lake Agnes and now into Lac La Croix (LLC) and you are currently on schedule.

Your Current Location: You are currently located at a campsite (Campsite #3) on Coleman Island Lac La Croix (LLC), in the vicinity of “Fish Stake Narrows”.

(click map to open and click again to enlarge)

Additional Information:

The Date is May 10, 2010.

The current time is 6:45 AM.

Sunset is at 8:35 PM, Twilight lasts until 9:07 PM.

The Weather is cool and temps are normally the mid 60s in the day and dipping into the low 40’s at night.

Current Temperature is 52 Degrees.

Current Winds are from the West at 5-10 MPH.

It is a “Red Dawn” morning with high clouds.

Water Temperature is 40 Degrees.

The forecast for May 10: (**) (Day 4)

High of 63, Low of 42

Winds 5-10 MPH from the West.

40% Chance of thunderstorms.

The forecast for May 11, 2010 (**) (Day 5)

High of 60, Low of 38

Winds 10-15 MPH West

60% Chance of Thunderstorms

The forecast for May 12, 2010 (**) (Day 6)

High of 55, Low of 36

Winds 15-20 MPH West

70% Chance of Thunderstorms

** Note: This information is from the 10-Day forecast that you printed out 5 days ago. (May 5, 2010)

The Challenge:

You have been planning a trip into Ontario Crown Land which is just west of Quetico. You must check in at the LLC Ranger Station TODAY to secure your Crown Land permits. You are planning on travelling on the Namakan River which you will follow north into Crown Land. (The Namakan River entrance is located near the First Nation Indian Village just west of the Ranger Station on your Map)

You have decided to get an early morning start from your Campsite and get on the water by 7:00 AM, hoping to find a calm LLC as you head north across this massive lake to the Ranger Station.

One Hour into your route: (Your new location is identified by the Red Flag on the Map)

The winds have suddenly increased to a steady 10-15 MPH from the West and are now gusting 20-25 MPH. In addition, a thunderstorm is brewing off to the west as indicated by the ever darkening western skies. Rolling waves are starting to form.

Now What:

a. Continue on with the RED Route and reasons why.

b. Change Course to BLUE Route and reasons why.

c. Pull over on a nearby island and wait the weather out, possibly not being able to get the permits and having to change your trip plans. Explain your reasons why you chose to stop.

d. Your ideas: (free flow thought)

NOTE: There will be ONE Challenge Update on Jan 9, 2010 that will cause you to take additional action.

****************************Update 1***********************************

After rounding the point on the north side of Twentyfour Island. A large series of up to 3 foot “roller waves” have been pounding you broadside for 30 minutes and have swamped/capsized one of your canoes.
You see some gear floating in water and you can see one pack is still tied in the capsized canoe.

You know that one of the survivors in the water is ill equipped and wearing primarily cotton clothing, an army poncho and heavy rubber boots and has a PFD on and you can see him struggling in the water.

The other survivor is well equipped with wool/polypropylene, Gore-Tex Rain Gear and water draining light weight boots. He is also wearing a PFD

a. The location of the upright canoe is the Red Flag. (Canoe B)

b. The capsized canoe is Red and semi submerged. (Canoe A)

c. The Red Circles indicate survivor’s locations in the water.

d. The Yellow Circles indicate location of floating equipment.

(click map to open and click again to enlarge)

Now What?

a. Describe your actions if you are in Canoe A. (Capsized Canoe)

b. Describe your actions if you are in Canoe B. (Other Canoe)

c. Describe how you prepare yourself and equipment (canoes and packs)
in advance for this type of environment.

Upcoming Challenges:

Challenge 9: “Lost in the Q” - A True Story

Challenge 10: “Emotional Rescue”
A bully causes a crew meltdown
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
12/31/2009 12:06PM  
Additional data.... may or may not be relevant.

All parties had RABCs
All parties wore PFDs
One spare paddle for the two canoes
All packs properly waterproofed with Contractor bag liners and BDBs securing the tops.

distinguished member(1857)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/31/2009 12:47PM  
Paddling west in early May on big water was just a dumb idea. You are now stuck as water temps will kill you in about 2 minutes if you capsize. If money is all you lost, your in good shape. You can go for it if you want but not me; I wouldn't risk my life just so I can paddle into the wind for 9 more days.
12/31/2009 01:04PM  
First impression: big mistake to not build in at least two layover days on a 2-week trip.

Second impression: paddling abeam is the most stable, but it also requires the most skill to maintain balance.

Conclusion for today: take the blue route to use islands for shelter and quarter into the waves instead of taking them abeam.
If the group sticks to its plan, its focus needs to be on maximizing distance while not taking unreasonable risks.

Discussion among the group should include forming an alternate plan that involves losing the $1,000 already paid for the flight out. Lives are more important than money and the group needs to form a consensus around whatever they decide to do.
12/31/2009 01:10PM  
Windschill - Red Route is NNW - once (if) you're on the River, the wind matters less and the current moves you right along.
12/31/2009 01:19PM  
Koda - might be useful to 'unpack' paddling abeam techniques.
distinguished member(1857)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/31/2009 01:35PM  
OK if you had to go: By 9:15am start making a trail from SW Pocket lake to Trillium. By 12:45 have lunch on Takucmich Lake. Make a trail from NW Takucmich Lake to LLC and then head North to the Eastside of 27 Island by at least 3pm. Now from 27 Island over to Rabbit Island. From der your on your own; good luck because those water temps aren't something you should be flirting with.
12/31/2009 07:44PM  
Not being real experienced i'd choose the blue route to stay close to the islands and be silently cursing myself for not building in an extra layover day just for such a situation. In my opinion our lives are more important than the $1000 that we paid the outfitter but we need to discuss as a group.
12/31/2009 08:00PM  
It's 8am, the crossing should take an hour, quartering into a building wind, if all agree, go for it. backup would be the islands to the east.

[edit wrote west, mean east] butthead
distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/31/2009 08:12PM  
One spare paddle for two canoes?? Oops...

Been on this area of LLC in heavy winds. Early May would definitely dictate playing it as safe as possible....wouldn't want to get caught in the big water of red or blue routes. Since its still early in the morning and if waves aren't super huge yet, I'd hug the shoreline and head west and then north to the east side of 27 Island...then I'd peek around the edge to see the size of the waves between us and the ranger station...unless the winds were really howling, we should be able to safely make it quartering the waves to the NE before the thunderstorms hit...

When I finally got to the ranger station, I'd need a drink, pick up the permits, bitch about the lousy weather (in any order you want) and then continue on...
12/31/2009 10:42PM  
Beemer, would you assume the crew has experience with abeam paddling? I tend to think not, which is why I suggested taking a sheltered, quartering approach. Also, I'd revise my earlier idea about pressing on. With a thunderstorm brewing it's best to sit tight.
01/01/2010 06:52AM  
I took some chances on a windy Seagull in mid-May with water temps in the upper 40's. Don't know that I'd do it again. Hug the shore sounds good, but there can be a bad back-chop near rocky shores making it worse than being offshore slightly.

Take care to plan layover days ahead of time. Now we'll have to plan to revise our trip mid-course and get word to outfitter from the ranger station???? Is that an option?
distinguished member (261)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/01/2010 08:21AM  
start new course following land mass north of pocket lake.
following close to shore, using land to stay out of the wind.if the wind is westerly, the bay sw of twentyseven island should be somewhat protected. with the old towns weighed down they should be very seaworthy if the operators with the paddles know what they are doing. head to twentyseven island.
plenty of campsites along the way to pull into.
once on the river you can cruise.
01/01/2010 08:35AM  
Koda - You read that correctly, paddling in a beam sea is disconcerting - and potentially fatal - for inexperienced paddlers, who typically experience it for the first time in trapped in dangerous situations like this. Caught by a beam sea means that it becomes very difficult to navigate and even turn your canoe, especially as the wave height increases.

Suggested read for Wilderness Challenge readers who would like to be prepared for - not capsized - by this scenario - link scroll down for paddling in a beam sea techniques and tips

distinguished member(5354)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/01/2010 11:39AM  
Step 1- give the person who insisted on paddling in and flying out rather than the opposite a hard time until they agree to cover the $1000.

Step 2- note to self to insist on more spare paddles in the future. I once had to demand that an outfitter give us a spare per canoe. We personally carry two paddles per person: wood straight and carbon bent so we have lots of spares.

Step 3 - stay relaxed, use safe routes, stay off the water as needed to be safe. Don't sweat the schedule. From experience, outfitters know that stuff happens and will be well aware of the weather, and will adjust as needed. I do like the idea of trying to send them a message from the ranger station.

Don't know what to think about the permit issues. Sort ofthink there needs to be a way to deal with that given reality and safety.
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/01/2010 02:27PM  

I would start out taking the blue route but have no problem pulling into safe shelter and waiting it out. The only weather forecast available indicates that it's only going to get worse. Better safe than sorry are words to stay alive by. Before the trip started, we would have talked about the potential of getting windbound and sacrificing the $1000 in favor of safety, so that decision would already have been made.
01/01/2010 03:29PM  
b. with possible deviation after rounding twenty four island to hit lone tree island and stay south of Indian island: Tucking in behind islands will probably offer some protection from the westerly winds (unless I’m in the canoe, at which point it will still be in our face). If the storm does hit us we can hop onto and island and hunker down till it passes.

At twenty four island the group will determine the next step before the larger water crossing.

If the waves get too big we’ll probably stop trolling lest we have to land a fish.

I trust weather reports beyond 3 days of current conditions very little.

10-15mph winds are our specialty :)

01/01/2010 05:53PM  
Just WHY do you have to pickup permits TODAY?
01/01/2010 06:33PM  
Good catch GSP, unlike Q permits Crown Land permits are not reserved in advance (there is a LOT of Crown Land available for camping) so you merely pay the fee and grab the permit. There are no CL quotas or reservations.

However our paddling party was ignorant of this salient fact and thought they had to get to the Ranger's station that day. Possibly a fatal mistake?
01/02/2010 10:11PM  
Agree that this was poor planning. Pull over and wait out the whitecaps. Water too cold to tip.

distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/03/2010 12:59AM  
Very tight schedule? Sounds like no room for error here. To bad about the $1000.00! Looks like if you make a decision based off of the weather info that you have (will get worse) best plan of action is to possibly wait it out and see if next day might be better (maybe forecast changed) or quite possibly change route of base camping and eventually go back the way we came a day or two early so we can make call and cancel flight for pickup. Just how is experienced is this group? I'm not going out there on that kind of water. 14 days on a tight know you are gonna get some kind of weather in that kind of time frame...should have planned a couple of days just for this sort of thing so you're not stressed out the whole trip. Something similar happened to myself and our group out on the sag. Because certain advice was not paid enough attention to in the beginning of our planning stages, we found ourselves exactly where one of the group said we would the middle, big waves and one canoe capsized! We were able to get it all together and pull off a late afternoon rescue and not lose any gear, but it turned out that we did alter our plans right from that moment/evening. The big waves sucked and the water was very cold in mid June (for me at least)..!
01/03/2010 08:48AM  
520 - can you describe more exactly what happened in the capsize and how you were able to effect a rescue?

Note - Surface water temps in our scenario were 40 degrees, certainly a few degrees colder a few feet down. (there's a reason that this Spring season is sometimes called the 'killing season' - balmy spring paddling weather and icy cold water..... a potentially dangerous situation)

According to The United States Search and Rescue Task Force - when immersed in water from 32.5 - 40 degrees (F) the party in the water will be unconscious in 15 - 30 minutes, maximum survival time is 30-90 minutes. US Search and Rescue Task Force White Paper on cold water survival . Moderator's note - in just a few minutes the motor skills of the person in the water will be significantly degraded - even speaking will be difficult. Let's hope our party makes the right decisions......
distinguished member(607)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/03/2010 09:36PM  
My strategy would be to place myself as far west as I could before crossing any significant stretch of open water. I don't mind paddling into the 15 mph wind as much as I am afraid of crossing it. I would not choose red route or blue route but would at least attempt to keep paddling. I would head west near the southern shoreline always keeping that as my fallout. I would get to the east side of twenty-seven island if I could and make my crossing there.
1. The reason I would try and get west first is to reduce the height of water that I need to cross - the waves will get bigger and bigger the further east they go so trying to minimize the height of the waves I choose paddling west first.
2. With the forecast given, I assume that the thunderstorm that was predicted to be maybe 2 days long has advanced its approach and may have strengthened (also may be passing through quicker)- making me wait to make my crossing a while longer. If the winds have suddenly picked up, the worst might be here already and maybe by the time I get to the crossing point, the weather will have stabilized and won't be as unpredictable. I just don't want to start an open water crossing right away after the winds just picked up. I am not going to outrun a storm.

Either way - if it feels like it is getting risky we put ashore and wait it out. There is nothing else you can do once you feel at risk. Some people will feel at risk long before others.
distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/03/2010 10:14PM  
Group size 8, 4 canoes. Loaded for 7 day trip. Way late start from ep and out in the middle of sag around 2:00. 6 of us are newbies, 2 have one trip under their belt and are the youngest in group. It had rained lightly all morning and it was forecasted to clear in the evening (it did), we were wearing warm clothes and some of us had rain type gear on. Kind of hit and miss spattering's with heavy gray clouds when we left ep. Wind has picked up and now we find ourselves in 2 foot rollers out in a very large area of water after a few hours of paddling. We try and make it to a leeward side of an island going straight at the waves, all is well and partner capsize. (our canoe is the heaviest loaded due to partners weight...lets just leave him at very large). The two younger guys and one other canoe are behind us a little ways and fourth canoe is ahead of us. Once capsized the two behind us start to paddle our direction. Upon arriving they got on either side of capsized canoe and we just "hooked up" while figuring out a plan. The two that where ahead of us eventually reach island and look back...nobody is where they should be. They finally spot us and figured something was wrong, so they unload the canoe on island and come back empty (island was about 10-15 minute paddle into the wind). Once they get there we take gear and get it into the empty canoe with the help of others and us in water....we did not secure anything to canoe and were VERY LUCKY we did not lose one item...don't ask me how! We positioned two canoes along either side and me and partner on same side..they where able to get nose out a little bit slide third canoe temp under it so we (all) could attempt to roll it. We did this several times and finally success! We then started to bail out canoe until we thought it to be safe for me to get into. Now they got two canoes on either side and a few feet of their noses sticking out so I could support myself on their canoes with my arms and swing my legs up into now upright swamped canoe. My partner stays in the drink at this time while a cooking pot is handed to me for bailing. This takes a little while but keeps me warm cuz I'm going as fast I can. they repeat the entry process for other partner once canoe is almost empty due to his weight.( we wanted the best chance possible of a most buoyant vessel upon his re-entry) We are in, get our paddles and paddle to island , change clothes and change plans. One thing we realized is that we forgot to rent the longer canoe (better displacement we thought) but, in all the excitement of getting out (and it was late) we simply forgot. We had talked this over and thought this would work..perhaps writing it down and going over written notes before we left?? This took us approx 2 hours..maybe a little more until we were in dry clothes. I can't recall, I didn't wear a watch. (All the while these rollers are just coming one after another and I'm looking at the other canoes knowing if we screw up up there might be more of us in the drink, was not a nice thought.) We split our gear amongst the other canoes and made our way to nearest campsite (American point) and made camp. Dried clothes over fire etc. After reading this I seem to remember that we had no extra paddles either. And none of us were prepared to execute a rescue like this, we just sort of winged it and got lucky. A little preparation and reviewing these kind of techniques online might have been helpful. We were an accident waiting to happen and it did. We also got lucky on everything that went on in that event. And...the water was cold for me, it wasn't long before I had a slight burning sensation starting at feet and working it way up to torso, then lots of shivering, I was more than happy to bail to keep me warm. I did return to the same ep a little over a year later in late August with just one of the guys and we were much better prepared and got a way early start, cruised right on through all of the sag with no problems! This happened a few years ago and I hope this is clear enough and makes sense to other readers. I like these wilderness challenges..keep up the good work!! : )
01/04/2010 03:13PM  
Canoe or canoe rescue is the right idea EEK. But you want to roll the canoe upside down, then bring the canoe up and over the other canoe and the water will dump out. Then roll the canoe back over and climb back in and go. This drastically cuts down time in water and will work with two solo canoes also. Been there done that in mid-may.
distinguished member(1857)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/04/2010 05:37PM  

This route might work. If you see lightening just hold up a 1 iron and keep going. Once at the village you can walk to the ranger center.
01/04/2010 07:24PM  
Great idea!
01/04/2010 07:36PM  
EVERYONE - great contributions. It's really cool to see the collective mind at work!

distinguished member(839)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/04/2010 07:43PM  
Ok, what I would do, is after spotting the darkening skies and the wind increasing is make to the nearest landfall and wait. As mentioned before, usually storms in the morning don't last all day and leave behind some degree of stability. The blue route seems to be about 9, possibly 10 miles distance. At canoe rate of 3 mph(factored with some wind)this crossing could be made in 3.5 hours. Depending on closing time at the ranger station, this party has at least until 1:30 pm to decide to go for it or not. If storms and wind continue, I head for the nearest campsite, make camp and divide the $1000 loss between everyone and chalk it up to poor planning.
distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/04/2010 07:46PM  
GSP...DUH! that makes way more sense. We should have had you on our trip and we could of done that, hmmmm... all that time spent when it could of been done easier and sooner! How do you upright a single canoe in the same situation with no others to help or one other canoe to help?
distinguished member(750)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/05/2010 09:01AM  
I think we have all been there before. One thing you can always count on in the B-dub is the weather will change. I would find the closest land and wait this out. Make a pirate camp if you have too and take it from there. I have seen it drop at night with a good moon and a GPS oh well just a thought. I also think the Canadians will be more forgiving than you think if you explain the situation and when you showed up late. Also I think the plan was faulty without layover days and some more flexibility including extra food and a plan for just such an event.

distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/05/2010 03:53PM  
Initial response without reading the others...

Water is WAY too cold. Stop on the island and wait it out. You can always drop south if needed.

If there is a break in the weather, you can continue on. You could also try to look for others ways to cross the big lake....
distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/05/2010 04:04PM  
Sefcond response after readign others.

No real change. Water is too cold to take chances.

I would study the map and see if there was a safer way to make it across..
distinguished member(5354)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/05/2010 09:56PM  
You can do a canoe over canoe rescue with just two canoes (one dumped, one rescuer). The people who dumped go to the other side of the rescue canoe to help stabilize it against the weight of their boat.

One canoe rescue is a bit tougher. With luck and strength you can flip it out of the water from underneath. Haven't tried that for years. We tend to have two canoes together.
distinguished member (285)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/07/2010 07:07AM  
I wouldn't want to follow a leader who put me in that situation. That said, I'd try it anyway. Provided you can even launch I'd make my way to twenty four island and make a judgement then. Keeping the extra paddle in the trailing canoe. I would call it off at any point if anyone in the group has doubt. I'd end the attempt if it appeared to me that anyoune in the group lacked the skills to cross the open stretch.

I would place my second most(best)experienced paddler in the front with the most experienced in the rear -- with the extra paddle.

Cats paws between the islands should give you an indication of the upcoming open water run. If anyone is uneasy before twenty four island it's time to turn around.

White caps & rollers from the gust front of what appears to be an approaching storm would have me finding a west shore line along the island chain south of twenty four. Give the storm some time to pass before making the cross. Hydrate yourself, have a snack, fill your water bottles & check your cargo before making your quartering run to Indian island.

The saga continues at the Ranger station. Get an update on the forecast meet with the group & determine if the remaining quest is worth it.

Great description of the event scenario but I think we all have a feeling for various conditions. My greatest fear is a type A leader bullying the group into a bad idea.

distinguished member(14135)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/07/2010 11:03AM  
Imo, no brainer, wait it out and charge the person that didnt build in extra time to get to your destination. If you were on a sinking ship and somebody asked you to pay 1000 bucks to get into the lifeboat, you would pay it without even thinking about it. The reward is not worth the risk imo find an island and ride it out.
distinguished member(5354)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/07/2010 11:26AM  
People in the capsized canoe should try to hold onto it and paddles if possible.

Rescue canoe should get the people to the capsized canoe if necessary, right the canoe and get the people back into it. Need to detach that pack and either put it in the rescue canoe or try to keep it from floating away.

Once back in the canoe get to dry land for dry clothes, warmth, shelter. Look to the west for the lost packs once you have gotten people safe.

The real gotcha is that conditions that make you swamp are also hard to rescue in and you could swamp again or swamp the rescue boat. The saying in kayaking is not to go out in waters you can't do a rescue in. It is not enough to think you can paddle through it but can you deal with a capsize.

While doing all of this comtemplate a trip to smaller lakes with smarter people for next year.
01/07/2010 11:29AM  
We're in deep kaka now.

>a. Describe your actions if you are in Canoe A. (Capsized Canoe)

I swim to the capsized canoe and hold on, and encourage the other capsizee to do likewise. If possible we try a Capistrano flip to get the boat afloat so it will drift downwind faster. Hang on to the boat no matter what.

>b. Describe your actions if you are in Canoe B. (Other Canoe)

Wind-ferry across to the capsized boat. Assess the condition of the people in the water. With high winds, a boat-over-boat rescue may not be possible, so I'd be thinking about at least getting the dumped boat upright and maybe lashing them together (may not be possible due to turbulence). Forget about the gear; it will wash up.

It isn't possible to transfer gear between boats, and the people in the water may be in no condition to drag themselves up into a boat, but I'd try that (assuming the dumped boat can be righted).

Next step is to drift to the bay north of Indian Narrows, where the group can find shelter. Given the winds, the drift will take about 15-20 minutes, so the immediate task is to keep the swimmers alive.

>c. Describe how you prepare yourself and equipment (canoes and packs) in advance for this type of environment.

The 2nd most important thing is spray skirts with openings that can be closed sungly around the paddlers. Most important is to have a Plan B to avoid this situation.
distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/07/2010 11:51AM  
Answer for UPDATE...

A (in the upright canoe):
Paddle back to survivors. Get them in the canoe if possible. More likely, give them a rope and drag them to shore.

Once on shore, treat for hypothermia (dry clothes, sleeping bags, warm drink)

Once stabilized, look for gear to wash up on shore.

B. (in swamped canoe):
Get attention of upright canoe. Try to get to other guy and stay together. Get to canoe or floating gear.

Try to get canoe upright if possible.

Try to tie off to canoe so that I don't sink when I go unconcsious.

Start to work towards downwind shore.

C. (how to prepare).

in order of importance:
ALWAYS wear a pfd.
ALWAYS wear a pfd.
ALWAYS wear a pfd.
Don't take unnecessary risks
Have packs waterproofed
Have clothes and sleeping bags in waterproof bags
Have a whistle on my person to signal other folks
Have basic survival gear in the PFD pockets so that I can survive if I get washed on shore with nothing but my PFD
Secure packs to the canoe
distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/07/2010 12:19PM  
Let's see, 3 foot rollers, 30 minutes of paddling, swamped canoe, very cold water. Not many options now. Unfortunately, this scenario is one that could play out any year on LLC and is about as bad as it gets.

a. Capsized Canoe. Kick off the rubber boots if you can. Try and come together. Neither of you has much time before you're limbs stop working.

b. Upright canoe. Get to the other guys asap. With 3 foot rollers, you won't be able to do much besides keep from capsizing yourself. Would throw out a tow rope and begin paddling them to shore by heading SE to quarter the rollers. Wouldn't even try to retrieve any floating debris or the canoe given the wind and waves unless it floated next to the canoes...worry about that later. Should have enough extra clothing to get a fire started and treat the hypothermia. When the wind eventually dies, maybe search for the other canoe/gear and then go home.

c. At least everyone was wearing their PFDs. I always untie my boots/shoes in rough water (just in case). Also lay things as low as possible in the canoe and tie/strap down anything I don't want to lose (just in case).

distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/07/2010 01:02PM  
Pineknot, do you really think the boots are a problem?

They will hold in a little bit of heat.

Some folks say that they will pull you under the water but that doesn't seem likely. They will be full of water. But they will weigh exactly the same as the surrounding water. They will neither sink nor float.

Now, maybe you're thinking that you would have better use of your legs and then you could swim better. That may be true.

Personally, I'd rather hold in a little bit more heat and have the boots if/when I make it to shore...
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01/07/2010 01:20PM  
I tend to agree with you. However, if the boots are full of water their bouancy is negated and the weight of the boot takes over. They'll sink. That said, your PFD will more than compensate for the additional down force and even though you will lose considerable propulsion in the water I'll take the added heat in the water and I'll be glad to have 'em once on shore or back in the canoe.
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01/07/2010 02:30PM  
capsized canoe - I would probably be tempted to retreive the floating gear if it was within a short distance so I could secure it to the canoe - what is in that pack may save my life. That would not be the smartest decision for me to make but I might not be thinking straight either. The smart thing to do would be to help you partner to the canoe, right the canoe, and get in. Once you are in the canoe, even if the canoe is mostly submerged, you would still be able to paddle it to get to shore faster and more importantly, you could kneel on the inside of the canoe while keeping your upper body out of the water giving you more survival time. Fully immersed I might have 15 - 45 minutes of consciousness and maybe survival of up to 90 minutes. If I get out of the water as quickly as possible I am extending those times greatly.

Upright canoe - I try and make a u-turn into the waves and go back to assist. I would think about getting out whatever rope I had available so that I didn't have to paddle right next to them at first - they might try to grab onto the canoe and we might all end up in the 40 degree water. If they are in the canoe by the time we get there - we throw them the rope and try to pull them faster to shore so we can begin to warm up. If they are not in the canoe yet, I would try to assist them into their canoe so we can pull them to shore faster. At no point am I going to feel comfortable trying to pull the 2 in the water into my boat.

Precautions - don't paddle in 3 fot rollers, pull into safety as soon as the waves get to the point where I think they are not safe anymore. Tie all of my gear into my canoe in rougher water. All packs are waterproofed to make sure that if I did dump; all my gear is dry for my use when I make it to shore and also to trap air into my pack so it will float longer and more visibly for retreival.
01/07/2010 05:00PM  
Mad Angler, I guarantee you the rubber muck boots will not be on your feet very long. They act like a drift sock on each foot, and this comes from personal experience. Dumped in Quetico on Pickrel Lake, mid-May, with 3' rollers in a solo. Took about 30 seconds to realize those boots needed to go and are still there. We had two solo canoes and completed a canoe over canoe rescue. If you question this take your boots and canoe out about 100' from shore this summer and dump the canoe and then try to swim back to shore with the boots still on.
They do not hold heat because the water will continue to circulate everytime you move your legs and being soaking wet there will be virtually no heat generated. I would rather be putting wool socks on and with the boots on shore than trying to swim with them. I wore my teva sandals and wool socks for another 9 days on the trip with the lows in 30-40's on most days with rain.
Boots that can be laced tight and I mean tight work better, tried this before. Biggest thing is have PFD on tight and if leg straps, have them on and tightened.

Mud boots are great for portaging, but could be your demise if going for an unexpected swim. I will never wear them again and will not let anyone in group to wear them, unless they switch at end of portage.
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01/07/2010 05:17PM  
Okay GPS, personal experience trumps my hypothetical evaluation...
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01/07/2010 06:36PM  
Hi, guys. I'm certainly no expert on any of this, but my first thought on this situation is do whatever it takes to get to shore as quickly as possible. Could be wrong, but I'd think less weight/drag in the water, the quicker the tow to shore. I am curious as to how much additional time before hypothermia one might have in the water wearing wool versus cotton, rain gear vs poncho, etc...anybody have some insight?

01/07/2010 07:12PM  
Tip - In the water, the type of clothing matters not a bit (except for the knee high rubber boots). The difference will become evident when (and if) the dunked paddlers reach shore.

Cotton kills.
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01/08/2010 06:43PM  
Drift , tow or whatever it takes to get the crew to the closest downwind shore. Get everyone dry, pirate camp, look for gear next day. If gear is found and everyone is okay and up for it perhaps reevaluate trip plans and take another route? You are all ready up there and have made the effort to get you lose some money..dang. Just figure out what the next best move could be and go for it! You still have plenty of days to make something out of it..even if it is plan B that you didn't plan. Maybe make it to ranger station to check in and notify people of changed plans and continue still can be the fun adventure!
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01/09/2010 12:16AM  
They should reach shore in about 20-30 minutes, good luck.
01/09/2010 06:37AM  
Beemer - I got chastised on this board for saying "cotton kills".

Let me say this:

I wore cotton for all my outdoor adventures for the majority of my life because I felt like I could not afford quality synthetics. Only in the last couple years since getting seriously involved with SAR, I have invested in quality outdoor clothing. The difference in comfort is priceless.

Now about the kills part:

I have been outdoors for years and have yet to find myself, personally, in a life-threatening situation where cotton would have killed me. I would venture to say that is the case with most, and that is why people, in general, put so little priority on quality outdoor clothing for the couple instances where they would need it. From a SAR viewpoint, it does makes a difference.

If cotton does not kill in every situation, it certainly adds to discomfort in many other situations, though certainly, not all.

01/09/2010 08:13AM  
Directionally you are correct - but the problems with cotton in a SAR situation are significant.

Our dunked paddler wearing less than optimal BWCA garb, now finds himself without footgear since he likely had to lose the boots, and wearing clothing that offers little or no insulation. I do hope that they can retrieve the packs, because drying his jeans will be tough in this weather. (assuming they can reach shore)

The other paddler in nylon pants and polypro long johns, Goretex and Smartwools will fare better, if for no other reason than that he can get these dry and offering protection much more quickly.

BTW, if our dunked paddlers do reach shore, they will be in very rough shape. How do the dry paddlers diagnose Hypothermia and treat this condition in a pirate camp on shore?
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01/09/2010 08:20AM  
Beemer and rl,

Forum newbie "cotton kills", for this scenario is it because once you get on shore, wet cotton will suck heat from your body quicker, or that it takes longer to dry than synthetics, or something else? What synthetics are better in your view? Thx.


01/09/2010 08:27AM  
Pineknot - I guess all of the above. Wet cotton saps heat from your body almost instantly and is very hard to dry.

When I began tripping up there in the 1970s, cotton and wool were really about all we had, today there are so many good alternatives synthetics are usually a better choice.

Optimal choices are debateable, and are debated elsewhere on this board on a frequent basis :-). Many of us like Goretex jackets, nylon zip-off pants, poly long johns for cold weather, and Smartwool socks. I've recently stopped taking cotton tee shirts up, even in the summer, replacing them with poly tee and long sleeved shirts. The synthetics weigh much less and perform better. I know Smartwool recently began selling a wool/synthetic blend base layer that looks interesting as well.

One downside to synthetics is that they do burn and a random spark will create a hole in your garment - a problem not seen with cotton clothing.

Wool - is in many regards - very competitive with synthetics. I have worn old woolen dress slacks in cold spring weather and been pretty comfortable. The downside to wool slacks is that they do tear and rip more easily than synthetics... but if they get wet they do offer better insulation than cotton.
01/09/2010 10:34AM  
What fabrics the swimmers are wearing isn't really relevant. The paddlers should assume that when the swimmers get to shore they will be in some stage of hypothermia, meaning the first two things that will happen is dry stuff will be pulled from packs and wet clothes will be removed. It won't matter what's cotton and what isn't. Even if the swimmers' packs are never retrieved, there should be enough extra clothing to take care of both of them.
01/10/2010 04:23PM  
Sure seemed warmer swimming with wool on and when getting out. Besides if you were solo and lost your gear, I would want something that dries quickly or holds heat in while wet.
01/12/2010 06:01AM  
Mad Angler has the correct answer, in my opinion. In this weather the water temperature is such that you are lucky if the swimmers are alive very long no matter what they are wearing. Get them to shore and warm them up. Recovering the canoe and gear can come later.
01/13/2010 01:45PM  
Getting 2 people out of the water and into your canoe with 3 foot rollers will be challenging to say the least. Righting a capsized canoe and getiing back into in 25 MPH winds and 3 foot waves will also be pretty difficult. Has anyone here actually done this under these conditions?
01/14/2010 11:32AM  
If possible, tie a rope around them or on their PFD and tow them to shore. They will be unconscious or unable to function shortly. I wouldn't think getting them into your canoe is an option. You don't have time. They are going to die if in this water very long. Perhaps I am wrong, but I suspect that is the situation here.
01/14/2010 12:32PM  
can anyone confirm/disprove: some have said (OK, it was probably Cliff Jacobson) that a fire and dry clothing will not warm a person fast enough to avoid shock, and that the best procedure is to quickly set up a tent, get the hypothermic person in a bag, and have a warm person get in with them, skin to skin. This has quite a 'weirdness quotient' to me, but if the life of someone is on the line...(and in 40 degree water it is).
01/14/2010 05:33PM  
I've read that and heard it numerous times. Modesty has to take a back seat to survival. Personally, I'd leave my underwear on, but I'm kinda shy that way.
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01/14/2010 06:58PM  

Before you read this excerpt on treating hypothermia........

Anwser this question: How many of you have a quality thermometer in your aid kit?

Hypothermia Treatment
by George Miller
A exclusive. Article by George Miller.

Hypothermia is a very survivable medical condition with proper treatment. The hypothermia treatment and procedures described in this article are simply first aid procedures and should be viewed as recommended as self-rescue or emergency procedures to follow until professional aid becomes available.

Under no circumstances should these descriptions be used as substitutes for proper medical treatment.

If the body temperature is between 90 degrees F. and 96 degrees F. a full recovery is almost completely assured.

From 80 degrees F. to 89.9 degrees F. a recovery is quite possible with proper medical treatment but there may be some long-term effects.

With a body temperature below 80 degrees F., recovery is possible but rare, and medical complications are all but assured.

One of the most important rules of hypothermia treatment, no one is dead until they are warm and dead. Allow medical authorities to determine death in all cases.

When treating a victim of hypothermia all efforts should be made to sustain life until they have been properly warmed by at medical facility.

Hypothermia treatment is simple, but the proper treatment needs to be administered during different phases of the medical condition.

Mild Hypothermia treatment
This is the most common form of hypothermia and one we have all suffered from at one time or another. It is the easiest treated, and the easiest to prevent.

Treat mild hypothermia by getting into a warm and dry environment. Windy conditions and wet clothes cause the body to lose heat. Seek shelter from wind and weather

Insulate from ground – pine branches, leaves, moss, anything to provide insulation will work.
Change wet clothing for windproof, waterproof gear
Add heat – if safe, start a fire
Increase exercise, if possible
Get into a pre-warmed sleeping bag or blankets
Drink hot drinks, followed by candy or other high-sugar foods
Apply heat to neck, armpits and groin
Remember, victims of mild to moderate hypothermia may be suffering from impaired judgment and not be making rational decisions. They might be more prone to accidents. If you are a victim of mild to moderate hypothermia, be extra cautious! Don’t make a bad situation worse!

Moderate Hypothermia treatment

When a person has moderate hypothermia, in addition to the above listed items, get the person bundled up and out of the cold, covering the neck and head to minimize additional heat loss through the head.

Sudden movement and physical activity should be avoided. Rough handling of these victims may cause deadly heart rhythms.

You can apply warm bottles of water, or warm rocks to the armpits and groin area (comfortably warm when touched by a hand flat on the stone and held in place).
Fully conscious victims can sip lukewarm sweetened, non-alcoholic fluids. If their condition is clearly improving then more fluids and warmth can be administered.
Medical attention should be sought out, even if a full field recovery is achieved.

Severe Hypothermia treatment

This is an extreme medical emergency and a high priority should be placed on summoning a rescue team immediately to transport the victim to a medical facility as rapidly as possible.

Maintain the body temperature of victims of severe hypothermia. Improper warming can create a condition called metabolic acidosis that can cause shock and heart failure. Warming should only be preformed in these states by a medical facility.

The critical thing when a person has severe hypothermia is to be gentle with them. Sudden or rough movements, forcing them to move or walk can pull very cold blood from the extremities into the warmer core that can cause shock. You need to be gentle and supportive. Rubbing the skin, moving of the joints should be avoided. This causes more harm than good.

In severe hypothermia, the best hypothermia treatment is best for three people to get under a pile of blankets or in a sleeping bag. Skin on skin contact of the torso works best with a person on each side of the victim. You should ignore their pleas to be left alone or allowed to go to sleep, but be gentle with them.
You should not administer fluids or make any other attempts to increase body temperature.
Maintaining temperature and preventing further loss is the most important thing.
If a person becomes unconscious from hypothermia monitor their breathing and pulse carefully.
Summon an Emergency Response Team.
If you can detect a faint pulse do not do CPR to support their heart. Only start rescue breathing, chest compressions or full CPR if you cannot detect any breathing, any pulse or both. Check frequently to see if they start breathing on their own, even if it is shallow, the same for a pulse.

Administering CPR to someone, even someone with a slight pulse can cause his or her heart to stop.

Remember, make all efforts to keep them alive until help arrives, they have been warmed and declared dead. People have recovered in morgues from hypothermia and have had profoundly low body temperatures and still recover.

Never give up hope with a hypothermia victim that does not have any other serious medical complications (like severe injuries from a fall or extreme altitude sickness).

Now you see why it is so vital to know hypothermia treatment.


Final thought:

Would you be able to determine the medical steps needed without the thermometer?

01/14/2010 08:19PM  
quote bojibob: "Would you be able to determine the medical steps needed without the thermometer?"

No. Although this article is very informative, it wouldn't help answer your question because the thermal criteria for the various phases of hypothermia aren't given. Is it even possible to determine which phase by taking the person's temperature?
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01/14/2010 08:26PM  
quote Koda: "
quote bojibob: "Would you be able to determine the medical steps needed without the thermometer?"

No. Although this article is very informative, it wouldn't help answer your question because the thermal criteria for the various phases of hypothermia aren't given. Is it even possible to determine which phase by taking the person's temperature?"

I may have been reading between the lines, but this was my take:

MILD: If the body temperature is between 90 degrees F. and 96 degrees F. a full recovery is almost completely assured.

MODERATE: From 80 degrees F. to 89.9 degrees F. a recovery is quite possible with proper medical treatment but there may be some long-term effects.

SEVERE: With a body temperature below 80 degrees F., recovery is possible but rare, and medical complications are all but assured.

I think the key element IS the body temperature.

Maybe our resident BWCA Doctors can weigh in? I know of at least 2 that are a member of this Group.

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01/14/2010 09:27PM  
I have had a thermometer in my medical kit on some trips such as when I was taking a bunch of our nephews. And I am not sure if I have left it in or not. This article gives a good reason to leave it in as it would help to know when to pull the trigger on using a PLB or sat phone. Actually, the possibility of "deadly heart rhythms with moderate hypothermia might indicate the wisdom of using it in anything but mild hypothermia.

Sort of glad we go end of August and beginning of Sept when the water is warmer because we like to go swimming.
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01/14/2010 10:54PM  
This whole scenario got me to thinking about something. In kayaking there is a statement, "Dress for immersion," which is why kayakers tend to wear paddling specific clothing like wet suits. Some of these are getting very lightweight and comfortable (see for a store with many options). While the lighter weight ones are not as warm as a thick wet suit they can be worn for a full day of paddling. Perhaps such clothing might be a good idea for canoeing in these soft but cold water times of year and particularly when the conditions get rough. On the other hand, maybe if you are thinking, "gee, I should put on my immersion gear to canoe," then it is a good time to stay on shore and wait it out. Just some thoughts.
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01/15/2010 10:10AM  
Consider a spring trip with no SAT fone...

Isn't the only option to pretend every case is mild and try to slowly warm the person?

You don't have the option of gently getting the person real medical treatment any time soon...
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01/15/2010 11:49AM  
Actually, without the ability to make contact you also need to know if they are in mild or moderate hypothermia according to that article as it changes whether or not you can use exercise as a way of warming them up.
01/15/2010 01:00PM  
Voyaguer, on the water rescue in 3'waves and 25mph winds, only had to solo's so were doing solo over solo.
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01/15/2010 01:21PM  
For both mild and moderate, wouldn't snuggling in a sleeping bag together still be best option?
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01/15/2010 04:52PM  
quote Mad_Angler: "For both mild and moderate, wouldn't snuggling in a sleeping bag together still be best option?"

Well, for mild it says to increase exercise if possible. So, I guess it depends on who you are getting into the sleeping bag with and what you mean by snuggling.
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01/15/2010 04:56PM  
It seems that snuggling wouldn't hurt the mild case. But snuggling would help mild and moderate. So it seems like a safe bet.

Now, you can use your own defintion of snuggling based on the people involved...
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01/15/2010 05:00PM  
Now, I thought of another question:

Is a thermometer really practical? In the woods, you don't have fancy scanners like an ER. I doubt if oral would work because the guys teeth will be chattering to badly. I don't want to try rectal. Under the armpit wont work if the guys has been in the water. How would you even get an accurate temperature in a real situation?
01/15/2010 06:12PM  
That is a good point. I was feeling rather smug because we DO take a thermometer with us, but I hadn't thought of the chattering teeth problem. Guess I would still try to take an oral temp if I could. It is entirely possible that they will be beyond shivering or teeth chattering, even unconscious, so there is still a possibility that taking a temp would be feasible.

I didn't know any of this about the severe hypothermia and what NOT to do, so it was an eye-opener. Scary.
01/15/2010 08:52PM  
Looks to me like this scenario is accomplishing what we intended.

Be safe.
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01/17/2010 04:28PM  
Bojibob, after reading the scenario and all the posts ... what do you think the true chances for survival are? Time is so short and getting worse by the minute. I've seen wind and water conditions like this so this is an especially frightening scenario for me.

The crisis looks pretty bleak considering water and air temp being what they are and especially the 3 foot waves and coming thunderstorm.

Big fear of capsizing the remaining boat and putting everyone in the water so don't want to risk this. Will be very difficult to keep the upright boat from shooting by those in the water as you ride the wind and waves back to them.

If you are the ones in the water, get to your canoe and stay with it and start kicking going with the wind aiming to the shoreline 3/4 miles away. If you are the ones in the other boat try to stay near the downed crew as best you can encouraging them to keep going. At shoreline get them out of the water. Get tent up with your dry gear and bags. Strip down wet crew and them in your dry gear and bags. Get the boats out of the water and secured. Huddle together for warmth. In the morning assess condition of those who were in the water. You have to get out. Quite possible the crew who didn't go in the water will have to paddle out for help as soon as the weather permits.

Getting them to closest land riding the wind and waves and out of water as soon as possible would be the most important thing.

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