Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Surviving After a Paddling Accident

Last week while packing for a canoe trip I was contacted by Global Saskatoon to comment on how to survive after a mishap on a paddling trip. In addition to being a paddling instructor, I am the Paddle Canada representative for Saskatchewan, and am a co-author of the AdventureSmart paddling safety awareness program called PaddleSmart.

The interview follows on the recent tragic death of David Dice along the Churchill River, a section that I paddled in 2010. I do not know the details of what happened, but according to news reports David was found below Needle Falls on Kinosaskaw Lake. Shortly after David was found by fishermen, his wife Enid Dice was found upriver somewhere along Needle Rapids. She had been there without supplies for 8 days. The reports don't offer much for details, though they do mention she had a fire going (it will make your life easier to have some reliable means of starting a fire on your life jacket or in a pocket, and redundancy is good!). The Dices are very experienced outdoorspeople and paddlers, and David's early death is a loss to the paddling community. My condolences go out to all of those grieving David's death.

http://globalnews.ca/video/1533357/surviving-eight-days-in-the-wilderness



A few more details were reported via CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/details-emerge-on-sask-couple-s-tragic-canoe-adventure-1.2750011
One of the first people to speak to Enid after the ordeal was Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, who was also one of the last people to see the couple before they set out on their trip.
He says he learned, from Enid, that the couple's canoe capsized as they were navigating a set of rapids on the lake known as Needle Falls*.
They were separated and Enid swam to shore with her husband's backpack that had a sleeping bag and an emergency fire-starting kit. There was no food, however.
*I wonder if this statement as reported is correct. It seems more likely that they were running Needle Rapids (C2+ to C3), about 2.25 km above the falls, or the outlet from Sandfly lake (C3), a further 1 km above Needle Rapids. It seems unlikely that they would have been running the falls (C5), but the earlier sets of rapids are manageable for the canoeist with skills in rapids. This also makes sense since Enid had no gear other than what she swam to shore with and was separated from her husband who was reportedly found on Kinosaskaw Lake in the eddy below the falls. Were the capsize to actually have occurred at the falls, she would have been mere meters from her late husband, the overturned canoe and much of the gear including the SPOT. 

A map of the region:

Open this map full screen.

Aerial view of the rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake. We portaged these.

Class 3 rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake.

Uppermost portion of Needle Rapids from the spot where we scouted the set. This is the river left channel. 

Jay & Rod scouting Needle Rapids. 

David & Enid's Blog: David and Enid's Travels


Here are some items you should consider having with you, or on you, whenever you head out paddling. Most of these items can be fit into a small pouch that can be attached to the life jacket or contained in a pocket. These items are described as "The Essentials Plus" in the PaddleSmart program:
  • Transport Canada Required Items:
    1. Life jacket
    2. Whistle
    3. Throw bag
    4. Bailer
    5. Waterproof flashlight
  • Other Essential Items:
    1. Fire making kit
    2. Signalling device (e.g. whistle, signal mirror)
    3. Extra food and water
    4. Extra clothing
    5. Navigation & communication devices
    6. First aid
    7. Emergency blanket or shelter
    8. Knife
    9. Sun protection
In the pocket of my PFD I have a small pouch that in the video linked above has had the contents spread out. The contents include a signal mirror, granola bar, fishing line, snare wire, ~20' of thin cord, orange bandana, emergency blanket, lighter, & fire starter. In the canoe or kayak I also almost always have extra clothing, rain gear, some form of shelter (tarp &/or a bothy bag), extra food, water (though we can usually drink our water from the lake), first aid kit, more lighters, matches and fire starting stuff.