A Failed Swimmer Rescue

This weekend a small group of us ran the Harrington Canyon section of the Rouge.


I had run the drop into the canyon and was safetying.  One of the following paddlers dumped, I caught him in the current and we eddied-out river-left.  Since there was no way for him to climb the canyon wall on that side, we had to ferry across to river-right.  When we were almost across I became concerned that we would not make the last eddy and yelled over my shoulder for him to "Swim."  What I really wanted him to do was stay attached to the boat and kick as hard as possible to assist.

 It was a very poor choice of words as he let go of the boat and tried to swim into the eddy, missed and swam the rest of the canyon.  (With no serious consequences.)

Lesson learned:  Choose your words carefully in a rescue situation.  In this case "Kick harder!"  might have been more appropriate.  Given the noise level, it was unlikely that any instruction would have been heard at all and I should have just paddled harder.

A second lesson is that a few minutes spent in considering rescue options would have been time well spent.  We were safe in the eddy on river-left.  There was no immediate need to ferry across to the most obvious place to climb out.  The swimmer might have been able to find a spot to climb out on the left.

My third lesson is that  towing a swimmer in current took 4 to 5 times the effort of ferrying with just the boat.  I underestimated how difficult this ferry was going to be.

Peter Kasurak