“Rope!” The call could be heard across the river as we rescued one swimmer after another at Delhi Rapids on the Huron River.
Coaches Scott Fairty & Trey Rouss recently hosted members of the Raw Strength and Courage Kayak Club of Ann Arbor for a day of river rescue and safety training. The group practiced swimming in current, wading across the river, working with our strainer simulator and developed solid throw bag skills
During the throw bag training we cycled through the positions of throwing the rope, acting as the anchor for the thrower, and being the swimmer. The swimmers entered the water around the corner from where we had set up the throw bags so we placed a spotter on the corner where they could see both the swimmers and the throwers to alert the throwers when a swimmer was in the water.
About half way through our rotation the spotter yells “capsize!” and “Real swimmers, we have real swimmers in the water!” Seconds later we see a canoe, a man, a woman, 2 life jackets (not actually on the man or woman), 2 paddles, a cooler, sunscreen, water bottles and others pieces of gear and clothing floating towards us. The man came by us first, we threw a rope to him but he ignored it. Instead he just floated next to his capsized canoe with all his worldly canoeing possessions floating around him. His wife had more sense and grabbed a rope perfectly placed by club member James Blackburn. She quickly swung into the shoreline eddy where we assisted her barefooted from the water. She was a little bruised and scraped up from having swum Delhi Rapids without any idea of how to swim it safely and without the flotation and protection offered by a life jacket. The husband eventually floated into an eddy a few hundred yards downstream and we helped the distraught wife reunite with her soggy husband.
It could not have worked better in terms of the performance of the shore based rescuers. Here was a real life rescue with the associated adrenaline surge and the throws were right on target. Each member of the team did exactly as we had trained and we helped someone who definitely needed our assistance.
I ordinarily would have liked to have had a chat with the husband who thought floating aimlessly next to all his stuff was a good strategy. It was not necessary as his wife made it abundantly clear to him, repeatedly.