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Rescue

This cowgirl had to lasso one of her charges today. I actually rescued someone who was in current after they fell out of their boat. 

In the clubs I’m in, we practice this. We practice assisted rescue and self rescues. We practice being the rescuer, and being rescued. We practice with sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks and deck boats – what most people picture as kayaking, where you sit inside the boat, usually with a spray skirt. Rolling, for example, is a kind of self-rescue. 

What happened was: at 72nd street, the current was relatively strong. We communicated the boundaries of where we wanted people to paddle, and explicitly said “stay away from ships”. One of the members of the public had paddled out past the outer boundary and was headed – quickly, aided by current – to a catamaran moored at the southwest corner of the boundary. 

As soon as I was about to tell him to come back closer, he hit one of the mooring lines, and went in the water, his boat upside down. 

Now, two things: first, this is not in itself life-threatening, or leading to injury. He was wearing a PFD, and he was holding on to the boat and his paddle. The current was relatively strong, but this is the Hudson River, not some wild rapids. He was floating southwards, and we needed to get him out. 

That said, once someone is in the water, it’s kinda serious. You have to get them out, and get them under their own power. Until they are safe, you never know what their status is. They might have had an aneurysm, or something similarly sudden and debilitating.  

“Oh shit, ” I muttered to myself, and hopped in our safety boat – a long, narrow scupper perfect for rushing to the rescue, tow bag in my lap. 

When I got out there, I remembered all our practice. “Are you OK,” I asked, and he said yes. I pulled alongside and told him to hold on to the boat, and then to hand me his paddle. Then I righted his boat. Then I held his boat and told him to kick his legs straight out and reach across to my boat. He did all that, and was able to pull himself on to his. I got him to turn so he was seated properly, and then got him back to the dock. 

In all that – from the moment he went in, to the moment we were heading back – he had floated about 35 yards. That put him halfway to a pedestrian pier that he would have either passed under (safely) or passed by. 

After that, I kept a closer eye on our charges, and hollered at them if they got anywhere near the edge, or near a boat. A couple of girls who were kind of larking, I pulled in for a warning and used him as an example. 

It’s an odd situation to be in – promoting the use of the waterfront for recreation, yet also teaching people to be respectful of it. It all worked out well, and it was nice to know I could pass when my skills were put to the test. It was not an emergency, but it could have become one. 

I’m happy I was able to help. 

Published in 2012 Backpaddle Downtown Boathouse New York New York City NYC

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