If you are the Rescuer

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Here are some things to consider if you are the rescuer

This is a team journey. You may not be the person rowing the boat, but your looking around at other boats during rapid runs is very helpful to your boat rower. You may be the first person, or the ONLY person, to see a fellow traveler go into the water. Tell others, blow your whistle, and make sure others become alerted to the situation.

The boatman directs the rescue activities for their boat. There may be rapids left to run, so don't start a rescue (especially with ropes) until the boatman says OK. It is fine for passengers to pull someone in while in a rapid, if you can, but do not expect the boatman to change course or leave the oars to come assist until they are free to do so. You sure don't need more swimmers and flips if you already have one.

Do a head count and locate people on your trip.

If you are in the front of the boat, look behind you often. Is your boatman still in the boat? You may be surprised to find occasionally the boatman is discharged from the boat without you even noticing. You may have to move to the oar seat and row the craft. Some boatman encourage practicing this transitioning from the front of the boat to the cockpit in calm water. If someone is in the water, pull them out of the water ASAP. A boatman can hopefully move the boat to allow the passenger(s) to grab people and pull them in.

Be able to pull yourself in if there is no one to help you, i.e., you are the passenger and you fell out. It is harder than it looks. Pull up and grab something in the boat. Ask your boat rower if the have a loop hanging in the water you can step in to help you get back into the boat.

Know where the throw bag is. Get it ready before you need to use it as it takes some manipulation to get it ready. Don't wait for the swimmer to float by before you unclip the bag. Practice with this tool ahead of time may pay dividends downriver.

Detach bag from boat, open top, hold rope in hand and throw the BAG. Usually an underhanded throw works well. If you blow the throw and have to re-throw, coil the rope and throw the coil. You will most likely have no time to re-stuff the bag. Get the swimmer beside your boat and grab the shoulders of their PFD, not their hands. Don't pull up, but just fall back into the boat straightening out your legs as you lean back.

Don't stop now; go after the next swimmer. If no more swimmers are near you, go for the flipped boat...or floating gear. Unless directed to by your boatman, never, ever, permanently attach one boat to another in an emergency. For example don't attach a flipped boat to your boat with a carabiner or line. If things get dangerous, you may have to quickly let go of it. It is OK to attach rafts at other times.

Communicate with the other boats, using your voice, whistle, hand signals, or hand held radio to coordinate activities. See River Signals .

Rescuers should not leave anyone in the water until swimmers are completely on dry land or safely in a boat. Several people have last been seen alive standing in a foot of water and rescuers left, only to later recover their bodies.

If you are at all curious and don't know, ask your boatperson to teach you about water, eddy fences, and basic rowing skills. It is not uncommon that the passenger on a boat rescues the boatperson.

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